Let’s FEED not FIGHT.

Pestilence, Politics, Promises, and Patience

How is a believer supposed to respond to all of the changes and uncertainty of the times in which we live?  In Matthew 24 Jesus gives insight to His people for how to prepare for His second coming.  I’m finding it helpful to prioritize what the Scriptures say a disciple should be doing.  Matthew 24:45-49 says,  45“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49and begins to beat his fellow servants…

To beat is to “repeatedly offend.”  Hmmm.  I am cautioned not to take out my frustrations regarding perceived delays, by arguing and being offended with others. Each of us is experiencing grief in different ways.  Disciples, let’s not beat one another, frustrated by delay.

Jesus says He hopes to find His wise and faithful servants feeding His household at the proper time.  The word feed means “to nourish or maintain, the food of the mind, the substance of instruction.”  Does your mind need to be nourished or instructed to be at peace today?  Does your confidence in the goodness of God need to be maintained again today?  Are you feeding on the substance of His Word?  Disciples, please join me in nourishing the minds of others with the encouragement of God’s word. 

May we await His coming by laboring for the harvest.  He is not surprised by pestilence, He is not delayed by politics, and He is not slow in keeping His promises. He is patient… not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pe 3:9).  I said to my kids last night that my primary reason for wanting to change our family’s boundaries right now is impatience.  If impatience is a fruit of the flesh, and I make decisions in the flesh, will that ever go well?  May we make decisions from a place of patience, waiting on the Lord.  He alone will renew our wellbeing.  He alone can cause us to say it is well with my soul.  May we care more about building up the body than pursuing our personal freedoms, and may we care more about the harvest than we do the virus.  Be encouraged everyone!

By This Time Tomorrow II

By This Time Tomorrow You Can Do It

In part one, we discussed how as disciples of Jesus, we’re called to participate in the great spiritual battle of soul reconciliation called “The Great Commission.” The Bible reminds us our battle is not against a flesh and blood opponent, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Galatians 6:12). Oftentimes after a great spiritual victory, we hear a spiritual taunt telling us to, “Back off the intentional relational transformational discipleship!” What should we do?!

We read in 1 Kings 19 that after Jezebel had taunted Elijah, the Lord recommended a few things to Elijah, to ease his state of distress.

Two times the angel says to Elijah, “Arise and eat (1 Kings 19:5,7).” Elijah ate, drank and rested, caring for his physical needs. I could take the spiritual approach and tell you this means we should read the Word. That would be great advice! But I think it’s important to recognize that, in the words of John Ortberg, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.” These spiritual battles are physically draining. We need to take heed of ourselves, and realize when “the journey [has been] too much (1 Kings 19:7).” Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating nourishing foods, and drinking enough water.

The second instruction given to Elijah was, “Go outside before the Lord… and listen for His low whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12).” I used to go to a fitness club to use the treadmill and elliptical machines. But I noticed my time with the Lord at the gym was not like our times together when I went outside and walked. I’m always looking to hear that Voice behind me saying, “This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:2).” And maybe like Adam heard the physical sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), I hear Him better outside? I now bundle up and walk outside in the cold all winter long! It’s where I hear God best. His gentle whisper strengthens me day by day. I’m so thankful that like David, I can say I’ve learned to strengthen myself in the Lord. (1 Samuel 30:6)

Finally, Elijah was told to “Go back to the wilderness and anoint” three leaders (1 Kings 19:15). Sometimes the places we’re called to serve can begin to feel like the wilderness. And those that serve with us may privately feel a spiritual dryness, or battle fears and insecurities themselves. When the Lord told Elijah to anoint three leaders, his job was to affirm God’s call on their lives. In a recent “Last Man Standing” episode Tim Allen’s character said, “I call those who I know can do it.” When we affirm God’s call on someone, we’re reminding them that God called you because He knows you can do it. The Bible says we should encourage one another every day. No matter how dark and overwhelming the taunts may seem, let’s not forget to encourage those who are courageously trying to serve the Lord.

By This Time Tomorrow I

By This Time Tomorrow Running Scared

As disciples of Jesus, we’re called to participate in the great spiritual battle of soul reconciliation, called “The Great Commission.” The Bible reminds us our battle is not against a flesh and blood opponent, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Galatians 6:12).

Elijah, in I Kings 18, had been diligent to engage in a spiritual battle. He was outnumbered 450 to 1. God sent fire on a water-soaked altar, and Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal by his own hand! Elijah experienced a tremendous victory won by God, right in front of his own eyes.

Then came the taunt, “BY THIS TIME TOMORROW… (1 Kings 19:2).” Like Goliath in the Valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17) who came out every day to shout and defy the armies of the Living God, Jezebel unloaded on Elijah.  She said, “I’ll make sure you’re dead by this time tomorrow.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He cries out, “Enough already! It’s too much, Lord! I would be better off dead. I am insignificant, no better than my ancestors (1 Kings 19:4).” In the same way, in the battle with Goliath, the Israelites had been shaken, and paralyzed with fear, and they had run away (1 Samuel 17:24).   And so it continues, one generation after another, century after century, Satan and his mouthpieces do their best to intimidate God’s children.

I’m noticing a pattern in my own life. I’m watching God win big victories: I see a man repenting of pornography addiction. I watch a couple take steps to reconcile after adultery. I sit with another leader who shares a struggle and invites God to help him overcome. These are significant spiritual victories that hit the enemy where it hurts.

And then I hear it… the intimidation, the taunt.  “BY THIS TIME TOMORROW….” I experience a dark cloud of emotions following God’s biggest wins. I used to think it was physical fatigue, and I’m sure that’s part of it. But I have become more systematic to journal this experience, and this darkness seems to come about exactly 24 hours after a spiritual victory, or after a discipleship battle, like seeing someone delivered from sexual sin, or overcoming a stronghold of resentment in leadership.

When this happens I feel all alone, exhausted, overwhelmed with fear, battling despair, like I’m trapped and there’s no way out. It feels like this must be the end. When I try to sleep I am restless. It’s a feeling of being vexed.   Sometimes it’s not until I find myself praying like Elijah, “It’s impossible Lord. It’s too much… I can’t do this anymore. I want to run away…” that I realize this is more than fatigue.

“BY THIS TIME TOMORROW…” is a spiritual taunt whispered by the enemy of souls. He is communicating in every way he can, “Back off the intentional relational transformational discipleship, OR ELSE.”

When young David heard the taunting, he said in 1 Samuel 17, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight.” He recalled victories God had previously won and declared, “This uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God…This day the Lord will deliver (him) into my hand…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, For the battle is the Lord’s.”

My fellow disciples of Jesus, we have to wise up and remember this message is a spiritual trick. The Blood of Jesus is greater! We will see the enemy run in Jesus’ name. The Bible says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” So I’m not running, I’m standing right here (Ephesians 6:13). And I’m not backing off the intentional relational transformational discipleship, either. By God’s grace, I intend to see the captives set free in Jesus name (Isaiah 61:1). Who’s with me?!

 

Reasonableness of Reconciliation

Grand Canyon

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  1 Peter 2:2-3

In the United States, Christians are often stereotyped as being critical, condescending, and unreasonable. Is this what God intended for His disciples?  Often times among churchgoers, we watch resentments and unforgiveness grow into estrangements.  Is this what Jesus wants for His body?

I want to invite you to crave pure, spiritual milk.   The pure milk refers to the Word, that by it we are nourished to grow up in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His grace (2 Peter 3:18).  This word “spiritual” is fascinating to me.  It means literally that we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable.  Craving pure spiritual milk means we apply God’s logic to our everyday lives and in so doing become divinely reasonable.

First, pure, spiritual milk helps us to apply God’s logic.  As we grow in our faith we move from understanding the gospel literally to understanding it logically.  When I became a Christ follower in 1979, I understood literally that the wages of my sin was death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord, and I wanted that.  I understood it literally.  But over the years, as I apply God’s logic to my life and I study through the principles of the gospel, I’ve moved from understanding that I need a Savior to understanding that I am the chief of sinners.  My sin caused Christ to experience the pain of God’s wrath.  My sin caused Christ to experience more pain than anyone’s sin on earth has ever caused anyone else.  And so like Paul, I can agree with him in 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.”  When we apply God’s logic, we understand what our sin has cost Christ.  It creates a humility in us that as we’ve been forgiven much, we can love much.

Secondly, pure, spiritual milk creates a divine reasonableness in us.  To be reasonable is the ability to think through things and see across to the other side of a matter.   The Grand Canyon is up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep. (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).  The rim to rim, top to bottom to top again hike is 23 miles long and takes most hikers two to three days to complete.  The Grand Canyon is a huge chasm.

To paint a picture of the reasonableness of God, I would point to Romans 5.  It says while we were sinners, living in darkness, while we were God enemies, while we were defiant toward Him, God was living in unapproachable light, perfect in holiness and sinlessness, and He was able to see across the chasm that separated us.  He, in unapproachable light, saw us in the darkness.  He, in perfect holiness and sinlessness saw me in my rebellion and sin.  He was able to see across to the other side – that’s what it is to be reasonable.  And He made a plan even while I was separated from Him to draw me back to Him through the death of His Son.  In Genesis it says we were created in the image of the Trinity.  Of the many ways we reflect His image, one of the things that we reflect is the ability to reason.  We are the only creation of God with the ability to reason.  However, when sin came into the world, in our sinful nature, our reasonableness was broken.  In my sinful nature I see everything through my own selfishness and my own pride.  I’m not willing to see beyond myself.  When I’m able to see God’s perspective, which is different from my sinful nature, my ability to reason is reawakened.  Our reasonableness grows as we crave the pure spiritual milk, applying God’s logic to think through things.  As we consider how great a work it was to reconcile the separation that was between us and God, we begin to consider how we can participate in reconciling others separated by a great distance.

Revelation 7:9 says heaven will be filled with people from every nation, tribe, people and language.  These are people different than me!  May we apply God’s logic to become divinely reasonable.  May we come to understand that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

May we have the divine reasonableness to participate in His reconciliation.

Smile, You’re The Apple Of His Eye!

apple-of-my-eye1I had traveled alone, and after a 14 hour flight I had arrived in Shanghai.  I had no idea where I was going, so I followed the Americans through the airport trying to navigate strange signs.  I made it through fingerprinting… then immigration… then picked up my bags and passed screening.  Finally I came around the corner into a large group of people waiting, mostly short Asians.  And then I saw him!  My brother stood head and shoulder above the crowd, and he made sure that I knew he was excited to see me!  That was cool.  I’ll never forget the joy of seeing my brother on the other side of the world.

In Luke chapter two, “the angel said to (the shepherds), ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”  They were learning that God loved them so much, He was sending His one and only Son (Jn 3:16) to be their Savior.  And while we celebrate how excited we are that Jesus came to us, we maybe overlook that the Christmas story is about our Heavenly Father working out His plan to reconcile us to Himself, so He can communicate to us how excited He is to see us and to be close to us again!

One of my friends sang his bride a love song at their wedding.  The guys were amazed he pulled it off.  The ladies seemed to think it was so sweet, the kind of thing every girl wishes someone would do for her.  The Bible says in Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”  The Bible is teaching us God sent Jesus at Christmas, to restore our relationship, so He could rejoice over us with gladness, and affirm His love for us by loudly singing us a love song!

When you picture God in your mind how is He looking at you?  Is He distant and unapproachable?  Is He stern and condescending?  Is He scowling and disapproving?  If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, the Bible portrays a very different image of Him.  In Psalm 147:11, He is the Father who delights in those who trust in Him.  He is pleased with, or He takes pleasure in, those who hope in His steadfast love.  The Numbers 6:25 blessing is that the Lord would “smile on you and be gracious to you!”

The Christmas story is good news that creates great joy.  I hope you spend time considering how much your Heavenly Father loves you in Christ Jesus.  And I hope you are satisfied with His steadfast love, so that you can rejoice and be glad all your days (Ps 90:14).  Be encouraged friends, and smile — you are the apple of His eye (Ps 17:8)!

Keep Your Chin Up Tiger!

Chin Up Tiger crop

My grandpa was a man of few words.  He would often whistle while helping his neighbors fix something, or whistle while doing the dishes for Grandma after dinner.  But one phrase I remember him saying to me often was, “Keep your chin up tiger!”

Romans 5:2-5 says, “Through (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Does that say rejoice in sufferings… really?  Suffering produces hope?  How?

The word “rejoice” comes from a root word which literally means “neck,” or “that which holds the head upright.”  It refers to living with a God-given confidence that comes from having a proper perspective to deal successfully with a matter. To rejoice could be translated, “Keep your chin up tiger!”  Looking back, I now realize when Grandpa was telling me to keep my chin up, he was telling me to whistle and be confident in the worries and discouragements. He was telling me that I’d get through this, because God had a right perspective and a good plan for me.

The Bible says we are to rejoice or “keep our chin up” in sufferings.  Sufferings are difficult situations that create an internal pressure which makes us feel trapped with no way of escape.  The Bible says these trapped and hopeless feelings bear a good fruit in our lives.  They are actually for our good…?

The Bible says keeping the right perspective in sufferings produces three things: endurance, character, and hope.  Endurance or steadfastness is God’s enabling grace that helps us to remain under the challenges He allots in life.  Romans 14:4 says, “for the Lord is able to make (you) stand.”  James 1:2-4 says it this way, “Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  Endurance or steadfastness comes in trials and sufferings when we come to a place of contentment that allows us to say, “The Lord is my Good Shepherd, I have everything I need (Ps 23:1).”

Character is a genuineness that comes from being approved through testing.  Have you ever watched someone you respect respond in a difficult situation and think to yourself, “I think they can get through anything?”  These are men and women of character, who have been tested and come forth as gold (Job 23:10).  Psalm 66:10 says, “For You have tested us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.”  Ephesians 4 says we should mature to the measure of the full stature of Christ, no longer tossed to and fro by the waves of this life.  He created you for Christ-like character!

And Hope is to anticipate and joyfully welcome what is certainly to come.  We rejoice in hope of the glory or good manifestation of God.  The Bible says His plan for us is good, and we have hope because He loves us, He has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort us, and ultimately we are promoted to eternity with Him through faith in Jesus.  The Bible says faith is the assurance of things hoped for (He 11:1).  And faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord (Ro 10:17).  If you need hope today have someone read the Bible aloud to you, or listen to an audio Bible.  There is always hope. Remember, “He is able, He is able, to accomplish what concerns you today!”  What thoughts of hope do you dwell on today?

So rejoice in sufferings, rejoice in hope, keep your chin up tiger!