“Snips and Snails”

It’s not some new revelation or anything, but I was thinking today of how it can be extremely difficult for guys like me, who grew up without a father, to even know what it means to be a man. Many of us have no idea what it feels like to be loved by a dad. We weren’t taught how to do “guy things” or shown how it looks when a man truly loves a woman. We gained our understanding of what it means to be a man from television and guys we thought we looked up to. And some of us experienced abuse at the hands of a man (or men) in our lives which served to make our concept of manhood even more a mystery. I have to be honest, I’ve spent a great deal of my adult life without the slightest idea of what it means to be a man.

The Bible speaks of God being a “father to the fatherless,” and I can attest to the validity of this claim. He has been the only dad I’ve ever known. I have failed so miserably, so often, and he has never abandoned me. Quite the contrary. Like the wonderful Father he is, he has loved and taught and trained. I’ve learned that it is only through my union with him, in Jesus, that I can be who I was created to be. I see in Christ my example of true manliness. His indwelling Spirit has revealed (is revealing) the depths of his heart, in love poured out.

So it was today, that as I cut the grass, planted a few plants, folded a little laundry and emptied the dishwasher; my heart was full. I was near to my God, and I knew my wife would be surprised and happy. I felt like a man.

 

Don’t Freak Out

Something that’s on my mind a lot these days is the tendency Christians have of freaking out when the “world” behaves like the “world.” Why does it come as a surprise that those who don’t know Jesus reject the Truth, call right wrong and wrong right? I think we should remember that those who aren’t intimate with Jesus walk in darkness- it’s really as simple as that. We need to also keep in mind that there are those who know the truth, have been exposed to the Light, and have chosen darkness of their own free will. They see themselves as god, defining and redefining truth as they see fit. It does indeed get frustrating –especially when logic and any consistent standard of critical thinking have been abandoned- but we have to resist the temptation to freak out.

We, as lovers of Jesus, have not been asked (by God) to win “the argument.” We have not been asked to convince the world that we are right and they are wrong. (How could we do that anyway?) We have been called to love those who are in darkness, to offer Jesus, and live our lives in such a way that wherever we go, the Kingdom of God has come near. But instead, Christians are freaking out, and it honestly seems like many of us actually want to see people go to hell, as if that would somehow validate us, and we can say, “I told you so!” Have we forgotten that once we too walked in darkness and were by nature hostile towards God? Answer me this: was it some freaked out, mad at the world Christian that brought you to the Truth? Or was it the love, grace and mercy of God offered through the lives of those who had themselves encountered and been changed by Jesus?

Yes, as this age draws to an end, we as Christians will find ourselves diametrically opposed to much of what goes on around us, and we are supposed to speak the truth. I’m not at all saying that we are to turn a blind eye to the sin and brokenness that surrounds us. And folks need to know that God has indeed “fixed a day on which he will, through Jesus, judge the secrets of men’s hearts.” But while today is still called today, we do need to remember that Jesus really is the Truth. There really is freedom and healing in him. He really is the Light of life, and by his Spirit we can share Reality with those around us. Don’t freak out, reach out!

The Last Laugh

Greetings!! Man, it’s been a while since I’ve written. So much has happened, I really don’t know where to begin. I could sum it all up by simply saying, “God has been faithful, and my whole life HAS CHANGED!!” But that wouldn’t make much of an article, would it? So, I’ll begin by reminding you of something you already know: With God, all things are possible, so it’s best to never say never.thFDWHJS1P

I’ve always thought that Genesis 18: 10 – 19 is one of the coolest stories in the Bible. Remember…? The Lord had come to visit Abraham and told him, “About this time next year, I’ll come back to see you, and your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah had been listening to this conversation, and when she heard the Lord say she would have a son she laughed to herself as she thought, “I am old and worn out. How can I have a son?”

“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and question whether or not she would really have a child. Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But the Lord said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’” I love that. I can imagine the Lord with an almost smirky disposition saying, “Oh, but you did laugh.”

The Bible (and our lives) are filled with examples of God accomplishing the impossible. How often have we laughed, like Sarah, and thought to ourselves, “That could never happen.”? And yet time and time again, God comes through (often, dramatically at the last moment), keeps his word or does the completely unexpected. The cool thing about it is that so much of the time we don’t even realize that He is working in our lives until the “big event” takes place. We lose hope, trudge through life with a blah, blah attitude and forget that He never stops working to bring about His glory- and our good! He promised us He would always do that, and unlike me, He is incapable of lying.

Listen, don’t forget that as a lover of Jesus, you have been adopted into the very family of God. And your DADDY loves you with the same love that he has loved Jesus (John 17:23). Don’t let life make you feel hopeless or cynical. Yes, we deal in reality, but don’t forget; Jesus IS reality. And oh yeah, don’t laugh at what God may speak to you because He always gets the last laugh.

 

 

The Exodus Belongs To The Lord (By Chris Anderson)

I don’t often share things that others have written. In fact, I think I can count on both hands the times that I have done that since NLI Ministries was birthed. But this “word” spoke to my heart. And if my conversations with others in the Body of Christ are any indication, many are having similar thoughts and experiences.

Although Chris visited our home fellowship, I don’t know him or any thing about First Love Ministry. But what I do know is that this article really spoke to me. I pray you will be encouraged as you read it.

The Exodus Belongs to the Lord

By Chris Anderson

 Rev. 15:2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. 3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God,…

There is nothing about the Exodus story that was conducted in a way that made human sense, was devisable by human strategy or was executable by human ability and capability.

The Exodus was a God thing, and it was a “new” thing. A new thing is a God thing. When God says “you must put away the old thing before you can enter the new thing,” He is telling you that there is nothing of past experience, ability or planning you can rely on to take you through what He is doing now. God says “I will do a new thing,” not “you will do a new thing.”

Creation is yearning for the revealing of the sons of God. Earth is yearning for the Revelation 15 Exodus of God’s people from the system of this world. But this revelation and Exodus are God things. As such, they require the reduction of our senses of strategy and capability. They must be conducted completely by faith through the Spirit.

In an exodus scenario, faith means awaiting momentary instructions for each new step. And the question becomes, do we want our deliverance badly enough to wait on those instructions? If you try to do anything to make it work, it won’t work. If you rely on what you are used to, you will be damaged. It isn’t going to be the way you used to do it.

All of us have lived in Egypt a long time. We have grown up here. And we have been trained here. Everything we do, we do based in the way we were taught to do it in our Egyptian public schools and our Egyptian Bible schools. But all that training is based on the premise of learning how to stay alive, to work and to minister in Egypt.

The Exodus can’t use any of that training. And whatever it chooses to use, it does not use for those purposes. Moses was trained in Egypt. He knew the court of Pharaoh. He knew all the wisdom of the Egyptians. But he wasn’t trained to use it as a medium for demanding release of the Hebrews under the threat of unforeseeable plagues.

From the burning bush forward, the Exodus story is one of divine instruction after divine instruction that has no precedent and no foundation in Hebrew Egyptian life and experience.  Moses is given a magic rod. Moses tells the people he has heard and seen the God none of them has ever seen or heard or known.  Moses goes to Pharaoh with demand after demand backed by threat of plague after plague he can’t predict. Moses never knows what is coming next or what the next instruction will be. How is Moses even supported or making a living during this time? Scripture doesn’t say.

In the interim, things go wrong. Moses is rejected by Pharaoh—not unpredictable. But things only get worse for the people, not better. So the people reject Moses too. Nobody believes Moses. All he has is the God even he can’t see. And all he can do is keep plugging away on whatever God shows him to do next. There is no end game in sight to this thing for a long time. The whole thing looks like a fool’s errand.

Then we get to the night of nights. It is Passover night. “Passover? What is that?” More unprecedented instructions. Instruction after instruction. Do this sacrifice. Do this with the blood. Make sure you use these herbs. Pack up and get ready to go—overnight, no less. Mayhem is everywhere. Nobody knows what is going on. It’s blind faith all around.

Pharaoh relents in the middle of the night. The people start moving out. Only hours later Pharaoh is changing his mind yet again in the light of day. “What have we done? Are we idiots? Why did we let those people go??” Everybody’s out in the desert and no one knows where they are going. It’s just this cloud and pillar of fire, also unprecedented.  And the next thing they know is Pharaoh is at the back door, and there is nowhere to go. Everything is down to not just one day at a time, but in many cases one hour at a time.exodus

This is what Exodus is like. This is what a God thing is like. This is what a “new” thing is like. It is all about blind faith in the living word and Voice of God because nothing you were taught to do in Egypt has any meaning here.

Over time, God has been patiently preparing us for the same “new” thing. We have heard about the “new” thing for a long time. Everyone’s been singing and dancing about it in church and putting out the CDs. Yet outside the worship meetings, our lives are in shambles as we try making sense of the calamities around us—families falling apart, losses of jobs, losses of houses, mounting debt, and—well, you get the picture. And nothing we have been trained to do in our Egyptian schools and churches is getting us anywhere.

Well, you know—you have to just go out there and look for another job, or no, you just need to go back to school and get more education, maybe update your seminary degree, get in on the latest church strategy conference, read the latest book on relationship counseling…..” No. None of this works. Because these are the old ways. And the old ways don’t work in the new thing. They don’t work in the Age of Exodus.

The end times are the Age of Exodus, and the Exodus belongs entirely to the Lord. If you want to get out of this body alive and get translated, if you want to see the kingdom of God come to manifestation in your life and in the church, then you are going to have to forget everything you ever learned to do in Egypt. There is only one thing you can do anymore once the Exodus hits in earnest. It is to learn how to be a listener—a listener who, slow to speak, slow to wrath, waits out with perfect patience the answer that comes only by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in each situation.

In the Exodus, the spirit of wisdom and revelation is the only guidepost there is. It is the only marker there is. There are no other answers for what is going on or is happening to you or to your family or to your church or to your business. And that is where you have to stay. Forget about going back to school, or to seminary, or to anywhere else you think you can learn from that will rescue your situation. You are in Exodus. And it is one day, and one hour at a time.

Some of us have been coming to grips with this slowly over a period of years, without really understanding what’s been going on or happening to us. We’ve been too close to our Egyptian history to understand why things aren’t working anymore the way we learned how to do them—even in Christ. Four times in the last two weeks I have heard a word from somebody saying “God is doing a new thing with you…..It’s out with the old, in with the new…..Forget the former things, God is doing a new thing…..You can’t move into the new thing until you get rid of the old thing….

It’s Exodus time, that’s why. Exodus isn’t firstly about getting out of Egypt. It is firstly about hearing God and depending on God in a way that is different from any way you have learned from God heretofore inside the cultural context through which you’ve learned to hear Him. THAT is the first thing Exodus is about. It’s no longer about going down to your local Christian bookstore to find the right author with the answer to your problem.

So we are all being trained in this. And we need to stop being baffled over why nothing works any more or why we don’t have answers for what is going on with us.

Exodus is about taking new directions in a new context of hearing. It is about laying down how you used to hear from God. “I used to be able to count on the Spirit speaking to me a certain way, but I don’t hear Him anymore. What is wrong with me? Everything is changing around me, but the way I used to hear God isn’t working anymore.

Exodus is about burning bushes and magic rods now. It’s about displays of the unexpectable, the wondrous and the terrible. It’s about the Voice of God out of nowhere smiting you on the side and saying, “Get up, put your shoes on, and follow me. You’re walking out of this prison.

Your job is smitten. Your business is smitten. Your relationships are smitten. Your church is smitten. And you’re still half asleep wondering if you’re dreaming.  Yet you are walking out of a prison for whose corridors you have no floor plan. You don’t know where the gates and doors are. You just follow the angel.

Exodus is the time of following angels and watching angelic action you’ve never before seen. Where you should be falling and smashing the ground, angels are there to stop the fall. When you are walking and stumble, angels are there again—at each turn in the unknown corridors leading you out and holding you up.

And eventually we walk out of the prison, and out of Egypt, and we sing the song of Moses, still never really sure how anything happened. Nobody gets any credit for anything. Nobody’s training. Nobody’s skill at leading. And it’s all because….

The Exodus belongs to the Lord.

Chris Anderson

First Love Ministry

“Surprise, Surprise, Surprise”

I can’t help but think that as Christians, our Americanized mindset often hinders us in our walk with God. It’s drilled into us, “Work, work, work!” We have to have a “five year plan.” We feel guilty if we’re not on the move towards a well thought out destination with clearly defined goals. We have to do our research, get all the facts, and only then are we to make our move. When it comes to life, we definitely don’t like surprises. Everything has to be well planned. The trouble is that God doesn’t always work within our accepted parameters. Sometimes, he lovingly says, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

What father is there that doesn’t enjoying surprising his kids with gifts he knows will make them happy? The thrill, the joy, is watching the reaction of the one receiving the surprise. They never saw it coming, never knew that it had been planned all along, and never suspected the loving intentions of their dad. Why do we have a hard time believing that our DADDY would do such things in our lives? Why must we make him into a stern, hateful God who demands constant work and striving? I think it has everything to do with that Americanized mindset I mentioned earlier. Oh, I don’t think we have Him figured out nearly as much as we would like to believe. And I believe we miss so many of his surprises because we don’t know how to simply be a child and let Him love us. Not convinced?gomer

Think about it, the whole Bible is filled with stories of how God surprised people. In fact, Jesus himself came as a complete surprise to many who assumed they had it all figured out. The Apostle Paul even says that God’s whole plan concerning Jesus, his work for, in and through us was a surprise (a mystery) that God had held back from all of eternity to be revealed at just the right time. And we are further assured that, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him…” He shows us these things by his Spirit, but surely we can’t think we know it all right now, at this moment. No, he reveals and unfolds life to us as we walk with him, as we give up control and rest in him.

I know it’s hard (at least it is for me), but don’t buy into the lie that you have to have it all figured out. It’s okay if you don’t understand it all, if you don’t exactly know where you’re headed. There is One who does, and he wants to share himself with you. Life is indeed a journey, and the wonderful thing is that in Jesus, this journey is filled with awesome surprises from the God who invites us to call him DADDY.

 

 

Violent Love

When we think of the word violence, more often than not, it is in the context of brutality, behavior that is designed to bring harm or hurt someone. But violence can also be defined as strength of emotion. Love can be violent. God’s love can be violent.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel…?
My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.

If you read the verses above in their context you’ll find that these words are what God said as he was yearning over his people. He had delivered them, healed them, fed them, and loved them; but still, they turned away from him. If you’ll allow me a bit of anthropomorphism:

God was hurt, angry and upset with the way he had been treated by those who should have loved him. He knew and would be directly involved in the consequences their hard hearts would bring about, and he was moved with emotion. He was pained and grieved.

But he decided that he would not come to them in anger or wrath. Instead, he chose to respond with violent love. In the midst of the turmoil their faithlessness was to incur, his love would sound off like a roaring lion, and his people would tremble as they returned to him.

In the book of John, we again see God overcome with emotion. As Jesus stood by the tomb of his friend Lazarus, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” Jesus stood there, observing the scene, overcome with emotion, and cried out with a love so violent that the dead came back to life.

Probably all of us have people in our lives, people we care for deeply who are set about on a course that is bringing them heartache and destruction. We know that if they do not change the end will be devastating. We experience the whole gamut of emotions as we stand by, seemingly helpless to do anything that would help them. Anger. Frustration. Disbelief. Longing. We are taken by these emotions with such violence that it literally causes us pain. While these emotions are inevitable and natural, it is only violent love that can affect change and bring deliverance. But how does this violent love express itself in and through us?

As in the instances of God’s grief over Israel and his emotion at Lazarus’ tomb, the one who loves violently is moved by the suffering of others. We do not merely recognize the pain in the lives of others- we “assume” it. We invest ourselves in their predicament and become a means by which they can experience freedom in the love of God. Our natural inclinations towards frustration and anger are tempered by the grace provided through our union with Jesus, and we are willing to accept the vulnerability love demands. Though we are pained by the realization that our loved ones are bound for heartache and suffering should they persist in their destructive behavior, even though we know that the process of their freedom will be painful (for them and us), the violent love of God moves in and through us, roaring like a lion. In the Spirit, strength and love of Jesus, through prayer, intercession and relationship we violently throw ourselves against the stone that has been rolled over their hearts to entomb them. We never stop believing, hoping and enduring. Violent love, expressing itself through unyielding faith and hope cries out, “Lazarus, come forth!!!”

For those who, like Israel of old, have become bound, desolate and feel forsaken, the violent love of God proclaims:

Because I love Zion,
    I will not keep still.
Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem,
    I cannot remain silent.
I will not stop praying for her
    until her righteousness shines like the dawn,
    and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
The nations will see your righteousness.
    World leaders will be blinded by your glory.
And you will be given a new name
    by the Lord’s own mouth.
The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see—
    a splendid crown in the hand of God.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City”
    or “The Desolate Land.”
Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight”
    and “The Bride of God,”
for the Lord delights in you
    and will claim you as his bride.
Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem,
    just as a young man commits himself to his bride.
Then God will rejoice over you
    as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls;
    they will pray day and night, continually.
    Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.
Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work,
    until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth.
The Lord has sworn to Jerusalem by his own strength:
    “I will never again hand you over to your enemies.
Never again will foreign warriors come
    and take away your grain and new wine.
You raised the grain, and you will eat it,
    praising the Lord.
Within the courtyards of the Temple,
    you yourselves will drink the wine you have pressed.”

10 Go out through the gates!
    Prepare the highway for my people to return!
Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders;
    raise a flag for all the nations to see.
11 The Lord has sent this message to every land:
    “Tell the people of Israel,[e]
‘Look, your Savior is coming.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’”
12 They will be called “The Holy People”
    and “The People Redeemed by the Lord.”
And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place”
    and “The City No Longer Forsaken.”

(Thanks Liz.)

  

Whatever It Takes

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”

It is an awesome thing, after you’ve lived a while, to look back and see how the faithful love of the Lord has always been there. Constantly working to bring you to himself even when you weren’t aware of it, even when you were running with all your might in the opposite direction. To have lived some years and to have gained the perspective that only time can afford is a wonderful thing. What seemed like a jumbled tale of happenstance and random events crystalizes into a glorious story of the steadfast love of the God who will do whatever it takes. And for me, I think that Psalm 107 illustrates this point as well as any pericope in the Bible.

The author of the Psalm describes several groups of people (I’ll call them wanderers, prisoners, fools, and merchants.), and he describes their journeys and how God moved on their behalf. The wanderers were poor and destitute, without food and drink, close to death. But God heard their cry and rescued them. The prisoners had outright rebelled against the Lord. Their rebellion had bound them in misery and gloom. But God, in his mercy “broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them.” Then they cried to the Lord, and he delivered them and “broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.” Then there were the fools who also turned from God, and in their folly found nothing but dissatisfaction, deep discontentment that ate away at their very lives. But when they cried to the Lord he “sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death.” Finally, there were the merchants, sailing the seas, perhaps with minds only set on finance. But when the storms struck and their ships were tossed around, they feared for their lives and called on God who “calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.”

The story goes on to tell of rivers being changed to deserts, “and springs of water into dry, thirsty land. He [God] turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. But he also turns deserts into pools of water the dry land into springs of water.” This Psalm provides a beautiful description of God’s faithful love, it’s both poetic and eloquent. In it you see that God is the God who will do whatever it takes to deliver his people. In the midst of our wandering, when chains have bound our foolish, rebellious heart, when we’re giving all of our energy in pursuit of the riches of this world; this Psalm shows us that God will do whatever it takes to bring us to himself. But I can do you one better than Psalm 107.

The “whatever it takes” ultimately meant that God would become part of his creation. In the man Jesus, the unimaginable occurred: God joined divinity and humanity. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God displayed his great love and willingness to do whatever it takes to join us with himself. He personally becomes part of his creation. His appearance means that instead of being wanderers, we are adopted into his family. We are prisoners no more, for he himself has come to make us free. He has rescued us from the folly of seeking our own way by becoming wisdom for us. And instead of being mere merchants, relentlessly bargaining for the riches of this world; he has become our treasure and desire. This was his plan all along, and it gave him great joy to do so. What we see in pictures and poetry in Psalm 107 becomes flesh and blood in Jesus. We now know that the ultimate goal of God’s faithful love was not only to deliver us from the death, insanity and brokenness of sin, but to actually join us with himself. And in Jesus he says, “This is how far I’m willing to go! You in me and me in you- whatever it takes.”