That Eccentric Uncle the Holy Spirit

fireWhat I am about to write is an analogy. I feel I must give a disclaimer for any of my relatives who may read this, and let them know that this analogy is not a personal one. The character talked about here does not have a present day twin in my family nor bears any resemblance to relations.

With that, I begin…

Maybe you know what I am about to talk about–those family get-togethers that are always awkward. There is always that one relative that makes things odd. I’ll call him the rich, eccentric uncle. You know you need to invite him because he’s family, and you want to invite him because he’s wealthy, and you want to stay on his good side in case you need some big cash someday. Certainly you want to be included in his will.

But really?? Why does he always have to be so odd when he comes?  He disrupts tradition, protocol, table manners, and re-routes conversations. He tells jokes at inopportune times, tells stories that make people cry, or sits eerily silent. Overall, he keeps everyone nervously guessing what he will do next. He’s not a bad guy, in fact he is really really nice. He’s just not “one of us” really, and we are all indifferent to him.

When I think about the Holy Spirit, this is the best analogy I can come up with to explain how the church of today treats Him. He is the Rich, Eccentric Uncle. I mean, He is the Third Person of the Trinity–so He is God, and He is close to the Father and to Jesus, so we really should invite Him to our gatherings. He has some great qualities, we’ve been told, and should we ever get into a pinch, we might need Him, so let’s not tick Him off. But really?? Why is His entrance into a room so…so…messy?  He doesn’t seem to care about tradition, or service order. He falls on that one with joy and they burst into laughter. On another He pours out healing, and they begin to weep…sometimes uncontrollably. Demons manifest in His presence, causing people to appear unruly. It’s as if He has no manners. Some people begin to cry out for mercy and forgiveness in His presence, while others begin confessing their sins and changing their behavior. Some people scream as if they are being baptized in fire. It really gets awkward.

We’ve read about “Doubting Thomas”, the disciple of Jesus who needed physical, concrete evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead, and asked to touch his wounded hands and side. A bit arrogantly, we might look back and scratch our heads at how Thomas could have been with Jesus for so many years, and still had doubt that Jesus was who He said He was. We are shocked that the Pharisees didn’t recognize Jesus as Messiah and welcome Him with open arms. Why was it so hard to see who Jesus really was? Wasn’t it obvious?

I believe that the same doubt and judgement that the disciples and Pharisees had is the  same reason you and I mis-judge the Holy Spirit. He is unconventional. He comes with His own agenda. His purpose is to fulfill the will of the Father, to make Jesus known. Like Eliazer, Abraham’s servant, His job is to prepare a bride for a Groom. He doesn’t bow to our traditions, or coddle our pride. He doesn’t answer to our protocol, or take our suggestions. He is God. He is on mission.

How can we draw near to a God we are indifferent to?

Do you remember Him? He is the gift that Jesus gave after He ascended into heaven. He is the One Jesus told us we needed desperately, and if Jesus didn’t go, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Jesus said that John baptized in water but that the Holy Spirit would baptize with fire. This Gift was so necessary, so vital, so essential to our survival and victory that Jesus commanded His disciples to put all of their life plans on pause and wait for the Holy Spirit. They were to gather in an upper room, and stay there until He came. (Acts chapter 1)

I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect when waiting for the Holy Spirit. I mean, Jesus came with skin on. He was a Jew, and grew up among them. What would the Holy Spirit look like? Would they recognize Him? Would he come knocking or should they leave the front door unlocked? Should someone get extra food to feed Him when He arrived? Where would He live? I’m sure the questions were many. But these disciples were now finally convinced that Jesus was God, and they knew that Jesus had something to give them that they could not afford to miss. They refused to let doubt, or judgment rob them from the Gift, and they made space in their schedules in order to make room for Him.

Why isn’t the same value placed on the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer today? Why aren’t we earnestly expectant for the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our lives? What about the lives of our children? Why do we talk about him like a comforter only maybe a step better than a couple of beers, a good movie, a long walk, or an illegal drug? Why do we value Him as someone we might need in a pinch but not really sure why? Why do we blame Him for the weird we see, but refuse to credit Him for the transformation He produces?

If we really knew who He was, we would sell everything we had if it could buy everything He is. We would stand in line for hours, days, or weeks to receive what He has for us. We would make sure our children knew Him and received everything from Him that He has to give them. We would make Him the Guest of Honor, and change our lives to revolve around His. If we really understood that He is the Power of God at work in us causing all options in our lives to change by producing miracles, healing, and deliverance; and if we knew that He is the Wisdom of God giving us power, help, clarity, invention, innovation, ideas, art, beauty, and creativity we would stop making our church services about ourselves, and instead turn them into “Upper Rooms” that were all about Him.

If we fully trusted His character, we would develop the most intimate of friendships with Him. Like John who laid his head on Jesus’ chest, we would so intermingle our hearts with the Holy Spirit’s heart that we would be afraid to offend Him more than we would fear offending others. We would spend our waking hours in conversations with Him, and our sleeping hours in the rest that His presence brings. We would learn what pleases the Father, and we would see people around us through the Holy Spirit’s lens. We would be moved with compassion to touch the untouchable, reach the unreachable, and love the unloveable.

If we really understood what the Holy Spirit possesses, we would stop treating Him like a crutch to be used when needed, but would understand He is the fountain of life that we need to drink from daily. We wouldn’t start a day without Him, and wouldn’t lose Him in the evening. We would make withdrawals on His power and heal the sick, cast out devils, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and preach the Gospel.

What happened to the Holy Spirit in our churches? We judged Him odd. We don’t like the kinds of crowds He attracts, and we don’t want our kids exposed to weird. We judged Him unfair–when we were younger we saw Him give gifts to people that we wanted, but didn’t receive. We judged Him unfit–He doesn’t quite mesh with our churches DNA, we are going for a more seeker-friendly model where people aren’t uncomfortable in our services.

If there is one clarion call I could give to the churches of my generation it would be this:  “Sell it all to have the Holy Spirit!” Our children don’t need comfort; they need power. Our cities don’t need “nice” they need transformation. Our families don’t need entertainment, they need a baptism of fire. The Holy Spirit is the promise of all of these things. He is here presently. He is the fullness of God. He is a gift, and you and I need to receive Him.

 

 

Time Enough for One More

Yesterday was Easter, and after our family returned from church, I put into gear my “Easter Day Plans.” With only a few members of our family home for this holiday, I planned to sit down as a family and watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. So after our meal was over, and after venturing out on an egg hunt, I grabbed my box of kleenex, and we settled down in our living room to watch the Easter Story.

I had watched this movie when it first came out years ago, and I remember just lingering in my theatre seat with my head in my hands weeping for at least 10 minutes after the credits rolled. The severity of the torture, mockery, and beatings that Jesus endured and that this Hollywood film could portray, was more than I could take in, and the fact that He endured it all for me was overwhelming.

Watching the movie with my kids, I was peppered with questions as the story they had heard in bits and pieces over the years was now played out in a timeline of harrowing events. Between my bawling and nose wiping, I would explain who various characters were and what their roles were in the moments leading up to the crucifixion.

Over and over in scripture, when you read about the life of Jesus, you read about a man who was moved with compassion. He was constantly followed by crowds, and every crowd had needs–lots of them. Every effort He made to withdraw to solitary places to re-fuel, pray, rest, was met with one person, if not 5000+ persons, begging for His help or for a moment of His time.

The introvert in me cringes at the idea of having a super busy day, then finally relaxing with my family only to be barraged by a crowd of people all needing something that only I can provide them. And yet, this is Jesus on a daily basis. Even more striking is that those who insisted on His help, despite their verbal or societal persecution and isolation, always  received it. I’m talking about Blind Bartemaeus who shouted and shouted on the side of the road: “Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me!” And as the people around him told him to shut up, he cried out all the more. Bartemaeus received his sight back that day. (Mark 10:46-52)

Others would include the Caananite woman who insisted that if Jesus even dropped “crumbs” of His goodness in her direction, it would be enough to heal her daughter who was tormented of an evil spirit…and He did, and the daughter was healed. (Mark 7:24-30)

So, we are watching the final hours of Jesus’ Passion played out on the screen, and true to His character, even completely bludgeoned, dehydrated and weak, Jesus takes time. Dangling by nails on a cross suspended high in the air, a thief on one side of him cries out for mercy. If ever there was a “bad time” to ask for help from someone, this moment would seem to be the epoch. It’s been a long day…the kind of day where death is the welcomed ending in order to end the suffering. He is nailed to a tree for goodness sake!! What can Jesus do for a man like that at a moment like this??

I begin weeping again, as Jesus, full of compassion looks in the direction of the thief and comforts him with the assurance that He heard his cries for mercy, He loves and values the man, he forgives him, and He will personally see to it that when his last breath is taken, he will be joining Jesus in Paradise.

With His last ounces of oxygen, with the final moments of enough energy to speak, Jesus takes time for one more. Confirming again that God places a high value on people, affirming again that those who cry out to Him are heard, and that He answers, Jesus shows us what the Father looks like even while hanging on a cross. It’s some kind of beautiful madness.

Through a faltering voice I tell each of my kids in the living room, “This is the Jesus we have given our lives to. This is the Jesus we are living for. Whatever it may cost us to follow him, He is worth it all.” And I weep again, in awe of the God who has the time to answer my cries for help, and is moved with compassion for everyone He has made.

If ever there was a good time for you to call on Him, it is now. “Jesus, have mercy on me!”

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Who Told You?

I’ve blogged on this subject before in different ways, but as faithfully as I add cream and sugar to my coffee every morning, the principles of what I am writing about, I add to my life almost daily, and I wanted to share them with you.

Life is 5% about what happens to you, and 95% about how you interpret what happened to you. (I just made up that statistic). Out of how you interpret the events of your life flow your actions. Your responses to life flow out of what you believe to be true about your circumstances, and what you believe to be true about the resources you have to overcome them.

Life happens. Daily. Events, story lines, tragedies, triumphs, and blank stares happen to us on a regular basis, and we are quickly swept up in the narratives. Without time to process or think through everything, we move ahead, or backwards in our lives in familiar directions for the sake of ease, and when we find ourselves stuck, or in a rut, or unable to move forward, this is where these three principles began to ask me questions.

In Genesis chapter 3:1-11 we read the story of the first sin. Adam and Eve, (who had every right to think to themselves, “We are the only ones here, what does it matter what we do? It’s not like we are hurting anyone.”) disobeyed God and ate from the tree he told them not to eat from. Up until this moment, their narratives of life were interpreted through the lens of a good God who spoke with them daily, walked with them, and taught them everything they needed to know. Their “Resource” for life was unlimited, so no challenge was to great, and no questions nagged as doubts, until the introduction of another “voice”–Satan himself.

The introduction of the voice of Satan now created a new line of thinking…doubts. Lots of them. That doubt led to action–the sin. That sin led to another voice–theirs, but not the voice they communicated with God with before that was full of trust, expectancy, and delight, but a new voice that looked at their nakedness, their insufficiencies, their guilt, and clothed them with shame. And so they hid.

Have you ever been there? Hiding?

You are no longer answering the phone calls, replying to the texts, showing up to events you are invited to, making excuses as to why you can’t “get together” with people, spending more time in bed and solitude than usual?

This is where the first question of God to Adam and Eve comes to rouse me. “Where are you?”

Stop and allow God to ask this question of you right now. “Where are you?” Are you hiding? Are you making excuses? Are you hedging, fudging, hinting but not communicating? Are you disconnecting? Are you reaching for an addiction to numb yourself?

When you have finally answered that question with, “I am hiding”, the second question comes to unravel the secret.  “Who told you?”

God asks Adam and Eve “Who told you you were naked?”

You see, discerning the voices that drive our decisions is critical if we are going to come out of our hiding and into fellowship. “Who told you?” becomes the litmus test for truth, and gives us the ability to evaluate the voices and their validity in our lives. Even if the voice we are listening to has been in our head for years, (childhood memories, parents, school friends/foes, siblings), we still need to pull the narratives out into the light, and with them in full sight answer God’s question.

Once I have answered that question, I ask one final question of my narrative and situation, “Is this something God would say to me?” And if the answer is “no”, then I need to go to God to get His narrative. I go to scripture.

When I say I apply these principles almost daily, I am not exaggerating. It is something I have to make a part of my life to keep me moving in the direction of God’s goodness. It’s the means by which I access his reservoire of help and resource and hope for my life. It’s how I retrain my soul to hear His voice above all other voices, and make courageous decisions with His help. Faith comes by “hearing” His voice, and through the Word of God we “hear”. (Romans 10:17) Then faith is walked out by trusting that voice, and depending entirely upon His resources to take each step.

If you are in need of tools and life principles to help move you from a place of being stuck, I would like to offer these three questions to get you started. Make it a daily practice and begin to learn how to differentiate the “voices” in your head. What they tell you will determine your outlook, and your outlook will determine your actions.

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God Without a Doubt

I first noticed it in the story of Job. Job is a book of the Bible in the Old Testament that tells us the behind the scenes moments in the life of a man who lived righteously and whose integrity was impeccable, and was the victim of a nefarious plot from Satan himself.

Job 2:2-10

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Did you see it? Look how God speaks about Job. God describes him to Satan as a blameless and upright man who fears God, shuns evil and maintains his integrity. Not only does God accurately describe the character of Job, He speaks as a God who has no doubts about Job. While Satan is looking for the loophole, for the weakness in Job’s character to bring him down, God has a confidence in Job that no one could shake, not even Satan.

From the life stories of Moses, Gideon, Esther, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the disciples of Jesus comes a recurring theme of a God who has no doubts about the ones He chooses, or whether or not they will succeed in the thing He is calling them to. We hear these people doubting all over the place, sometimes even pretending they have nothing to do with God (Peter for example), and yet God has an unwavering confidence.

I so want to look at each of these people and say “God chose them because of this or that, like their righteousness,” as in Job’s case, but more often I see the reason God chose these people is that He looks for people who will put all of their confidence in His abilities. Because God has unswerving confidence in His own abilities, God chooses people He can transform, who are willling to be positioned in uncomfortable places and lean in to Him with all of their might. These men and women are unstoppable in God’s purposes. And He never doubts them.

There is a lyric to a song that has grabbed my heart these past months called “Mercy“by Amanda Cook, and Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger, and it says this: “Oh Love, Great Love, fear cannot be found in you, and there will never be a day You are uncertain of the ones You choose.” I mulled these lyrics over and over in my head. “there will never be a day You are uncertain of the ones You choose.” These words are true. I see them throughout scripture from the Old Testament to the New.

Jude, a brother of Jesus ends his book in the Bible with this Doxology:

Jude 24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

To Him who is able!! Because of God’s unfailing ability to always do the right thing, because God has committed Himself to you and your eternity when you put your trust in Him, because He is not limited in power, potential, mercy, grace, strength, and vision, and because He loves you, He has no doubts about you, He is able to present you before His glorious presence without fault, and with great joy!!

Have you considered His Credentials? Meditate on a God who has full confidence in His own abilities. Think about how God enjoys sharing His victories with us by inviting us into His plans and purposes. Lean in to His strength, and power. And put your full confidence in this God without a doubt!

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Photo credit: Bethany Morris (c)2016

We Want a King

A short story series for Holy Week

I think I get it now. Our country is run by tyrants. We believe we can be better than this. We have a dream for a better country…one without oppression, where our children can grow up in freedom and opportunity. A country where everyone lives from the same moral page, and the Golden Rule is still esteemed.

We have some fighters among us trying to start a revolution, but we are getting weary having to wait.

Whoever our next leader is has to be strong. He has to be able to throw off the oppression of the over-reaching government. He has to re-calibrate our monetary systems and get rid of the dishonest scales and the pilfering tax collecting agencies. He must be strong and give us national pride again. Give us something to believe in!!

They say our next leader is riding in today from the East Gate of the city on a donkey. You can be sure we will be there lining the streets. We have large palm branches to wave, and slogans to shout!

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!”

Oh, did you think I was talking about America?

Yes, this candidate looks very promising!! He appears humble now, we just need to see if he has any military training. Someone said he once kicked dishonest merchants out of our local religious temple by making a whip out of cords and throwing tables over. Yes, we could use a guy like that in our national government! Clean up house!!

What we need is more force! More “in your face”leadership! Someone who can’t be bullied! Someone who is willing to unite our country again. We want a king!!

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!!”

…….

If this guy can’t get the job done, I say we kill Him. We’d be better off to release a murdering criminal back into society than deal with another lame candidate.

Lucky for us, crosses are being constructed this week.palm branches

Welcome to Holy Week. AD 30

A Borrowed Life

Surfing the internet for information yields some very interesting discoveries.  I find it more and more difficult to find trustworthy information.  Everyone has an opinion, and now, thanks to social media, your opinion can be known by thousands upon thousands of people in just a few seconds.  Opinions are a dime a dozen, facts are rare.  And have you noticed how angry everyone is? Outside of articles written about actual atrocities, crimes, and evil in the world, are millions of quotes, comments, and blogs written by people, about things they have never really investigated for themselves, but became stirred in their anger, doubt, or indifference.  Conversations with people tend to move that direction too–from the things they have studied and know, to the angry opinion about what they have never really looked into.

They are shouting from rooftops, and writing articles.  They break into every conversation with their opinions, but if they are pressed as to their anger, you will find it is second, third, or fourth-hand offenses, doubts or information they are borrowing as their own.  The topics range from politics, religion, local churches, schools, animal shelters, restaurants, medicine, etc….  “You see, I once heard this guy who told me of a story heard about this person who was a real jerk…and that’s why I won’t step foot in that place.”

I find it rare to encounter someone who is angry, doubt-filled, or indifferent about a particular subject or person who has first-hand reasons to be.  People borrow offenses, borrow doubts, borrow answers, and borrow trouble more than they can keep up with.  It becomes the reason people won’t read books, won’t ask questions themselves, won’t investigate truth, and won’t live fully. It creates clan wars, tribal feuds, church splits, and mud-slinging arguments. And when you live a borrowed life, the only fuel that can keep you going is anger.

Anger is the new caffeine.  But to what end does this fuel drive you?

I want to challenge you to live.  Living means learning, growing, investigating, educating, feeling, being moved with compassion, working, trying, forgiving, resting, being.  Life isn’t only living in the intense feelings of distrust, bitterness, judgment, arrogance, and opinion, thought that may make you feel the most “alive” at the moment.  Living involves living a first-hand life and dealing with your anger and frustration.

Anger and frustration are alarm systems put in place to let you know you need to move one direction or another. You either need to confront the obstacle or issue or you need to move from it.  You may need to investigate the source of the “smoke”, and put the fire out yourself, or you need to change your own battery which is now worn out, cynical, and all other ways grumpy and hard to live with.

No matter what, you are responsible for your life and the causes you live for and ultimately die for.  Don’t waste your life on someone else’s anger or doubt.  Don’t live a borrowed life.  Find your passions and then make a difference.  Investigate your questions. Let your life add to the beauty of living.  Be the neighbor you want to live next to, and the student you would love to teach.  Be the woman or man that is respected because of the way you treat others, not because of the fear you invoke.  Take the risk to live.

When you walk away from the borrowed life you discover that people are valuable and opinions are noteworthy. You realize that there is real evil to confront, and sometimes it’s inside of you. You also find that you know a lot less than you thought, and that you are in need of a Savior. If you doubt that–investigate it for yourself!2004-01-04 13.49.42

Goodbye Outer Court

I find it amazing that many times in life, I find myself making decisions and drawing conclusions without complete facts or data.  There is this desire to sit in the “outer court” with others and speculate, pontificate, postulate, induce, and deduce meaning, purpose, judgement, and actions.  O, the blogosphere of ideas!  We have come up with answers for almost everything–we just need to sway the audience in our direction.  And we can “succeed”, to some degree, in convincing others we know what we are talking about as long as not all the facts are presented.  Sometimes we don’t know all the facts, and other times we don’t want to know. Let me give you some examples:

1, From my living room in Homer, Alaska, I speculate on what happened to the Malaysian jet that disappeared, using knowledge available to me from the internet (true or untrue).  I can read articles, watch news casts, and talk with friends and neighbors.  I can unravel the mystery, come to a reasonable conclusion, and be utterly wrong because I do not have all the facts.  Perhaps someone or someones out there knows exactly what happened, and is keeping it a secret.  I don’t know.

2. I am in the jury box selected to decide the guilt or innocence of an offending minor, and as the testimonies are presented, information leaks out–important information that could sway the case one way or another, and it is quickly stricken from the record and not allowable as evidence in the case.  We the jury debate and grovel over someone’s permanent criminal record using just a few pieces of the puzzle while internally begging that they would release more, since we know there is. Again, from the sidelines, our information has been limited, therefore our judgement may be wrong.

3. I have a secret sin.  Others around me have theirs too.  None of us want to judge the other because in doing so, it will expose us.  So we argue in the outer court.  We rationalize our sin.  “We have good reasons why we don’t need to break off that relationship.”  “No one needs to tell us what to do in our private lives.”  “God made me this way, what else does He expect?” “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t honor our contracts, our agreements, our word.  No one else does either.”  We brag about our laziness, go on and on about our addictions, tell hundreds of stories of our misbehaving children, our lack of self-control, and take no responsibility.  This is the Outer Court after all.  There is no judge here.  I might be wrong, but no one here is going to tell me.  No one here knows all the particulars.

What if i could know the facts?  What would I do then?  When it comes to our hearts, there is an answer.

God calls me into relationship with Him that brings me out of the “Outer Court”.  He calls me to leave the “God wants me to be happy” zone, and calls me into intimacy with Him.  Very few will venture here.  Here is where I learn the hard truth.  Here is where the ugliness gets exposed.  From my motives to the execution of my actions, every mystery is unraveled.    This is what happens in intimacy.  I find out that my secret sins are not a secret.  I am exposed for the lies I have covered.  I have no excuses for the responsibilities I have let go of.

God’s holiness and character demand that I come clean.  God’s kindness draws me to repentance.  God’s mercy allows me to make a u-turn.  God’s Spirit empowers me to choose Him over my secrets.  God’s love renews my purpose and infuses my hope.  God’s faithfulness establishes the reasons why I need to honor His Word.

Out here in the outer court, I justify myself, because I look pretty smart out here. I deflect the conversations off of me, and pin my troubles on another.  Even “Born into Sin” becomes my banner.  I am what I am.  Live and let live.  But in the inner-court, where the real judge sits, where the coach of the team calls the plays, where the laws of God call me out, where the Mastermind behind every mystery executes His plans–this is where I have been called to live.

See, intimacy can be defined “into me—see”.  It’s where our lives are vulnerable and naked before the One to whom we must give an account.  But not vulnerable to be exploited–no that is not God’s character.  Vulnerable to be corrected, covered, clothed, and cared for. Here is the crazy thing–God is what our soul desires.  He is the satisfaction of all of our yearnings.  He is the fullest expression of every virtue we know, and the only source of it–but we are afraid. Why should we go there?  For the very reasons I stated above–all of our longings are met in God.  Every desire and yearning of our heart has a fulfillment in Him.  “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

What else do we find in this “Inner Court”?  Mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, a fresh page to write our lives on, hope, compassion, purpose, meaning, healing, satisfaction, direction, wisdom, miracles, humility, power, and life.  See–it’s everything we long for when we are wasting away in the outer court, drowning in our excuses.  It’s the power to start again and change the direction of our lives.  Instead of living for the “outer court”, we boldly approach the throne room of God and ask for help.

Where is this “Inner Court”?  It is in the presence of God.  How do you get there?  You ask Him to take you there.  You read His Words (The Bible), You pray, You worship, and like David you say, “Search me O God and know my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

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Hungry for revival?  Say goodbye to life in the Outer Court.

 

When Your Vision is Too Small

When your vision is too small, you focus on what you do not have.

When your vision is too small, you tell others about all of your limitations.

When your vision is too small, you make your children even smaller, by assuring them they cannot rise above your inadequacies if even their own.

When your vision is too small, you are found complaining about everyone around you who seems fulfilled.

When your vision is too small, your excuse list exceeds your “to do” list.

 

When your vision is big, you focus on possibilities.

When your vision is big, you encourage others, and constantly communicate a bigger picture.

When your vision is big, you pack a lunch for your child, so in case he is in a crowd of 5000+ hungry people, he will have something to offer Jesus to feed the whole multitude.

When your vision is big, you run out of time for complaining because you are so busy being about your Father’s business.

When your vision is big, you realize that you are only a sail on a boat, but that God is the wind, and with Him you can go anywhere and accomplish anything.Jamin and Sitka

What if You Went Out for Lunch?

Caution:  This post will cover a rather gruesome event that happened in Israel’s history, so be sure your food has digested before reading.

Let me set up the story:

The Children of Israel have passed through the Red Sea, have received the 10 Commandments from God, and are in the midst of establishing themselves as a nation in the lands that God has promised them as an inheritance.  God begins to speak to His people, reminding them of His provision, His blessing, and His design for the way they are to live.  Deuteronomy 28 begins to speak of the blessings that will follow their lives if they obey the Lord, and then in verse 15, God enumerates the curses that will fall upon them if they instead choose disobedience.  It is verses 49-57 that set up the story we will look at in 2 Kings 6.

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

God’s words to His children sounded disgusting and ridiculous to the people just freed from Egypt who had followed God through a desert.  The thoughts were so far from their imaginations.  Who would stoop so low?  Who would be so perverse as to eat their own child?

Well, as sure as God’s word, a few generations later 2 Kings 6:24-31 takes place.  Go ahead and read that passage before continuing by clicking on the reference above^.

This story is astounding, grotesque, horrible, and so full of despair, and it is a true story.  Before you dismiss it as something you have nothing in common with, let me paint another picture:

You are struggling.  You are trying to put one foot in front of the other, but life seems to keep knocking you down.  Your mind becomes a city that has been besieged by voices.  The voices say things like:  “You will never get better.”  “You are just like your good for nothing father.” “This is what your life is all about now–you are a failure!”  “You will always be an addict.”  “No one wants to hear your whining anymore.”  “You are better off dead.” “Why are you so stupid?”  “No one will ever want you.”

Have you been there?  Are you there now?

The enemy of our souls, Satan, comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Those are his main objectives.  One of his great tools on mankind is the siege of the mind.  If he can keep his “loop of lies” running through your head, he can get you to give up the very things that are the most precious to you.  He can convince you to sacrifice the most sacred things at the altar of addiction, murder, or suicide.  It all starts with lies that form a continuous loop in your head.

Now take a couple of minutes and read 2 Kings chapter 7.  Go ahead, you need this!

My question that I want to pose to you is this:  “What if you went out to lunch instead?”

What if those women, desperate for food, would have decided instead to pack up their babies and head out of the city for lunch, like the lepers did instead of forming their destructive plan?

Of course a siege feels scary.  You’ve been threatened by your enemy.  But the truth is–“Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.”  When you step out of your siege, your feet sound like the thunder of  an army.  Your decision to break the cycle, get help, humble yourself, and change your environment starts an earthquake in the camp of your enemy.  Your God goes before you.

What does it mean to leave the city?  It might mean going for a walk, calling someone to pray for you, making an appointment with a counselor, checking yourself into rehab, following through with your medications, and spending time in God’s Word.  Whatever you are most afraid to do–whatever you keep talking yourself out of in exchange for a quick solution, is likely what you need to do.

When you live in a siege mentality, you will make poor companion choices, you will look for quick fixes, you will become desperate, and you will eat your “baby”.  You will trade in the precious for a fix.

So I challenge you, when that loop begins playing in your head–even from the first couple of sentences, recognize it as the voice of your enemy.  Call out to God for help, and then grab up everything that is precious to you and take a walk.  Walk away from the lies, take steps towards your freedom, and don’t stop until your enemy is scattered.  If you have to do it 14 times a day, do it.  Your footsteps out are weapons against your adversary.  Keep going–

get out of jail

The Final Straw

It’s the excuse that flies out of my mouth to justify my reasons on almost everything.  It’s the same excuse I hear from others around me.  It is the final straw, the deciding factor, the ultimate justifier.  “I just don’t have the time.”  It’s why we don’t exercise, eat well, plan for the future or live in the present.  It’s the reason we get rid of our pets and sell our toys.  It is the culprit behind the broken marriage, the unfinished project, the long-lost hobby, and the stressed-out student.  We just don’t have the time.  Sadly, it is the reason for our flailing faith, and our absence from our Father’s House.

In Micah 6:3 God, in an attempt to show Israel how far she has strayed from Him, asks a weighted question:  “How have I wearied you? What have I done to you?

I still hear this same question from the Spirit of God in the lives of my generation.  “What have I done to weary you?  Where are you going?”  I have found very few people who have accusations against God that they can articulate and point to in their lives, but more often than not, I find that the answers to ones drifting away from God are buried in an ambiguous ocean that carries them away slowly, quietly saying, “I just don’t have the time.”

You don’t know how far you can drift until you learn to make “time” your excuse.  The truth is that we you and I will always make the time for the things that are important to us.  Always.  So maybe our problem isn’t “time”;  it is just our excuse.  Our problem is more likely that our value system is constantly being skewed towards convenience, and the things that have become the most valuable to us are the things that come easy.

God still stands on the shore of our hearts asking us to evaluate our excuses, and prove our reasoning for rejecting our only source of oxygen.  While we live in this age of grace we can hear his voice and choose for Him or against Him.  There will be, however the day that our choices run out and we will stand before Him without excuses or options.  There will be no time, only eternity.

Isaiah 55:1-7

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon

alders