28 June, 2011

What You CAN Do

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" Philippians 4:13 (KJV).

I need to hear this as much as anybody else. Even as I sit and reflect on these thoughts I am tired - tired of the financials, my living situation, the "stuff" of life. It's getting old. The Lord has made it clear that He is with us in all of this, to bring us out (not just grit our teeth and bear it). I would just like it if things would speed up. However, that part is on me. So I dive into these thoughts for us all - so that we might all see an acceleration of the manifestations of God's power in our lives.

I begin with a story, one that I try to mask as best I can for the (very small) chance it is read by the parties involved. It paves the way for what the Lord has been pressing on me today, so I take the risk. I had a professor in college who liked to read papers to the class. They would read small bits from the more profound projects of various people in class (always anonymous, of course). I worked my butt off time and time again in hopes of finally impressing the prof to the point of hearing something I wrote read and praised. Might I add, I learned in college that I am not profound in my thinking... Finally, in the middle of my third year, my paper was read - and boy do I wish it hadn't. I was to write a weekly summary paper reflecting on my thoughts and growth during the course. I made the mistake of very candidly explaining that I still had no idea what we were talking about each and every week. We were in week six out of ten. I got ripped (anonymously, of course). For those of you wanting to go to college: bring a dictionary. Professors do not explain themselves very well. I say all this because I had previously scheduled a meeting with this professor... for twenty minutes after this class ended *gulp* We conducted our business as if nothing happened. Then they looked at me, scary eyes and all, and said, "Don't you ever again tell me what you don't know."

Don't tell Me what you don't know. Don't tell Me what you can't do. I sense the Father takes a similar attitude with His children. I am not a parent, but I know that parents get annoyed when their kids complain about not being able to do things. Parents know what their children are capable of doing, and it bothers them to hear their kids say they can't do something. You try to encourage your kids as they grow up, yet they run around hollering "I can't, I can't! It's too hard!" or something of that nature. It becomes a battle of wills that is often quite exhausting. Most of the time, the child finally figures it (insert the "it" of your choice here) out, and the parent stifles back an "I told you so!" Our Father thinks the same way about His kids as earthly parents think about their own.

Religion has taught us to come before God grovelling in our inabilities, as a form of humility. It is based in a very poor understanding of what Biblical humility is. Yes, the Bible says to humble yourself under the Hand of God (1Peter 5:6). Yes, the Bible says God opposes the proud and regards the lowly (Psalm 138:6). Yes, Jesus said that apart from Him you cannot do anything (John 15:5). However, the Scripture also tells us to avoid the deception of self-abasement (Colossians 2:18), which means beating yourself up as a means of showing yourself as religious. The Bible calls it a fraud. Parents do not like hearing their children talk bad about themselves. What in the world has given Christians the idea that God is any different?! He hates it!

True Biblical humility is an understanding of what your physical limitations are in contrast to the Lord. Jesus said that without Him you can do nothing; but He also side He is with us now and until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He said we have power because the Holy Spirit is upon (2Timothy 1:7). He said we can do anything with His Anointing upon us (Philippians 4:13). We do not go before the Lord saying what we can't do, but rather, we go before Him acknowledging what we can do in Him. God has great confidence in you, because He has great confidence in Himself - and He is dwelling in you. Prayers of "God we are so unworthy" are not Biblical prayers. "Lord, I need You" is a much better place to start. Humanity is the pinnacle of God's creation. We have been given dominion over all the works of His Hands (that's why the devil hates you so much). Jesus' sacrifice bought back that authority for us. So use it. Understand who you are and what you are capable of (I have a feeling someone is going to throw that back at me in the near future...). When you talk bad about yourself you are talking bad about someone God created and loves. He doesn't care for that too much. I suggest you stop, and find the balance of living humbly in your rightful place of dominion on this earth.

27 June, 2011

10 Days, Not 10 Minutes

Forgive the Sabbatical; it was unintentional. The past month I have been running on 'E' in my life. While there are some exciting opportunities on the horizon, the landscape immediately in front of Ally and I has been less than smooth. For someone who pushes the power of words so hard, I have not been doing myself many favors. Confusion has been the "talk of the town" at home. I should really learn to take my own advice. I know what God told me to do; it didn't make much sense, but then again, God's instructions haven't made sense for years. That should have been the key give-away that it was God. My plans make sense in my head, and then fall-apart in a blaze of glory (mostly blaze, little glory). Once we made a decision to follow, the hordes of hell unleashed in flurry. I was expecting that, but did not adequately prepare. Now, a month later, I am tired. My wife is tired. We burnt ourselves out, then turned to TV shows and video games to "relax." Those do not help. They only mask what is really going on. Never fear, Internet-Land, we are back. God snaps people out of their fits-of-stupid when given the opportunity. Which brings me to today's... Lesson??

Today I went back to the last thing God told me to do: Bible study first thing in the morning, book of Jeremiah, journal at the ready. I sleepily began in chapter 41 (I don't really remember much). I stood up, shook off the sleepies *insert Gollum-impression my wife hates here* and went on to chapter 42. Here we find a pack of refugees in the Judean wilderness. Their king is dead, the Chaldeans have been besieging them, Babylon has taken many of their kin captive. They turn to Jeremiah and ask him to go before the Lord to learn what His directions for these people are. As I am reading this story, verse 7 jumps off the page at me. It re-energized me as I read it a few times, and let it sink in. What I thought would be a struggle to give God another five minutes on The Couch, turned into an hour-and-a-half. [Note to any others out there struggling to give God the attention He deserves, doing so on The Couch (oh yes, it is The Couch) may not be the best idea]. Now that I have had my fun rambling, I think you should read the verse: 

"Now at the end of ten days the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah"

Ten days?? I struggle to give God ten minutes! This makes sense as to why so many of us struggle to know what God is endeavoring to do in our lives. When was the last time any of us gave God ten full days to speak to us regarding the direction of our lives or ministries? Better yet, when was the last time we gave Him more then ten minutes to say much of anything? Our culture and generation is not designed for that kind of patience. We want things as fast as possible. Our attention spans have been shortened to that of a gnat. We do not handle silence well (in fact, I have music playing as I write this). Ten days. I couldn't continue reading, because I had to write this down. It was that impact-ful to my life at this moment, because of what the Lord is calling me to in the future. If I am ever to move further into the life of ministry God has spent all these years pointing me toward, I have to give Him more than ten minutes of my day. That has scared me in the past. I have not fully trusted myself to do that. The Word has been dry the past month, because I have not given the Lord time to work with it. It was my fault, not His. I gave up on the discipline and diligence required of any child of God.

There is no set "formula" for hearing from God. However, diligence is a necessity. It will not always take ten days to receive an answer from the Lord; yet it is just unlikely that you will receive an answer in ten minutes. Christianity is not microwavable. As I have said often before (and forgotten just as frequently), Jesus refers to the Word and the Kingdom of God as "seed" - which takes time to grow. The life of faith cannot be developed in ten-minute-per-day intervals. That is the blueprint for Christian defeat. Jesus instructs us to "seek" the Lord (Matthew 7). He is not hiding things from you. He is hiding things for you. But you have to put forth the work to find all that He has for you. You have to spend time with Him and His Word in order to develop the faith (Romans 4:17) and the confidence (Hebrews 10:35) necessary to receive the answers you desire from the Lord. 

You may not have ten days, but you have more than ten minutes. God desires quality over quantity. He knows how much time you have to give Him each day. Give Him the best of what you have to give; that is what is honoring to Him. The Lord says He gives honor to those who honor Him, and will lightly esteem those who despise (think little of) Him (1Samuel 2:30). What comes first, your family, your programs, your sleep, your stomach, or your God and His Word? The right answer is found when you give ear to the Lord. If you keep reading the story, you find that the people didn't like Jeremiah's response and went ahead and did their own thing. They died. I say we avoid that by giving God the time and honor He deserves (I'm going to hear from my wife on that one later...).

01 June, 2011

Silent Killers

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" Isaiah 41:10.

This is not just a promise to Old Testament Israel, but to all of God's people. Remember that Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) and that He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). His heart is the same for you today as it was when He first spoke those words. I was struck by that thought this morning as I was browsing through my Bible (I was looking for another verse nearby and stumbled upon this one highlighted). I have been struggling to stay faithful the past few weeks - yes, I am getting a tad personal, don't let it go to your head. I have had to take money out of our dwindling savings account and it "looks" like the job situation will never turn out. Thankfully, I have a wise (and growing wiser) wife, who I am not sucking up to in this moment, who snaps some sense into me. Then she goes and tells me to re-read everything I have been telling all of you nice people (a big thank you to all the folks in Denmark who read this thing). God is screaming to all who will listen "I will take care of you!"

Notice the commands in this verse. God is not making suggestions or giving us a nice encouraging word. He is instructing us to stop worrying about our lives. To allow fear and anxiety to remain in and effect your life is to disobey the word of God - something we in the biz call sin. Do not let this get confused with concern. We cannot live flippant lives in this world. You have to pay attention to things in life. You have to work where God has placed you. You have to pay your bills, watch after your children, and do all the other tasks in life. But to worry, fret or fear - that is something entirely different. The Bible is full of commands against worry, anxiety, doubts and fear. They are silent killers. They cultivate stress, which was never meant to enter your body. It will wear you down and take you out if it is allowed to remain. You body was never designed to handle it.

Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to lean on God's wisdom and understanding of a situation, rather than our own. Our way created the problem - which I have pointed out many times before. The world's ways of doing things quit simply don't work. So why bring them into our lives and our churches? It may seem right to us on the outside, but the Bible says the end is the way of death (Proverbs). That is what we are seeing all over the world - even within the realm of Christianity. Our ways make the problem. His way fixes it. It is His wisdom that is needed - and He freely gives to those who ask and believe they receive it when they ask (James 1:5-8). Jesus said that we are to take no thought for our lives, but to focus primarily on Kingdom-advancement. That looks different for each and everyone of us. So take the time to sit quietly before the Lord and find out what that looks like in your life. Jesus said He would take care of the rest. He may give you a plan, He may just do it Himself. It is your job to find out which it is. Do not try to go fix a problem without His specific instructions on how to do so. Do not worry about tomorrow and the problems you see on the horizon - because God told you not to. Easier said then done? At first, but the more time you spend doing it the easier it will become. God cannot deviate from His Word, so take this passage to heart. we all have something that we need God's intervention in. He promised to take care of it for us, and that, for the household of faith, everything will be alright. I have no doubt that my wife will print this and make me read it everyday.