Can I Pray For You?

Strangers in Starbucks.

A buddy on my boat.

A good friend in his office.

A client on the phone.

A pastor up a mountain.

A new acquaintance at a church meeting.

What do all these people have in common?  Well, I have had the privilege and pleasure of praying for them at various times over the past week.

It’s quite simple really.  I find myself talking with people who are facing challenges of all kinds:  starting a new business, moving cities, the rigors of everyday life, marriage troubles, job loss, health issues, stresses of all sorts…basically dealing with the stuff of life.  When we finish talking I ask a very simple, yet powerful question,

“Can I pray for you?”

I’ve decided as often as possible, and whenever appropriate, I will finish my interaction with someone by praying for them.  Most times these people are Jesus followers, but sometimes they’re not.  In all the times I’ve done this throughout the years I have only had one person say “no”.  So, I simply said that’s ok, and prayed for them at another time when I was alone.

Do you struggle sometimes with how you can make a difference, how you can be a kingdom builder, a marketplace minister?  Well, I’ve found this is a simple, yet profound and powerful way to touch people’s lives and facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit: care enough to ask questions and listen to people, then ask if you can pray for them.

Now, I’m not a prayer expert by any means, but I’ve had the privilege of being taught and mentored by men who are powerful prayers.  What I do know is this:  God responds to prayer.  By some incredible grace amidst His divine omnipotence, and omniscience the Lord of All has chosen to “limit” Himself to our prayers.

God has chosen to invite and engage us in His plans and purposes by asking us to ask Him.  Wow.  I know, it sounds crazy – part of how we partner with the Sovereign Lord in His purposes is to pray.  Listen, commune, and ask.

When we pray God moves.  When we pray the spirit realm shifts.  When we pray the purposes of God are released and things happen.  I’m no incredible man of faith and power, but many, many times people have said to me, “Wow, I really appreciated it when you prayed for me – my heart was really touched.”  Is that because of my awesomely orated prayerful expression?  No, my simple sentiments synergize with the all-powerful God who moves in the heart of the focus of my petition.

This is awesome men.  How can we make a powerful and profound impact in people’s lives?  Pray for them.  Ask them for permission to do so and do it right there out loud – let them hear you.  Don’t make a scene, be discreet, but be verbal.

So, what to pray?

Well, here’s what I do:  I try to pray scripture.  I thank God for how much He loves them, how He will never leave them, how they’re not alone, how the Lord will provide for all their needs – I affirm God’s care and love.  Then I ask the Lord to meet them where they are – whatever that may look like:  to provide encouragement, strength, hope, faith, resources, freedom, revelation, a job, etc.

I may do spiritual warfare and bring the cross of Christ between them and the strategy of the enemy.  I thank the Lord for this person and who He has created, crafted and called them to be.  I also always pray that God’s Kingdom would come and His will would be done in them and through them.

I will also listen in my spirit for something specific the Lord may be asking me to pray or share – a scripture, a picture, a lesson, etc.  Then I share that too.  So, I listen in my spirit for some direction from the Lord and I pray scriptures.  Simple really.  But the impact is profound because of the work of the Holy Spirit.

So guys, let’s go for it.  Let’s commit to engaging with and listening to people – friends, family, strangers, employees, co-workers, etc – and simply then love on them through prayer.  The miracle of prayer is what God does in the heart of the person for whom we pray – and that’s very cool to see.

This great adventure starts with a simple question, “Can I pray for you?”

Go for it.

Ephesians 6:18

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

James 5:16

“…the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Mark 11:24

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Check Your Engine Light

My engine light came on.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?!  It doesn’t tell you why it’s on, it just tells you there’s a problem.  Is it a big expensive problem, or a minor service issue?  You don’t know.

When my light came on I didn’t pay much attention to it because my “service due” message had been on for a couple of weeks.  My cynical self thinks it’s simply the manufacturers attempt to get me to go into the dealership and pay an exorbitant sum for them to scope out my car and tell me everything is ok.

I saw the engine light as the manufacturer ramping up the intensity of the message for me to take it in.  So, I ended up taking my car into my trusted mechanic, not the dealer, who scoped it all out and found no issues.  He determined the light was simply a reminder to change the oil – which I had done already – so he reset the light, checked out my brakes, charged me $79 and sent me on my way.

Perfect.  I was a happy camper.

Anne and I went on a driving holiday to the Sunshine Coast and the car worked perfectly.  No issues.

Then, when I got home the light came on again.  I quickly took it in for them to scope it out again.  Something about my turbo charger didn’t reach the required pressure level.  They reset the light and told me to bring it in if it goes on again.  It could mean nothing, or not, but they will have to do more tests to figure out what the issue is – if there really is one at all.

So here’s what I learned going through all this:  I was more concerned about getting rid of the engine light, than I was about fixing the issue.  To be honest, inside I was thinking,

“Just make it go away.  I don’t want to have to fix anything significant.”

And when I got back in my car and the light was off, I was strangely comforted by that.  Nothing had changed on the inside of my engine, the warning light was just gone, and I felt better.

I realize that I can approach life this way.  I want to get rid of whatever is making me uncomfortable instead of going deeper to uncover an issue that really needs to be addressed.

My dash light went on to tell me something needs to be addressed in my engine.  It didn’t come on to tell me to turn off the dash light.

Likewise, when something makes us very angry, for example, that’s a heart dash light telling us there’s something deeper going on.  Our reaction in that situation should not be to simply get rid of the anger, but to understand what’s going on inside us that’s causing the anger.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anger is necessarily sin.  Scripture tells us that God gets angry.  In fact, I have heard it said that we can tell something about our love for God by the things that make us angry.  Should we be angry with injustice and sin?  Yes.

However, anger we often feel is not righteous indignation, but our selfish reaction to not getting what we want.  Someone once said, “A man is only as big as the things that make him angry.”  So, when we feel the heart dash light of anger, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to understand what’s going on in our hearts.

Is your reaction disproportionate to the stimuli?  If “yes”, then check what’s going on under your hood.  Ask the Master Mechanic to do the work needed to adjust your heart so you’re running well.  Sometimes we need some major work, and other times we need a little adjustment.

It’s not prudent to ignore your heart “engine” light.  What are you feeling?  It could be revealing stress, resentment, unforgiveness, unhealed wounds, agreements with lies, inappropriate beliefs, selfishness, self-centeredness, fatigue, a lack of gratitude, etc.  You need Jesus, the Master Mechanic, to scope you out and do the work necessary.

Check your engine light – regularly.

Proverbs 20:5

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”

Proverbs 4:23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Matthew 11:28-30

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Philippians 2:12, 13

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Making Faith-Filled Decisions

How do you make decisions?

Not those small day to day decisions, but the big ones.  You know, those decisions that create some fairly significant ripple effects in your life: decisions about your job, your career, your home, your community, your relationships, etc.

Someone once said to me that we should not move forward in a major decision “…until we know, that we know, that we know this is how the Lord is leading us”

I disagree with that.

I believe the Lord sometimes is very gracious to us and speaks in a fashion that is undeniable.  When that which He is calling us to is of such a magnitude, significance, or sacrifice that we need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is indeed His calling, I believe He does speak to us and lead us undeniably.  Moses and the burning bush, Paul on the road to Damascus, Isaiah and his vision in the temple – these are all Biblical examples, amongst many others, of an undeniable call or leading by the Lord.

When the Lord calls us clearly and dramatically it actually requires less faith.  In those situations we know that we know.  However, there are many times in everyday life when the Lord’s leading in our lives is far less dramatic.  In the vast majority of decisions the Lord is more subtle in His leading; it takes more faith to follow Him then because we don’t really “know”, but we “believe” this is how He is leading us.

So, how do we make decisions in the absence of a dramatic and clear call?

Well, here are a few ways that I have sought to discern the Lord’s leading over the years:

  1. Prayer and scripture
    • Start by surrendering your heart and will to the Lord.  Declare that you want to do His will, not your own, even though you may not be that excited about what you sense He is saying to you
    • Ask Him to help you hear His voice and to give you wisdom
    • Seek wisdom through scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you while you read
  2. Peace
    • Even in the midst of very intimidating decisions we must find the Lord’s peace.  Scripture encourages us to let the peace of God rule in our hearts – kind of like an umpire.  Is the peace of God indicating this decision is “safe” or “out”?  If you find no peace in your heart when you are going to make a certain decision, then don’t make it.  Find God’s peace.
  3. Desire
    • God puts desire in our hearts, so start by taking an honest look at what you want.  Be open with the Lord about what is in your heart.  Does this new situation line up with already existing desires you carry.  Or, has your heart shifted and you find yourself strangely open to something that you were not open to previously?  Now, keep in mind that desire can also come from the flesh, the world and the enemy so judge desire against scripture.
  4. Agreement
    • If you’re married you must walk through this process with your spouse – each of you seeking God’s heart, will and wisdom.  If after doing so you are not in agreement, then keep seeking and walking with Him until you come to agreement in Him.
  5. Counsel
    • Seek counsel from wise, Godly people.  Don’t just talk with anyone; seek input from people you know to be wise and Godly Christ followers.
  6. Previous words
    • Is what you are sensing in-keeping with what you believe the Lord has previously spoken to you?
  7. Visualize
    • When I am making a big decision I envision myself in that which I sense the Lord is leading me and gauge the state of my heart.  Am I growing in vision?  Am I excited?  Am I in faith?
  8. Stop light
    • I believe living in faith is like living life as a “green light” and waiting for a “red light” – in other words, moving forward until the Lord says stop.  So, once I get a few indications that this could indeed be what the Lord is saying to me I start to move forward and ask the Lord to put up a stop light if I am not hearing Him clearly.

Faith is not necessarily knowing that we know that we know “what to do”, but with a sense of uncertainty we courageously move forward knowing that the Lord loves us, leads us, directs us, guides us, counsels us, watches over us, gives us wisdom, provides for us and will never leave us.

Wow, in light of who the Lord is we can afford to take risks – making courageous, faith-filled decisions journeying with Jesus deeper into His will in us and through us.  Indeed, this is the only way we have been called to live.

We are called to live by faith, and therefore make faith-filled decisions.  Faith is not knowing all the answers and not believing without proof, but trusting without reservation.

Psalm 32:8

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Isaiah 30:21

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

Proverbs 11:14

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”

Philippians 2:13

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Colossians 3:15

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

What Are You Looking At?

I was on a mission.  I knew what I was looking for and I was intently focused on the object of my attention.

To be more specific I was searching for the object of my affection.

Mounted upon my trusty steed I was moving at a speed in keeping with my exploratory expedition.  Knowing I was nearing the habitation of that for which I was searching, I endeavored to ensure my gaze was intent upon the discovery I was hoping for.

Unbeknownst to me, an unforeseen foe was lurking outside the parameters of my rapt attention.  To my utter and complete surprise I would soon discover the limitation and danger involved with being negligent in my willingness to be aware of the potential dangers that surrounded me.

My journey would end in complete failure.  I managed to escape with no lasting injuries.  The only real damage was done to my fragile ego – wounded, but not broken.

So what was my quest?  What was that for which I was searching?

Well, it was 1970.  I was 8 years of age, and I was on the lookout for someone very special to me at the time – Peggy Bailey.  She lived down the street from me.  She was in my class at school and she had caught my eye, and my heart.

My plan?

Well, I would ride down the street to her house on my 3-speed banana seat bike.  Then, when at the point where she could see me passing by on the street I would impress her beyond belief by riding with no hands.  That would surely catch her attention and secure a special place for me in her heart.

My plan was proceeding perfectly.  Everything was going just as I had envisioned… except for the parked car.  I was so intently focused on Peggy’s house that I neglected to look at the path I was on.  Sadly, and painfully for me, my path would lead me directly into the bumper of a rock solid, heavily chromed, late 60’s “boat” of a vehicle.

Just as I took my hands off the handle bars to execute the last component of my plan, I slammed into the car.  I flew off my bike onto the hood, then rolled off onto the street.  I didn’t bother to look back and see if Peggy had indeed been watching me out her window.  I grabbed my bike, hopped on and rode home to lick my wounds.

Even though this is a silly childhood story I think it contains a lesson for all of us.

We can choose what we focus on.  We can choose that which receives our time and attention.

I was on a prayer walk with a good friend of mine recently and we were talking about how easy it is to focus on the things of this world and miss that which is really important.  We are meant to be in this world, but not of it.  Our minds are meant to be set on things above – on eternal things.

When we focus on the things of this world we will hit obstacles that keep us from getting hold of all that Jesus has for us.  We will miss the Kingdom of God in us and through us if we don’t chose to partner with the Lord in His will in our lives.  We’ve got to realize that the tide set against us is a propensity to desire the things of this world.

We must ardently seek God’s heart for us and for others through us.  So how do we do that?  Time, time time: time with Him, time with His word, time with His people, time serving others.

Our focus needs to be on God’s Kingdom, His will, His heart, His government on earth as it is in heaven.  When we focus on Him and His Truth we avoid the pitfalls of the enemy – those parked cars that stop our forward progress.

So what are you focusing on?  What are you looking at?

Let’s ask the Lord to help us focus on that which is unseen – that which is eternal.  Let’s  ensure we’re looking at Him.

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

2 Corinthians 4:18

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

John 12:25

“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Give What You’ve Been Given

“God sent you thousands of miles to minister hope and encouragement to me.  Thank you!”, she tearfully exclaimed to our son Benjamin.

Benjamin was taken aback by the impact of what he had done.  He had no idea what God could do when he simply gave away what he’d been given…

We were on a family holiday in Hawaii.  Benjamin had wanted to buy a Ukulele with a pick-up in it.  So, we shopped a couple of music stores and settled on one where he found the instrument he wanted at a price that was right.

When he was paying for the purchase the woman handling the transaction engaged us in conversation.  It soon became evident she was a Jesus follower.  In fact, her husband was the pastor of a local church.  She enthusiastically invited us to visit their church the following Sunday.

We agreed.

Then, with increased enthusiasm, she encouraged Benjamin to share a song with the congregation.  She was the worship leader and would fit Benjamin in at the end of the set.  She succeeded in convincing Benjamin to bring his new Ukulele and do a special song for the church.

That weekend we showed up at their church service with about 50-75 other people who had arrived before us.  It took us longer to find their building than we thought so we were a little later than we had hoped.  Our new friend effusively welcomed us and quickly ushered Benjamin up to do a sound check.  Once Benjamin sat down with us she started worship.

At the end of her set her husband got up to welcome everyone, but she interrupted him and said she had a special song from a visitor – he sat back down.  Benjamin was warmly welcomed to the stage by the congregation.  He plugged in his new Ukulele and began sing “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective.  The church didn’t know the song, but they clapped along and then ended up joining in on the last few choruses.

When Benjamin finished, they erupted in grateful applause.

At the end of the service a number of people, mainly young ladies and teenage girls, came up to tell Benjamin what a great job he did.  Two women waited patiently for their turn to thank Benjamin.  One of the women with tears in her eyes emotionally told Benjamin how God has used the song to encourage her…

She and her friend are flight attendants.  Whenever they get a flight to Kauai they come to this church – which is not necessarily that frequent.  She was in a particularly difficult time in her life due to the fact that her brother was battling cancer.  She had been struggling to keep her hope in the Lord and to find encouragement in Him.

There had been one thing the Lord had been speaking to her that gave her hope and encouraged her heart.  She had been listening to Rend Collective and God had powerfully and profoundly touched her through the song, “My Lighthouse”.  It seemed whenever she was feeling particularly down the Lord would encourage her that He is her lighthouse…

“Your great love will lead me through.  You are the peace in my troubled sea. My lighthouse…  Shining in the darkness. I will follow You…I will trust the promise, You will carry me safe to shore…God’s love will lead me through…”

And now, here was Benjamin thousands of miles away from home, singing the Lord’s words of encouragement to her once again.  She was overwhelmed by God’s gracious love for her.  We all felt the emotion of that moment.

And all Benjamin did was give away what he had to give – God took it from there and multiplied the impact.

So what do you have to give?  What talent, time or treasure do you have to give away?  Whatever you’ve got, give it away.  You will be amazed at how the Lord will multiply it.  Whatever gifts you have are meant to be given away.  Don’t let your fear keep you in the closet.

Give what you’ve got, what you’ve been given.  Then watch what the Lord does with it to encourage others…

1 Peter 4:10

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Matthew 10:7, 8

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Luke 6:38

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Matthew 25:21

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Our One Job

Have you ever felt a little disillusioned with life?  You know that feeling when you aren’t as passionate as you once were?  The fire in your belly may have been reduced to a smoldering ember?  Or worse, perhaps your fire feels extinguished all together?

These emotions are all too familiar to many of us – if not all of us.  I have no doubt that may be the case with you, because life this side of heaven will never be perfect.  We will all battle to maintain our passion, our enthusiasm, our vision, our engagement and our hope.

Our mission is not unopposed.

I must confess, I have recently felt like the fire in my belly has been reduced.  My vision isn’t as clear and strong as I would like it to be, and my zeal is lessened as well.

It was in this state I had the opportunity to speak with the leader of a global mission organization.  This organization is doing phenomenal work to grow the Kingdom of God around the world.  Their work is changing the lives of thousands of people in over 40 countries.  They are leading people to Christ all over the globe.

Whenever I have the opportunity to work with this leader, he seems to always be on mission and full of vision and passion.  So, I asked him, “How long have you been on this mission?”  “Thirty-four years.”, was his reply.

“How do you stay so engaged, so envisioned, so passionate for your work?”, I inquired.

He shared how he certainly, like anyone, has to fight to stay engaged.  But then he said something that so riveted my attention.  I had to pause the conversation to write it down…

“My one job is to maintain a vital, unbroken communication with the Holy Spirit every day.”

He emphasized the phrase “my one job”.  To maintain a vital, unbroken communication with the Holy Spirit is his objective and his commitment every day.

He went on to explain that as long as he is truly communing with the Holy Spirit – listening, interacting, sensing, following, obeying, partnering, discerning, being ministered to – he is encouraged, envisioned, engaged and enthused.  In light of that he makes it his commitment to begin every day by focussing on the Holy Spirit.

When he wakes up in the morning the first thing he does is get down on his knees beside his bed to offer his heart afresh to the Lord.  He gives his day to the Lord and asks the Holy Spirit to fill him up.  As best he knows he surrenders himself fully to the work and will of the Lord, and confesses his utter dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit.

He then gets up and spends the first hour of his day with the Lord.  He feeds himself with Truth by studying and meditating on the Word of God.  He prays, he listens, he worships – he gets filled up with the Spirit of God.  Then, he spends the rest of his day, to the best of his ability, maintaining this vital communication with the Holy Spirit.

This means he listens and obeys.  It means he avoids sin and does all he can not to grieve the Spirit.  This also means he ensures he focuses on the Truth and takes captive any thoughts that are in opposition to the Truth.  And, this means he hangs around with others who are on mission with him.

What a great example for us to follow.

We are all on mission to partner with our Lord in the work He has given us.  We are all on mission to be ambassadors of the Government of God on earth.  Jesus called all of us to give Him our whole life – not part of it.  We are all full-time ministers.

We cannot do this without the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  We must do life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Like my friend, we have one job: to maintain a vital, unbroken communication with the Holy Spirit every day, so that we can effectively partner with Jesus in the will of our Father in the lives of those around us.

John 14:26

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Luke 11:13

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

2 Timothy 1:14

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

The Miracle of New Life

Have you ever witnessed a birth?  It is miraculous to say the least.

Have you ever actually participated in a birthing?  That takes the experience to a whole new level.  And to think that some people get to participate in the miracle of new life on a regular basis – what a privilege!

I was present at the birth of both of our sons, which was life altering to say the least.  I’ve never been the same.  I’m sure you share my sentiments about your experience with the birth of your children.

Recently I had the privilege of participating a different kind of birth – the new birth of a new friend of mine.  His story is miraculous…

My friend moved to Kelowna from a different city.  He’s a successful business owner; married with a young family.  Their life in another province was enviable in many, many ways.  However, he felt compelled to make a move and lead his family to Kelowna.

We connected through a business associate of mine.  My associate suggested this out of town entrepreneur needed to meet me.  We met and had a great connection.  We began a business relationship where I was engaged to provide some executive coaching.

In all of my business endeavors I ask the Lord to give me the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation so that I might know Jesus more, and know His heart for the people with whom I will be working.  I ask the Lord to help me to provide wisdom to my clients and hear anything the Lord may want to say to them.

We began our session with digging into my friend’s definition of success.  He began to tell me his story.  It became very evident to me that the Lord had been speaking to this man, but he was totally unaware that it was actually God speaking to him.  So, I took a risk.  I said to my client,

“I’m going to say something to you that could take our relationship to the next level, or end it right here.”

I then began to point out that what was compelling him to move, and what he was hearing, was actually God speaking to him.  I suggested that the Lord was leading him to Kelowna to invite him into new life with Him.  As I shared this perspective, tears began to well up in his eyes and stream down his cheeks.

I knew the Holy Spirit was up to something.

He shared more of his story and I suggested, “I believe Jesus is inviting you to give Him your life so He can give you His life.”

My new friend simply responded with, “How do I do that?”

We talked further about the invitation Jesus is giving him to leave the family of darkness led by the father of lies, and be born again into the family of God as a beloved son of our Heavenly Father – the Father of Lights.

He said he wanted to do that.

So, we prayed together and he exchanged his life for Jesus’ new life in him.  Wow!  When we finished he said it felt like a massive weight had been lifted off his shoulders.  He said he felt like he was breathing in life with every new breath he was taking.

What a miracle!  What a privilege to participate in his new birth!  And we now continue our journey into this new life together…

I learned through this amazing encounter that we need to have our hearts open to see with different eyes what the Lord may be up to.  Then by the leading of the Spirit to simply point out what we’re seeing.  And then be prepared to share the hope we’ve discovered in Jesus.

We don’t know where we are in that person’s journey: their first encounter with a Jesus follower, someone sowing seeds of truth along their journey, or someone who gets the privilege of introducing them to Jesus.  We must simply be willing to partner with Jesus and give away what He has given us to give.

When we do, we will sometime, somewhere, get to experience the miracle of new life – and it is awesome!

Ephesians 1:17

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

1 Peter 3:15

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

“As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

1 Timothy 4:1-2  (The Message)

“I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.”

Standing Firm in Him

Do you have patio umbrellas?

We have 3 of them.  They are all 9’ in diameter.

One is in our patio dining table and the other 2 are stand-alone umbrellas plugged into 2 different bases to give them support.  One sits behind and over top of 2 Muskoka chairs where Anne and I often sit.  The other one is an “extra” that we set up behind our sectional if the sun is shining directly onto it.

All three block out the sun and the rain.  They are all attractive and add to the aesthetic of the patio.  They all have the same cranking mechanism to open up and close the umbrella.  Each one of them can tilt as well.

However, there is a key difference in one of them…

We generally leave the umbrellas up regardless of the weather, but whenever the wind starts to blow we crank them all down to reduce wind resistance to ensure they don’t blow away.

I noticed something today when the wind began to blow.  Two of the umbrellas held fast – no chance of them falling down or blowing away.  One of them fell down immediately.  As I watched it fall over I thought,

“I don’t want to be that kind of man – toppling over at the first sign of opposition.”

So why do the 2 umbrellas hold fast and the 1 umbrella falls over when the wind blows?  The secret to their strength lies in their base.  All three umbrellas are equal except for the base they stand upon.

The umbrella in the dining table has 2 points of support, at the ground level and at the table height.  The umbrella covering the Muskoka chairs has a very heavy cast iron 4 square foot base with a locking nut to hold the umbrella firm.

The weakest umbrella, the one that easily falls down, is in a light weight round metal base.  It has a locking nut as well, but the round base is too light and unstable because of its shape.  That’s the reason this umbrella cannot hold fast in the face of opposition.

What about you?  What kind of base are you standing upon?  Are you like the umbrellas holding fast to a firm foundation that can withstand strong winds?  Or, are you like the one umbrella standing upon a weak foundation that topples over when the wind comes?

What enables us to stand firm when we face opposition?  What is the foundation we need to be standing upon?


What does that mean?  How do we stand in Jesus?

King David spoke often about the Lord being his rock, his fortress, his refuge, his stronghold.
David would run to the Lord for His help.  David would stand in the Truth of who God is and what God had promised.  David also spoke about how the Lord would lift him out of a pit and put him on a rock.  The rock of Truth.

David had to choose to believe God, and that He is who He said He is.  He had to put his faith in God.

Jesus came saying that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He also said that if we want to build our lives on a firm foundation we need to obey His words.  Not just believe His words, but put them into practice.  We must believe that He is who He said He is, and then obey what He has asked us to do.

Belief in, and obedience to God is our rock.

Paul outlines how we can stand firm in the face of spiritual opposition: Truth, Faith, the Word of God, the righteousness and salvation of Christ, and the Gospel of the Kingdom.  This is a life that is built on belief in and obedience to Jesus and His Word.

The only firm foundation we can stand on is Jesus, believing and obeying the Truth.

If you find yourself “toppling over” in the face of opposition, take a look at where you’re standing on your own and not in Christ.  Where are you not believing in and obeying Him?

Let’s be wise “umbrellas” standing firm in Him.

Matthew 7:24, 25

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Psalm 40:2

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Ephesians 6:14-17

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Psalm 18:2

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Jesus In You and Through You

As we sat in the sunshine looking out at the beautiful calm waters of Okanagan Lake my friend looked at me and said,

“I don’t think the enemy cares as much about Christ in us as he does about Christ coming out of us.”

That is brilliant.

Scripture clearly tells us that Christ is in us.  The Spirit of the Living God is alive in us.  In fact, it is Christ in us that is our hope of glory.  The Holy Spirit is like a river of living water inside us.  The miracle of our life in Christ is that we are in Him and He is in us by His spirit.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the pinnacle of our human existence in Self-Actualization.  That philosophy is built on the tenants of Humanistic Psychology.  As followers of Christ our goal is not self-actualization, but Jesus-actualization – more of Him and less of me.  We want to see more of the nature and character of Christ in our lives.

Have you been uniquely created, and crafted in the image of God?  Yes.  Do you have unique gifts, talents and abilities?  Yes.  Do you have unique experiences and perspectives that have shaped who you are?  Yes.  And, it is through the uniqueness of who you are that Jesus wants to demonstrate who He is.

Do we have a sin nature we need to take to the cross?  Yes.  Do we have sinful habits and desires we need to surrender to Jesus?  Yes.  Do we need to continue to fight for freedom from the lies of the enemy, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life?  Yes.

It is Christ in us by the power of His Spirit that cleanses us, and transformers us to be like Christ.  Our minds and hearts are renewed in Christ so we are more like Him.

And that is where the real power lies.

We must not stay in a complacent state of ignorant contentment to simply have Christ in us, but must endeavor to have Christ come out of us by way of a transformed life.  How do we live differently because Christ is in us?  How is our life in Christ put into action?

How does Jesus come out of us?

Scripture tells us in Philippians 2:12-13

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

This is basically saying that Christ is in you through your salvation, and now you need to work out your salvation so Christ will be demonstrated through you – and God makes you both willing and able to do that.  Jesus wants to work through you to impact the people around you.

Jesus is in us so He can flow out of us like living water to the quench the thirsty souls of those in our spheres of influence and authority.

Jesus is in you so He can work through you.

Don’t be content with simply having Christ in you.  Don’t be content with simply being saved.  Now we need to work out our salvation so Christ works through us for the benefit of others.  We need to grow in our understanding of how Jesus wants to love others through us.

You may be the only Jesus someone every meets.

How will you be His hands, His feet, His voice, His arms, His heart for someone today?

Our prayer needs to be, “Lord Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in me and through me today.  Jesus, by the power of your Spirit would you work in me and through me today.”

As James said, “…faith without deeds is useless.”  Jesus is in you so He can work through you.  Let’s make sure Jesus comes out of us in the form of love and good deeds toward others.

Jesus in you and Jesus through you.  Let Him out.

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

John 7:38

“’Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Galatians 1:27

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

A Life of Repentance

I had the pleasure and privilege of golfing Pebble Beach a while ago – one of the greatest golf courses in the world.  Spectacular scenery, challenging holes: an incredible experience.  And, you know what?  I shot par.  Yup, I shot par at Pebble Beach.

Pretty amazing eh?

Now, before you go thinking that I am an amazing golfer I need to tell you more of the story.  I didn’t play Pebble Beach at Pebble Beach.  I played Pebble Beach at a hotel in Seattle – on their golf simulator.  I chose to play Pebble Beach out of more than 50 golf courses from around the world.

If you haven’t tried out one of these simulators, they are quite extraordinary.  You hit off of artificial grass towards a huge video screen that projects computer graphics of the course accurately simulated through the use of GPS.  The computer is able to calculate the distance and direction of your shot as you watch the trajectory of your ball on the screen.

Your ball lands, you check the hole coordinates on the screen, pick a club and hit again.  I found putting the real tricky part, but you know what they say, “Drive for show, putt for dough.”

There was one other part of the computer simulation that was particularly helpful for me to shoot par.  It’s called the Mulligan button.  After every shot I had the choice of keeping my shot, or pressing the Mulligan button on the computer screen and shooting another shot.  I could choose to not have that stroke counted against me in my game.

I loved that button.  I must have pressed that button over 100 times.  I would hit a shot that I wasn’t pleased with, press Mulligan, adjust my grip, my stance, my angle, and then hit again.  I did this over and over again until my shots started to get truer and farther and I needed the Mulligan button less.

As I was doing this I began to think that this is like repentance.

In life we do something that isn’t good – our shot goes astray.  So, we ask the Lord to forgive us and to help us to change – to hit truer next time.  Then we take some sort of action to ensure that next time we “hit that shot” we get a better outcome.

You see, we are called to a life of repentance.  Repentance is a daily choice – a daily gift from the Lord to start again.  It’s an ongoing gift of mercy and grace from the Lord to lay aside the sin that besets us and keep moving forward in the game of life.

Sadly, many people have a negative perception of the word “repent”.  It can feel like someone is pointing a finger of condemnation at us, pointing out all our wrongs, all our sin, all our shortcoming, all our shame, all the things about ourselves that we don’t like and we’re not proud of.

Jesus doesn’t condemn us though.  Scripture tells us that He didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  Repentance is our opportunity to simply say, “Yes, I want a new start.  I want a divine do-over, a spiritual start-again, a miraculous mulligan.”

And this is not a one-time offer.  We are invited to live a life of repentance.  We can choose to live with an ongoing attitude to lay aside the sin that trips us up and press on toward God’s heart for us.

We are not perfect, and are not going to be this side of heaven.  So don’t let your pride trip you up and prohibit you from feely admitting that you blew it.  Admit your ‘sin’, repent and embrace the grace that God has for you.

Your sin does not disqualify you, only your pride will, because that is what stops you from repenting and receiving God’s forgiveness and grace.  Let’s choose humility, freely admit and confess our sin so we can receive God’s gift of life and grace.

Let’s choose to live a life of repentance and receive all the life and grace God has for us.

Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

1 Peter 5:5b-6

“’God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.”

John 3:17

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world though Him.”

Excalibur Is Your Sword Too

My son and I recently went to see the new King Arthur movie.  I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m sure all of us are familiar with the legend of King Arthur to some degree.  I was vaguely aware of the story of a beloved English King named Arthur who had ruled with amazing grace and strength.  His true identity as the chosen king was publicly revealed when he was able to pull the sword from the stone – Excalibur.

I didn’t go into this latest version of this legend with many preconceived ideas because I couldn’t remember previously seeing an epic movie about King Arthur.  I did know enough to know that the story had been told in myriad ways in modern history.

I understand that this latest version is told with a very different twist.  A twist I found very engaging…

Arthur is portrayed as a young man who is completely unaware of who he is.  He is actually the son of the murdered king, and, therefore, the rightful heir to the throne.  His father and mother were both killed when he was a toddler by his wicked uncle.  He was miraculously whisked away to safety down river in a boat.  (Very Moses-esque)

He ends up being taken in and raised by prostitutes in a brothel.  By his own confession he is the “bastard child of a prostitute”.  That is his identity.  That is who he believes he is.  Nothing more.

Through a miraculous event, Excalibur is revealed and the legend of a coming King – a new ruler with a Kingdom of freedom – grows and grows.  This terrifies the evil King who rules with fear and intimidation.  So, he sets out to find out who can pull the sword from the stone and kill the one who is able to claim Excalibur.

To cut a long story short, Arthur is able to pull the sword from the stone and is immediately imprisoned awaiting his execution.  He pleads with the evil king that he’s got the wrong man – “I am no King, I don’t want to be king.  I am a child of a prostitute.  I have no father.”

We are then invited into Arthur’s journey of discovery into who he really is.  He has to choose to believe the truth about himself, and the responsibility that comes with that truth.  He has to put aside what he has previously believed about himself.  It is a journey into apprehending his true identity.

I loved the perspective this film took on this epic tale.  A young man who doesn’t understand who he really is gets invited into a story far greater than himself – for the benefit of others.  He has a choice: will he hold to the lies he has believed and live a small life, or will he embrace the truth and become who he was created, crafted and called to be?

Do you know why I loved this story so much?  Because it’s our story!

We are all ‘King Arthurs’.  We are sons of the King – sons of God.  We have grown up in a world of lies, sowed by the evil one who is terrified of who we truly are.  And the only way we get hold of our true identity is by taking hold of our sword.  What Arthur called Excalibur, we call the Bible.

By pulling our Excalibur out of the stone of apathy, complacency, cowardice and unbelief we take up the sword of the Spirit and what we believe about ourselves begins to change.  The Truth transforms us when we take hold of it in both hands and own it.  We have a choice to believe the lies we have believed about ourselves, or believe the Truth that we are beloved sons of God called to rule in His authority as Kingdom ambassadors.

We have actually been tasked by our King to make His spiritual enemies a footstool for his feet by fighting for the freedom of His Kingdom in the lives of people trapped in darkness.

You are a ‘King Arthur’ called my God to take hold of His sword of Truth and rule in His name for the benefit of others.

“Excalibur” is your sword too!  Pick it up and believe the Truth of who you are.

Ephesians 6:7

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Psalm 110:1-3

“The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’  The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!’  Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.  Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.”

2 Corinthians 6:18

“And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”

1 Peter 2:9-10 (The Message)

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”

Integrity is Like Bologna

“What does integrity mean?”

We were 2 young men at a college and career retreat and the speaker had mentioned integrity.  We really didn’t know what it meant.  We were both in university, we weren’t stupid, we just didn’t know what integrity really was.  So, we tracked the guest speaker down after the session and asked him to help us understand what integrity was.

His answer really surprised us.

“It’s kind of like bologna.  You know, those big loaves of bologna?  No matter where you slice it, or how you slice it, you always get the same thing.”, was his reply.

What does that mean??

We chewed through our thoughts for a while and came up with an understanding of what we thought he meant.  Integrity is a consistent high moral standard of behavior.  A man of integrity consistently lives by a high moral standard.  No matter where, no matter when, it’s the same high standard of behavior.

I witnessed great integrity recently – in a very unique circumstance.

My brother, his wife and I were having dinner on their deck.  A small bird flew into the second story window.  Stunned by the impact it fluttered down to the ground beside the table.  Not dead, but not totally alive, it lay on the ground gasping for breath.

My brother is a pastor.  In fact, he’s been pastoring the same church for close to 40 years.    He has dedicated his life to caring for people.  He’s been doing so for decades.  No matter where he is, no matter what he’s doing, he cares for people.

I have watched him for the vast majority of my life reaching out to people with God’s love.  He encourages, he exhorts, he teaches, he serves, he preaches, he prays for people, he leads them to Christ, whatever way he can minister to people he does.

So what I watched next in the life of that little bird was no surprise.  He got out of his chair, he walked over to the bird and he prayed for its recovery.  Gently stroking that bird’s head he prayed for its healing in Jesus’ name.

But he didn’t stop there.  He made a little bed for it out of a small cardboard box which he lined with Kleenex and napkins.  He gently placed the bird in the box and put a little napkin over it for safe keeping.  He put the box within eyesight, but far enough away not to scare or intimidate the bird.

And sure enough, that little bird recovered and flew away just after we had finished dessert.

That little scenario was a great illustration of the heart of my brother.  As I watched this scene unfold I realized my brother cared for that bird in a similar way he has treated people for years.

That’s integrity.

This was also a great demonstration of the heart of our Father.   Jesus told us that God takes care of the birds of the air.  How much more will He care for us?

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:26

“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”  Luke 12:24

God created the birds.  He cares for the birds.  God feeds the birds.  The birds are not too small for God to care for.  How much more will God take care of us?

Watching my brother care for that bird caused me to ask a few questions of myself.  I don’t think I would have done what my brother did.  In fact, I urged Ron not to touch it and contaminate it with his scent.  Lame, really lame Dave.

My brother went the extra mile.  His integrity spoke loud and clear.

That’s the kind of man I trust we want to be.  No matter where, no matter when, no matter which way you slice us, may we be men of integrity – consistently living by a high moral standard.

Just like bologna.

1 Corinthians 15:58

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Psalm 78:72

“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

Proverbs 11:3

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Desires and Plans

Both of our sons are in a really exciting season of their lives – the beginning of their careers.

Do you remember that season of your life?  Were you excited and terrified at the same time?  Were you full of hopes and dreams for what the future would hold?

They’re full of big desires and big plans.  In light of that they’re excited and scared at the same time.  They’re exhilarated and terrified – they’re exhilified.  Their desires are big on all fronts.  And they’re making big plans based on those desires.

They’re causing me to think back to when I was their age.  Anything seemed possible.  The sky was the limit.  I had lots of desires I wanted to see come to fruition.  I had lots of desires that I was making plans for in order to bring them into reality.

Some of my desires were God-breathed, and some of them weren’t.  God knew that.  In His great mercy and grace God helped me to see where my desires were not in alignment with His.

In addition, some of my plans were not necessarily His.  Once again, He graciously directed me and even thwarted my plans that were not His plans.  And sometimes, because of my stubbornness and arrogance, He crushed my plans in order to draw me closer to Him in humble surrender so that my desires and plans would come into alignment with God’s best for me.

Desires and plans can get you in trouble.  And, desires and plans can get you into God’s will.

I don’t know about you, but when I was in my 20’s and 30’s I had lots of desires and plans.  However, it was during these years the Lord began purifying my desires.  He was also thwarting some of my plans that were not His.  The more this happened, the more cautious I became about looking at the desires in my heart and making plans accordingly.

Following this time of “purifying” it would have been easy to simply shut down my heart and not dare to desire anything more, to simply settle for what was – “This is all I can hope for.”  Desire could easily flame out, and plans become non-existent.  It would be easy to cave into the monotony of life, surrender desire and begin living a resigned life.

If we do not discover the delight of God by pressing through our issues that keep us at a distance from God, we can easily, as Thoreau said, “Live lives of quiet desperation.”  Discovering the heart of God catapults us into a new realm of desire and plans – that of the desires of God and partnering with Him in His plans for us and for others through us.

In addition, as we age over the years and accomplish plans and fulfill desires we can end up having less and less desires and plans, and therefore, we age prematurely.  I believe desires and plans can keep us young and vibrant.

Psalm 20:4 caught my attention recently.  Well, actually, it stopped me cold right in the middle of my morning time with God.

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

I sat there reading it over and over.  I began musing with the Lord, what desires do I have?  And, what corresponding plans do I have?  Are my desires reflective of God’s desires? Are my plans in sync with His?

C.S. Lewis said, “Our problem is not that we desire too much, but that we desire too little.”

I’m feeling the nudging of the Lord to take a look at my desires.  Am I desiring too little?  Do my desires reflect the heart of God, or do they reflect the values of this world?  Do my plans reflect the vision God has given me and the desires He has put in my heart, or do they reflect the things of this world?

What about you?  Do you have desires and plans?  Do you desire too little?

Ask the Lord about the desires He’s put in your heart, and the plans He has for you – I’ll bet they’re bigger than you think!

Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Proverbs 16:9

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Psalm 73:25

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’”

Truth Meals for a Rich and Full Faith

“What do you eat for breakfast?” I asked.

“I eat the same thing every day.” he replied.

My colleague had just presented me with a copy of his new book on health and nutrition.  In light of this I thought it was time for me to defer to his expertise.

I confessed to him my neglect in the ingestion department.  I tended to eat for taste and not for fuel.  I didn’t feed my body well.  I often didn’t eat breakfast; I would eat sporadically throughout the day; eat something sweet in the afternoon to give me some energy; eat a good dinner because of my wife’s faithful care; then eat some tasty snack in the evening.

I now sat across the table from my friend 20 pounds overweight.  I needed help.

“So what do you eat for breakfast?” I inquired.

“My special shake: 2.5 cups water, 1 banana, ½ cup berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), 1 tablespoon each of oat bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, ¼ tablespoon of matcha and 1 scoop of whey isolate protein powder.” He responded.

That shake, combined with eating less junk, and 30 minutes of mountainside walking 3 times a week, took 20 pounds off me and has kept it off for 2 years.

Our physical health is the result of 4 main components:  what we eat, what we drink, how we rest, and how we move.  Sure there are many other factors, but these are 4 key elements.

So what about our spiritual health?

Recently I embarked upon an intentional truth diet with my wife.  We’re committing to memorize and meditate on weekly scriptural truths in an effort to increase our spiritual health.  We’re focusing on truth related to God’s love and our identity as beloved children of God.

Reading Truth is good.  Memorizing Truth is powerful.  And meditating on Truth is profoundly transformational.

To meditate on Truth is to commit it to memory, and then chew over every word, every morsel of the passage.  Meditating is an intentional extraction of the meaning the Spirit reveals.  Meditating is a commitment to seek God’s revelation for all the depth of Truth the passage contains.

It’s a commitment to suck the marrow out of the Word.

This week we’re on Psalm 139:13, 14:

I am chewing each section of this over and over… “For you created my inmost being”; “You knit me together in my mother’s womb”; “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”; “Your works are wonderful”; “I know this full well”.

How can you hate yourself if you understand the Truth of this verse?  If God says we’re wonderful, if He formed us in our mother’s womb, then who are we to say we’re a piece of junk?  God doesn’t make junk!

You are wonderful!

We’ve just started this diet of Truth but have enjoyed rich meals the 2 previous weeks:

Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Zephaniah 3:17

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We have the following meal plan laid out over the next 6 weeks:

Romans 8:14, 15

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

Galatians 4:6, 7

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

1 John 3:1

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

John 15:9-11

 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Philippians 1:6

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:38, 39

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Join us – feast on Truth and live!

A Man of Prayer

How would you describe King David?

When I think of David I think of a mighty warrior and a courageous king.  I also think of a prolific poet and an open-hearted songwriter.  David has always struck me as being a man who could catch a lightning bolt in one hand and a tear in the other.

He was also a broken man who understood the grace and mercy of God.  He is also a shining example of a man who could have disqualified himself from the purposes of God because of his sin, but he chose instead to live a life of repentance.  He knew when to surrender and submit to the Lord and His correction.

David knew when to stand up and fight, and when to lay down.

I think we’re familiar with how God described him, ‘A man after God’s own heart.’  Wow.  How did David become a man after God’s heart?  How did he cultivate a relationship of that kind of intimacy with God?

I think I stumbled upon the answer to that question in Psalm 109.  David begins the psalm by asking the Lord to intervene on his behalf in the lives of those who hate David, speak and lie against him, attack and accuse him.  He’s clearly in a difficult situation.  In the middle of pointing out to the Lord the damage all the wicked and deceitful me in his life are causing, he states this:

“But I am a man of prayer.”

If leapt off the page at me.

I don’t know if I would have described David as a man of prayer…

What does that mean?

Well, I would describe prayer as ‘conversing’ with God.  Sometimes we speak, sometimes we listen – like any good conversation.  Good conversation is giving and receiving in an open-hearted exchange.

I believe David lived a life of ongoing interaction with God.  He knew when to talk and he knew when to listen.  He knew when to be still and quiet before the Lord.  He knew when to confess his sin.  He knew when to declare the Truth of who God is.  He knew when to simply open up his heart in raw honesty before God.

He knew the power of praise and worship.  He knew the greatness of gratitude and thanksgiving.

I believe David understood 3 foundational elements of conversing with God:

  1. Talking
  2. Listening
  3. Obeying

Listening to God doesn’t make much of a difference if we don’t obey what He is calling us to do does it?

How we pray really matters.  What kind of conversations do we have with God?  Are they primarily comprised of whining and complaining?  Are our prayers self-centered and filled with self-pity?

Are we praying God’s will, or our will?  Are we praying in arrogance, or humility?  Are we praying in alignment with the Truth of scripture, or the lies of the enemy?

Our prayers are powerful when we pray in accordance with scripture; when we pray for God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come in us and through us on earth as it is in Heaven.  David prayed the Lord would create in him a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit in him; that he would have Truth and wisdom in his inmost parts.

Scripture encourages us to pray continually – which seems impossible.  However, I would not doubt that David spoke with the Lord as a constant companion.  When he was alone, he knew he wasn’t alone.

When you’re driving alone, or working, or walking, or relaxing, or ‘playing’, do you converse with God?  Do you also set aside times alone with God for the specific purpose of conversing with Him?  I think this is what a man of prayer does.

I believe a man of prayer turns to God first and gives God the final word.  I believe a man of prayer talks to, listens to and obeys God.  I believe a man of prayer is honest and open-hearted before God, and chooses to stand on and pray into the Truth of God.

I also believe you and I can choose to be men of prayer – like David.

Psalm 109:4

“In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.”

Psalm 100:4

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

James 5:16

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

“ pray continually,”

Ephesians 6:18

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

From Cowardice to Courageous

Where is he?  He’s supposed to be here right now.  We’re about to make the big announcement.  Everybody is waiting.

Being crowned king is a big deal.  One would think that when you are about to be crowned king you would be pretty engaged in the moment.  However, when the time came to begin the ceremony the “soon to be king” was nowhere to be found.

So, what do you do when the man you’re about to crown as king doesn’t show up for the ceremony?  You go looking for him of course.  And that’s what they did.  But when they couldn’t find him what could they do?

Well, they could ask the Lord where he was.  So they did.  And, of course, the Lord knew where he was.  He was hiding.  He was hiding amongst the baggage all piled up from everyone who had traveled for the big ceremony.

They dragged him out and installed him as king.

This is, of course, the story of Saul, the first king of Israel.

We normally think of Saul as a bad king – which he was.  He paled in comparison to David.  We know that he was jealous of David, he wasn’t willing to really trust God, he was paranoid and he spent most of his time trying to kill David.

He got off to a rough start knowing that Israel had rejected God as their King and demanded God give them a king like the other nations.  God said it was a very bad idea, but gave Israel a king anyways – Saul.

I recently read the account of Saul’s first days as King in 1 Samuel 10 and 11.  He began cowering and he ended up conquering.   He went from hiding in the baggage to defeating the Ammonites.  He went through a major transition from cowardice to becoming courageous.

How did that happen?  What went on to create the kind of transition that we would all like to see in our lives?  How did he shift from cowering and cowardice to becoming courageous and conquering?

From what I can see there are 5 steps to transition us from cowardice to being courageous:

  1. Step out of fear and into faith
  2. Step out of lies and into truth
  3. Surround yourself with valiant allies
  4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit
  5. Fight for the freedom of others

Our first battle is to choose to believe that God is big enough for whatever our limitations may be and for whatever the circumstance is that we may be facing.  We have to stop looking at what is and start looking to God for what can be.  Choose faith over fear.  Fear is focussing on you and your limitations; faith is focussing on God and His limitlessness.

We have to then choose to stop believing the lies of the enemy and start believing the Truth of God.  Stop listening to the whisper campaign of our spiritual foe and start listening to the Logos and Rema word of God.  You cannot be courageous and believe lies – the lies of the enemy are sent to alienate and isolate, demean and diminish you.

We must surround ourselves with valiant allies who are fellow travellers on the journey from cowering to conquering, from cowardice to courageous.  Life is a team game – it can’t be done well alone.  And, following Jesus is definitely a team game.  We are one body and we need each other to be who we are called to be.

We must be filled with the Holy Spirit – regularly.   I don’t know about you, but I can feel filled and empowered by the Spirit of God one day, and the next I can feel very empty.  I have determined that I leak somehow.  So, I ask the Lord to regularly fill me with His spirit.  This is what made all the difference for Saul.

Lastly, it was in fighting for the freedom of others that Saul really found his strength.  We are meant to be spent for the benefit of others.  It is in the service of others that we get over ourselves and find a new level of courage, resolve and mission.

From cowardice to courageous – 5 key steps.

1 Samuel 10:22b

“And the Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’”

1 Samuel 10:26

“Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men who hearts God had touched.”

1 Samuel 11:6

“When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger.”

1 Samuel 11:8, 9, 11

“When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and the men of Judah thirty thousand.  They told the messengers who had come, ‘Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By this time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be delivered.’… The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day…”

Stressed Out or Stressed In?

What stresses you out?

Money?  (Or lack thereof)  Work?  Relational conflict?  Parenting?  Responsibilities?

All of the above?

Life is full of stress, and it can be both good and bad.  Stressful situations are those that push us out of our comfort zone.  This can actually help us realize we have greater capacity than we thought we had.  A life free from stress is one which never demands more of us than we’re sure we can handle.

I know that stress in my life is a key factor in growing my faith.  When I am pushed beyond my own resources I have to depend on God.  When I come to the end of myself, I meet the Lord in profound ways.

Perhaps we can say that stress is actually a perquisite for a deeper relationship with the Lord.

For example: what really stressed me out in the early years of launching and growing my business, did not do so in later years of the business.  My faith had grown.  Stress had stretched me and increased my strength.

Or perhaps, more accurately, it was the stretching that caused the stress and forced me into a deeper encounter with the Lord.

Stress is really our reaction to situations that push us outside our comfort zone.  We can move into fear, or we can move into faith.  Will we fear that we won’t have what we need to get through whatever the stretching is, or will we choose to believe that God can provide all we need to get through whatever we are facing.

Being stressed out is a fearful reaction to stretching.

Stretching does not have to produce fear and stress us out.  It can produce faith if we choose to focus on the Lord and not on ourselves.

I would like to suggest that growth is impossible without stress, if we define stress as simply that which pushes us outside our comfort zone.  Stress is not synonymous with worry and anxiety.  Worry and anxiety is caused by a fearful response to stress.

Let’s look at the children of Israel leaving Egypt being trapped at the shores of the Red Sea as Pharaoh’s chariots closed in on them.  I would consider that a highly stressful situation.  The people of Israel chose worry and anxiety – a faithless response.  Moses chose faith – he believed that God was faithful and He would somehow deliver them.

I heard about a survey recently that was done with 1,000 young adults.  They were asked if they could go back to when they were children, what would they want more of?  The assumption was that they would want more time with their parents.  However, the most popular response was that they would have wanted to see their parents less stressed out.

Stress is part of everyday life.  There is no such thing as a life without stress.  However, we get to choose how we will respond to that stress.  Will we choose faith and believe Jesus is who He said He is and we can trust Him to provide for all of our needs?  Whether that be wisdom, favour, influence, customers, jobs, money, healing, patience, grace, love, etc.

Or, will we choose fear and believe that we have to take care of ourselves?

We will choose to be stressed out… of faith?  Or will we choose to be stressed in… to faith?  Stressed out… of Truth?  Or stressed in… to Truth?  Stressed out… of Jesus?  Or stressed in… to Jesus?

Being stressed out not only has significant physical, emotional and spiritual effects on us, but also on our children.  But, if we learn to choose faith and not fear – if we choose to cast all our cares on Jesus and trust that He will provide for all our needs – then the stresses of life actually lead to our personal growth and that of our children as well.   Our faith becomes real and tangible.

Our children need to hear us trusting Jesus to provide for our needs.  They need to see us casting our cares on Him.  They will certainly experience the effects of our worry and anxiety.

Choose faith over fear and be stressed in… to Jesus.

Luke 12:22-31

And He said to His disciples, ‘…do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing… And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?… But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!… seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.’”

Philippians 4: 6, 7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Luke 8:14

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

1 Peter 5:7

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.“

Sit Down and Shut Up!

India 2007 515We stood there at the end of the trail facing a wild Indian river in the midst of tiger country.

“Let’s cross it!” I exclaimed.

“Dad, are you serious?” David and Benjamin responded with the looks on their faces.

It couldn’t be that dangerous.  There were women from the village washing clothes on the rocks next to the river.  I waded in and saw that the waters, though flowing fairly strongly, were only knee to mid-thigh in depth.

The boys had never forded a river before.  What a great place to do it for the first time.

Do you remember the feeling of the first time you forded a fast moving stream or river?  The strength of the water flowing against you was probably greater than you had expected – yes?  I know that was my experience.

I don’t remember the occasion of the first time I did this, but I do remember the feeling of the water working against me.  That, I will never forget.

And now my sons were about to experience the force of a flowing river.

The river was not that wide, perhaps 50 feet.  The bottom was covered with rounded “river” rocks of various sizes, so foot placement was tricky.  The boys nervously stepped into the river and immediately recognized this would not be that easy.

It was difficult to get a solid foot placement on the uneven rocks.  However, In order to hold their ground against the current they needed a strong base of support.  And it was not simply the rocks that made it difficult to stand, but the current would push their leg away from where they wanted to take their next step, and through them off balance.

As they went about tackling the challenge of getting to the other side they soon realized a number of key tactics:

  1. Carefully choose where you stand
  2. Get low
  3. Lean into the current
  4. Take small steps
  5. Keep moving forward

When they realized they couldn’t walk the way they normally did, they started to make good headway and got to the other side.

And their joy at discovering a new found strength was obvious.  There was great celebration when they got across, and minimal concern coming back because they had proven they had the ability to do this.

The Lord brought this memory from 10 years ago to mind recently when I was discouraged with the difficulties of my life.  Sometime it just feels like I’m trying to wade across a river with a strong current.  Every step can be difficult.

Do you ever feel like that?

Life isn’t just sunshine and rainbows.  Sometimes it’s hard work.  We’re not unopposed.  It seems like the current of life can be set against us attempting to get us to give up; to stop moving forward.  The strategy of our spiritual enemy, the stuff of life, and the effects of other people on us can just make things tough sometimes.

All of this conspires to demotivate, discourage, and disillusion us from doing good.  In colloquial vernacular it’s quite simply, “Sit down and shut!”  Don’t stand up, don’t step out, don’t speak up, don’t speak out.  Don’t try to move forward.

Give up.

However, we can’t do that.  We can’t give in and give up.  We have to get up and get going.  We have to see the doubts, the fears, the negative situations, and anything that causes us to want to give up like a river we need to ford.

We can make our way through the waters of opposition that flow against us if we’ll:

  1. Carefully choose where we stand – stand on the Truth of God’s Word
  2. Get low – humble ourselves before God and ask for His help
  3. Lean into the current – be strong and courageous, and don’t be a push-over
  4. Take small steps – inch by inch life’s a cinch: yard by yard life is hard
  5. Keep moving forward – persevere and press on toward the goal of God’s Kingdom in us and through us

Don’t sit down and shut up.

Stand up, and step out – wade through the waters of this world.  You have more strength than you realize!

1 Corinthians 15:57-58

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

2 Chronicles 15:7

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

Hebrews 10:35-36

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Galatians 6:9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

God Wants His Money

mover of men and mountainsWhen I was 14 years old my youth leader did something that created a significant impact in my life.  Even though we were on a water-skiing weekend together it wasn’t the skiing that impacted me the most.  He gave me a book.  It was the kind of book you wouldn’t think was appropriate for a 14 year old kid who didn’t have a job, let alone a career.

The truth contained in the pages of that book was like seed sown into my heart that didn’t fully grow until many years later…

The book was, “Mover of Men and Mountains” – the story of R.G. LeTourneau.

Mr. LeTourneau was a very successful engineering genius who built a heavy duty earth hauling equipment empire.  His machinery helped win the Second World War and built much of the highway infrastructure in modern America.  He was an amazing man on many fronts.  Even though he only had a grade 7 education, by the end of his life he held over 300 patents.

His entire story I have long since forgotten, but one core conviction he held has stuck with me:

Our money is not “our” money – it’s God’s money.

God allows us to steward His money.  It’s not an issue of us determining how much of our money we give to God, it’s determining how much of God’s money we keep for ourselves.

Mr. LeTourneau put his money where his mouth was and instead of giving God a tithe of 10% of his gross income, he kept 10% of his gross income for himself and gave away 90% of his income.

When I became a member of my church at 18 I was taught about the principle of tithing.  I remembered the lesson I learned from Mr. LeTourneau years before this time – it’s not my money, it’s God’s money.  So, tithing was simply a matter of obedience for me.

God asks me to give back to Him a portion of my gross income as an indication of my trust in Him.

I then began to do some study on tithing and discovered some very important principles: 1. My tithe should be based on 10% of my gross income – pre-tax – the first fruits of my income.  2.  Not tithing is robbing God, and places me under a curse.

And the third principle I discovered was the most profound: Tithing is a form of spiritual warfare.

Tithing is really all about faith.  Do I believe God will provide for all my financial needs, or do I believe it’s up to me to take care of myself?  If I believe the former, then I gladly give the Lord – at a minimum – 10% of my gross income.  If I don’t trust God to provide for my needs then I can easily come to the conclusion that I can’t afford to tithe.

Nothing can be further from the truth – we can’t afford not to tithe.

God tells us in Malachi 3 that when we don’t give God 10% of our gross income we are robbing Him and are, therefore, under a curse.  And, if we bring “the whole tithe into the storehouse” God will bless us and “rebuke the devourer” for us.

That is the spiritual warfare!  The Lord actually says “test Me in this”!  Tithe and watch Him rebuke the devourer.

Like I said, we can’t afford not to tithe.  God invites us to trust Him – to put our money where our mouth is – and give Him the first fruits of our income.  How we manage our finances is a very interesting glimpse into what we believe.  Do we believe we can trust the Lord to provide for all our needs?  Or not?

Do we want to rob God and live under a curse, or tithe and have the Lord bless us and rebuke the devourer on our behalf?

Tithing is a matter of faith.  Like Mr. LeTourneau said, our money is not our money anyway – it’s God’s money He has entrusted to us.  How will we steward his resources?  Will we keep it for ourselves, or freely give the minimum the Lord has asked of us?

God wants His money – as an indication of our trust in Him.

Malachi 3:8-11

““Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 9:6

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

Matthew 6:24

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Worries, Stuff and Money

weedsWeeding.  Do you do it?

I was a professional weeder.  I was paid to weed.  I was paid to mow lawns, and week wack, and prune, and lay sod, and plant shrubs and flowers.  I landscaped every summer between years at university.  That’s how I paid for my degree.

We would sometimes be called into properties that hadn’t done any yard maintenance in years.  They were leased houses, with the proviso that the tenant would take care of the lawn and gardens.  The lease term was about the come to a close and the tenant had to get the yard into shape.

I remember coming to one house that had grass so tall we couldn’t cut it with the lawn mower.  We had to cut it down with a scythe, then mow it multiple times until it looked like a lawn and not a wild prairie wheat field.

The gardens were indistinguishable from the lawn.  The lawn had slowly encroached on the beds and overtaken the plants.  And, other weeds had grown up in the gardens and choked out the shrubs and flowers.  It was impossible to get rid of the weeds and not do irreparable damage to the plants.

There seems to be no short cut to getting rid of weeds in gardens.  You simply have to get down on the ground and pull them out.  Sometimes you even have to dig them out.  It is always better to do regular weekly weeding to pull out the weeds that appear, than to let them mature and begin to take over the garden before extricating them.

If you don’t stay on top of your weeding by doing a little bit every week, then the weeds can very easily overtake your garden.  As they say,

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Jesus knew a thing or two about weeds.  He told the parable about the sower of seed.  Some of the seed fell on the soil, but the weeds grew up around the seeds and choked it out.  He was talking about how the Word of God – the Truth – is sown in our lives, but can be rendered fruitless by weeds.

He explained that even though we may have the Truth deposited in us, it doesn’t produce anything.  Why?  We haven’t dealt with the weeds.  The weeds overwhelm the Truth and it doesn’t make any difference in our lives.

So what are the weeds that choke out the fruitfulness of God’s Word in us?

  1. The worries of this world
  2. The deceitfulness of riches
  3. The desire for other things

That’s basically the culture we live in every day.  Our culture tells us what we really need is more money and more stuff and everything will be better.  Your worries would all be dealt with if you have more money.

Take note of the commercials on TV:  buy more stuff and make more money, so you can buy more stuff and spend more money.  There is a constant pressure to buy the latest and the greatest.  We can easily become dissatisfied with what we have, by seeing what we could have – and we covet.

We worry that we won’t have enough, we want what we don’t have, and we think everything would be better if we had more money.  Jesus said it’s this thinking that chokes out the fruitfulness of God’s Word in us.

Have you taken stock of your thoughts lately?  Do you worry?  What do you worry about?  Are you often dreaming about more, better, or other “stuff”?  Do you think that more money would make it all better?

Jesus said it’s that kind of thinking that kills the Truth in us and we become fruitless – no evidence of God’s Word in us.  We must repent from that kind of thinking and put our trust fully in God.  He is our provider, He is our source, He is our treasure, He is our peace.

What weeds do you need to pull out of your life?  Pulling out these cultural weeds should be an ongoing strategy.  Don’t let them to choke out God’s life in you.

Worries, stuff and money – it’s not the answer.  Jesus is the answer.

Mark 4:18

“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Philippians 4:6, 7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4: 12, 13

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

1 John 2:16

“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Chasing The Lion

lionThe grizzly was closing in on me.  Where did it come from?  It just appeared out of nowhere.  I was panicked.  Where could I go?  What could I do?  The fear gushing out of the deepest part of my chest felt like it would kill me, let alone what the bear would do.

At a death-inspired pace I sprinted into the only safe place I could find – a shopping mall.  As I ran for cover in and out of the stores the Grizzly continued to stalk me.  What does it want?  Why is it only pursuing me?

I made my way out of the mall and down into the parking area where I got into my car.  I raced out of the parkade with the bear in hot pursuit.  It caught up to me on the highway and began to ram into the side of my car.  It was trying to force me off the road.  What kind of bear is this?  What is it after?  Why is it relentlessly pursuing me?

And then I woke up.

What was that?  What kind of dream did I just have?

I asked the Lord about the dream.  I talked to some trusted friends to get their thoughts.  Here’s what I believe the Lord was saying to me…

“Don’t run away from the masculine strength and courage I have for you.  There is more in my heart for you than you realize.  Don’t run away from my purposes in your life.  Embrace the strength and courage I have for you.  It may terrify you, but I am with you.”

Over 25 years ago the Lord spoke that to me.  Anne gave me a 20 inch sculpture of a Grizzly bear I keep in my office.  It reminds me to embrace the masculine strength and courage I need to walk in the purposes the Lord has for me, and for others through me.

Yes, it takes strength and courage to partner with Jesus in the epic adventure of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Neither you nor I can wholeheartedly partner with Jesus without choosing strength and courage.  Typically what He asks us to do with Him can be terrifying – or should I say “exhilifying”. (Exhilarating and terrifying).  The dreams He puts in your heart will scare you because without Him it’s impossible.

I read something this week that reminded me of this: the Lion Chaser’s Manifesto by Mark Batterson.  Lion Chasers are men who run into their fears.  They chase down opportunity.  Lion chasers wholeheartedly pursue the purposes of God.  Just like Benaiah son of Jehoiada, one of David’s mighty men, who went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.

I have not yet read Mark’s book, Chasing the Lion, but I love the manifesto:

“Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Run to the roar.
Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-given passions.
Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.
Stop pointing out problems. Become part of the solution.
Stop repeating the past. Start creating the future.
Face your fears. Fight for your dreams.
Grab opportunity by the mane and don’t let go!
Live like today is the first day and last day of your life.
Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails.
Live for the applause of nail-scarred hands.
Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.
Dare to fail. Dare to be different.
Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Chase the lion.”

Take some time to digest this, it is rich with meaning and meat.

May we be men who embrace the strength and courage the Lord has invited us into.  May we not run away from what we find terrifying, but run into our fears knowing the Lord is bigger than that which intimidates and terrifies us.

Be strong and courageous.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is able to do more than you can imagine – way more.

If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough.

Embrace your strength and courage, and Chase the Lion.

2 Samuel 23:20

“Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.”

1 Corinthians 16:13, 14

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”

Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

1 Timothy 6:11

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

In and Out of the Boat

walking on waterI love boating.  Perhaps I should clarify though: I love boating in good weather.  Good weather to me is when the ocean is flat and there’s no wind.  High winds and high seas are bad weather to me.

I’m not a sailor, I’m a power boater.  I’ve boated in good weather and I’ve boated in bad weather.  I definitely prefer the former.  Sure, the latter is exhilifying (exhilarating and terrifying), but I still prefer glassy water and non-existent wind.

We’ve been caught in some pretty brutal conditions.  We had 20-30 knot winds blowing at our stern, and a strong ebb tide crashing head-long into the wind whipped waves pushing us from behind.   Those conditions created high, sharp, white-capped waves moving faster than our boat could go.

The waves picked our 40’ boat up from the stern, threw us forward at a precarious angle until we came careening down the face of that wave and our bow crashed into the wave in front of us.  We then seemed to stall momentarily in the trough of the wave until another monster wave picked us up from behind and repeated the cycle over and over again.

Not pleasant.

My prayer was for Jesus to join us in the boat and calm the storm.  Or at least keep us alive until we reached port.

I thought about this situation recently when reading about the story of Jesus walking on the water.  As you know, the disciples were heading across the lake while Jesus got some alone time.  They were caught in winds blowing against them creating rough water, which made the going tough.

Jesus came walking by in the middle of the night.  This, of course, freaked them out because no one in human history had ever seen this before.  Peter responds to Jesus’ encouragement for them to take courage and not to be afraid, and asks Jesus if He wants him to come out and join Him.

Jesus says, “Come.”

Peter gets out of the boat and joins Jesus in the midst of the storm.  Amazingly, Peter walks on water too.  Then, his faith faltered when he focused on the storm instead of Jesus, and he began to sink.  Jesus saved him and asked,

“Why did you doubt?”

This has always bothered me a bit.  Peter was the only one who got out of the boat.  He actually walked on water for a while.  You have to love Peter’s boldness.  Why didn’t Jesus say,

“Way to go Peter!  You did it!  You walked on water!  Sure, you sunk at the end, but great job anyway!”

Jesus didn’t say that.  He actually chastised him – “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I don’t totally understand this interaction, but I think one thing we need to learn is that Jesus has high standards for us!  What we may think is a pretty good effort, He may be disappointed in – He knows who we are and what we can do in Him.  We need to ensure our standards are in-keeping with who Jesus is and who He says we are.

After this interaction Jesus and Peter get in the boat and the storm completely died down.

Two scenarios:  1. Jesus invites us to join Him in the storm.  2. Jesus gets in our boat and calms the storm.

I think this is a great picture of how Jesus invites us to live in Him.  When we’re caught in a storm of any kind (financial, relational, work, health, etc.) we predominantly ask Jesus to get in our boat and calm the storm.  And sometimes He does just that.

Other times I believe he invites us to discover Him in the storm.  He invites us to walk with Him through the storm.  He isn’t calming the storm.  The storm is part of His purposes in our life.

When you find yourself in a storm of sorts, make your first position to discover Jesus in the tempest.  Get out of your boat and join Jesus.  He can always calm the storm, but our goal needs to be Jesus, not the calm.

Walk with Him in and out of the boat.

Matthew 14:29-32

“’Come,’ he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.”

Isaiah 43:2

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Declaration of In Dependence

declaration-of-independence-1776“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

Those famous words comprise the opening sentiments of the document that has become known as the “Declaration of Independence”.   This document was a declaration ratified by congress on July 4th, 1776 by the 13 founding states of the United States of America.  It went on to state 27 grievances those United States had against the King of Britain, which provided justified reasoning for the assertion of their independence from Britain.

Their decision was built on the belief, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,”.  And, “…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security,”

I thought of this document recently when I was having breakfast with a friend.  He shared something I thought was very profound.  He told me of his discovery of a deep desire for independence.  He realized that he had a natural propensity to live independently from God.

Most of us were raised to be independent.  In fact, this is lauded in our culture.  You’re successful and strong if you’re not dependent on anyone.  Independence is celebrated.

My friend shared how he had bought into this mindset like so many of us, but he had also transferred this into his walk with the Lord.  He was trying to live independent from God – only calling on Him when he needed Him.

He looked me in the eye and said,

“I see my tendency to live independent from God, but I want to live in dependence on God.”

Wow – what a profound declaration.

No more to live in my own strength,  No more to depend on my own abilities, my own resources, my own experiences.  No more living life my way.  No more of God’s will my way.

God is inviting us to make a “Declaration of In Dependence” – to live in dependence on Him.  To trust Him.  To believe what He says is true.  To obey Him when we don’t understand.  God’s will, God’s way.

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.  All other ground is sinking sand.”

This classic hymn is a beautiful Declaration of In Dependence.  When we choose to live in dependence on God we are building our life on the rock – anything else is sand.  Living independently from God we can gain the whole world, but lose our soul.

Dependence on God means crucifying ourselves and living in Him.  Our life is found only in Him – outside of Him there is no life.  He is the vine and we are the branch.  Our life is inextricably tied to Him.

Are you living independently of God, or in dependence on God?  The latter leads to life, the former to death.  If you’re not experiencing all the life you thirst for, perhaps you are living independently from God.  Dependence on God leads to the life we long for, but it begins with death to ourselves so we can live in Christ.

Make your Declaration of In Dependence.  Set your hope on Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  Wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  Stand on the solid rock of Jesus.

John 15:4, 5

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Matthew 7:26

“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

don't waste your sorrowsI lay there on my bed with my leg, fully encompassed by a plaster cast, sticking straight up in the air like a submarine periscope.  This was the only position that gave me some degree of relief from the pain.

I had shattered my leg playing soccer.  My shin had broken in 3 places and was bent at a right angle when they loaded me onto the stretcher to rush me to emergency.  They had set it 3 times, and now I was in a full length cast.

The breaks were painful to say the least, but it was the nervous damage that was the most agonizing.  The breaks were so violent they damaged the nerve to my foot and nearly severed it.  Have you ever really smashed your funny bone and had that shooting, overwhelming nervous pain run through your arm?  That was what my leg felt like on an ongoing basis.

As I lay in my bed immobile for days on end with my great white periscope, I had much time to reflect and talk to Jesus.  I knew the “suffering” I was going through was part of the Lord’s work in my life.  I was desperate to learn what He wanted to teach me.

“Lord, please help me to learn what you are trying to teach me – I don’t want to have to go through this again.”

As I cried out to the Lord to help me to learn, I felt like He whispered something very simple to me,

“You cannot miss what I am doing in your heart if you simply surrender to me.”

So I didn’t need to figure it out?  I didn’t need to try hard not to miss the lesson?

No.  I needed to simply ask the Lord to do His work in my heart.

“Lord, I offer my heart to you.   Please do all you want to do in me.”

I needed to journey with Him through the pain, through the sorrow, through the suffering and He would work His purposes in me.  I needed to not try to get out of this situation, but to meet Him in it.

When we’re experiencing pain, suffering and sorrow we often ask the Lord to deliver us from it, instead of asking Him to accomplish His purposes through it.  We want out of it instead of meeting Jesus in it.  The fact is, we often meet the Lord in the midst of suffering.  It is our times of greatest grief that are often our times of greatest growth.

This life is filled with both joy and sorrow, deliverance and suffering.  Is God’s heart for us to live in freedom, joy, hope, peace, strength, faith, love, deliverance and wholeness?  Yes.  Does God heal and deliver?  Yes.  Does He also invite us into pain, suffering and sorrow to discover more of Him?  Yes.

I read a book when I was in my 20’s called Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, by Paul Billheimer.  What a great gift this book was to me.  After reading the book I actually wanted to suffer so I could better know Christ.   It helped me to gain an eternal perspective on painful experiences. It enabled me to see how God has planned for the church to be trained through these kinds of circumstances.  It is our proper response to the difficulties in life that enables us to grow in Jesus, if we don’t “waste our sorrows”.

Are you in the midst of a great sorrow, a difficult circumstance or some sort of suffering?  Invite Jesus into your situation and meet Him there.  Ask Him to help you discover Him in the midst of the circumstance and to work His will in you.

Make growth your primary objective, not escape.  He will deliver you – in His timing, not yours.

I have heard it said, “The will of God won’t take you where the grace of God can’t keep you.”  He is able to make grace abound to you, in every circumstance.

Don’t waste your sorrows – meet Jesus in the midst of them and discover His heart for you and for others through you.

Hebrews 12:11

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

Romans 5:3-5

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Philippians 3:10, 11

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

2 Corinthians 4:17, 18

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”.