Tuesday, November 12, 2013


A huge obstacle on my way to the relationship with God He has prepared for me is “me.”  Have you noticed that? 

God wants to reveal more, but I am busy with me.  God wants to show me His love, but I am filling my heart my way.  Look at this in Galatians 5 for a tool to test when too much of “me” is running things.  Ready? Check off any which show up in your life.

  • Reacting to self-control with an emphasis on sensuality which shows up as: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, drunkenness, wild parties
  • Replacing the true God and His ways with me and my ways:  idolatry, sorcery
  • Rejecting God’s way of relating to others in love and instead making relationships about “me”: hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy  Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT)

This test is incredibly helpful.  Often in the church Christians are strongly opposed to drunkenness and wild parties and, of course, would not consider idolatry or sorcery, but getting hot under the collar is supposed to be acceptable.  The list in Galatians 5 has all of these as being operated by the flesh the evil “me” centered flesh. 

Imagine getting together with family, friends, folks at church.  People you really care about.  As you are talking someone tells about a book they have written that is getting published soon.  A bit of envy develops.  Another talks about a wonderful new job or relationship and your insides start to tighten up.  It’s all about “me.”  The “me” has a need to be envied and will react to others having more or better or getting attention or…  You know. 

What if you are helping someone with something, but they are doing it different than the way you want to do it.  Maybe they say something to you about doing it different.  What is your reaction?  Grateful or angry?  Do you get angry if someone corrects or directs you?  If you get hot, then don’t blame.  It isn’t someone else’s fault.  It is a “me thing.”  The hot reaction is just like a warning light on your car’s dashboard.  It is telling you something is broken and out of whack.  You can blame the light or other drivers or other passengers, but none of that does any good.  The right fix is in order.  Do you know Galatians 5 gets to that? 

For the follower of Jesus who turns from the “me thing” to God’s thing and allows the Holy Spirit to work in them something transformational happens.  A different kind of attitude arises.  A wildly wonderful approach to relationships emerges.  

From Galatians 5 there is a list of fruit which is produced by the Holy Spirit.  You can test whether you are walking in the Spirit by the fruit that appears in and through you.  Look at it: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
If you are with another person at church, at work or at a family function would you rather be with one who is angry, hostile, self centered, envious or one who enjoys being there with the people acting in love with kindness and patience?  Being that kind of person means walking in the power of Holy Spirit and not making everything a “me thing.”
Walking in the Holy Spirit takes practice just like learning to walk physically.  Sometimes you fall, but get back up and keep on going.
After using a test like the one in Galatians 5 you may see there are some things that are off and some that are working.  Good.  Admit areas that are still operating in the flesh.  Ask God to help you find those habits of thought, attitudes, speech and actions that need to be crushed so that He can produce in you something so much better.
If a red light on the dash of your life is flashing then something is wrong.  You are mad. You are lashing out at others.  You are hurt and looking for comfort in all the wrong places.  Whatever it is that hits you recognize the process.  Now practice self-control and turn to the Spirit allowing Him to disarm the bomb that is about to go off and produce a new kind of life-giving fruit within you.  If you have struggled with an issue for a few years you may find sudden and miraculous change which is great.  But it may be a long-term no less miraculous work of God that brings things about.  Don’t give up.  Allow God time to work His way. And let the "me thing" go.  

Getting past the “me thing” is not for wimps, but how the person shines who does. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Life and Love in the Book of Revelation

Usually the discussions on the book of Revelation tend toward end of the world themes.  You may have noticed.  This is a look at the church at Ephesus which is one of the seven churches Jesus addresses in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.  Can it be that there is something wonderful for the followers of Jesus tucked away in this address?  Indeed there is.  Come along, if you would like, and see. 

 Jesus promises the one who overcomes, conquers or achieves victory that they will get to “eat of the tree of life.”  I am of the opinion that eating of the tree of life is a big deal and will do something huge in a person’s life.  Here is Revelation 2:7 (NASB) to see how this is written:

'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'

To eat of the tree of life is a privilege Jesus is making available.  I want to taste it just because He makes it so, but maybe the illustration of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God is worth exploring to find out more about what I am going to taste.  In the book of Genesis Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and they had an awesome relationship with God.  The relationship and all the remarkable things that went with it were thrown under the bus by their rejecting God.  Believing the lie they decided God wasn’t trustworthy, went their own way, and the result was a broken relationship and distance from all they had enjoyed before.  Banished from the garden paradise they were kept from the tree of life which was in there. 
The tree of life is explained in all sorts of ways in various cultures and among Jewish and Christian groups.  You can check it out for some interesting viewpoints.  One of the views is about the perpetuity of life.  The length of life or the quantity of years is a common view which seems appropriate since Adam didn’t live forever.  But we have more information than just Genesis available to us.  

We are looking at Revelation with its perspective on the end and of life beyond.  So, what do we discover?  People, all people live forever.  They will live with God or away from God, but they will live.  Then, I ask, what is the deal with “everlasting life?”  That expression has something to do with quality of life rather than quantity of life.  The quality is also connected to a close and dynamic relationship with God.  We can see a difference in people who are alive biologically, but dead in the head and everywhere else.  Is receiving that kind of “everlasting life” a good thing?  No.  There is much more and much better.  It is the higher quality…correction…the highest quality of life God is promising with the tree of life.  It is life with God. 

When will this taste of the tree of life take place?  Again, many views abound.  I add this one.  It is available to the one who overcomes right here, right now.  No way.  Way.  The tree of life which is in the Paradise of God is often taken as a reference to the afterlife in heaven.   Of course, it is available then, but the promise Jesus makes is to folks living on earth.  The Garden of Eden was on earth.  Angels were set as guards on the east side to keep Adam and Eve from access to the tree of life.  Paradise (another word for garden or the king’s garden) is on earth and available to whomever God chooses to make it available.    Jesus says He makes it available to those who overcome.  Real intimacy with Him in a relationship that is unmatched. 
There is something important about the person who overcomes.  What is it that a person is overcoming?  A variety of opinions like the colors of the rainbow emerge.  Many see the overcoming as the lifelong moral battle of a Christian.  As I look at Revelation 2 and the church at Ephesus I see one thing that was cause of great concern to Jesus about them.  It wasn’t theology because he notes they were protecting truth.  It wasn’t lax morals which apparently they were trying to correct in the Nicolaitans.  The one thing was that they had lost their first love.  Jesus says it this way,   But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4 (NASB)  Love.  You may remember what Jesus said about the importance of loving God. 

 37 And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 "This is the great and foremost commandment.  Matthew 22:37-38 (NASB)

Everything rises and falls on loving God.  Everything.  Jesus after His death and resurrection is keeping an eye on His people in the church and recognizes they are doing churchy things well, but the love of God is diminished.  Back to the topic of overcomers.  What is it Jesus wants His people in Ephesus and everywhere to do?  Love God with all you are.  Get over yourself.  Stop loving the world, the flesh and other things and love God.  When they love Him full on they overcome and Jesus says they get a bite of the fruit of the tree of life in Paradise.  Bam! They experience more of God, more of Jesus, more of the Holy Spirit.  They get the rush of His loving presence in ways beyond what they had experienced so far.  

In Revelation 22 God and the Lamb (Jesus) are central.  The river with the water of life flow from the throne of God and the Lamb.  On each side of the river there is a tree of life.  The leaves of the tree is used from medicine to heal the nations.  The nations are the different peoples of the earth gathered to God.  They aren’t physically suffering at this point.  What is it they need more than anything?  Closeness to their God.  The old curse of separation from God illustrated by the guarded tree of life changes at this point.  They are healed and there is no more curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there and God’s people will worship.  Let us be overcomers, and love God with all our heart, soul and mind. 

1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. 3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 (NLT)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

6 Decades

Upon reflection on the occasion of my 60th birthday

·         I have lived about 2/3rds of 60 years in Oklahoma
·         About 1/3rd growing up with a great family
·         I spent 1/3rd of 60 years in school
·         Over half of my years I have had with the bride of my youth
·         Half of my life as a father
·         About 10% of my life as a grandfather
·         About 10% of my 60 connected with the US Army
·         About 25% as pastor of Grace Bible Church
·         And 100% blessed by God

Regrets, I got them:

I would like do-overs...
  • I regret spending too much time worried, not listening to God, pursuing stupid stuff, being envious or mad or self-absorbed.
  • I regret not being better at communicating how much someone means to me
    • Not being able to express appreciation and gratitude well
  • I regret not trusting God more and enjoying the embrace of His love fully each day
  • I regret ugly places in my heart that kept God’s light out
  • I regret not saying “no” to my inflated self, the ways of the world and the devil
  • I regret not loving people better by loving God’s way

I Do Not Regret:

  • I Do Not Regret Time spent with family and friends
  • I Do Not Regret wasting time watching the river pass by, ocean waves roll in, the sun setting, the stars shining
  • I Do Not regret praying even though God brought things about in some way different than I had in mind
  • I Do Not Regret having a variety of people in my life.  Some close and some as enemies.  (Can’t go with Will Rogers and his “never met a man I didn’t like” cause I have)But both those for me and those against me have brought something into my life that I needed and showed my something I needed to change. 
  • I Do Not Regret having worked jobs that were hard, jobs that I didn’t like, jobs that diminished my ego.  Because it was on those jobs God showed me the dignity and value of every job and every person who does those jobs. 
  • I Do Not Regret not being the wealthiest or most famous of people.  That requires character of a type I do not possess.
  • I Do Not Regret not having a large church or well known ministry to boast about.  Things of that sort may have led me to think so well of myself and my methods that I would have stopped pursuing God and His ways while promoting and selling my own.  It may have been a distraction from what God wanted to say and do.  It may have kept me from the people God in His wisdom planned for me to share life with. 
  • I Do Not Regret limited abilities, skills and talents which remind me to appreciate the abilities, skills and talents of others.

I Have Been Surprised By:

  • I Have Been Surprised By God’s grace and mercy
  • I Have Been Surprised By God’s presence and guidance
  • I Have Been Surprised By The depth of people’s commitment to dark things, selfish ambitions and injustice.
  • I Have Been Surprised By The determination people have to ignore or reject God.
  • I Have Been Surprised By The beauty of people caring for another: husbands and wives, moms and dads, the hurting, learning, coaching, training, leading, healing, helping…
  • I Have Been Surprised By God’s way over the ways of man.
  • I Have Been Surprised By Ear hair
  • I Have Been Surprised By The Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
  • I Have Been Surprised By Cass, who still loves me though I drive her crazy at times.
  • I Have Been Surprised By Family who put up with me and keeping coming back for more.
  • I Have Been Surprised By Church folk who allow me to take them on a journey with God that doesn’t fit tradition or the text book, but is seeking God and seeing God in action
  • I Have Been Surprised By Friends new and old who make room for me
  • I Have Been Surprised By Seasons of life-it ought not be a surprise, but when seasons change I am often surprised
  • I Have Been Surprised By Expectations of life-I have pictured things in my head going one way and then I am ticked off or disappointed about things not going that way.  Later to discover my plan would have missed God’s plan and His plan is better.
  • I Have Been Surprised By My lack of growth and not getting it by this age
  • I Have also Been Surprised By My growth and getting it at this age

6 decades is not so much

I feel inside like there is much to learn, to experience, to figure out, to do.  I feel as if I am at the starting line of something great. 

My body doesn’t bend, jump, keep up or recover as it once did.  The color is gone from my hair. 

Discovering more of God has opened more insights and understanding and spiritual doors than ever before. 
Enjoying life in God’s kingdom is new every morning and full of surprises every day. 

Life is but a vapor and this one has been a grand vapor.  I thank God for 60 years.  I am grateful that He has taken me on such a journey and thankful for the people He has allowed me to journey with. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Joy Spoilers

A recent 4 year old birthday celebration taught me something helpful.  Maybe this will be helpful to you as well. 

A little sister can be the delight of an older brother or bring much dismay.  As you know it goes back and forth with emphasis on delight.  However, observing the obvious celebration of heart in the little girl as she is loved on and given presents and attention only led the older brother to find any way positive or negative to gain a bit of attention.  Inside his longingness was “me, me, look at me!”  It is a painful display.  Been there done that as maybe you have as well. 

So, here is a joy spoiler.  As the excited little girl opens her present tearing a chunk of paper at a time.  Her brother seeking to steal the show rather than support the sister’s joy begins to announce, “I know what it is!”  He wants to physically shift in to make sure he is the first to see, to say, to assure his place.  Adults and gift-givers are aware of the gift and can read the packaging too, but the need to be central is so big.  He has become a joy spoiler.  He is seeking to take the joy of the little girl experiencing the magic of the revealed treasure that awaits her.  It is hers to see, to enjoy, to unwrap, to be surprised, to be enamored, to be special. 

The spiritual life has many joys and God brings gifts for His loved ones to discover and unwrap along the way.  For the four year olds He has appropriate treasures and for the forty somethings He has something just right for who they are and what He sees will benefit them most where they are in their spiritual journey. 

Jesus realizing this with incredible insight says this to His followers in John 16:12: There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can't bear it now.   Jesus was considerate and careful and giving each of His hearers hope of more to come.  He knew they couldn’t take every spiritual truth, but they could benefit from some truth at that time and learn more with help.  Then He let them know the Holy Spirit would be there for them in John 16:13: But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.  There will be more gifts to open, discoveries to be made, surprises to be revealed.  As His followers were troubled He told them: So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. John 16:22 (NLT)  At the right time and in the right way Jesus will reveal Himself to them.  The joy of discovery.  The overwhelming element of surprise bringing rejoicing.  It is so cool. 
Imagine some young and excited person rejoicing in the joy of life in Jesus.  Then a joy spoiler comes along and steals the joy.  Paul ran into this with the Galatians take a look.

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News
 but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.  Galatians 1:6-7 (NLT)

Bad intel on what the Good News is stole the joy of a bunch of folks.  They turned their backs on God’s truth and grace and listened to joy spoilers who were jumping in to gain attention and applause for themselves.  That is bad news. 

Paul saw joy spoilers showing up and jumping into the middle of things in Thessalonica too.  The people there had been told that Jesus would be coming back and they were excited and expected to see Him when He came.  But some joy spoilers began telling people the Lord had already come and they missed out.  Paul wrote them to get them back on track and to return their joy. 

Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us.  2 Thessalonians 2:2 (NLT)

This kind of thing has not only occurred in the distant past, but I have been so eager to present some wonderful thing to others that I didn’t even give them a chance to grow into it.  I have been in Bible studies where instead of allowing someone to discover an earth-shaking truth, unwrapping it with anticipation and being surprised by joy, I jump in and present with all my cleverness what is there.  It still may be a good thing for them.  But it is not as well seated or timed or joyous.  Arghhh, my ego out of control and seeking its own and not seeking the best for others is distressing.  It is my plan to better listen to the Lord and to support others in their joy of discovery. 

Children are wonderful teachers, and the class is always in session.  I think I’ll go out and see what gifts God has to be unwrapped today.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Jesus Meets Soul-Thirsts

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Is it really possible that God will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Him those who fix their thoughts on Him?  Bad things happen to good people and when they do.  Look out! Katy bar the door.  All sorts of feelings fly.  Attitudes erupt.  Anger makes an entrance.  Blame becomes a well played game.  Peace however seems to be far away.  Even for those who have been attending church the peace seems only a distant thought.  But we are told God will do more.  For those who trust Him.  For those whose thoughts are fixed on Him something incredible happens.  Even in the darkest of times God gives perfect peace. 

This was true for Hudson Taylor, missionary to China in the 1800s.  While introducing the true God to the Chinese in the inland parts of China he faced a number of dark nights.  There were riots and life threatening situations for the missionaries as they tried to make Jesus known in this unstable and dangerous country.  For the Taylors one of their seven children had died by the summer of 1870.  The five year old was in need of medical attention and they decided to send little Samuel along with the four older children back to England.  As they traveled by boat down the Yangtze River toward the coast Samuel weakened and died.  He was buried at a cemetery along the way and the mourning family continued the journey.  The Taylors entrusted the precious cargo to a long-time friend and saw them off.  Pain and sorrow they had suffered.  They returned to the mission to continue the work. 

During this time Hudson Taylor wrote a letter expressing the joy, the love of God he experienced. 

And now, my dear Sister, I have the very passage for you, and God has so blessed it to my own soul ! John 7: 37-39 " If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Who does not thirst? Who has not mind-thirsts or heart-thirsts, soul-thirsts or body-thirsts? Well, no matter which, or whether I have them all-" Come unto ME and "remain thirsty? Ah, no! "Come unto ME and drink."

What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones, no matter how helpless I am, how hopeless I am, how deep are my soul-yearnings-JESUS can meet all, all, and more than meet. He not only promises me rest (Matt.11:28-30)-ah, how welcome that would be were it all, and what an all that one word embraces! He not only promises me drink to alleviate my thirst. No, better than that!

“He who trusts me in this matter (who believeth on ME takes me at my word) out of him shall flow ..."
Can it be. so? Can the dry and thirsty one not only be refreshed, the parched soil moistened, the arid places cooled, but the land be so saturated, that springs well up, streams flow down from it ? Even so! And not mere mountain torrents, full while the rains last, then dry again . . . but "out of his belly shall flow rivers "-rivers like the mighty Yangtze, ever deep, ever full. In times of drought brooks may fail, often do; canals may be pumped dry, often are; but the Yangtze never. Always a mighty stream; always flowing, deep and irresistible!

"Come unto me and drink,' he wrote in another June letter. “Not, come and take a hasty draught; not, come and slightly alleviate, or for a short time remove one's thirst. No! ` Drink,' or 'be drinking ' constantly, habitually. The cause of thirst may be irremediable. One coming, one drinking may refresh and comfort; but we are to be ever coming, ever drinking. No fear of emptying the fountain or exhausting the river! "
How sorely the lesson would be needed by his own heart, in days that were drawing near, he little knew when writing; but the blessed Reality did not fail him.
-Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

Mrs. Taylor delivered another son within a month, but the joy of birth was met by the sadness of death within a week as cholera sat upon him.  A short while later the weakened mother at 33 entered into the presence of the Lord. 

A letter written to Mrs. Blatchley after these things describes Hudson Taylor’s state:

Nearly three weeks have passed since my last letter to you a little lifetime it has been. . . . I cannot describe to you my feelings; I do not understand them myself. I feel like a person stunned with a blow, or recovering from a faint, and as yet but partially conscious, But I would not have it otherwise, no, not a hair's breadth, for the world. My Father has ordered it so-therefore I know it is, it must be best, and I thank Him for so ordering it. I feel utterly crushed, and yet “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Oft-times my heart is nigh to breaking . . . but withal, I had almost said, I never knew what peace and happiness were before-so much have I enjoyed in the very sorrow... .

I think I sent you a few weeks ago a copy of some notes on John 7: 37: precious thoughts they have been to me, and needed and true. I now see more and deeper meaning in them than then. And this I -know: only a thirsty man knows the value of water, and only a thirsty soul the value of the Living Water.

I could not have believed it possible that He could so have helped and comforted my poor heart…
Come joy or come sorrow, whatever befall,
His presence and love (more than) make up for it all.
-Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

God does indeed give peace…His peace…not like the world…not just a break on trouble, but the real deal.  Deep down inside and saturating ever fiber of being kind of peace.  Perfect peace.  It is up to us to trust in Him and to make sure our thoughts are not wandering or set on the problems of the day, but fixed on Him. Then even in the darkest of times God gives perfect peace. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Better Than a Roller Coaster Ride

I contend that life with Jesus is the best.  I also contend that in complete opposition to the view that living God’s way is lame, tame and dumb it is anything but. 

A new roller coaster opened this year not too far away and it is stirring quite the buzz.  One review read: Outlaw Run is amazing! It packs more action into each foot of track than I think almost any other roller coaster in the world!  I sense from those words a bit of excitement and appreciation for this coaster which is great.  What I wondered by way of comparison was what would a typical review of the Christian life look like?  Would living God’s way rate an “amazing!”?  Or would walking with Jesus get something like “He packs more action into each foot of track than I think almost any other in the world!”? 

God’s people have taken on giants, defeated armies, been visited by angels and talked to by God.  They have walked out of jails meant to hold them.  They have held on when others meant to crush them.  They have been enriched by the presence of God. 

Paul has this prayer in Ephesians 1:19-20: 

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

See that?  God’s power is there for His people.  What would that be like?  The Creator Who spoke and this immense universe spun into being has power for us?  That exceeds the normal expectation of having breakfast and getting through another day or another week or another year.  “The incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.”  I wonder if that power is more amazing than a roller coaster ride?   Sure it is, even if there are those who see God’s way as lame, tame and dumb. 

And one thing is for sure.  A person who only watches from the sidelines will never have the thrills of one who gets into the roller coaster car with their whole body and goes for a ride.  The same is true of God’s way.  A person who only watches from the sidelines will never have the thrills of one who commits with their whole mind, body and soul and goes for the ride.  Lame, tame and dumb flies out of the car on the first turn and then its hang on. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

God’s Incredible Work in a Life

It ain’t what people often think.  No kidding.  God’s ways are higher than our ways.

Jeremiah was a prophet of God during a tough time for the people of Israel.  Politically things were going bad.  The economy was suffering.  The general populace expected God to keep them safe and comfortable. 
The back story?  Oh yeah, the people had rejected God’s ways and gone their own way.  God had sent messengers to correct them, but they didn’t want anything to do with the way God wanted them to go.  God was allowing the tough times to come upon them to possibly get them to turn around.  They didn’t like God’s messengers, the prophets, telling them they were at fault for their bad times.  Do you know what they did?  

Like many today they find someone in a religious position who will say positive things about them so they could feel good about themselves.  No, really.  They didn’t want to hear the truth from God that could have made their lives really better.  No, they wanted to keep doing what they were doing, but find someone who would say that what they were doing was blessed by God or that they would be blessed by God.  That seems incredibly dangerous.  Look at the words of Jeremiah the prophet:

16 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: “Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for the LORD!
17 They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The LORD says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’  Jeremiah 23:16-17 (NLT)

Did you see that?  People who are supposed to be speaking for the Lord tell others who despise what God says that they don’t have to worry and that God says they will have peace.  If they despise what the Lord has said they will most certainly not have peace.  And those who follow their own desires these folks say that no harm will come their way.  It appears the laugh will be Satan’s as people believe this lie and God’s wrath comes upon them.  This is a horrible scenario.  But people are often hungering after the lie that supports what they already believe or gives them false hope rather than really trusting God and going His way. 

Modern day promoters will encourage people with positive statements that seem helpful and harmless.  They may say something like:  You were born to be a winner; you were born for greatness; you were created to be a champion in life.  Those kind of words seem worthy of posting on the refrigerator.  The problem is that they are not from God, they are not God-centered, and they are not promoting God’s purposes or His power.  Just as in the days of Jeremiah there were messengers taking their cues from the way they wanted things to be and saying things that pleased the people and God had nothing to do with it.  Look at what Jeremiah goes on to say:

 Have any of these prophets been in the LORD’s presence to hear what he is really saying? Has even one of them cared enough to listen?                                  Jeremiah 23:18 (NLT)

Have these messengers been in the Lord’s presence to hear what He is really saying?  What a question!  And the answer is, no they haven’t. 

What would a prophet who had been in the Lord’s presence have to say given the situation in Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day?  It would look this way:

Look! The LORD’s anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this very clearly.       Jeremiah 23:19-20 (NLT)

God isn’t sending a messenger to affirm the self-centered behaviors of His people.  He isn’t offering comfort to those who reject what He has to say.  Christians often imagine God as kindly grandfather cheering them on in their every interest and endeavor, but He is the All Powerful God and He is pointing them to His thing not theirs.  Jeremiah points out the problem of messengers claiming to have something to say from God. 

 I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying.
Jeremiah 23:21 (NLT)

God identifies those who speak for Him as those who have been in His presence.  They know His words.  They aren’t passing on what they imagine or even what the crowds want to hear. 

If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds. Jeremiah 23:22 (NLT)

The result is that the message from God passed on to people of the earth would have differed from their views, opinions, dreams and desires and the messengers would have turned God’s people from their evil ways and deeds.  The true messenger helps people move closer to God’s ways rather than the ways of the world. 

Have you heard someone who is being confronted about their behavior share this gem?  “You don’t know me!”  It is a deflection.  A way of avoiding the issue of confrontation.  It assumes no one has a right to question their actions because they don’t know their full history or inner heart.  The tricky messengers have tried that one as well.  God answers them in Jeremiah.  Because He can be everywhere there is no one anywhere who has information He doesn’t already know. 

“Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the LORD.       Jeremiah 23:23-24 (NLT)

God’s conclusion is to let the false prophets speak.  Those who are not interested in God or His reality can have their way.  But the true messengers are to get God’s word out.  He illustrates the difference between what is real and not by comparing what is nutritious and not and what has results like fire and can break like a hammer. 

“Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain!
Does not my word burn like fire?” says the LORD. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? Jeremiah 23:28-29 (NLT)

God has more for His people than we can imagine.  We sell Him short and that leaves us in a bad spot when we don’t seek out God’s truth the whole truth even when it hurts or doesn’t agree with our desire for what is comfortable and trouble free.  Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


No, not High Definition…Humpty Dumpty.  Stopping the Humpty Dumpty Church.  You know the problem of assuming a high place on a wall and taking a fall with the limitations of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men being unable to remedy the situation.  The church, those amazing gatherings of God’s people, sometime get going in directions that can lead to hurt and brokenness.  God had another idea for His people, Jesus had another plan for His church.  We, as His people, get busy and miss what He was trying to do.  It would be good to stop the Humpty Dumpty Church.  And, by the way, what the servant’s of the king can’t fix the King certainly can.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  He is the one who can put the Humpty Dumpty Church back together again. 

In his book Jesus Christ: Disciplemaker, Bill Hull touches on a very important point: “The problem at its root is that we have accepted a non-discipleship Christianity that leads to plenty of motion, activity and conferences but no lasting transformation.” Transformation God’s way is key.  We find that notably mentioned in Romans 12.  Take a look:

 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

What a great statement.  Based on what God has done for us, His people, we give our bodies as living and holy sacrifices to God.  We give Him everything as a sacrifice on the altar gives it all.  We break from the way the culture around us operates and thinks and go His way being transformed by God into a new person.  Yeah, that is good. 

How does that stop the HD church?  The emphasis on God and His ways and not me and my ways is a great place to start.  Then in a veritable explosion of wisdom chapter 12 of Romans opens up in ways that offers healing to the wounded church that was in Rome and received this letter in the first century.  Look at this to begin with.  Big personalities and opinions exist among most people, right?  Imagine for a moment the challenge of powerful political Romans mixing with the slaves of the city and trying to overcome the day to day social order at a church gathering.  Not only were there socio-economic issues, but religious heritage of the Jewish believers who carried a particular prestige in this new order.  How do you deal with pride problems in such an arrangement?  Here we go:

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Romans 12:3 (NLT)

The standard for evaluation is this wonderful faith God has given us, and not the standard of Rome or Jerusalem.  In our day we have our own reasons for pride, but whatever they are they fall short of measuring up to God’s level and it serves us well to go His way. 

The brokenness of the HD church leaves a mess of pieces all over the place.  Romans 12 points us to unity in Christ as one body.  Do you know how we are to get to one body from all the pieces?  We are to acknowledge that we are different (not in ethnicity or material possessions or personal power or religious heritage).  We are different people blessed to bless others in the church for the good of all.  The emphasis is on giving and not getting.  Unity in the body follows the grace shown.  Here is how Romans 12 puts it.

 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.  If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.  If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.  And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.  Romans 12:4-8 (NLT)
Instead of focusing on division there is a unity in Christ’s body based on serving one another with a special function.  Serving, giving, sharing whatever one has is important and not the individual function…do it well as God has given the ability.  This is so good. 

God offers such a life for each and all of those who are His that it is hard to even grasp.  It stretches the imagination.  It radiates in glowing light.  It challenges to the very core.  The plan includes the ekklesia, the people of God gathered as the church.  His best for us is often wrapped up in a group of imperfect people.  It is there in that strange amalgamation of personalities and problems that God works His transformation in us.  The more we lay our lives on the altar as living and holy sacrifices and stop conforming to the world but allow Him to work His transforming ways in us our lives will be enriched, our families will be blessed, our communities will see a newness of life.  The HD church will always struggle trying to fix itself by earthly means, but the King has always been able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.