Friday, June 23, 2017

He's Not an Alcoholic

After mentioning a Christian guy’s name, a friend of mine and I suddenly realized that we each knew him. My friend said, “Yeah, he’s an alcoholic.” And two things occurred to me: he had gone blind to this mutual friend, and both of them were injured as a result.

2 Corinthians 5: 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

If we're going to help people, we must choose the true, new creation view of them, and assist them in Christ. That helps them most, and keeps us from reckless and futile attempts that fail and frustrate us.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Stand In Freedom

While you will feel pressure today to be something powerful, to be something dynamic, to be something productive and praiseworthy, Jesus will be laboring to keep you free of such pressure, and free to be the son or daughter He fashioned perfectly for His display of grace and glory.  He will be working to keep our sons and daughters free, our spouses and friends free, and even those who oppress us free from the ludicrous lie that life is about conquest, instead of the rest of bearing fruit and of building others up in the freedom of knowing and enjoying Jesus.  Some will not understand that—not yet, anyway—but you do. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stupid Days Stuck In-Between

Do you ever feel like you’re caught between what you want to do and what you have to do instead?  Do you ever struggle between some kinds of business principles or workplace rules and those of the Kingdom? And does it ever get so frustrating that you have a blow up or a break down?  You know, really lose it?

I simply thought from Jesus this morning that He knows we’re prone to frustration and anxiety and outbursts of temper:  “I can’t handle this!”  And He has not one iota of condemnation for us—not one.  I think He wants you to know that.

You and I are living life caught between two worlds—the temporal and the eternal.  The one we can see, and the one we can’t.  The one that passes away, and the one that lasts forever.  Just as the world in which we fit and belong begins to get into focus—“I can see it!  I can taste it!”—the other one comes barging in.  I can be enjoying the day, knowing Jesus and trusting in Him, when suddenly something worldly knocks me over . . . or knocks me mad or regretful.  I remember a bill I forgot to pay (and now, because of the interest added, I don’t have enough to pay it), I get a phone call from my daughter, who tells me that I forgot to pick her up (Great! Don’t I care?), or my health shows signs of getting bad, and I’m uncomfortable about how the future looks.  And then some clown in the parking lot cuts me off, and one of those, “I’m saving the planet” electric cars silently (and arrogantly, I’m sure) zooms into my parking space before I can.  And, let me tell you, it all starts adding up and boiling over.

It’s like I’m happily flirting with spiritual maturity, and then it rudely breaks up with me. “Not happening, baby breath!  Change your diaper!”  I don’t like it at all.

Or maybe I read someone’s facebook post that’s supposed to encourage me, but it’s got so much, you know, over-the-top, “everything and everyone is beautiful, life is good, butterflies for everyone!” junk that I want to throw up on their post.

But the truth is that I’m no less of an attractive target for the life and love and grace of God Himself than I was yesterday.  Maybe I’m a bigger target.  “Hooray for me!”  I can imagine a picture of my face on a big billboard alongside the freeway with the title:  “God’s most needy.”  Frankly, we’re all in competition for that title; I just think I’m winning.

I know that none of us really wants to be the most needy place for God’s work today.  But, if it’s true, He doesn’t mind.  He doesn’t have something better to do.  When you consider how He moved in order to get to the most needy during His days among us, do you think He’ll stop before getting to you, repulsed by your neediness?  No way.  He’s really good with that.

And He doesn’t have far to go in order to get to you, right? 

Romans 5:5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Where’s the glory or evidence of God going to show up best?  In me.  In you.) 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  (Parenthesis mine.)

So if you’re having one of those sloppy, stuck-in-between days, take a moment to breathe.  There is such purpose to this life, and through it all, God holds us securely in Christ, holy and righteous, priests of the earth. 

While this life is a mess, the next one won’t be.  But in the next one there won’t be any chance to live by faith in what we cannot see, no opportunity to grow and succeed in the battle against temptation, no one to lead to Jesus, no friend we need to pray for, no groceries to buy for a down-and-outer, and no forgetfulness that means we need to apologize to someone.  Nothing will be in-between anymore.  Everything will be exactly—way beyond exactly—as our hearts long for it to be.

That will be such a good day!  Just not today.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Most Satisfying

Here’s a question I was recently asked by a pretty antagonistic guy:  “What’s all this about childishness with Christians?  Doesn’t God want you to be mature and independent?”

My favorite thing of all is knowing Christ in me.  I love knowing Him, and seeing His grace and fruit in me and through me—His evidence—is the highest benefit.  I enjoy talking with Him and looking for Him and what He might do or say or lead, and I believe that is the essence of maturity. God doesn’t give birth to sons and daughters in order to one day separate from them, as though independence is His goal, maturity the result. 

As a son, I can do whatever I want—I am that kind of free—and what I want most is to know Him.  I am His child, but that doesn’t mean immaturity; it means offspring.  His delight (and my joy) is to grow us up with Him in such a way that we find out how perfect He is with us and for us.  In that way, dependence or independence isn’t the thing, togetherness is the thing; and that’s most satisfying for both.

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Convention 220: Freedom In Christ Audio Available!

They’re available!  The audio files from our recent Convention 220: Freedom In Christ, have been bundled together into a terrific package for only $19.99.  That’s Andrew Farley, John Lynch, Frank Friedmann, Tracy Levinson and Wynema Clark, Jeremy White, Mark Maulding, Nicole Nicole Fitzpatrick, Bruce Barteaux, Bill Loveless, Davey Shollenberger, and even my workshop (“Finding Grace In A Dry Place”) is part of the deal.  Click the link to find out more and to order!  It's easy.

http://www.thelifebookstore.com/index.php?module=content&content_id=6357

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Connection

As ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21), we are not serving people only a message of perfect condition with God (as good as that is), we are also serving a message of perfect connection with Him.  The connection is with Him, remember?  And He is Life!  Life with personality.  Life with feeling.  Life with direction.  Life with vision.  Life that had no beginning and has no ending.  Not just length of time life, but a new kind of life connected with Him.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Enjoy His life and you will be enjoying reconciliation.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Three Words For Those Who Suffer

For those who suffer (as I do) from the stress and grief sometimes brimming over in our days, let me remind you that as insecure, insufficient and inept as everything often seems, three other words besides those are the gospel and power of God that rises up in you and me, heralding, shouting what is to come.  Everything we have because of Jesus—All of it!—is “imperishable” (it is ever-lasting and eternal), “un-spoiled” (it is untarnished and undefiled—there is no “Sell by” date!), and “fade-less” (the radiance of what you and I have will never diminish).  And all of it is secured, reserved and guarded for you by God Himself.  Nobody can touch it—not you, not me, not anyone, not any thing.  Nothing can change it.

1 Peter:1:2b Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Imperishable
Un-spoiled
Fade-less

We are well and we are secure, even on whacked-out, crazy, stress-full planet earth. 

(This is a transcript of the video, “Three Words For Those Who Suffer,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/xh7h6fupHb8.)

Share Your Fears

Please don’t keep your fears to yourself, as though they were your own to keep and deal with. That would be selfish. Share them with Jesus. Even over and over again. He loves meeting and sharing with you in anything and everything, and never tires of it. He’s perfect, so you don’t have to be.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Builder's Building

The church has become very difficult to see because we're confused about the building.

I know very well what it's like to be part of church-in-the-building leadership, and the pressure is high to get people to come and to "engage" in some manner. Whether and how people engage becomes the way by which leadership sees its effectiveness. Poor attendance and poor engagement reflects badly, leading to assessments, strategies and pressure for improvement. Good attendance and good engagement reflects well and becomes a template: "This is how we do ministry around here." Either way, attendance and engagement become the measurements for leaders, and attendees are caught in the measurements. (In fact, they also often adopt them.)

I would say that neither leaders nor attendees do well when this form of assessment is foundational. When it is, no one will be seen for who he or she really is in Christ, magnificent and noble, since that invisible and eternal reality will have been camouflaged by another one, visible and temporary. Our efforts and appeals will go toward the latter because that's what we see and that's what we can manage. (So we think.) Many of us attempt to live right there, in the passing away realm, contorting our true selves in the vain effort to make life happen where there is none. And so much fails from there.

But if we see what's true, if we believe God about what He does for and to the born again—It's astounding!—if that's our foundation, then we can go forward well from there. It will look different, to be sure, especially in a building. It must, since God is the builder and you are the building.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tiger Grace

The caption atop the picture above—“DUI (Driving Under the Influence) arrest is latest in Tiger’s fall from grace”—is the epitome of how twisted our view of “grace” has become.  It’s not because we’re stupid; it’s because we’re lied to by the Chief Liar.  Satan hates God’s grace, and he enjoys making it as twisted and perverted as he can for you.  Unrecognizable.  Impossible to enjoy. 

As much as Tiger Woods clawed, fought, cheated and connived his way to “the top” of the golf, monetary and social world, he cannot now “fall from grace” because he never earned grace to begin with.  Grace is always given; grace is never earned.  Indeed, when someone falls a great distance, it can be said that he has not fallen away from grace, but fallen into grace all the more.  (See Romans 5:20-12.)

And that’s how I’m praying for Tiger Woods.  “Jesus, as ugly as these days are for Tiger Woods, would you impress upon him how perfect you are for Him?  How kind, generous, forgiving and loving you are toward him?  Would you wake him up to you?  There’s nothing better for Tiger Woods than you, and I would love for this to be his time with you.  Amen.”

A Rare Nobility

On a national scale, shared sacrifice is pretty much a nobility of the past.  During World War II, 12% of the United States population was serving in the armed forces, which meant that much of the rest of the population were thoroughly connected, as well.  The 88% knew all about the focus and sacrifice of the 12%, and did a lot to support them—to say nothing about what families of those lost in battle endured.  Though separated by oceans and thousands of miles, we were a population together in sacrifice. 

Today, less that 0.5% are serving in the armed forces, and only a small percentage of the remaining 99.5% are sharing in their sacrifice—unless you count paying taxes.  I don’t. 

Further, I know that if I were to post a picture or a meme today thanking those who served and gave their lives in the service of our country, more than a few in my audience would be disappointed by my post.  I might lose a few friends, who are anti-military, having made their thoughts known over the years.  They might be quick to say that they’re not against those serving in the military; it’s just what the military does that they’re against—a distinction lost upon an actual soldier.  (That’s like telling me that you’re not anti-pastors, you’re just anti-church.)

But I recognize a beauty in those who take up a cause for the benefit of others that costs them more than the minor discomfort of marching and holding a sign of protest.  I see a struggling nobility in those whose families lost a father, mother, son or daughter in the service of my country.  They know why they served, even if that service is not glorified by those served. 

Well, today I am glorifying you.  I cannot actually show appreciation to those who gave up their lives—which is what Memorial Day is about—but I’m standing up for them and for their families.  I see you.  What you’ve done, what you’re doing counts with me.  Your rare nobility ranks high.  Thank you. 

Start Well


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Two Big Things

Two wonderful things occurred last evening: I finished writing my next book, and my youngest daughter, Emma, got home from New Zealand! I really wanted to finish my story before she got home because she is marrying Ben Rolfe (a terrific guy) in less than a month, and I will be officiating the ceremony. What a terrific day it was, and what a terrific month this will be! (As a long-awaited family project, my wife and daughters will share in the story by reading and editing it before I send it to the publisher. It's a family thing, and we think it's pretty exciting.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Life Is Not A Selfie

The mind set upon rule keeping and law keeping as a way of living will result in failure, sin and death.  You’re going to be a wreck.  Romans 7:8 says that sin seizes the opportunities that commandments give!  In other words, if you want to see a whole lot of sin and failure in your days, try living by some commandments—any commandments! Just cook a few up and watch what happens.  Or you could also try viewing other people by commandments, such as we do regarding our politicians.  You’ll have the same result in your life.   (Please read Romans 7 and 8.  Both are loaded with this.) 

Plus, the one making the attempt will go through his days in a perpetual selfie mode.  “Do I look good?” “Am I doing it right?” will be at the top of his self-righteous question list, the concern of most every moment.  That thinking, that mind, will keep him in failure, as it has for all who have ever attempted it.  (It’s Jewish, not Christian.)  One thing is fortunate:  he will break down.  He will weary. 

If you meet someone who has wearied of “Selfie Christianity” (“Do I look good?” “Am I doing it right?”), do not condemn him for being messy, inactive, uninvolved, disconnected or passionless.  DO NOT. 

The Spirit is seeing to it that the one born of Him is abandoning the false and futile focus, and is beginning to look to Jesus as His representative and life—if only a peek to begin with.  You and I can assist him with that little look.  His hope is actually beginning to grow because it has been exhausted in a false attempt, and must be reborn where it belongs—on Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to produce the life that is His to produce.

His hope is that nothing is demanded of him!  All is provided!  He lives by faith that Someone Else has done it all!  He was crucified with Jesus, and no longer lives—that’s actually true, he just doesn’t know it.  (See Galatians 2:20.)  The life he has been attempting—“Selfie Christianity”—is not life, but death!  He has unintentionally been bringing a false self to life, if you will allow me that.  That cannot work.

The way of life for him—his true hope—is to believe into Jesus, who gave himself for him, and who lives now on the inside. 

How active, how involved, connected and passionate is Jesus?  Plenty!  And that’s what he will discover.

The mind set upon Him is life and peace—Romans 8 says so!  But it’s His life and His peace, not your life made better so that your selfies look better.  In other words, the mind set upon Jesus is going to find out what life is really like!  That’s the hope.

The mind attracted and given to Jesus actually works, which is why you and I love the gospel of Jesus Christ so much—giving it and receiving it.  Because Life is an inside production, and not an outside parade captured by endless selfies, you’ve got to get off of the Selfie Christianity mode, and get into Jesus and how He is with you.

I hope this helps.  Pass it on, if you like.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Life Is Not A Selfie,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/AAe1g_25f_U, or simply scroll down this blog page.)