Thursday, January 19, 2017

Storing Up--Mt 12:35

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."

I want to be someone who brings good things up.  But I find myself in contrary ways.  It seems like a lot of bad things come up.   It's not the way I want to live.  But am I not a Christian?  Does He himself not make me good?

Yes.  He does.

But  I read a word and it makes me pause--"stored up."  Ok.  Two words.   I am reminded with these words that no one stores up anything on accident or even in small measure.  When I go to store something, it's a lot of work.

When we store jars of food it means gathering the food, preparing it and canning it (no small process).

When we store up money in a savings account.  It is the bi-monthly discipline of setting some aside.  That's not an easy process on a particular income.

When we store up goods for an emergency or inclement weather approaching, it means going to the store, buying goods, making sure we have candles and more.  

Storing up is not even close to a passive process.  It doesn't just "happen."  And it just isn't an occurrence that is accomplished in one or two attempts of effort.  It is a repeated process of gathering, assembling and putting away.

The same is true for this verse.  

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him."

To bring forth goodness I must be intentional about the storing up of that which is good.  It means storing up acts of forgiveness instead of acts of offense, storing up thoughts of hope instead of thoughts of despair, it means storing up His Word more than the word of Facebook and the latest news.   In essence it is the storing up of hope, faith and love.  

Only when I "store" these things in my mind, heart and life can I take from those stores in an hour of need.  It doesn't happen quickly.  It doesn't happen occasionally.  But storing up does happen when we take action.  Intentionally. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

4 Things that I'd Believe if I Received the Bible with No One Telling Me What to Believe



My study of Scripture has lead to some paradigm shifts.  Deep and significant ones.  Different than what I've been taught and told in my early Christian years.  It's not that anyone was trying to teach differently, it's that we come from faith heritages with our traditions that alter how we see things.
 
There is one particular issue that I was wrestling with over years when I decided to ask myself the question:  If I were on a desert island with no outside interference, I had good exegetical skills in my back pocket and someone handed me a Bible, what would I believe?  It led me to change.  And it led me to reaffirm other issues more than before.  Here are 4 that I think are issues in the church today.

I would believe that

1)  Baptism is the response to the gospel.  Whenever the gospel was preached and whenever someone wanted to respond to the gospel, they were baptized.  Today we have many, many responses to the gospel (sinner's prayer, fill out a card, etc..).  It's not that these are bad things as they are not.  Many people have been helped in their journey with the Lord.  But at the end of the day baptism was the response to the gospel.

2)  The gifts of the Spirit are still in effect.  The Scriptures say to eagerly desire spiritual gifts.  It says do not forbid the speaking of tongues.  And while some have used 1 Cor 13:8 to say the gifts are no more, the very interpretation goes against whole chapters before and after that say the total opposite. 

3)  Praying and seeing people healed and delivered is a part of normal Christianity.  God can use doctors and supernatural miracles to heal (or do whatever he wants), but God uses both.  Faith groups tend to be exclusive on which one of these is best.  But Scripture endorses both. We should be practicing both.

4)  We are grafted into Israel.  Some say the church replaced Israel.  Others say Israel is a separate entity that needs revered.   After study, I have an answer.  When someone of a faith group asks me if I'm one believes in Replacement Theology or uphold Israel's uniqueness, I tell them I have a Grafted-In Theology.  Because that's how the Scriptures describe it.

Looking at the Scripture for what it says and not interjecting our own culture and beliefs is impossible.  We bring to our understanding who we are as people with our culture, faith expression, life experiences and more.  And yet it is important to begin with Scripture the best we are able and read it from the lens of what it says and in the context of the times.  It just may change everything.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Shifted Eyes--Heb 12:2


Last night I went to bed in not a good place.  For all practical purposes it looked the devil would win today and I was utterly helpless.  I prayed.  I rebuked the devil.  And I smashed my pillow in frustration. (It probably has died a thousand deaths.)  All I could see was that the devil was trying to deceive, kill and destroy.  All I could do was watch the "devil, prowling around like a lion seeking who he may devour," (1 Pet 5:8).  My prayers seemed empty. 

This morning I woke up and those thoughts lingered.  Then all of a sudden I realized I was looking at the wrong one!  I was looking at the devil feeling helpless.  But then I fixed my eyes on the Almighty.  And I prayed the same prayers but with eyes on the One who has REAL power.  It brought great joy to my spirit!  So I prayed, recruited others to pray, and joy came back.  I felt the victory in my spirit before anything took place.

"Fix your eyes on Him."  It says.

That is the way to victory.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reflections on 2016

As I read of my friends traveling throughout the world, working with the broken and seeing miracles.  My eyes well up in tears.  I can't tell you why, they just do.  It wasn't just envy but a longing to walk as they are and see God move as they have.  But then I stopped.  Has God not moved even more in my own life this year?

  • Battling my own health issues that put me in bed for 20 hours a day in 2014 and only half way recovered in 2015.  In 2016 under extraordinary duress my health was given a grace ticket to care for another family member.  My health issues are trying to return, but in the hour of greatest need there was a supernatural grace to endure.
  • Where doctors gave zero hope, not even an inkling, God stepped in.  There have been restoration miracles so amazing that others stand back in awe.  My desire and prayer is that those stay firm that one day, all this disease and sickness can be redeemed for the healing of many.
  • Earlier in the year I felt the Lord say to save the tithe but not put it in the offering.  Recently I was wondering what to do with it and about to give it to a missionary when a significant crisis in the church arose.  I realized it was for this hour that the Lord had saved funds back.  The Lord had gave before and blessed me to be a blessing to another.
  • We were with a group of people and I had the privilege to teach others about being bold in prayer for healing.  They prayed for one another and one person was restored completely of breathing problems.  Three months later and the problems have not returned.  Another was prayed for that wasn't healed, but we rejoice together for the one healed, while continuing to pray for the other.
  • Earlier this year a vacation was utterly impossible.  A few months later because of healing we were able to take the biggest vacation of our lives, traveling over 4000 miles.
  • In an hour of great need the Lord spoke and directed us to the persons around us who could help.  God had gone before us.
  • When there were health issues that persisted, he directed us to take action and see the problems.
  • This has been a TOUGH year relationally.  But as the Lord spoke and obedience followed, the back of great anger has been broken.  Not gone yet, but broken and on its way out.  Where sin has abounded, let grace abound all the more.
  • Many things have happened nationally that can only be attributed to God alone.
  • One of my hearts desires had been to see friends across the nation and with what was going on, I didn't plan on seeing it come to pass for years.  Yet on vacation I realized God was doing just that as we went from one friend to the next.  Wow!
  • The Lord withdrew me via circumstances out of my control from working in a job that would have been miserable.
  • The Lord gave us the best Christmas time with family that I've ever had as an adult.
  • The Lord changed people in such a way that there is significant greater peace and rest.  What seemed impossible (people changing), God has done and is doing.
  • Several have been spared death this year only by God's gracious hand.
  • The Lord brought a friend back into my life after 20 years that is having a parallel journey.  One that I can speak with in difficult times. 
  • I went into the year so depleted that I could not imagine 2016.  It was so far worse than I ever could have imagined but in that God answered a prayer for greater emotional health and strength.  I'm a different person today than a year ago and I am glad.
I'm ending the year much stronger inwardly.  The year has been as a fire, a tornado or a bucking bull ride.  But it appears to be ending well.  I am reminded that we grow must when our circustances are at their worst.

I look to 2017 with huge question marks. I long desperately for improved physical health, and the self-discipline to make changes.  I long for financial foundations with the projects I'm working on and wisdom to know how to go forward.   I long for health in those in my immediate circle.  Sickness has taken so much.  I am asking that God redeem it for his greater glory.

So that's 2016 in review.  The year 2017 looks to one of change.  Change of president from the outset.  May the Lord be the victor of 2017 in ways that the world can say, "God alone did this."

Blessings to you and may 2017 be one of great and grace-filled, hope-filled changing year for you too.

Blessed are the Peacemakers--Mt 5:9


I once read an article about the big difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.  Peace keepers try to keep the peace at any cost, glossing over important issues.  But peacemakers delve into the hard issues.  I'm not sure if this is entirely accurate but it has underscored an important truth that I have captured in 2016:

Truth is a necessary part of the peace process.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Battling Bitter-Jonah


Hate.  Anger.  Fury.  Bitter.  Cold-Hearted.  Yep, that pretty much is the description of much of my heart this year.   The actions of some are mind-boggling.  And the actions of those who have been close over the years is infuriating.  Confession time here.

So said person made sure to show her disdain in a fit of anger I went out on a hard walk.  Furious, anger, weight-loss reducing stomp-walk.  In the middle of my rage God spoke.  "Try reconciliation."

I did NOT want to hear those words.  I did NOT want to obey those words.  But I knew I would.

I asked the Lord the timing and it was several weeks away.  I asked the Lord how and he said a three day water fast.  I did those things.

In my spirit there was a fullness to approach someone whom I felt has, is and still is wronging me and my family in a very wrong way.  It felt like they should be coming to me, not vice versa.  But hate was eating my soul.

So I went.  And it was ugly.

Afterwards I felt the joy of obedience as well as the back of hate and anger broken.  Although the anger still is having a hard time fleeing.  I'm trying to continue to "bless my enemies" but it isn't easy.  I want to "bless" them away from me. 

But then in a Scirpture meditation I read about Jonah.  I have spoken often about Jonah that his issue was not fear of the Assyrians but hatred.  I find myself identifying.

The problem with Jonah is that even though he obeyed, he still remained bitter.  And we do not know if this ever changed.  And that's sobering.

Sobering as even though I obeyed and made a reconciliation attempt, it isn't enough.  I still need to purge the anger that stalks my soul.  Or else I will become just like Jonah--initially obedience but long-term bitter.  And I don't want that. 

Find bridges, not walls.  If we're real in life that sometimes is harder than a nice sweet sounding phrase.  But this is the path of the gospel.  It is is privilege to obey the Lord in the hard stuff.  It makes us more like Him.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Wisdom AND... Proverbs 1:1-7

I think many who follow the Lord are familiar with the following verse:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."  
Proverbs 1:7

It's what is connected to it that I haven't seen so clearly until tonight.

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

"...for attaining wisdom and discipline." v. 2

"...for attaining a disciplined and prudent life" v. 3

and a repeat of the above

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline." v. 7


AND discipline.

I've always read this so focused on the acquiring of wisdom and knowledge, that I've overlooked this simple but important connection with wisdom.   And how does this apply?

In contemporary culture "wisdom" is often pictured as an old, quiet sage giving sound advice in time of need.  While that is good and is a facet of wisdom, the wisdom according to Proverbs (and Solomon) is different.  Wisdom is about DOING the right thing.  Understanding God's ways and acting upon them.  Most of Proverbs is about these choices.

That's how discipline fits in.  Wisdom in the context of doing what is right is

- satisfied with the wife/husband of your youth
- keeping a distance from mockers
- speaking life with your tongue
- honoring God with our money

And so much more.  And these things take discipline.  How easy it is for eyes to wonder or fantasies to grow in the recesses of our minds?  And mockers?  We join them by the TV shows we watch.  Our tongue?  Don't even go there.  And money?  We all think we are doing right and 95% of us think that we aren't "wealthy."  But how do we handle what we have?  These take discipline.  And understanding the ways of God.

Wisdom and discipline are like salt and pepper, apples and oranges, baseball and apple pie.  They just go together.  Because they need each other.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

All the Nations that Forget God - Psalm 9


Psalm 9
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.[c]
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
    all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
    let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
    let the nations know they are only mortal.
This Psalm I find disturbing.  The wicked go down to the real of the dead?  All the nations that forget God?

How does a nation forget God?  By not obeying His ways.  By setting themselves up above God, believing that they know best.  By a nation doing what is right in their own eyes (didn't we learn from Judges?).  Disturbing.  Very disturbing.  Praying for the changing of a nation.

Sing to the Lord - Psalm 9


I grew up in a home with a mother who does not like music.  You mean certain genres of music, right?  Nope.  She hates music.  All music.  She feels assaulted by it because everywhere you go there is music--the store, the elevator, church, everywhere!

For that reason I have grown up without music as part of the equation.  When I go on a long car rides I love it, not for the music but for the chance to pray for an extended period of time.  I don't even think to turn on the radio and it startles me when someone does.

Lately I've been memorizing the Psalms as I have a lifetime goal of memorizing the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs.  I was working on Psalm 9 and it begins like this:

"I will praise you O Lord with all my heart,
I will tell of all your wonders.
I will be glad and rejoice in you,
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High."

Time and time again singing praise to the Lord is an example and a command.  For many people this comes naturally, for me this is something I must be intentional about.  Not because I'm not appreciate of all that the Lord is doing, but because music is not a first thought.

So today I began praising the Lord in the car with a CD in the player.  As I was singing I began to think about what it is going to be like to be in heaven, all singing together, with the full reality of the glory and goodness of the Lord right there.  And I really believe it's not going to be just solemn, funeral sounding music but really a celebration and a party as well as holy.  My eyes watered.  I can only imagine.

When I finally arrived at my destination, my thought was this.

"It is good praise the Lord and to make music to your name, O Most High, to declare your loving-kindness in the morning, and your faithfulness at night."

Song from Psalm 147:1

What is your song today?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Dear Christian who is Not a Missionary

There is a war against my nation's economy and yours.  Why?  Because economy is a factor in mobilizing the gospel force.  God uses the church to send out one another and when the economy gets challenged, people shrink back, reduce giving and churches even cut off missionary support (it's usually one of the first to go). 

Several years ago the Baptists had to bring back 800 people from the field.  This doesn't seem like many to some, but when you realize that these 800 represent reaching millions in unreached places, it's staggering.

There is a story in Nehemiah that we don't often hear about.  In fact, I've never heard about it outside of reading the Bible.   The history goes that God chose the Levites to minister the gospel in the temple.  They were not allowed to have lands or jobs but rather were to be supported by the tithes of the people.  But when the Israelites began to drift from the Lord, so did the financial contributions.
The Levites had no choice.  They returned back to their fields.

In comes Nehemiah (who was the true Braveheart).  He was appalled at the situation.

"I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields.  So I rebuked the officials and asked them, "Why is the house of God neglected?"  Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.  All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and oil into the storerooms.

Remember me for this, O, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services."  Neh 13:10-14

Nothing new in the land of God.  But when times get hard people pull back. But is there anything more important than the gospel?

A college professor used to always say that those you don't go to with the gospel will come to you with the sword.  And I've observed this truth.  Look at the nations to whom we have peace.  It's because they have the gospel.  Look at the relationships with those nations that don't have the gospel.

Almost weekly I receive emails from friends on the frontlines.  They are deeply under-funded and trying to figure out how to move forward.  They have strong calls from God but also recognize that it is a partnership.  It's hard to read.

May I encourage you today to re-evaluate your giving?  Perhaps even increase your giving to the missionary of your choice?

Many years ago they used to have what was called a Faith-pledge.  Do you remember those?  They were based on faith.  A person believing for a specific amount that God would provide, and pledging to give to where directed.  It wasn't a person looking to their finances, it was a person believing the Lord for what wasn't yet there.  Perhaps this attitude is something we can bring back.  So that our missionaries don't have to remove themselves from their fields.









Sunday, November 13, 2016

God's People? Hosea 4:6


"My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." Hos 4:6


I read this and it struck my afresh that it is GOD'S PEOPLE who have the lack of knowledge.  How is this possible?  Especially for us in the world?  We have knowledge as deep as the mighty rivers.  We have internet, books, Bibles and more.  Yet for all this, God's people are destroyed from lack of knowledge?

I have felt that this year.  And last.

(copyright Fotolia)
What has happened in our nation (the good ol' USA) has been shocking.  It's not caught me off-guard what the non-Christians have believed--without the truth how can they know and act any differently?  What has surprised me is the beliefs, attitudes and actions of the believers.  (Sometimes I'm shocked at what's in my own heart as well).

When I hear some of my fellow brothers and sisters say things or make posts on Facebook, I sometimes want to ask, "Have you read your Bible?"   "Do you understand the Scriptures?"  "Do you know what God has to say on this?"  Because I'm afraid the voice of the world is overtaking the words of God in the hearts of his children.

Even if a buffet is spread before us of every available resource, it doesn't mean we dine at the table.  If we look at the meat and vegetables but leave that buffet to only eat at the dessert table, we are missing soul health.  And I'm afraid that's what is happening.

But how do we provoke this generation, and our generation, to once again engage Scripture?  How do we salt the oats and cause them to thirst anew?  How do I hunger for his Word more consistently?

Only Jesus.
(Copyright Big Stock)

Only the living God of heaven can create that hunger.  To that end I pray.  That God will send revival, but a revival that will also lead to reformation.  An insatiable hunger for the enduring Word of God.  Will you join me in this prayer?  (And reading the Scriptures too?)


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Logs


We rarely see our own short-comings as we so clearly see them in others.

With All--Psalm 9:1


Recently the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in Baseball.  It was a moment for the ages, because they hadn't won in ages!  108 years to be exact.  The whole city erupted in jubilant celebration.  It is still a topic of conversation and will be for quite some time.  Total praise for the Cubbies.  And deserved.  They did a great thing in the world of baseball.

This morning I read Psalm 9:1--"I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart."

And for a brief moment I compared my praise to the Lord to the city of Chicago's praise.  The Cubs did a great thing, and the praise was every bit "with all their heart."  And like so many others, when I approach the Lord, I find myself praising him with a casual heart, a little bit pressed to get to the list of burdens.  Important things like the welfare of our nation, a friend whose family relationships are struggling, another friend who just lost her mother in a terrible way.

But I keep coming back to the reality that if I'm praising the Lord with all my heart, making the time to do so, it puts my troubles into their appropriate context.  It is a reminder that God alone is on the throne, and He does great things.  As I heard someone say recently, "He makes good things out of good things and makes good things out of bad things."

So Lord, open my eyes to see your wonders!  And let my heart praise with you ever fiber.  For you alone are God!  In You we can have rest, peace and even joy no matter our surroundings.  Be exalted O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"With Thanksgiving, Present your requests to God." Php 4


I was reminded this morning that the reason we begin our prayers with thanksgiving to the Lord is that if we don't, we don't understand why we are asking for the things that we ask for.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Goads and the Ox--Acts 9


One of the hardest fights is to fight against something we know to be right.  Our pride resists and we don't want to accept it.   We become stubborn as an ox fighting against the goads, those wooden prods that poke us when we go the wrong direction.

This is Paul's story.  Because there was a problem. He couldn't deny his experiences with those blasted Christ-ians.

"These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke" (Ac 6:10).

Every time these guys spoke, Paul could not stand up against them or fight the Spirit.  I believe it's because he felt that their message was true but his mind told him differently.  He could not, would not let this heresy sway him.  His would stay strong and uphold the law.

But not stronger than the power of Jesus  Thankfully.

"About noon, O king as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" (Act 26:13-14).

In his fight against Jesus, Paul surrendered.  And today we have much to be grateful for that encounter.

I too often find myself fighting against the goads.  There are things I want to do that are good, but not necessarily best.  In the past the Holy Spirit has met me and I am glad.  I hope to mature to the point where I obey instead of fight, but until then, I'm glad the Lord is so ferocious for our hearts.




Monday, September 5, 2016

Admiration in the Absence--Mk 3:1-6



(copyright:  bigstockphoto)



I'm just so glad it wasn't me.  I couldn't have not done what Jesus didn't do.  Especially if I had heaven powers behind me.  Here's the scene:

Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand.  Therefore the Pharisees plotted to kill him.

Seriously?  Kill him for...healing someone?  Even Jesus was angry and deeply distressed.  They cared more that it happened on the Sabbath than for the man who had an incapacitating, mocking magnet deformity.  No telling what I would have done.

And that's why we have to admire Jesus.  For what he didn't do.

1)  He didn't call down 10,000 angels and strike them with lightning, sending them straight to hell without passing go.

2)  He didn't pass judgment against the Pharisees that went something along the lines of "Pharisees are always ________" or "Pharisees never _________".

3)  He didn't vow never to return to a synagogue because they were "so full of hypocrites" even though almost every synagogue was full of hypocrites.

4)  He didn't get discouraged in the ministry or develop a hard heart even though the church leaders wanted to kill him for preaching love and truth.

Instead he let the Pharisees live, he continued to minister to other Pharisees, he intentionally went to more synagogues every week and he didn't lose heart in his mission, even if he did lose his life.

Admirable.

Totally admirable.

No one will ever be ashamed to follow a man/God like this.  Praise Jesus.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Testimony Worth Reading

I read this recently and I keep coming back to it.  What a powerful testimony.  Please click the link and take time to read.  I tried to paste it here but wasn't able to.

http://erikfish.com/2016/07/26/bryan-sierra/

Once Upon a Time



Copyright-James Morrison/Getty
Once upon a time there was a people who for the most part knew what was right and did so because it was the loving thing to do.  Eventually it became less about loving and more about what was legally right and what was legally wrong.   Soon it was just about following the rules.  Perhaps they were afraid of lawsuits.  Or afraid of people.  Even the "church" people did the same thing.   The people forgot about compassion, love, justice and mercy and came all about doing something to avoid getting in trouble with "the law."  Then Jesus showed up.  You can read about it here:  The Gospel of Matthew (esp Mt 23).

Monday, August 22, 2016

We are the Blessing--Ps 84:5-6


"Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion."

Valley of Baca is a literally the Valley of Weeping.  But when God's people come through it, they make it a place of springs.  Wherever God's people go, they make things better.

* Dirty areas get cleaned up
* Employers get a return on their hire
* Broken people get hospital care
* Hungry people get fed
* Hurting people get encouraged
* Lost people get saved

And life gets better for everyone around them.  Why?  They don't go from struggle to struggle or difficulty to difficulty but strength to strength.  And when their strength is in him, they can do things that serve Him who is greater than themselves.

We are the blessing.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Verb-View


David Hamilton is coming out with a Bible formatted to understand the verbs.  Do you know THE most frequently used verb ascribed to God?  See if you can pick from this list:

He Speaks
He Blesses
He Loves
He Rebukes


You probably can guess.  It's He Speaks.  Our God is the God of communication.

The Lord's Prayer Re-Examined

If we were to write the Lord's prayer according to what we really pray (including me), it would probably read like the following:

"Father, give me today my daily bread and tomorrow's bread too. 
Deliver me from evil people.
In Jesus' name Amen."

Then if we pulled out our Greek geek selves we might do a word study on "father" and delve deeper into this intimate meaning of "Daddy" or "Abba."

It's a good start.  But we all must grow from there.

The first thing I'm struck with about the Lord's prayer is it's corporate nature.  When we think of prayer, we almost always tend to think of it in terms of our individual relationship with the Father.  But this isn't the Lord's prayer.  Read it again noticing the words of community:

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'

For if you (plural) forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."  Mt 6:9-14

Now it could be that as he was addressing the group, he meant the corporate teaching to be individualized.  But consider that Middle Eastern culture is a relationship, group-centered culture, I'm not so certain.

So with that I wondered what it would be like for me not to pray "My Father" or just "Father" but to begin praying "Our Father."  Just trying this once and immediately perspective changed.  As I say "our" I think of my brothers and sisters who are being killed for their faith right now.  I also think of the people in my life that I like and don't like.  I think of the nation I live in. 

It means my prayers I am praying are greater than myself.  The answers God gives are not just about me.  It is about the "we" and the "our" and the "us."  It creates sense of corporate responsibility with corporate blessings.  Maybe a new way of praying could actually be rediscovering the old.






 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jesus, The Caregiver


One of my Middle Eastern friends tells the story of when his sister was being courted by a suitor.  The older brother in typical culture gathered his 4 younger brothers to meet with the young man.  They came looking tough and intimidating.  They would meet with him 5 times to find out if he was good enough for their sister.  They would also try to add an intimidation factor.  If at the 3rd visit they liked the guy, they would begin by offering him tea as a sign they were warming up to him.  After 5 visits they would give their blessing.  If after they married and the husband was harmful to their sister, they would investigate.  If they found their sister in the wrong, they would let him deal with it.  If they found he was wrong, they would deal with him.

In Middle Eastern culture (and many African cultures) the responsibility of the family falls on to the oldest brother.  He is to protect the family name and make sure the family is protected.  An older brother is also oftentimes expected to financially send the young siblings to school.   It's double the honor, double the responsibility.

Jesus is Middle Eastern.  And he is the oldest brother.  He had the responsibility of caring for his family, especially his mother and the other siblings.  (According to tradition his father died young.)  At one point his brothers thought he had gone crazy so they tried to pull the "mom-card" to get him to stop (Mk 3:30-34).  Didn't work.  Jesus knew what they were up to.  "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

But on the cross it was different.  Jesus had a responsibility to his mother.    And it wasn't pretty as Michaelangelo so shockingly reminds us in his painting--Jesus was naked.  They gambled away his under garments.  And the Romans wanted the greatest possible shame.  There was a reason that "All those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things" (Lk 23:49).

But it was different with family.  Jesus' mother was there.  It was her son.  And the disciple Jesus loved.  And in the moment of his greatest agony as he became the sin of the world, he still was focused on the one in front of him--his mother.

"When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (Jn 19:26-27).

It wasn't his brothers or even his sisters but it was the man who came to the horror of the cross to look after his mother.  To this man he handed over the care giving responsibilities.  Ironically it was this man who would live the longest.

Jesus was indeed a caregiver.  Not in her sickness but in his crucifixion.  This tells us much about the kind of man we follow.





Saturday, August 13, 2016

Seeking


Concern about finances has been a struggle for me since my dad first left my mom as a kid.  I worried often for my mother who was working three jobs and how we were going to make it.  Whenever we went to a restaurant I would find the cheapest thing on the menu and order it.  It was not until my late 20's that I was able to purchase the non-cheapest menu item.

Fast forward some years later.  Being in international ministry has meant living a life of trusting the Lord and in income level that is beyond comprehension to any ordinary person.  A meeting with the financial advisor this week was laughable.  I just ended up praying for her instead.

But it is also a concern for me and I wish it weren't.  Lately that concern has reared its ugly head yet again.  A lot of present and future unknowns and I find myself grinding to find ways for income.  I've looked into so many things I've thought of writing a blog just on what hasn't worked well.  Have I made an income?  Nope.  Yet there's burden inside that keeps pushing and driving forward.  But it has significantly reduced my time with the Lord.  Signficantly.

This morning I open my Bible and read this:

"Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her."

Prov 8:10-11

'Nuff said.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

God, My Protector


I've been thinking off and on over the years of God being my protector.   I know He has protected me countless times.  It really is the question, how does he protect my heart?  Not that life is not full of hardships.  In fact we know it is.  "In this world you have many troubles," he says.  I've experience my truckloads of challenges.  But how does he protect my heart?

In thinking tonight of Jesus as a male/as a man, I was thinking through how he protected while he was on earth:

  • When the children came to him and the disciples were trying to shoo those annoying kids out of the way, Jesus invited them to them and elevated them, saying the kingdom belonged to such as these (Mt 19)
  • When they were stoning the woman caught in adultery, he asked a question that was really a rebuke.  They dropped their stands. (Jn 8)
  • When the Roman soldiers came to arrest him, he stepped forward and told them it was him they were looking for, and to let the disciples go (Jn 18)
Jesus was their protector, even on this earth.  It didn't mean they weren't exposed to hardship, but they knew he was in their corner.  There is so much more to understand and know.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Deeper Translates to Higher

It has often been said that to go high one most go deep.  You can't build a sky-scraper in shallow soil.  But to do so beckons patience.  I can't say I'm naturally patient.  If anything the Lord teaches me that while I don't have patience, I can grow it.  It's painful.

Currently I'm writing a book about Paul and the Galatian churches.  My typical way of doing things is to obsess about it until I get it done.  Let's get the book written in a week or two.  Perhaps it's because I fear if I delay it, I won't get it done.  Maybe it's just because I'm an idea and action person.  Or it could be because I want it out there Right Now!  I don't know.

And then I read three things that cause me to pause.

First was Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Power.  He was meditating on the Scripture in 1 Cor 2:4-5:

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

Jim says this:

"Think of these words today when so many speakers and churches want to produce "wise and persuasive words," cleverness and human charisma, a beautiful church plant and great programs for the family--everything but the "demonstration of the Spirit's power" that the apostle Paul exalted to the glory of God."

The  Scripture provokes a question to me.  How much am I seeking the Lord's power in what I do?  A 5-10 minute prayer time?   I think of great preachers such as Billy Graham.  I've heard better preachers but the anointing on him is powerful.  And I know great books that have changed history that have not always been the most powerful writing such as "In His Steps," but they have been anointed by the Spirit.  Are we cultivating God's power to bring the transformation as we study and pray?  Am I more excited to get a book out than to slow down and seek the anointing and direction of the Lord as I write?

The second cause to pause was studying Paul's timeline of his life this morning, when he came to the Lord he immediately prayed and fast, blindly, for 3 days.   Then shortly thereafter headed to Arabia for 3 whole years, consulting no one but receiving the gospel from the Lord.  After that season his ministry exploded.  Why 3 years?  He had studied the Scriptures fastidiously.  Why not just jump into preaching?  Take a few months, maybe a year but 3 years?  Because Paul did not blast out of the starting gates, his ministry was actually richer, deeper, wider and more powerful.

Then then there was my third cause to pause.  A Scripture I have thought of often in Proverbs.

"Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control."  Prov 25:28

Here I read "Self-Discipline."  When I'm not exercising patience, I'm like a city with broken walls.  And if you've ever been to Israel, broken walls were utterly dangerous.  One could not exist long-term without walls, which is why in Ezra and Nehemiah there was such emphasis on the rebuilding of the walls.

Patience and prayer.  Perhaps with this the books I write will be of much richer quality and more anointed through prayer and God's Spirit.  It's not something natural, but it's something I want to grow.