God’s Big Lie: So We Think!

Want to start a big fight? Call someone a liar. Better wear a football helmet and a Kevlar vest if you try that line. It’s amazing how something as ubiquitous as lying bothers us so much. Research shows that people do it several times a day. It is even posited that lying may be a form of social lubricant that facilitates normal, effective relationships in our society. Some researchers believe that strict honesty can actually be detrimental to relationships. Yet we hate discovering that we’ve been had or defamed. Lies hurt and according to the book of Proverbs, God hates lying with a passion. Look at these two passages: 

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16 – 6:19 KJV) 

Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight (Proverbs 12:22 KJV)

It seems clear that God is not fond of lying. Here he uses the term abomination. The definition of abomination is “a thing that causes hatred or disgust.”  To God, lying is as disgusting as the stench of garbage and on par with idol worship. The Bible goes so far as to say that God is the very antithesis of lying. In John 14: 6, Jesus declares himself to be the truth. The Bible goes further to say, in Hebrews:

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: (Hebrews 6:17 – 6:18 KJV)

So we see two important facts; God hates lying and God cannot lie because he is the truth. This is the backdrop for my discussion in this post. You probably think my title is blasphemous. One shouldn’t joke about God! Well, this is not a joke and you’ll soon see why the title is both serious an accurate.

If you turn to John 14, you will find one of the most tense exchanges ever between Jesus and his disciples. The discussion began in the previous chapter and now escalates. In this segment, Jesus spins off a series of bold statements and major promises in response to statements and questions from Peter, Thomas, and Phillip. We’ll look at those later. Then in verse 13, we read the most troubling statement in all scripture:

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:13 – 14:14 KJV)

I’ll bet it’s  silent on your side of the screen. You’re probably practicing some spiritual version of “if you ain’t got nothin’ good to say, don’t say nothin’.” I’m asking you to be brutally honest as we deal with this topic. You’re not sure how to relate to that passage. You don’t want to doubt God, but you have prayed, said “in the name of Jesus” and you didn’t get the loan. You did the same and that loved one died. You tried it and whatever you asked did not come to pass. You examined all the parameters outlined in the promise and hunted for any open or hidden rebellion and things seemed to be on point. The only conclusion is: God lied. How could that be? You probably think I’m about to jump into defender-of-God mode, but I’m not. He can afford a much better lawyer than me. So I’m not going to waggle my finger in your face and tell you that if you are confused about what the word is saying it’s your problem, not God’s.  Where does that leave you? I want to share some insight and hope in this post that will challenge you and encourage you.

What You Need to Know
If we start with the premise that the word is truth and true, what does Jesus mean in this verse and why doesn’t it work for us? First, we have to start with some foundational understandings. Without these, we have no basis for discussion. In this domain certain facts are undebatable: As we saw, Jesus is the truth and God cannot lie. The word of God is truth and Jesus is the Word. God is love and wants us to share in the joy and power that are his, as his children. God gives gifts to his children and he delights in being our father. He gives wisdom, liberally. He loves us beyond all human measure.

With all this in mind, Jesus made a bold, unambiguous promise that few of us have seen fulfilled. Why? Could it be that we are focused on the smallest part of the passage? There is a HUGE point Jesus is making here and we are doubting God’s honesty and perhaps his existence, based on a somewhat shallow reading of his word. We have become cynical about the veracity of the word and we respond to it negatively but in politically correct ways in public, all the while doubting it and avoiding it in our private moments.

We keep the Word like those old console TV/radio/stereos they used to make. Eventually, they broke down and didn’t work, but it was nice furniture so we kept it in the living room to hold pictures and potted plants. In our thinking, the Word doesn’t work, but it’s great devotional poetry, makes a great impression sitting on the coffee table, and looks good on Facebook with golden sunsets, angel wings, and doves.

Let’s go back a bit to John 14:4 to start connecting some dots. Jesus says this: “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him” (John 14:4 – 14:7 KJV) 

In this statement about where he’s going and the way, Jesus initiates a discussion. The discourse becomes fiercely interactive. Thomas and Philip are fed up with the cryptic comments and want concrete revelations from Jesus. Jesus just told them that they know something and they push back saying, “No, we don’t!” Remember where their minds were and you’ll understand how confused they felt at that moment. All that week, every event pointed to Jesus setting up his kingdom. With that in mind, the disciples were planning their futures in the new royal court–wouldn’t you? But as their minds turned to thrones and crowns, Jesus spoke of crosses, death and leaving. Why is he talking about this stuff and how can you be leaving when YOUR new kingdom is about to start? So as events moved in the direction of triumph,  Jesus’ words went somewhere else, which brought the confusion to a boil. This direct and unvarnished debate leads to Jesus’ most powerful description of the father’s intent for the relationship he wants with us. In this section, we see the background for the promise he made. But let’s look at a set of verses that help us understand God’s desire and the promises Jesus made:

My Father, which gave them (his sheep) me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one (John 10:29 – 10:30 KJV)

If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him (John 14:7 KJV)

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake (John 14:8 – 14:11 KJV)

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:20 – 17:21 KJV)

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me (John 6:53 – 6:57 KJV)

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love (John 15:5 – 15:9 KJV)

The Oneness Factor
Do you see the point?  Here is a critical factor in the misunderstanding that leads us to believe that God has lied to us. Getting what we ask for is the fruit of a relationship that is steadily growing tighter and stronger with trust and confidence flowing back and forth so that it’s hard to tell where God ends and we begin. We get what we ask because we are so full of God that it’s no longer a request; it’s really God working out his desires through us. At that point you realize the glory and power of the flow that happens as a result of your oneness with the Godhead. All barriers are gone. All impediments of unbelief are obliterated.

But here’s the other aspect of this promise; these prayers are matters of community. God wants to set up a web of power, a network of love that amplifies and projects his saving grace to a lost and hungry world and ricochets from one saint to another. The love and power of the father flow unrestricted through every aspect of our lives. This is what Paul meant when he said in Philippians 2 that it is God working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. This is what Jesus spoke of in his promise. This is why the promise is not a lie. Oneness is God’s passionate desire 24/7. How passionate are we about oneness with him or more importantly, with each other? Our oneness with each other, through him, is how the world learns to believe in him. He has made crystal clear what his desire is. He is working now to fit us for fulfillment of that great promise in John 14:13.

Chosen and Ordained
When we judge God and his word as untrue or faulty, we put ourselves in his place. We seat ourselves on the throne and pronounce him as unfit to lead us. We declare that we know truth better than truth himself. This is why Jesus took the time to set the relationship parameters straight. Take a look at this passage from John 15:

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another (John 15:16 – 15:17 KJV) 

Though he spoke of his 12 disciples, what he says applies to us today. The relationship with God is his doing, not ours. But we are not just chosen by him, we are ordained as well. Ordination is not what we think. The original word carries the meaning of being put in a prostrate position or on your back looking up. The idea is that submission to oneness is like submitting to re-creation. Just as Adam lay prostrate before the creator before the breath of life was breathed into him, we also must die to self-will and lie prostrate before God forgiven, humble and ready to receive the breath of life.

The prostrate position is the submission to or obedience to his commands. The obedience is the evidence of the growing oneness. Obedience is the definition Jesus gave of abiding in him as he abides in his father and his father abides in him. So we must abide in him and he, in turn, abides in us. And note that Jesus’ concern here is the issue of love as the supreme test of obedience.

Tying Things Together
I’ll conclude with this. What would happen if we put as much emphasis and weight on oneness, submission, abiding, and cleansing as we do on receiving? Most often we call for fulfillment of the promise that if we ask anything in Jesus name, he will do it. when we are facing a panic. It is then that we realize that the quality of our bond with him and our fellow believers is shallow and shaky. At that point, we either pour on the emotion to force the issue or we pray a vague, sheepish prayer not believing there is much of a chance we’ll get a response. Then we accuse him of lying to us when in reality, we know we have no oneness with him or our brothers and sisters, which is the channel for the fulfillment of the promise. We then make the promise void and God a liar in the public arena.

If we want to see this promise in John 14:13-14 become a reality, It time to focus on our oneness with him and the believers. This is a supernatural work that will require an intensity of prayer above all that you have done before. Engaged this way, we’ll never see him as a liar again!


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The Gospel According to Wharehouse Clubs (No, This is Serious)

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Preamble Ramble
When you saw that title, I bet you were thinking, “This is what happens when you have completely run out of things to say!” The title is so corny that you may be too embarrassed to read this post, but to tell the truth, the Lord gave me an amazing revelation tailormade for my twisted thought processes and I want to share this revelation with you. Last time I wrote, I shared what the Lord showed me regarding sugar. What I learned on that topic has made a mountain of difference in my life–as in mountain of fat. Now the Lord has given me a unique revelation in the spiritual realm. He took advantage of my bent toward analogies. He gave me that bent, so why shouldn’t he use it. Therefore, open your mind and suspend judgment until you have seen the power in this analogy for your life.

Since I am not a thrill-seeker, I can get a charge out of watching grass grow; and since my idea of a great movie is footage from a security camera, you can understand why going to Costco or Sam’s is Disney for me! That’s why this analogy is so strong.

What You Need to Know
If you are not a regular at these warehouse club stores let me give you a primer on the shopping experience. These stores are really big. Usually, I advise people who have not been to one to take a canteen and a week’s worth of food to hold them as they travel from one side of the store to the other. As the twelve spies who checked out Cannan found, EVERYTHING is big in these stores. The shopping carts are the size of a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado. Every product comes in family-sized packs of 500. Vitamins are in bottles that could energize an army regiment for 50 years and cereal comes in boxes that would crush you if they fell off the shelf. Many products require that you bring a forklift to get them to the checkout. But this is the fun of those places. You know you don’t need all this stuff but, hey, where else can you see 6 million toothbrushes in one pack.

Yet all this bounty is not for everyone. To stroll into this paradise of consumer gluttony you have to be a member and, of course, that requires a fee. However, you only need one card for the family. Once you have the card, you’re in! Load that cart and head for debtor’s prison! OK, I have exaggerated, slightly, but only slightly–ok, a lot.

Here’s the analogy in the form of an allegory
God has this big warehouse store of amazing blessings. EVERYTHING there is big and life-changing. As inviting as that seemed, it turned out that it’s a membership store and that means there’s a fee, but as I read what the fee was I turned away in total discouragement. The fee was the righteousness of Jesus. I didn’t even have the righteousness of a snail, so I knew I was finished. Then, as I turned toward the parking lot, I heard the voice of the guy who checks the cards at the door, “Hey, Sir, come back. I have a card for you!” Confused, I headed back to a man with a big smile holding out a golden card beckoning me to come in. Trembling with apprehension, I took the card and saw imprinted on it a chip–a bright red chip. A little booklet stated that this chip was the blood of Jesus and that’s what makes this card official. No one can duplicate it and this card is for you alone; it can’t be shared. The card with the chip makes you eligible to access all the blessings in the store. “What about the fee?” I asked. “That chip says it is paid,” the attendant said with glee. “Go in boldly, knowing that you are welcome here and enjoy your time! Oh, and tell others to come with you when you come again.”

As I walked through the first aisle, a lovely lady handed me a stack of coupons so heavy I had to set them in the cart. “I’m not sure I can use all these,” I said. “You’ll need every one of them. This is a lifetime’s worth of coupons for every kind of purchase. Serious, deep discounts that you won’t believe and these coupons never expire!” I stopped and read a few and saw that the coupons were the promises of God.

Experience the Power
So here’s the deal: God wanted me to share that our approach to him is too distant. Our trust in him is measured by our lack of confidence in the strength of our ties to him. Our weak track record makes us feel as though we have no right to ask anything of him so we come to him sheepishly when we have a need. God has given me a new perspective on prayer and this Gospel According to Warehouse Clubs has made a difference for me.

Think about it: Our spiritual standing before God is hopeless based on our own righteousness. Entry into the kingdom of God, entry into the presence of God is impossible without the righteousness of Christ. God is saying through the golden cards with the blood chip that he has given me his righteousness as a free gift. That blood-chip says my membership is paid for. Note: God did not cancel the fee, That is not why the card is free. He paid a heavy price for my membership and has the wounds to prove it. No matter how short I was on the fee, He covered all the costs by His second-death sacrifice on the cross. Now He commands me to come in and rejoice in this big, bountiful store of blessings and power. But as I walk the aisles, I remember that I have no money. All I have is this cart full of coupons. As I read the coupons, it becomes clear to me that these are no ordinary coupons. These coupons constitute full payment for any item purchased in the store.

So the process works like this: God commands me to come into his store using the golden card with the blood chip; I come boldly to his customer service desk. I have needs, so he commands me to use the coupons to address those needs. I pull out one that says “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Wow, that’s discouraging, I have no righteousness. Then he tells me to look at the card, again. He makes it clear that that blood chip is my new and complete righteousness because my sin-debt was paid at the cross. That’s how I can come boldly to the customer service desk; the blood clears away the barrier. Now I feel great and read the next coupon that says, “Call upon me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”

A New Way to Pray
This is real, I actually started praying this way. Since I am covered, I can now go confidently–not cockily–into his presence. I feel oddly free because I am following his command to call on him. Oddly because I know I am not what I should be, but I am what he has declared me to be–righteous! Then I see this coupon: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He not only declared me righteous, He promised to make my life match those credentials by his grace and power through my faith in Him.

Think about it: He’s commanding us to call on Him! That sounds like a set-up for answered prayer. My new prayer goes something like this:
“Father, thank you for providing all that I need to open the pathway to your throne. I don’t deserve to be here, but you actually took a sinner like me and made me fit through your grace and promises to come to you. You have commanded me to come into your presence and have given me promises to supply my needs and the needs of those you are calling me to pray for. That means you intend to answer those prayers because this is your idea and command. I’m asking, seeking and knocking about this; I’m expecting great and mighty things concerning that; I’m expecting my prayers to avail much because I’m covered by your righteousness and the prayers of a righteous man avail much. Since this was your idea and you commanded me to do this, I have faith that you will do magnificent things because it’s not about me–it’s about you! But above all Father, you said in your word that you want to be one with me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. You love me that much. Whatever you command, please empower me to do. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, LORD, AMEN!!!

What a difference it makes to pray this way! The Gospel (Good News) According to Warehouse Clubs–It sounded silly at first, but it’s the real deal when it comes to meaningful, powerful prayer. Get your card; it’s free. Grab your coupons and shop til you drop!

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Weight Loss Made Realer: Dump Sugar

food-eating-candy-chocolateMaybe Realer is not a real word, but I didn’t want to say “easier”. Weight loss is one of those results that come from processes that are usually simple but not easy. Look, there are no better experts on weight loss than us fat people! We have lost millions of pounds collectively. We do it so well that we keep getting the weight back so we can do the magic trick over and over to the delight of thrilled audiences worldwide. The formula is very simple, but simple is not the same as easy. For example: climbing Mount Everest is simple–start climbing at the bottom and keep climbing until you get to the top. It is really that simple. Nevertheless, I will not say that climbing the world’s tallest peak is easy. There are tons of complications and dangers along the way that have cost many climbers their lives.

So it is with weight loss. Simply reduce your intake of fat inducing substances then increase your fat-burning activity and, voila, a new thin you–YEAH, RIGHT! Why doesn’t this work? Well, it actually does work, but just as we found with climbing Everest, you run into complications and dangers on the steep climb to a new thin you. Some complications make you stop before you reach the top. One complication that gets us in trouble is not knowing what makes us fat. This is why the weight-loss industry (WLI) was a $66.3 billion industry in 2017, according to Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. They convince you that what makes you fat is what their products cure. The WLI likes to hype you into this state of urgency and they use terms of violence to excite you about what’s going to happen to fat when you get started on their plan: fat will burn, melt, be destroyed, obliterated in hours, from the moment you start; all as you eat all the foods you love, while watching TV relaxing at home! EEEAASY. It never works. The focus is on fat in food.

Have you ever noticed that the people on those diet-plan and exercise device commercials all look like they were carved from granite? You never see human blimps on the FatBlaster X-9 or the ABzapper 2000 or eating Skinny Greg meals. Why? because all the fat people who bought them are at the emergency room–injured–or dying of starvation hunting through trash cans looking for pizza crusts, or those magic devices are buried under 200 pounds of laundry.

What Makes Us Fat?
We might think that what makes us fat is eating fat, but it appears that what poses the biggest threat to our health and weight is SUGAR. Think about it, when a food company reduces the fat in a food they add more sweeteners to improve the flavors that are affected by the fat in the food. Fat makes food taste good. Here’s what I found in an article entitled The Science Behind Why Fat Tastes So Good, “Fat affects how volatile compounds are released in our mouths and, ultimately, how the flavor gets perceived.”

So even with the reduction in fat in foods, sugar rises to the top of the villain list because of a process described on livestrong.com “If sugar calories are not used as energy shortly after they are consumed, however, they are converted into stored body fat by a process known as lipogenesis. One form of sugar, in particular, fructose, may be more dangerous and likely to be stored as body fat than other types of sugar, such as sucrose, or table sugar.

So, you say, “I’m not drinking sodas or eating cake, I eat lots of healthy fruit and drink natural fruit juices”. Based on our quote above, fructose, the sugar in fruit and fruit juices, converts to fat faster than good old table sugar. Then there are the hidden sugars in tomato sauce, tomato paste, crackers, bread, pancake mix, cereals, and flavored yogurts that can have up to 29 grams of sugar in a serving. That’s more than most soft drinks. Plus, food companies hide sugar on nutrition labels under weird names. According to Sugarscience.ucsf.edu, “There are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. These include common names, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, among others.”

So many of us have been caught napping when it comes to the real culprit in weight gain. Diet sodas, yogurt, healthy ice creams, low-fat foods all promise to help you lose calories and fat, but all those sweeteners guarantee that you’ll be crashing the scale with extra pounds very soon. Combine this diet issue with a sedentary lifestyle and without consuming a single fatty pork chop or deep-fried pizza slice, you’ll be on your way to the cardiac unit as your waistline blocks your view of your feet.

That’s why I did the one-month sugar detox found here at CNN. I won’t lie, it is tough to do at first, but the rewards are outstanding. You’ll even begin to regulate your portion sizes. Your appetite will change and you will have a greater sense of self-control. Clothes that would not meet in the middle will button and zip faster than you think. A lot will depend on how deep you are in your sugar habit. I did not have to tear myself away from candy, cookies, vending-machine food, sodas, etc. I had to control my fruit consumption, bread, and juice intake.

Next, I increased my walking from 10,000 steps per day to 15,000. I added some running to the mix and some strength training. and finally, lots of water.  This may not sound like the fun plans of the weight-loss industry, but one thing is sure: It’s Realer!

Give this month-long plan a try. The CNN article has a breakdown of things to eat and not eat for each of the four weeks of the plan. In a later post I’ll discuss how some artificial sweeteners fool us into thinking we are drinking sugar-free drinks but the effect is the same as sugar or worse. Be sure to get medical advice before doing any drastic changes in diet. Let me know how it’s working at my facebook page.

In the meantime, much success to you.

Wave the White Flag: Winning by Losing

Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are at war with God. Intuitively we know this but consciously, we want to convince ourselves that we’ve always been on the good side–God’s side. After all, we love his music (when we are not listening and dancing to something else), we praise him at church (just before we throw shade at the member who didn’t call us by our title: Grand Imperial Poobah ELDER), and we preach powerful sermons about him that make people stream to the altar in tears then we hurry home and cheat on our taxes, overeat, or watch pornography. Even if we don’t do these things, lying of any kind; ungratefulness; proud, haughty attitudes and behavior; unkindness and fearfulness are listed in scripture as lake-of-fire offenses to God. Hence, according to Paul in Romans 8: 6, 7, we are at war:

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” 

Here Paul uses the word enmity. To get a sense of the word’s meaning, look at the synonyms for enmity: hostility, animosity, antagonism, friction, antipathy, animus, acrimony, bitterness, rancor, resentment, aversion, ill feeling, bad feeling, ill will, bad blood, hatred, hate, loathing, odium; malice, spite, spitefulness, venom, malevolence. These synonyms make it clear that our carnal or natural mind (that is not transformed by God) hates Him and is in mortal conflict with him. As I wrote in another post, “. . . our struggle against sin is rarely a struggle against sin; it’s usually a struggle against God! If you’re honest, the agony is in knowing that something we want so much is wrong. We identify with it–we can taste it, feel it, we’re stimulated to the breaking point by it and God is saying no. At that very moment, our minds and bodies are screaming yes! Ask yourself the question: At that moment, are you frustrated with sin or with God? In the middle of a porn movie, do you want to talk to your pastor about ministry? Do you want to read Counsels on Diet & Food as you are eating your cheesecake?” 

This is the shape of the war between man and God. Our love for the pleasures of sin, our enslavement to habits, our fear that we cannot go a minute without succumbing to the temptations that prey on us, lead us to wage war to maintain our status quo of “normal”. Sin may be our captor, but we know him well and have grown comfortable with him as our dance partner. God? We don’t trust him. He’s trying to take away the joys of normal life. He wants to strip us bare and humble us (read humiliate us). His joy is not funny, sexy, spicy or fattening! God’s way, in our minds, is abnormal, bland, lifeless, tasteless, straight-laced and, worst of all, unsustainable. It’s the sure road to pain and defeat; why bother to start since we’ll be back at the doughnut pile in no time! In our sin-twisted thinking, we believe that God hates what we love and hates fun! He wants us to be out of style and out of touch–not cool. So we have to duck him, discredit him, obliterate him from our minds so that we can be normal, acceptable and comfortable in this world. In our minds, He stands only for what we can’t do. This is why Paul says the carnal or fleshly mind is enmity against God.

Natures and Browser Tabs
BUT, there is also this crazy dynamic that Paul tried to explain in Romans 7 that presents the complexity of the war between man and God and why the white flag must come into play. Listen to Paul’s description of our internal battle in Romans 7: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Did you catch it? We have two warring natures living inside of us. There is a spiritual nature that yearns after God and his way and hates the sin and enslavement that comes with it. Then there is that ugly sinful nature that rages against God and anything like Him. Think about it, at any given time we want to both win the war against sin and win the war against God. One way to look at this is to compare it to what happens when we have two browser tabs running videos at the same time. We’re watching one tab, but the audio from the other is playing loudly and the mixture of the two is confusing. This is why many of us feel that we have always been on the good side–we have. It’s just that the bad side has been running in the other tab with the volume up. One browser, two tabs; one life, two competing natures. But that nature running in the bad tab is sucking the life out of the good tab. It’s putting you in a position that has you loathing the good tab but feeling compelled to keep it open because it’s where you belong even if your soul is wishing the bad tab was acceptable. The duplicity and mental conflict are exhausting. Sooner or later you’re going to hit the X on one of the tabs. It will most likely be the good tab. Your addiction to the bad tab will eventually cause you to feel that you are a hypocrite and there is no use pretending you’re a Christian anymore: Close the good tab; it’s not real! Continue reading

More than shouting: but something to shout about!

You hear a lot about what the Holy Spirit does, but most of it amounts to speaking in tongues, prophecy, or emotional explosions–a form of spiritual catharsis. Here I present a powerful piece on the Spirit that is so helpful that it needs little commentary.

“It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church. AG 194.2

While we yield ourselves as instruments for the Holy Spirit’s working, the grace of God works in us to deny old inclinations, to overcome powerful propensities, and to form new habits. AG 194.3

The Spirit of God, received into the soul, quickens all its faculties. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the mind that is devoted unreservedly to God, develops harmoniously, and is strengthened to comprehend and fulfill the requirements of God. The weak, vacillating character becomes changed to one of strength and steadfastness…. AG 194.4

It is the Spirit that causes to shine into darkened minds the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness; that makes men’s hearts burn within them with an awakened realization of the truths of eternity; that presents before the mind the great standard of righteousness, and convinces of sin; that inspires faith in Him who alone can save from sin; that works to transform character by withdrawing the affections of men from those things which are temporal and perishable, and fixing them upon the eternal inheritance. The Spirit recreates, refines, and sanctifies human beings, fitting them to become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. AG 194.5.”

Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace (devotional)

Why Boundaries Matter

Have you ever been rummaging through the apps on your tablet or phone and found something you forgot you had bought? That’s what happened to me recently and the discovery jolted me in a fabulous way that I want to share with you. One evening while touring my iPad, I decided to see what was lurking under my iBooks icon. Immediately, my eyes fell on a book that I bought and had started reading but the book somehow became lost in the shuffle of life. It is amazing to me how the Lord banks important readings for times when we will cherish the treasure of a book’s insights and be transformed by them rather than merely eeking out some small satisfaction for having finished another book.

The book is Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Someone had recommended the book to me sometime back and I bought it. Now I highly recommend it because it addresses one of the most serious matters in life. As a matter of fact, if we all had a better concept of boundaries in our lives, our family relations, friendships, church connections and office associations would be far less contentious and much more satisfying. I won’t try to capture the volumes of material I found, but I will share a couple of key ideas that have helped me to have greater confidence and more peace during difficult stretches of life.

The first idea is this: Establishing boundaries is not about setting roadblocks to keep people out of your life; it is about determining who you are, what you are here for and letting this knowledge help you create limits that protect your purpose and your sense of self. Many of us have, at times, become victims of missing boundaries. Much of my life was boundaryless. We spend our lives saying yes to things that have NO written all over them and dreading interactions with people who seem to be controlling us.  Taking the proper steps toward setting effective limits on our practices and interactions can give us that much needed sense of control that reduces stress in our lives.

We all can think of people we know who only do what they choose to do. If you ask them to do something that is not in their plan, They cheerfully say no with no guilt or regret. They never seem stressed–they have boundaries. It’s not that these people are mean or sadistic; They simply have a schedule and a purpose that limits the amount of random activity they allow. If what you ask does not fit their purpose or schedule, the answer is NO. Though hearing that NO jolts and embarrasses us, we secretly admire that level of control. We wonder how these folks can shut down burdensome requests with no appearance of remorse or regret. We sometimes feel horror at the very thought of saying no and find ourselves saying yes to stave off the pain of disapproval. Without boundaries, there is no limit to how much unexpected, unplanned responsibility we will allow the world to plop into our laps.

The second idea has to do with purpose as a way of establishing effective boundaries. This aspect of our effective boundaries provides a filter through which to gauge the worthiness of any request that comes to us. If I have a clear idea of why I exist; if I have a firm grasp on my mission in life then when requests come to me I can run them through that filter and say if it supports my mission and does not lessen my ability to fulfill my other mission commitments, I can do this. But many of us are so disorganized in our approach to life that we do everything in the moment and not strategically. What do I mean by this? We have an obligation of genuine love to move rapidly and deliberately toward organizing our activity in such a way that decision making is a result of coordinated, thoughtful planning and not emotion.

Let’s be honest: many of us say yes to requests without thinking because our missionless lives leave us making decisions based on our desire to be well thought of. With this at the top of our agenda, we revel in the emotional high that comes with seeing smiles and joy over our yes even if that yes in on a collision course with the last yes that is now obscured by the fog of our current euphoria. God is calling us to a higher level of service that transcends warm feelings of selfish gratification brought on by saying yes to everything. We owe the world a no that sets them free from the looming disappointment when we can’t deliver on our ill conceived promises. A firm mission, a clear mission-driven agenda for each day that carefully considers openings and potential conflicts in the schedule will allow us to deliver the effective service that we and the world need. A big part of that service is the effective boundary of NO.

This is the last point. There is a companion reason for not saying NO. That is “fear of their faces”. In Jeremiah 1:8 and in Ezekiel 2:8 God said that the prophets should not be afraid of the faces of the people when delivering their messages. Implied in this is the idea that we often are expected by God to deliver difficult messages to people that will engender a strong negative reaction. In our desire for pleasure and gratification in our interactions, we recoil from the potential pain of rejection and retaliation. We must believe God’s promises to his prophets that if we safeguard our mission by saying no to conflicting or off-mission requests, he will be with us. Moreover, our friends, family and coworkers will make it somehow, even though we said NO. We must learn to endure the faces. If we say yes to escape the sad or angry face, we will see it later when we disappoint due to being over-committed.This is just a small slice of the rich material to be found in the book Boundaries. I hope you get it and discover how to live a richer, fuller life where you have greater control and fulfillment.

Faith to face the storms

ship-storm-pageThe sun sank into the waters of lake Genesaret as the last of the throng strolled out of sight. Praise from satisfied hearts still echoed from the Galilean hills as stars lit the darkening sky. Jesus had long days. Up hours before the sun, he poured passion into saving people. The day now spent, he and the twelve launched out for a night’s journey to the far shore. Before long, the peaceful breeze and rocking water nudged Jesus into slumber. But a sudden storm tore the night, swamping the vessel–threatening to kill thirteen men. Frantically, the twelve rowed against the blast realizing in horror that their efforts were futile. They’d lost control! Then, in the blaze of lightening, the crew noticed something odd—Jesus, asleep! Thirteen men in danger, thirteen men headed for death, and only twelve struggled! Terror was eclipsed by indignity. They labored for life while somebody slept. They could take the unfairness no longer—“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38) In other words, “With all due respect, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE–INCLUDING YOU!! DON’T YOU CARE? CAN YOU AT LEAST JOIN US AS WE GO DOWN, FIGHTING?”

We pity the disciples. Where was their faith? Jesus was there in the boat. Why the fear? Why the indignation? But haven’t we felt alone in our struggles? Perhaps caring for a sick loved one while other family members avoid the responsibility; paying big bills with small money, while those who should help don’t! We nearly loose our sanity over the cruelty of people who take their leisure at the time of our trials. Maybe the disciples felt this way. Jesus needed a wake-up call. Even in church work we sometimes succumb to the pain of seeing others merely worship without lifting a finger to help with church upkeep. The disciples showed bitterness toward Jesus. And we do, as well. Nevertheless, with the same calm that let him sleep on the roller coaster sea, Jesus calmed the waves and chastised the twelve for their lack of faith.

They had seen the greatest demonstrations of power ever displayed to human eyes. They’d participated in healing with the Master himself. How could he say that they had no faith? After all, they had forsaken everything to follow him! The answer is that, though they were dedicated men, when the crisis came they didn’t know who was in the boat with them. They were helping Jesus, and as we often do, they found themselves so busy serving and being valuable that they forgot that they needed him. They saw only that he needed them. Thus, at crisis time, they didn’t look to him, because they were the sailors; Jesus was simply a passenger–and a sleeping one at that. Knowing him as a mere passenger made simple faith impossible!

Simple faith is an uncomplicated trust that God has your life in his constant gaze, and that he is not overmatched by modern-day storms. It’s giving him the command of your ship. Jesus said, “And this is life eternal: that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) In Roman 10:17, Paul says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word about Christ. Jesus says, in John 15:5, that without him we can do nothing.

The picture is clear. Faith is only obtainable through a continual interaction with God through His word and prayer. If we don’t have time for these, we don’t have time for faith. The word immerses us in God’s thoughts, and prepares us to receive His spirit. One evening, Mary and Martha threw a dinner for Jesus. Martha could really entertain, and was determined to give her best for the Master. Mary, meanwhile, curled up at His feet to listen. Like the twelve in the storm, Martha becameSailboat in Distance indignant. She saw herself rowing alone in the kitchen, so she rushed to Jesus with a complaint similar to that of His men: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” Mary didn’t doubt that Jesus cared, Martha, the faithful worker, did—as did the twelve toiling in the tempest. In terror they worked for the Master, but he wants us to work and trust! The simple truth is this:
Those who invest great time in knowing Jesus trust Him.