Saturday, February 27, 2010

Off To Barbados

In a few hours I will leave for a two-week trip. I will be in Bridgetown, Barbados, for one week, teaching and hanging out with a beautiful bunch of God-enamored, Bajan believers. I will then go to Atlanta, where I will be doing pretty much the same thing, except with Atlantanians. Would you pray for my family and me?

Weekend Funny

(It's the weekend--time for some fun around here.  The following is from Mikey's Funnies, a five days per week, put-a-funny-in-your-email-box group.  Check 'em out at

A Latin American minister was touring the U.S. in an effort to boost financial support for missionaries and ministries in his home country.

At a church luncheon, he was telling the guests about this home country, his family, and the important work being supported there.   As he concluded, he said, "And I have a charming and understanding wife but, alas, no children."  

After a pause, he said, haltingly, "You see, my wife is unbearable."  

Puzzled glances in the audience prompted him to try to clarify by saying: "What I mean is, my wife is inconceivable."  

Observing the laughter in the audience, he realized his mistake, but floundered deeper into the intricacies of the English language by correcting  triumphantly, "That is, my wife, she is impregnable!" 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview, Part 2

Part 2 of my interview with Joel Brueseke is up.  He and I get into some pretty great stuff, like what we think the condition of the church is today, signs that God's people are hungering for Him and for His grace to them more and more, etc. 

So when you've got a few minutes (you may also download the interview in order to listen to it later), head over to

Away with you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interview, Part 1

Joel Brueseke, blogger extraordinaire and all-around great guy, interviewed me last week on his weekly broadcast. He has posted Part 1 of the interview, which you may get by going to the following link:

Essentially, Joel asked me how I became so enamored with God's grace and love and life for me.  That's a big question, and my answer includes why it led me to offer all of my life and all of my days to Him.

If you've ever wondered what I sound like (and haven't gone to the Downloads page on my ministry web site), here's a 17 minute opportunity.

Off you go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When Temptation Strikes

Where is God? Where has He made for Himself a perfect place to live? Where is He most happy to be?

In you. If you have received Him, He’s actually there you know, fully capable, ready to show Himself perfect in and through you. How cool is that?

It’s an amazing act of faith to offer myself to God, who now lives in me, to appeal to Him and call to Him in the beginning or midst or even end of temptation. After all, He’s familiar with it: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18)

Don’t be shy during temptation; there’s no need to draw away from Him in some presumed shame—it’s not from God. He is great to know during temptation! He produces in me the evidence of Himself—the fruit of the Spirit. I’m always delighted at the knowledge of His nearness, and He is glorified in me.

Whatever is tempting you just now, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer yourself to the Spirit. The angels must delight to see us offering our tormented selves to God. And the demons lament.

Instead of making pledges that we’ll be strong, we look to Him—and we get Him. When covetousness (for example) begins hammering away at us, we make no promises of obedient avoidance; we stay tight with our Friend. He frees us from that ugly, ungodly thing, and our friendship is deepened.

When lust or fear or disappointment rage against us, tempting us toward ugly conclusion, we move toward Him. “Savior! I know you’re in me so I look to you for your ability and grace. You’re what I need.” Lo and behold, He who now calls us home, sees to what’s going on inside of us. He who finds no fault with us—none—recognizes the assault, takes the blows and turns the fight. Afterward? We’re left with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It’s all what He is, and it’s what He produces inside you and me. It’s God Himself showing off in you and me.

When temptation strikes at you, don’t go it alone. Go to Him, and He’ll see to you.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom 6:11-14, italics mine)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thought of the Day

Call me foolish, but I refuse to believe that things are as they seem. There is much behind it all, and that’s where I’m looking today.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Cor 4:17,18

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love Works On Valentine's Day

Does it seem to you that the primary motivators in life today are fear, guilt and anger?  I think that motivational trinity has crowded out what God intended—the motivation of love.

It’s happened to the church, too.

We seem ever to want to be motivated by crisis, by calamity, by a good cause and a good appeal, by a big need, or by a needed kick to our backside.  I know the church doesn’t really want that, but it seems like it does.  And I sure don’t like it.  It’s not that we shouldn’t be motivated by a sudden event, it’s just that we can become addicted to the energy and appeal of the moment.  And there is something much better, something more true and constant, something given by God Himself.  The church was made for it.  You were too.

God’s love produces confidence and daring and assurance and peace and rest and hope and, well, everything we need.  God’s very being is love—He does nothing apart from what He is—so if we, His sons and daughters, attempt to do much of anything apart from love, we fumble and act unnatural.  We feel it, too.  Like something’s seriously out of whack in us.  And it is.  When the behavior of the Corinthian Christians went seriously crazy, the apostle Paul pointed them back to the love of God because it is the prime motivator—it rescues and refreshes and compels the people of God (2 Cor 5:14).

God’s love works.

I’m reminded of what love did to the Macedonians.  God gave an amazing grace to these people who lived in “extreme poverty” such that in their joy they gave what little they had so others could hear the gospel.  The Macedonians were in love with God, having been won-over by His love for them.  And that love “welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Cor 8:2)

Paul then wrote to the Corinthians that they, too, should “excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” (2 Cor 8:8, italics mine.)

That’s why the Macedonians gave – they were in love!  They didn’t give motivated by an appeal to sacrifice, they didn’t give to make sure their tithe was on time, they didn’t give because others were in need, and they didn’t give because it was the right thing to do.  They gave because they were in love, and that made their giving “acceptable” (2 Cor 8:12).  Their gift wasn’t acceptable for any other reason but love.

And that’s what drives me nuts for the church.  I want believers to know and be motivated out of a burgeoning love affair with God.  I don't mean we should never give unless we're right then invigorated by love, but I fear we've gotten used to giving without it.  We've learned to motivate and to be motivated by something else.  That's what makes pushy pastors and manipulative motivators out of our leadership.  And they don't like it any more than we do.

If we're not looking and doing good, it's because we're missing love.

If your motivation is low right now, go get some love—you need it and can’t live without it.  If your giving lacks, if your service is stunted or reluctant, if there is gossip in the church and “sin in the camp,” go get some love—you cannot live without it.

“How can I get some of His love?” you ask.  You might read Ephesians 1, or think about the gospel, which says you have been given everything for nothing, or ask Jesus what He thinks of you right now (you know it will be good!), or take a walk and start thanking God for what He has done for you in Christ, or pick up a favorite book and turn to that great passage about God’s love for you, or email or call someone and ask them to remind you who God has made you to be and what His thoughts are toward you.  Or email me – I’ll help you.  It’s an assist and pleasure for me to think on and talk about God’s grace and love.

Because for me too, love works.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


God threw the stars out in place like people throw rice at a wedding . . . er, bird seed.  But still!  And He loves us perfectly because He IS love--He doesn't simply have love or feel love, HE IS LOVE--without anyone causing it, without deserving it, He is love.  Every approach of yours toward Him is always met with love.

How cool is that?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Smack-Down: God's Love vs. Mr. Spock's

Think back to when you were in High School, when deep awareness of self and of others was awakening everyone like a loud and persistent alarm clock. Remember how awkward and needy you could feel while navigating the crowded hallways?

Complicating matters were the hormones newly flooding our bodies, playing a rough, inside game that resulted in passion and fear and hope and delight and disappointment and pimples.

And love. LOVE. What the heck was that?! We were beginning to figure out that love was at the very least invigorating and desirable; it was much more than we had yet experienced.

Let’s pretend for a moment that there’s a Christian speaker who will be addressing some youth at a meeting tonight. And let’s add a twist—the speaker is you, now an adult. What do you tell them about love? Your audience is all ears.

What I have heard many times at such gatherings is this: “Love is a decision. You had better make good ones, and here’s how. . .”

Have you heard it? I think fear is the motivator for that approach. Our youth are alive in ways they’ve never been, and we’re terribly afraid of the damage they could do to themselves and to others. After all, they’ve got to learn to control themselves.

And there’s the problem. We offer them control when God is offering love. God made man "Batteries not included"—love is the needed connection and power.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) God is not a “how to”, a big list of how to make life work and how to get ahead so that in the end you can retire well and leave a legacy for your kids. God’s love is not just a decision. There are decisions because of His love, or as a result of it, but God Himself is love. No one causes God to love, because God already is! You cannot do anything to make Him what He already is and does. Does that make sense?

What youth need is the love of God. They’re set up for it. (You are too.) With everything going on in them and around them, what will save them and enable them is God’s love. If they have and know Him, do you suspect the chances will be higher that they’ll make good decisions and have self-control? Yes. That’s the fruit or the behavioral evidence of the Spirit—God Himself now in them. But if when we teach them about God, love gets 10%, and how to make proper decisions gets 90%, they may well end up with the result of love instead of love. They may make good decisions, but not actually know God. And that won't work.

I think this plagues the church right now, but it doesn’t have to.

Try this. As you read the following, have in your mind what you think God’s love is like:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-10)

Look at all those marvelous words—blessed, in love, predestined, adopted us, pleasure, will, glorious grace, redemption, riches, lavished, good pleasure. What a smorgasbord of happy news! And that’s how God was and is. Love Himself made the decision, and Love makes it today. Why? Because God wants to—so He does!


The love of God compelled God, and it still does. I'm so glad! If life is all about making good decisions—Get going!—then do you see what’s happened? We don’t actually need love because we can just make decisions. Making correct decisions becomes the primary goal, and most of our teaching and sermons and books go in that direction. There are lots of good intentions, like improving our relationships and keeping us from bad ones, something that’s important to us all. It's simply logical. . .and calculated.

But is that really what motivated God? Is that why God ". . .blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ"? Because it was a good choice? I know that He decided to send Jesus to the cross and to raise Him again, making us holy and new. But was it calculated only? Just a strategic decision He made?

No way. That's not the love of God that I know. God wanted to! And it's the want that motivates the decision. He is full of holy and passionate desire. His love is ever flowing to me, ever convincing me, ever rescuing me from doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief. . .and convincing me that He is as good as He says He is. He doesn’t love me because He made a decision for it—“Well, okay then. Sigh. I will love Ralph.”—He loves me because He IS love. He works to express love to me and to you, and is satisfied only when you and I understand His love and revel in it—our “getting it” consummates His love. Am I being clear enough?

Which is better: to believe that God makes an every day, every moment decision to love, or that God IS love and every decision of every day and every moment comes from love?

The former casts God as a sort of cosmic mathematician, a Super Computer, measuring and calculating the happenings of the universe. Where is action necessary? Where must I place blessing? Where must I prove that I am Benefactor? Star Trek fans might think of receiving a love letter from Spock. Ooh. I bet that would really warm you up with passion and power. Mr. Spock’s love language could only have been, “Logic, Captain, logic.” That'll light your fire.

When giving someone you love red roses, announce the following: "Well, honey, I read somewhere that women like flowers, so it seemed pretty smart to give you some. There you go."

Frankly, I think this concept of God’s love—love is a decision—has, in fact, kept people from love. Rather than know the magnificent love of God for themselves and for others, they’ve accepted a result of love as the real deal itself. They’ve got the decision to love without the motivation. They’re trying to act like there is heat in their inner fireplace, when all that’s there is wood. No wonder they grow weary.

The love of God is not His gravy, it’s His main course!

If God IS love, then what do you suppose His thoughts about you are today? If the two of you were to go to Quizno’s this afternoon for a sandwich and a chat, what might He want to talk about? If you were to enjoy a time of prayer this afternoon, and you asked, “What do you think of me, Father?” what do you think you’d hear? “Well, Karen, I have decided to love you. There you go. Now let’s get on with the day—here are my instructions.”

No way!

But if God IS love, then even when the stuff of your day seems contradictory to love (and I have had whole seasons like that), you will be drawn to Him in order to know Him. “Father, I know you love me. So why is this happening? Has anything changed? Is Spock sitting in the Captain’s Chair right now? No? Well then, what’s going on?” And you’re set up to know Him—and knowing Him is everything. Even if He doesn’t point to a clear reason in answer to your question, you will get what He is for you—love.

He is compelled by love. And you’re the perfect place to express it.

(Because I am busily writing new material for my book to be published by Harvest House in January, my posts are sometimes re-posts, as is this one. Don't hate me.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Dung Days

If your days are a sort of endless dance past happy meadows and blissful mountaintops, then you may not appreciate this post. Don’t bother reading any further unless you’re looking for reasons to pray. But if you’re acquainted with turmoil, if a frequent dance partner through your days is frustration, then you’ll get it.

I’m writing about dung. That’s right—dung—and days that are full of it. The apostle Paul knew all about those kinds of days, and I do too.

What do I mean? Well, let me give you some examples. When you look back on all the plans you had for life and you think sadly, “What the heck happened?” that’s a dung day. Or if you have a day or two when your educational path seems wasted or useless, especially if you went past high school and into college, then that’s a dung day. Or maybe you consider the long ago favor of your childhood or the standing you once enjoyed in your community, and, in light of present difficulties, you wonder, “Where did I go wrong?” then that’s a dung day. Or perhaps your memory loads up a bygone time when you really had it goin’ on, you were a mover and a shaker, a power-broker, but now you feel like you’ve been shoved off the radar screen of life. As you think about your comparatively meaningless existence, well, that’s a dung day.

Or, as a friend likes to say in her best Scottish brogue, a day when “It’s all crrrrrrap.

Are you with me? Now let’s put it into a biblical perspective.

If you’ve received Jesus, if you’re a Christian, then God thinks He has made you a new person—crucified you to this world, made you an alien-new-creation in it, and given you a whole new set of likes and dislikes. And He didn’t call you on the phone and ask for your permission, or write you an email explaining it all and ask you to respond favorably before He went and did what He did; He simply did it. Call it one of those omnipotent power plays He’s famous for.

Mostly we’re thankful He did what He did, saving us and all. But on days when things don’t add up, when our career path looks like a Dow Jones Industrials graph summarizing 2008, or when we don’t like our present situation in the least, then that’s the dung that proves we’re made for something else—knowing Jesus. I’m not kidding.

Here. Have a look at what Paul wrote:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish (literally “dung”), that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, italics mine.)

Chances are good that you’re already having days of deep longing or turmoil. The god-given purpose—the target—of those longings is not so that things finally go the way “they should” and your life works the way you thought it would. No. God has set you up and is using the dung of your days to give you something way better. You’re longing for Him now. Feel it?

What you want is Him. Have you figured it out and told Him? Wanting Him is the highest and best wanting because there is nothing higher or better—and wanting and knowing Him will make you free from the far lower wantings and knowings that strangle the sons of God. Like wanting better stuff and knowing who’ll win the NCAA finals.

Maybe right now you’re entirely lost in the dung—you can’t see anything else and you’re sick of it. I know what that’s like. But it’s a sort of blindness and sickness that serves the purpose of making your inner eyes, what Paul called the eyes of your heart, open up and become the useful and reliable things they’re intended to be.
And then you’ll be getting well. The sickness of this world—the lusts and longings that make feeble men and women—will not find you quite so easy to visit. And the dung days will have been turned to gold.

(I wrote this a while back, but felt prompted to post it again today.)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Life By Phil

I have a fascination about the future.

I wonder what direction it will take me, what will happen in Iraq, what will go on in Washington D.C., who will win the Super Bowl, will my life be fruitful, will we move, will we have enough money, what’s God up to, and what are the people who read this thinking.


It might be epitomized by today’s important event—Ground Hog Day. I mean, what will Punxsutawney Phil do? Will there be six more weeks of winter (Please, no!), or are we moving into spring? I will pay attention to what goes on with Phil and his shadow, even if he doesn’t. Isn’t that weird?

But I’ve realized that in my mania about the future I can become paralyzed in the present. I mean, what if I make a move today that screws-up my future? What then? And if I screw-up, it’s no longer just me that suffers—I’ve got my family to think about.

Maybe Punxsutawney Phil and I will just stay in our holes today. See? Don’t move and that whole shadow thing doesn’t even come into play.

And I’m living life in order to avoid it.

Life for me is not about how I work it and what God will do as the result of my work. Life is really about God working me. I’m His workmanship, and the delight of His day is in what He does with me. (Eph 2:10) Really, I believe that I can run up a mountain or down a valley, pastor a church or make coffee, watch a movie with Emma on my lap, or write a blog, catch frogs with Ellen, or go on a date with Sarah, and God is pleased. He’s busy and He’s working in me.

I don’t mean there aren’t times when God’s direction and choice for my day isn’t clear and absolute—that happens. But I think what God’s doing today is me—might as well get going.

Shadow or not, that’s my future.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. (Philippians 1:20-26 NIV)