16 July, 2010

Look Up

The world is constantly vying for our attentions. Cell phones have given us the ability to hold virtually our entire lives within the palms of our hands. Video games and television have caused many of us to be glued to 33-inch box for hours each day – completely oblivious to what may be going on around us. The glitz and glamour of our technological society has caused our focus to be narrowed. Our world individual worlds seem smaller, because our eyes are cast down at our iPhones (or other “I”-devices). As a result, every circumstance that comes our way suddenly looms larger in our eyes than they may truly be.  Our points-of-view in life are skewed. Our distresses and trials seem greater, and more daunting. Tribulations appear to be insurmountable. Personal triumphs lead to bigger egos. Interest in the concerns/affairs of others dwindles, unless it be the gossip we indulge in for personal entertainment. Unfortunately, our view of God is being downsized as a result of these attention-stealing gadgets.

Let’s be clear on one thing: I’m not against “toys.” Do not throw your television set out the window; don’t downgrade to the $8.99 phone at Radio Shack; don’t donate your iPod to Good Will. Gadgets aren’t evil, if put in the hands of a wise person. So, let’s get wise.

Christianity has a shrinking view of the power and majesty of God. We all know God “created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). We know “the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick” (Jas 5:15).  We know that “God is faithful” (1Cor 1:9), and that “God is love (1John 4:7). “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). However, find a Christian in distress, and it seems unlikely they will hold fast to these confessions. “Yea, but” is becoming an increasingly popular phrase the people of God. In the words of Christian author Jesse Duplantis, I’m telling you, “you gotta get your ‘but’ out of the way.” 

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psa 121:1-2). God’s throne is not up on Mt Rainier, but his power and majesty is seen there. You serve a God who spoke that into being! “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psa 124:8). Look at what Paul writes in 1Thessolanians 5:24, “the One who has called you is faithful, and He will do it.” God will take care of anything that we place in His hands. Yet, if we have a limited view of what God is capable of handling, then we cannot have any confidence in His ability to handle our circumstances. Then our faith is of no value. Faith is confidence (Heb 11:1), so without confidence there is no faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb 11:6).

Sometimes, we forget God’s “bigness.” That is what the psalmist is striving after. Even if you are not currently experiencing some kind of distressful situation in your life, look up! See the greatness of our God. Allow the Holy Spirit to stir up a fresh revelation of the glory of God in your life. Put down the phone. Leave Facebook alone for a few days. Take a hike; go to the beach; sit in the grass and admire the sky. Allow the greatness of Who God is to wash over you, and get a greater understanding of how vast this God truly is. Then, when circumstances arise, they will not seem so daunting in your eyes. When others are in distress and turmoil, you can walk with your head held high - knowing that the One who spoke the stars into existence is in control of your circumstances. And your circumstances pale in comparison Who He is. 

14 July, 2010


Mediocre is defined as: being of ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate; rather poor or inferior. It is “just ok.” It is nothing great or superior. Something that is mediocre is not always bad, but it is never something of excellence. In our present way of thinking, mediocre is most often used to mean “below average.” One of my favorite past times is sports. I love all forms of athletic competition. In any sporting event, league, or competition, “mediocre” brings up the notion of “forgettable.” At least the bad teams get recognition (whether it is the Miami Dolphins going 1-15, or my beloved Seattle Mariners dismal 60-101, record in 2008).

Mediocrity is simply forgotten.

Yet, that is what a majority of Christians I have met come to expect. Mediocrity floods the thinking and understanding of Who our God is and what He plans to do in our lives. How many times have we heard it said in prayer, “Lord, if it be Your Will…”? Then they will insert “you can heal my loved one,” “you can provide for my need,” “you can make me better.” The list simply goes on. Our churches are full of broke, sick, tired, bored people. And we accept it. Some of us have been made to believe that this is exactly how God wants each and every one of us to live our lives; as if this kind of poorly lived human existence is a sign of true Christian piety. I understand that there are many passages in Scripture that speak of trials and sufferings and humble circumstances. None of these should ever be overlooked. However, there are just of many scriptures on Blessing, healing, prosperity and divine wealth (and not just in the spiritual sense). I don’t know about you; but, I am getting really tired of the mediocre.

Before we go any further, let me clear up any misconceptions that may be arising in anyone’s mind out there:
1)    This is not a message of greed. Check your motive.
James, the younger brother of Jesus, wrote “you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Jas 4:3). Every time I ever discuss wanting more from God I am immediately confronted with an opposition of “being greedy.” If ones motives are not pure, then God will never honor the requests we make of Him. Please do not misunderstand me. This is not a “how-to-get-God-to-do-stuff-for-me” message. It is a message of hope to all who believe.

2)    Suffering is still a part of the Christian life.
Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33, “in the world you have tribulation.” If we look at the Amplified Bible, we see that not only do we have tribulation, but “trials and distress and frustration.” Nobody ever said the Christian life was a “cake-walk.” The greatest of Christian leaders have “stuff” to deal with in their lives. Even Joel Osteen, who I know many Christians out there do not like because they think he makes too light of life and the Gospel. Believe me; even Joel Osteen is dealing with somebody, about something, somewhere. The distresses of life do not go away. But, do remember that Jesus followed that up by reminding us all that “I have overcome the world.”

3)    God is still our focus, and the desire of our hearts.
The misconception often found when any preacher or minister teaches on Blessing, is cute Christian cliché “love the Gift-giver, not the gifts.” That is still true (an obnoxious phrase, but true, nonetheless). You will notice many times that often a scripture passage on Blessing is conditional. “Delight yourself in the Lord…” Seek first His Kingdom…” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”  Keep God on the throne of your life. Make Jesus your number one priority. That is the cornerstone of our life. If you won’t do that, feel free to stop reading now.

Let’s begin with a look at 2Timothy 3:16, where Paul writes, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Paul is giving young Timothy (and each and every one of us) two options: believe God, or call Him a liar. There is no pick-and-choose option when reading the Bible. We either believe every word, or we throw it in the trash can. With that, take a look at Deuteronomy:
“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments, which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deut 28:1-2).

God will. There no “maybe” statements involved in this passage. Christians live in the “maybe” realm. “Hopefully God will help me…” “Lord, if it be your will, heal my body…” Or begrudgingly, they say, “I am just trusting God… We’ll see…” I have a stack of promises from God as to what He will do! All these pertain to the believer, who will “diligently obey the Lord your God.”

a) Blessed shall you be in the city and in the field (v3)
b) Blessed offspring, both your children and herds – which means “mo’ money” (v4)
c) Blessed food supplies (v5)
d) Blessed everywhere you go (v6)
e) Your enemies shall disperse before you (v7)
f) God will command blessing on all you set your hands to (v8)
g) You will “abound in prosperity” (v11)
h) You won’t have need of loans; people will come to you (v12-13)

Does that sound like mediocrity to anybody? And yet we have preachers and ministers teaching from pulpits and on YouTube about the “evils” of what has cutely been coined “prosperity theology.” It is not a theology. These are biblical promises; from the mouth of God Himself; to the people of God. This is a message of hope to the believer: God takes care of His own. If you think the best God can provide for His children is a two-bedroom rambler with a leaky faucet on the wrong-side of town then you think very low of God. God is not calling each and every Christian to live a lowly, humble life here on earth – as some “holy people” would like us all to believe. Those are individual callings the Lord has placed on individual lives. As we have seen, and will see further on, God has so much in store for His people, if they are simply willing to ask and believe for it.

Every time I turn to Deuteronomy as a basis for God’s promise of blessing, I am faced with the argument somewhere along the lines of, “that was for the Jews in the wilderness.” I have two rebuttals to that. First, God does not change. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” As we all know, Jesus, being the Second Person in the Trinity, is God. If Jesus never changes, God never changes. God’s stance in Deut 28 is the same today as it was in the wilderness some 4000 years ago. Secondly, a simply study in the book of Galatians puts to rest all arguments that God’s intentions of blessing for meant only for the Jewish people:

“Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer… For you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:7-9; 26-29)

The Lord’s stance has not changed. He has even gone to the greatest lengths to ensure that all people have access to the blessing He intended for all of humanity. These are promises that belong to us. God does not intend for us to live a meager, mediocre existence until He returns. What good will that do anybody? A broke church is of no value to anybody.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) Many times, we find God’s promises are conditional. These promises are for God’s people. If you are simply out to “get,” you will never receive anything from God. That is what James was talking about in that earlier passage: check your motives. Do not come before God with a “what will I get from ‘The Big Guy’ today” attitude. Keep the balance. Keep your focus on the Lord; the rest fall into place. “But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33, AMP). As the cute Christian cliché goes:”Love the Gift-giver, not the gifts.” However, stop refuting the existence of the gifts. Stop being content with mediocrity. Stop believing God cannot, or will not, do “superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]” (Ephesians 3:20, AMP), and remember, God "delights in the prosperity of His servant" (Psalm 35:27).