Roller Coaster Faith

Eph. 4:14
Eph. 4:14

I’m a visual person. I have to see it. If I don’t write it down, it’s hard for me to grasp certain things. Spelling Bees? Nope, not for me. I stunk at them because I needed to actually write the word down in order to spell it.

I really get into the Old Testament. I find the accounts unendingly interesting. Since it covers so many years and a multitude of people,  I’m always searching for the best timelines to help me get a visual. I found one in particular that showed not only the Kings of Israel and Judah, but also the spiritual state during their reigns. I had never seen that before.

Take a closer look at it. The green line above the timeline is Israel’s spiritual state and the blue line below the timeline is Judah’s spiritual state. Notice anything?

Doesn’t it appear to go up and down and up and down? Also notice how the spiritual state slowly goes down. It immediately reminded me of a roller coaster ride.

A roller coaster is never steady. It jerks this way and that. It soars up and screeches down. It makes quick turns and throws you around. It makes a lot people sick quite frankly.

Is our faith like that of the Israelites? Is it constantly going up and down. Is it never constant and sure? Does it get “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14)?

We are hard on the Israelites, aren’t we? “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that. Or I would have done that differently.” But the truth is, we are all too similar. Our faith, just as theirs, wavers so easily. We need to take special caution to ask Jesus to fortify our hearts and minds. Only through His intercession, is anything accomplished.

Get off the roller coaster and onto the escalator! How’s that for a visual?

May God’s Love be with you

Many Other Things

John 21:25
John 21:25

John ends his account with a bang. I’ve often thought about that last intriguing verse with a big smile.

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

“Many other things.”

What were they? I mean, we know that He raised people from the dead, gave sight to the blind, and literally walked on the water. And He did many other things as well?! So many in fact, that the world could not hold the books if they were all written down?!

Just imagine!

I want to know what those other “things” were, don’t you? I want the unabridged version of His ministry. I know we are given what we need (John 20:31), but I am interested in what some of those other things were. I want the complete version of what Jesus said and did.

I guess I will just have to wait and ask Him in person.

May God’s Love be with you

Backwards

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Why do we get things backwards so much?

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he said “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” One by one, the Pharisees left and the mob dispersed.

Jesus looks to the woman and asks, “Did no man condemn you?”
“No, Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

Today we say, “Go and sin no more and I won’t condemn you.” We get it backwards. Living under constant condemnation is not how Jesus wants us representing Him. He showed mercy, not humiliation. He offered life, when the crowd offered death.

In order to get things arranged correctly in our life, walk, and witness we need to point to Jesus. Then everything else will fall into line.

May God’sLove be with you
Ref: Joseph Prince, “Right Believing”

Dusty Grace

Eph. 2:8-9
Eph. 2:8-9

It’s not what we can achieve, it’s what we can receive. Joseph Prince said this in his book, “Right Believing.” I’ve been chewing on that all day.

It’s not what we can achieve, it’s what we can receive.

It’s tricky in your Christian walk not to become puffed up and legalistic. There’s an inclination to stack up your righteous deeds and try to build your own stairway to Heaven.

• Go to church. Check!
• Read your Bible. Check!
• Pray. Check!

However church-y these things may be, these things don’t make you a Christian. These are only things that Christians do. Our “good deeds” are merely “filthy rags” to an absolutely Holy God anyways. What would you do with filthy rags?

What does make you a Christian is Grace, through Faith (Eph. 2:8-9). ”Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” is what Paul told the jailer in Acts 16:31.

It is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our faith that He is our Savior and the one and only Son of the Living God (Acts 4:12). That is what makes you a Christian; not what you do, but what’s been done for you!

It’s not about rules (what you can achieve), it’s about relationship (what you can receive). Let me say that again, because it’s sort of important: It’s not about rules, it’s about relationship. How is your relationship with Jesus? Is there even one? Or has your faith become separate… divorced from Jesus? That may sound unusual, but if you are not in a relationship with Jesus, then you are divorced from Him.

Sorry, I’m getting off point.

Grace is a gift. It’s unmerited favor. It’s something for nothing. Have you ever received a gift and just let it set there on the table unopened? Of course not! You ripped it open! You claimed it. Grace must be claimed. If not, it sits there unopened, unrealized, and unused.

Don’t let the gift of Grace set there unopened collecting dust. Dust it off and enjoy it!

May God’s Love be with you

Impoverishing Jesus

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Today’s Oswald Chambers* took me several reads to fully comprehend. To be honest, that’s pretty normal. His devotional is so deep, sometimes I don’t ever grasp it the first time around! Today’s was good, once I finally “got it.”

Think of the depths of human nature and human life. Do you have a deep “well” of hurt and trouble inside your heart?

You try to dig down and draw from the well, but it only makes the well deeper. Is the well so deep, that you think, “Jesus can’t help me? What could He possibly do in this situation? I’m stuck.”

This happens far too often. The problem is we’re looking in the wrong direction. Instead of inward, we need to look upward. We need to look up to the only One that can help.

We think (from our well), “Oh sure, read the Bible. How will reading the Bible help in this situation?” Subsequently we impoverish or hinder the ministry of Jesus Christ. We can get to the point that He is unable to work in our lives. And that’s all He wants to do: get in our lives and help!

It’s not that Jesus can’t help, it’s that we won’t let Him. Our God is big and far too often we make Him small in our lives.

Look up from your well today and grab the hand that’s reaching down.

May God’s Love be with you

*My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers.

Read, Re-read, and Read Again

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There are some movies where the more you watch them, the better they get. Some have that special quality that makes repeat viewings more enjoyable. For me, “Office Space” comes to mind.

You would think that it would be boring to re-watch the same movie. I mean, you know what’s going to happen, right? But with a certain precious few, it’s the opposite. You end up noticing something new you didn’t see before, or you notice just how perfectly it’s casted. Whatever the nuance, it’s better than it was the first time you watched it. It’s sort of a phenomenon, really.

The Word of God is like that.

The more you get into it, the better it gets! You can read the same portion 10 times and get 10 different things out of it. You might notice one word that really stands out that you didn’t quite notice before. Then it takes on a whole other meaning to you!

Actually reading the Bible just once would be a tragic mistake. There is no way you could benefit from all the abundant wisdom or follow all the complex narratives in one viewing. The Bible is alive and it begs to be read, studied, meditated upon, and praised!

Have you ever thanked God for the Bible? Where would we be without that road map? You think society has gotten out of control? Well, this is a time when the Bible is readily available to absolutely anyone at anytime in any form. Imagine how out of control things would be without it to guide us through the dark places? I don’t even want to think about it!

So, read, re-read, and read again the Holy Word of God. It never gets old. It only keeps getting better and better and better! And take a minute in your quiet time with God today to offer a special thanks for the His Holy Divine Word. It truly is a gift.

May God’s Love be with you

The Dark Side

Romans 7:14-25
Romans 7:14-25

Even people who aren’t fans of Star Wars know Darth Vader. When he tells Luke to “Join the Dark Side.” They know what he’s talking about, don’t they? In the fictional mythos of Star Wars, all matter is made up of an energy field called “the Force.” One can either be a practitioner of the Light Side of the Force (Good) or the Dark Side of the Force (Evil). The Dark Side draws from raw emotions like anger, rage, hatred, fear, aggression, and passion. Sounds an awful lot like the flesh, doesn’t it?

Romans 7:14-25 talks about “The Conflict of Two Natures

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

This all sounds pretty horrendous, doesn’t it? There is a war raging in our very bodies and even Paul was powerless to control it! Now if Paul, arguably the greatest born-again Christian ever to have lived, could not master this inner-conflict, how can we?

Easy. Look at the next verse in chapter 8:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

No condemnation. The greek here for “no” is “oudias” – not a single one. There is not a single condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That is how we do it! The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set us free!

God knows we will falter. That’s why He sent Jesus as our mediator. Only Jesus could win that battle. And now we are hidden in the precious Blood of The Lamb. Only through the intervention of Christ are we not condemned for repeatedly falling short.

The Dark Side and The Light Side pretty much sums up the inward struggle between our flesh and spirit. We would be well advised to remember what Yoda said, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

May God’s Love be with you

Shade From The Heat

Isaiah 25:4
Isaiah 25:4

I was fortunate enough to go to Bonnaroo in 2007 and then again in 2008. For those who don’t know, Bonnaroo is a 4-day music festival held in Manchester, TN. Well, let me tell you: Tennessee is hot and Tennessee in June is really HOT! So, I made one important improvement from 2007 to 2008. This one small change made my second venture exponentially better.

I brought a canopy. The canopy provided shade. Shade made all the difference.

Without shade, we were up with the sun: 6:30am. And then you are out in it, man. Until the sun goes down. There is no escape! In fact, one thing I noticed throughout the day were the shadows of the trees. Everyone was looking for shade all day. The only shade was from the trees. So all around, people were sitting in the perfect shape of trees without realizing it. It was as if the shadow of the trees were made of people.

That’s how important shade can be. It protects you from the elements. Without it, you are exposed. You are vulnerable. Eventually, you will perish.

“For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall” (Isaiah 25:4 NASB).

It may be strange to think of God as shade. Don’t we usually think of Him as perfect radiant Light? But God is also shade in the sense that He is cool and refreshing to a parched and dried soul. He offers rest and reprieve from the elements that will eventually overcome us.

We can finally rest in His shelter. We can revitalize. We can survive only with His loving cover. Without God in our lives offering His divine shade, we are in the desert at noon with no water, no cover… and no hope.

May God’s Love be with you

Addendum: My Christian walk has graduated me from Bonnaroo to Creation Festival. And thank God for that! I give God all the glory for the amazing new song He has given me to sing. (Psa. 96:1)

Weight Loss

Hebrews 12:1
Hebrews 12:1

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a story once that always stuck with me. It was called, “Harrison Bergeron.” It told of a future where the government forced people to wear “handicaps” in order to make everyone equal. If you were really graceful, you wore heavy weights to make you clumsy. If you were handsome, you had to wear a hideous mask. That way no one felt insecure or sad about not being as graceful or as handsome as anyone else.

Anyways, there’s a scene in which a beautiful ballerina is on TV. She is weighted down with 200lb weights because she is so incredibly graceful. She is masked because of her great beauty. Of course, her dance is not very good. It’s been “handicapped” so much that she is now average.

This is political fiction. However, the tragic image of that ballerina trying so hard to perform even though she is so clearly hindered perfectly illustrates how sin can literally weigh us down.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1, HCSB).

Think of it this way: sin has actual weight. We are told to lay aside the sin. We all know that. But we are also told to lay aside the weight. Extra weight slows our progress. Sin slows our progress. Sin ensnares us. It trips us up. Just like the ballerina weighted down, if we are full of the weight of sin, our performance will suffer.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

David was a man who knew the weight of sin. He knew all too well just how ensnaring it can be. But he also knew the sweet freedom that comes with throwing off that weight. He knew how much easier it was to continue on the path of righteousness without it!

Want to lose some unnecessary weight? Lay aside sin! But please don’t dare think you can do this weight-loss program on your own. Ask Jesus for help. He’s the only one that can take every weight and the sin that SO EASILY ensnares us, and cast it aside so we can join him in the light.

May God’s Love be with you

The Real Deal

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Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8 HCSB)

Note that the enemy prowls around “like” or “as” a lion. He isn’t a lion. He’s faking it. He’s disguised himself as the King of the beasts, but he’s the furthest thing from that.

The real Lion is Jesus.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5 HCSB)

The enemy wishes he was the Lion. He is only playing pretend.

Also note that he is looking for anyone he “can” devour. He can’t devour just anyone. He can’t devour a child of the King!

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the One who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18 HCSB)

So when you have negative thoughts or hurtful feelings, know that it’s from an impostor. It’s from an actor. It’s from a phony. Be alert, the devil is a wannabe.

Jesus is the real deal. He doesn’t parade around like anything. He doesn’t have to. He searches around for someone He can save!

May God’s Love be with you
Ref: Joseph Prince, “Right Believing”