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


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!

Continue reading


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.

Lest thou learn his ways

There’s a psychological concept called mirroring. The way it works is that as we become very close to or familiar with a person’s actions and traits we can begin to instinctively mimic what they do and how they do it. Couples who have grown close over a lengthy relationship can be seen mirroring each other’s words, gestures and expressions. Close observation for both positive and negative reasons can lead to this behavior. In Proverbs 22:24-25, Solomon warned about becoming changed by association with people who have evil attributes. He said avoid the association “lest thou learn his ways.” But we don’t have to be friends with poor examples to learn their ways. We can get sucked in by focusing on negatives in people with whom we have limited contact. Have you become so focused on the bad traits of someone in your life that you can’t wait to report his or her latest evil or stupid move? Beware: continual fixation with the other person’s issues may lead to mirroring.

I remember a song I used to hate: Goin’ Up the Country.” It was the dumbest song ever written. I’m sure that it is loaded with deep social, philosophical and every other kind of meaning. When YOU listen to it, you’ll probably fall on your knees and cry out that your life is changed. When I heard it in 1969, it was dumb. It was so dumb that I couldn’t stop imitating how dumb it sounded. Before long people thought I was dumb because here was this black, city kid singing this atonal, country twang mess, by The Canned Heat and it only had a few words to it. By focusing on what I hated I became obsessed with it and started to mirror the very thing that repulsed me. Are you doing this with anyone? The boss, the neighbor, the church member: are you so fixated on rehashing their failings that you are becoming more negative by the minute? In fact, are you becoming more like the people you hate by replaying their bad ways to the point that these bad ways become yours? It’s not the behavior that needs to stop, its the attitude! You need to confess to God that you are obsessed with the negative about people and it has reduced you to a level below the people you hate. You need to be set free and transformed before you lose your salvation to mirroring evil. There’s no 12-step plan. Go to God and lay this problem at his feet. Cry out to him because the problem is deeper than you think. He is able to change you if you will let him.