Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Earthly prosperity. I am wondering, is it a blessing or a curse? I guess it depends partly on how you define it. We all want to have what we need, and that is the most basic definition of prosperity. To be without need. No, I am speaking of a much higher level of prosperity. The kind we have experienced in America for the past sixty years or so. We have gone way beyond having what we need. Even the majority of our poor have what they need. The poor of the rest of the world are starving. Its not uncommon for the poor of America to struggle with obesity. I am talking about a prosperity that never really has to think about what I need, but always about what I want. That level of society-wide prosperity in a fallen world is dangerous. We seem to have become a "culture of covetousness." We have an insatiable hunger for more, and bigger, and better. Do I think it would be better for people to suffer in need? Maybe. Sometimes. Do I think that this is God's heart for people? No, not ultimately. I do know this, though. When you look at the history of His dealings with Israel, He would put them in a place of need when their hearts grew hard towards Him. We call it judgment. Judgment is not destruction. Judgment is God saying "I love you too much to let you destroy yourselves in sin." It's His way of getting our attention. It's making us aware of our need for Him. On a human level we call it "tough love."

I think the American church is on a crash course with some Tough Love.

Paul wrote to Timothy,

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Do we love His appearing? Does our heart long to be wholly joined to Jesus? Paul said in another place that he would rather go to be with the Lord than to stay here on earth. Peter talked about a lifestyle for the believer that would hasten the coming of the Lord. Do we think like those guys? Would we rather go be with Him than continue to enjoy the pleasures of the earthly life? Are we longing for the day when He will come to judge the earth and fully establish His kingdom?

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Is that the deepest desire of our inner man? Or do we love this present world? Do we want to squeeze every possible drop of pleasure out of this life, and then "go to heaven" when we die? Is that what our faith is all about?

Lord... give me a heart that longs for more of You, and all that You have for me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A good question...

Luke 6

Jesus asked a challenging question.

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?

James commented on that same basic idea a few years later.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

So... when we hear His word, but don't respond in obedience, we deceive ourselves.

Scary thought.

Lord, teach me the ways of your kingdom.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


“It is better to listen in order to understand than to listen in order to reply”

I saw this somewhere tonight, and I liked it. I sort of get that switched around a lot.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught,

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Think about that for a minute.

Forgiveness is an absolutely critical element in the kingdom of God. The fact is, we are going to be offended, wounded, and just plain mistreated by people in our lives. Its an inescapable reality of life in a dark world. We have to learn to forgive, or we will carry around wounds and offenses in our hearts, and it will impact every part of our lives. But its not easy. Many people have written books on forgiveness, giving us explanations and formulas of how to do it. One common element of thought is,

"Its a choice, not a feeling."

They tell us how to identify our offense, and steps to take in forgiving the person involved. Its usually pretty simple to understand, and not all that hard to walk through the steps. I honestly believe that when we sincerely pursue forgiveness on that level, that we satisfy God's commandment to forgive. He is simply looking for a sincere heart of desire for reconciliation and peace. Its all we can do.


There is more.

Twice in the past few years I have experienced deep wounding that touched the very core of my being. I couldn't get free from my offense. I tried. I followed the steps of forgiveness. I prayed and spoke the right words before God. But the wound and it's pain were still there. It was like walking around with a knife in my heart. I was functional, but the pain was always there. In both situations, I continued to pray and forgive and ask the Lord to heal my heart. I didn't want to settle for a "technical" forgiveness. I wanted that full emotional release that would enable me to freely love the one who had offended me.

The first release came a couple of years ago. I was sitting with a bunch of friends, studying and discussing the reality of loving without judgment. We were sharing experiences, and talking about principles in a book we were reading together, when the Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart, and show me how it applied specifically to my situation. In a moment of time, He let me see things from His perspective, and my heart was set free. The unforgiveness and the accompanying heaviness lifted like a cloud carried away by the wind. Tears filled my eyes as I described what I had just experienced while we sat there. It was incredible. The truth set me free.

And it happened again last night. I had carried "the wound of all wounds" for almost two years. It had crippled me emotionally. This wasn't a knife in my heart. It was like my heart had been put through a shredder. I forgave and forgave and forgave... but to no avail. I tried to walk in love, but my heart was heavily guarded. I was tempted to shut down completely many times, but the Lord just wouldn't let me. He would always come at my darkest moments and give me hope and strength to persevere.

And God is merciful. Wondrously merciful. He came for me again, and liberated my heart to once more walk in His peace. He came and revealed true understanding about my situation that set me free. I didn't read a book, apply the principles, and experience the results. I had applied the scriptural principle of forgiveness for a long time, but my heart was still bound. This was something more. This was God shining light in my darkness, and the darkness was vanquished. I did have to respond properly. It wouldn't have happened if I had hardened my heart toward this person. "We can't do God's part, and He won't do ours." I wanted to forgive. I wanted to walk in His ways. I wanted restoration.

And He gave it to me. A gift of grace. A healed heart.

Thank you Lord.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drinking shrinks the brain???

WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- While it might help your heart, drinking even moderately could shrink your brain, U.S. researchers say.

Really? They did a study to figure this out? What kind of study? An evening in the corner bar? And I couldn't help chuckling at this statement a little further in the article.

"Brain shrinkage was slightly greater in female drinkers than in male drinkers... the researchers found."

I am pretty sure every guy that walks into that bar where they did their "study" is counting on this.

I know... bad joke.

Seriously, though, I find it sadly ironic that much of western Christianity will measure one's "freedom in Christ" by whether or not they will consume alcohol. If you are a teetotaler you can end up with that most dreaded of titles... religious. We know that alcohol is dangerous on many levels, and science only continues to confirm it.

And yet we love its effects.

Don't get me wrong. I will have the occasional beer, or glass of wine. I am not legalistic about it. I am just wondering about the place it has taken in much of American church life.

Why do we need it?

I remember a statement I made in my search for "meaning" in life as a young man in college. I was pretty serious about my drug and alcohol consumption in those days. Seven days a week, usually a couple of times a day, I was finding some way to get loaded. I wasn't homeless. My outward life wasn't falling apart. I was pretty much a straight A student, drove a nice car, and had lots of friends. But I loved to get high. No... I had to get high to feel happy and free from all my hidden fears and inhibitions. And it brought me to a point where I made this statement to myself and my closest friends.

"I should be able to fully enjoy life without having to alter my consciousness in any way."

I really did say that. Often. It was a bit of a mantra with me in that last year before I encountered Jesus. Actually, I have always believed that it was a thought dropped into my mind by the Holy Spirit. It drove me to pursue that inner freedom. And it ultimately led me to Him.

I will never forget what happened the next day after I surrendered my life to Jesus. It happened late one night in a friends basement. He prayed for me, and I experienced a power that moved through my entire being. It pretty much left me speechless, and I basically went straight home to bed. I had to be at work at 6:00 a.m., to begin my glorious day of washing dishes in a hospital kitchen.

That afternoon, I was standing at the conveyor belt where the trays come through after they come off the food carts, and it suddenly hit me.

"I dont need to get high. I dont want to get high!"

I was free. Finally. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.

So... I ask again. Why do we do it? Why do we need it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The time has past

I love Peter. The apostle. He gets made fun of a lot. Impetuous they say. Put his foot in his mouth a lot. Denied the Lord. Three times. People love to point that out. And its true. I am guessing that it would have been five times if God had sent a couple of more people that night to ask him about Jesus. But he is the one who stood up and preached at Pentecost. And his epistles are incredible. They don't require a lot of interpretation like Paul does sometimes. Straightforward. Point blank. I like that. I think he is good to use as a measuring rod when interpreting more symbolic or allegorical passages of scripture.

Here's a great one.

1Peter 4:1-8 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Peter taught the church to live a life of devotion to the kingdom of God. He didn't make any bones about it. He called the church to holiness, but not haughtiness. He finishes his exhortation with a call to love one another "above all." Love is the goal, always. But the path to experience and walk in that love seems to be separated from the ways of this world.

I want to understand that more clearly.