26 February, 2013


Being a new parent is a unique experience. I would describe it to you, but no two circumstances are the same. Here I sit, on the second day of being a stay-at-home dad, trying to establish good habits in my life... again.

During two months of maternity leave, my wife and I set out to establish a new life of discipline. We were going to spend all this wealth of free time seeking God concerning this new phase of our lives. We were going to read the three shelves full of ministry materials and books on Christian living and victory. Our days were going to be used praying together with our new son so that his life would begin immediately with a strong presence of parents who seek after God. His ears were going to be filled with the hundreds of hours of sermons and teachings on faith that are packed onto my PC. And every Sunday he would sit in the front of the church, bathed in worship and the Word. We were going to walk away from two months of time together with renewed hearts on minds that were going to be fixated on the love of the Lord Jesus.


Most parents might be chuckling at my lofty goals. Of course we didn't have time for all that - we had a screaming child who took up all our time and energy. The thing is: we didn't. James is the most mild-mannered child I have ever seen. The prayers I bathed him in from the moment Ally learned she was pregnant have caused this young man to be so full of peace and joy that I still marvel at how "easy" parenthood has been. We simply got lazy. 6seasons of The West Wing. 6seasons of Gilmore Girls. 8seasons of Scrubs. The Bachelor. Scandal. You get the picture... Only 3sermons. Only one-half of a book. Only 3times in the front of the sanctuary.

No guilt. No condemnation. Just a reality check. It was a reality check I had again this morning. One what had to be my four-hundredth attempt to do all the things I've promised to do, I began the next in a series of teachings on the Love of God. As I listened to the words on how to live in love, not bashing all the ridiculous denominational teachings out there (ok, that was low, but I'm getting better), I noticed something. My spirit felt stronger. I didn't feel as annoyed as I usually do with Catholics. I didn't pound the cat when he got on the table for whatever countless number of times it was. She got whacked, but the deserve to turn her into a hat was gone. I even felt kind of bad for using so much as a censored "potty-word" a moment ago. I was onto something. I pondered this more. A few things came to mind as the Lord showed me some things. And now, after a very lengthy intro, I will show you these. Starting with two passages of Scripture:

Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
~Matthew 12:34-35

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life. 
~Proverbs 4:20-23

So much can be covered in these brief passages of Scripture. For instance, how is it possible for Christians to teach that God makes people, or leaves people, sick and deformed, when the Scripture plainly states that It is medicine to our bodies? Or how is it that we can believe that, as disciples of Jesus, it is ok to watch whatever we want, read whatever we want, do whatever we want, when the Scriptures are quite clear that what we look upon in abundance drastically colors our thoughts and worldviews? So much to think about, but this is what the Lord brought to my mind...

Our lives need to be more focused on the things of God than most of us realize. While that sentence is sure to illicit a rounding response of "Duuuuuuuuuuuhh!", think on this more in light of the Scriptures above. We see instructions on diligence before us. We see actions that require time and discipline. Abundance doesn't come from 20minutes in the morning. Focus is required to achieve the desired results. Jesus told us that we bring forth good things when good things are stored within us. That's a huge Biblical principle. Faith comes by hearing the Word, according to Romans 10:17. The more abundant the Word, the more abundant the faith to bring that Word to pass. This is rarely preached. It not widely believed or understood. Christians struggle with issues they should never bother with because the mind is not set on the pure truths of God's Word. Perhaps those truths are twisted. Perhaps they are not yet known. Or, worst of all, they are forgotten - because the Word has not been given it's rightful place at the center of our hearts and minds.

Believe it or not, you have what you say. Whatever you believe will happen in your life is exactly what is going to happen (see Matthew 8:13; Mark 11:23-24; James 3:2-4). Jesus said we bring forth what we say, and what we say is a direct result of what we have been building up in our hearts and our minds through what we see and hear. While I am not really one of those "holiness" people who are anti-TV, anti-movie, anti-Harry Potter, anti-"non-christian" music, anti-beer, etc., I have begun to see that it is immensely important that we pay attention to what we "feed on." 

The human existence is three-fold: you are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body. And just as that body needs physical food to function, your soul and spirit need soul/spirit food to function. Jesus said that His words are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). We need to make a more conscious effort to feed on the Words of life. The music we listen to should focus our attention on what the Lord has done for us (I could do another Casting Crowns rant here, but I've gone over already as it is.). The books that we read should be full of words that reveal further all that Jesus has done for us and how much He loves us and highly He thinks of us and the victories guaranteed us as His people (anti-Francis Chan rant? OK, no). Abundant supply comes from abundant intake.

Once you come to full-realization of this principle, the amount of time you spend watching TV or sitting around reading Cosmo or listening to some kind of pointless pop music will drastically change.

This isn't meant to put anyone into bondage. You don't have to go off the deep end and break all your CDs in-half or throw away your movies or burn your every book. That's extremism. I know it well. But take some time to consider your situation. Examine your heart. What is your focus on? What is coming out of your mouth in abundance? Is it fear? Anger? Doubt? Depression? Weakness? Hopelessness? Profanity? Contradiction? Ignorance? Stupidity? Blasphemy? Do you think lowly of yourself? Do you assume God is far-off, doing whatever He wants, whenever He wants? 

Here is how you know you are on the right track: "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." ~John 15:11 


07 February, 2013


Over the past few days the Lord has been bringing this passage to my mind. In this crazy world, we are often bombarded with more than we feel we can handle. We feel overwhelmed, worn out, frightened and defeated. Far too often, we wonder if the Lord is even there. Perhaps we feel like God is testing us, or sending us a trial to toughen us up. It seems that our prayers are too often a cry for help that we send to the heavens in hope that God will get back to us in time. But that is not how we are instructed to handle the storms of life.

The Storms of Life...

That is the image Jesus gives us in Matthew 7:24-27,
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Is your life founded on the principles handed down in God's Word? That is the instruction we find from Jesus in this parable. It is the principle that the Lord has been pressing upon me all week. When your life is founded upon the promises of God, the storms of life cannot destroy you. 

What is very important to notice in this passage is this: the storms will come. Jesus never promises us that life will be sunny all of the time. But He impresses upon us that our defense against the issues of life is a strong Biblical foundation. I believe that there are too many cracks in our foundation. Too many religious ideas have filtered into our Churches. God's promises have been made void by our traditions and religious philosophies. As a result, we have a lower sense of expectancy concerning the promises of God. Our foundations are weak, our roofs leaky. But this is not what God has for us.

In 1Corinthians 10:17, we find that God may allow trials in our lives. But we must always remember two things: Jesus is the author of life, not calamity (John 10:10); and God always has an escape plan ready for us (1Corinthians 10:17b). We should not be living lives of fear, anxiety, disease, failure, depression, oppression, or of any other demonic concoction this side of the Fall. That is not God's plan or will for the life of any Christian.

Jesus promises in John 16:33 that trials are a part of this fallen world. They will come at some point; but look what this verse says to us in the Amplified Bible: 

 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

This world has no power to conquer us, defeat us or kill us. Though issues may arise, God has given us His Word and His Presence as gifts designed to fight against these storms of life. It is up to each man or woman of God to learn how to walk in them. We are promised protection in His presence and strength from His Word. Have you been making time each day to dwell in His presence? 

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”
 ~Psalm 91

05 February, 2013

What Do You Believe?

Welp, let's try this again...

Those of you who know me know that this blog is an assignment the Lord gave me to do during what has turned out to be a very long season of preparation. I thought I would have a position somewhere by now. However, one look at the time stamps of this blog will show you: I haven't been doing my part. So, with my son screaming in yet another attempt not to go to sleep at bedtime, I embark on my assignment once more.

What many of you also know about me is that I am not a big fan of using quotes. I have grown weary of listening to sermons and teachings that use an excessive amount of others opinions, while using far too little of the only One's Words that really matter. It will surprise you, then, to see that I start of today with a quote. I have recently been "re"-reading (OK, going back and actually finishing for the first time) a book I was assigned back during my sophomore year of college. It is the out-of-print book by Alan Redpath called "Victorious Christian Living." It is an old book that walks the reader through the Book of Joshua. Don't tell my professor that I'm actually reading something now, it will only disappoint him. In the Introduction (that's right, before he even started teaching), I was struck by this phrase:

It has been my profound conviction for some years now that the greatest need of the Christian Church is the revival of the standard of New Testament living. There seems to be a very wide gulf between what we believe and how we live, a marked contrast between our position in Christ and our actual experience.

Forget studying Joshua; let's work on that! 
We claim to believe so many things about the Bible. Yet, our lives look markedly different than what God declares in His Word. I haven't been able to shake those words over the past few weeks. "A very wide gulf" is what he said. I think that sounds about right. So the question becomes: do you actually believe what God says about you? Do you actually believe the promises He has given to each of us? And, if so, why doesn't your life reflect that? 

Don't be discouraged by those questions. They are meant to cause a shift in our thinking. The problem that we all have is that what we deem to be our "faith" isn't really faith at all. We are still sitting around wondering when and if God is going to do something for us. That's not faith. Faith says, "I receive that. Thank You, Lord." With that in mind, I want to point out a few places from the Word that the Lord has been showing me where the gulf between promise and experience is too wide.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." ~John 14:12

Jesus - the Master - told us that if we believed in him we would "out-do" Him, for lack of a better term. Do you see very many people "out-doing" Jesus' ministry? You should. In fact, we all should. Unfortunately, very few Christians are at a place in their spiritual maturity where they can function in the fullness of this Biblical promise. As a result, we have made the classic error: we have re-written this Bible verse. I have heard too much commentary on this passage that goes along the lines of this - Jesus meant that we all collectively would do more than He did, because no one man or woman can do more than Jesus. 


Go read the sentence again. Jesus uses singular language when He speaks. He means that if one person would believe in Him, then that one person would do more than He did. Why? Because Jesus went to the Father - and sent the Holy Spirit to empower you and I to do all the works that He prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus only operated on the earth for three years. You and I have more time than that, so we should be doing more. We shouldn't be wondering why God isn't doing more in our lives for the Kingdom; we should be asking, "Do I really believe in Jesus as much as I say I do?"

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:19

Here we find the classic teaching of Paul on God's provision. Why are so many of us scrapping just to make ends meet? We should have more than enough. Jesus said He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). Certainly part of an abundant life would include enough to live on. The Scripture tells us that God desires to give us sufficiency in everything and an abundance to every good work (2Corinthians 9:8). Were we supposed to use it on everything but our food and light bills? Galatians 3:13 says that the Blessing is on all those who believe, and Proverbs 10:22 says that Blessing makes one rich. What happened to "He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2Corinthians 8:9, emphasis added)? I guarantee you that Scripture does not mean Jesus became financially poor so that we could become spiritually rich. He became financially poor (at the cross), so that you could become financially rich; and He became spiritually poor (at the cross), so that you could become spiritually rich.

So why am I broke?

The Scripture is very clear about how we are to deal with our finances. The single most important aspect of a Christian's finances is the Tithe. Modern-day Biblical scholarship is finding ways to cheapen the Tithe. I have heard it told that "New Testament Christians didn't practice the Tithe." True, they didn't... They sold there houses and brought the check to the Church. Shall we call the Deacons and have them stop by tomorrow? I jest, but you get the picture. Biblical Blessing and prosperity is linked to financial giving. Paul's declaration in Philippians 4:19 is in direct correlation with the Church's financial partnership with his ministry. So, perhaps we need to look into our own attitudes concerning the Tithe and/or giving. Or, perhaps we need to learn to be grateful for what we have (remembering that gratefulness is not the same as complacency). Or perhaps we need to raise our level of expectancy. Whatever it may be, there is a very wide gulf between God's promises for financial Blessing and the impoverished state of far too many Christians.

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." ~John 8:36

That is pretty self-explanatory. However, too many pastors and teachers talk about freedom as some sort of drawn out process that we all have to go through. I have grown tired of hearing about God walking us down the long road to freedom. I am even more tired of listening to the religious contradiction that God supposedly frees people from bondage instantly, while leaving others to go through a long and weary trek to spiritual release. That's a lie if ever there was one. The devil has been infiltrating that kind of demonic thinking for centuries, and it needs to stop. We need to have the mindset of the Apostle Peter, who said "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34). That puts a stopper to the idea that God may not actually be willing to free of from oppression or addiction. I learned this in my own life. Battles with depression and pornography have been conquered by changing the way I think from "God, will You ever help me" to "I'm free right now!" 

The way you feel has absolutely no bearing on whether or not Jesus has moved on your behalf. This is why I have been instructed to write this over the past few days. In the same way that we receive or salvation by faith, we must receive our freedom from oppression by faith. In other words, you may not "feel" saved, but you know that you are because you believe the Scriptures concerning your salvation. You know that you will be welcomed at Heaven's gates one day - that your name has been written in the Book - even though you have never seen your name in golden ink written in the Book. The same holds true concerning your freedom from sin and oppression. Just because you don't "feel" like you are different doesn't mean that you aren't a new creature in Jesus right this very moment (2Corinthians 5:21). What we all need to do is learn how to operate in that freedom and newness of life that is already ours by right. God's not slowly walking us out of prison. The cage door is wide open; the chains are already lying on the ground. We must do what Romans 12:2 instructs us: renew the mind. Renew the thinking. See ourselves as the righteous, the just, and joyous and the free. Indeed (sorry, couldn't resit that last bit).

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." ~James 4:8

Have you ever known someone (or been the someone) who has claimed that God is sending them through an intention dry-period? Have you known somebody who has claimed that God is being intentionally silent, in order to make sure they really wanted to hear from Him? I have. As a young man, I believed that kind of lie. Recently, though, I have learned better. So when I see people declaring that God uses silence to sanctify, or hear teachings about God intentionally withholding something from a person in order to make sure they really desire something of Him, I get really angry. That is in no way the heart of the Father. This is another "gulf."

If I intentionally withheld myself from my son, most people would consider me a really bad father. How can I possibly withhold my time and attention from him in order to make sure he really wanted me? How conceited! God is no different. He went through everything in order to establish relationship with each of us. He gave the only thing that cost Him something - Jesus - to reestablish intimate relationship with His creation. how many sermons have we heard about God wanting to be more intimate with us that anyone? Pastors will be quick to point out that the word the Scripture uses to describe this intimacy is the same word used for "intercourse" between a husband and wife. If God really desires to be that intimate with us, if Jesus is really "Emmanuel, God with us," then how can He possibly be withholding His presence and voice in order to teach us a lesson? Lie, lie, lie.

Our issue is not that God isn't speaking, it's that we do not know how to listen. We must learn to spiritually "tune in" to the voice of God. When we are not living uprightly, then we hinder our ability to come before the Throne and hear clearly from the Lord. Sin separates, repentance restores. Once we are sure that we are right before Him, we must learn to sit quietly with Him. This is my biggest slip up. Being silent in the presence of God is a challenge is this noisy, fast-paced, "ADD" generation. We do not know how to be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10). We do not know how to detect that still, small voice (1Kings 19:12). And often times, we are waiting for something God never said He would do. Your not getting a burning bush. You are not getting the supernatural vision. If you need to "see something," then you never will. When you sit down for prayer, get right before Him. Then know that, since you are drawing near to Him, He is sitting in your midst drawing near to you.


 "A marked contrast between our position in Christ and our actual experience"

We are promised so much in the Bible that we are not tapping into. The Book of Ephesians shows us that God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (1:3). That means that those of us who are in Christ are Blessed with everything Heaven has to offer. This isn't a "when we get to Heaven" Scripture. It means that everything Heaven has to offer us is at our disposal when we are in Christ. We just have to believe for it and learn how to receive it and operate in it. Jesus informs us how to pray by saying, "whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). There is no disclaimer there. Believe it, get it.  What do you believe?

“Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” ~Matthew 8:13