What About Bob?

I received a text yesterday from someone who, for the sake of anonymity, we’ll call Bob. The text read simply, “I’ve lost my way.” The moment I read it I knew what he meant. You see, Bob has had experiences with God and has as we like to say: “Made a profession of faith.” But his whole life has been in again, out again, in again, out again, and now-he’s pretty much “out.”  Shortly after receiving Bob’s text, we talked on the phone. We talked about many things, and I don’t feel like I did a particularly extraordinary job in giving my counsel. So Bob, if you’re reading; this one’s for you. (And all us other “Bobs” out there as well.)

When it comes to having “lost your way,” you are not alone my friend. I have been EXACTLY where you are!! Even now, after walking with Jesus all these years, I still lose my way. There are times in each of our lives when we blow our own minds and freak our own selves out. We look around and ask ourselves, “Where am I, and how did I get here?” Sometimes, it’s nothing we’ve done or haven’t done, it’s just life. The way gets dark and confusing. It happens to all of us. But there is a reason why He’s called the Good Shepherd Bob- He comes to seek us out! He loves you and desires you to be filled up with His love. The mere fact that you reached out to me proves He’s still working, and that you’re not too for gone. This time in your life is one more instance in which He is saying, “I love you Bob. Follow me.” Let Him, bring you to Himself. He wants to.

So, what about the addiction problem. Bob, you know I KNOW.  I can’t count the times in the past when I threw the drugs away, out the window of the car or whatever and then turned right around to find them. And yes, the complexity of addiction encompasses a lot more than I can go into in a single blog article. But I’ll give you the first thing that comes to mind, from one addict to another if you will. Ready? Here goes: the drugs aren’t your problem. The drugs are the way in which “the problem” manifests itself. And like I said, the complexities of addiction are vast, but allow me to TRY and simplify it.  Our lives are made up of things others have done to us and things we’ve done to ourselves, and in some of us the hurts play out in addiction. But Bob, let me tell you, addiction is no match for the love Jesus has for you.

The Holy Spirit can heal you of the hurt and the pain that has lured you into addiction in the first place. I know it has become a “stronghold” in your life, but he can demolish it, along with all the other strongholds. You don’t have to be ashamed. Let the addiction be a reminder in your life that you so desperately need the grace and love of God. And remember, his grace can shine through your weakness. And as He keeps on freeing you, saving you, and LOVING you, you will be used by Him to show others the way. This brings me to the part where we talked about relationships.

Like I said on the phone, I know the Enemy is whispering in your ears, telling you that if you give yourself to Jesus you’ll have to forfeit the relationship you’re in. I know the deceiver is paralyzing you with fear when it come to this issue. You can’t imagine letting go, and perhaps you’ve told God, “I won’t let go.” Well, whether or not it will come to that, I don’t know. But I have observed in my own life that the things I “instinctively protect” and make off limits to God are definitely areas that need addressing. This may sting a little. The Bible calls it idolatry. Again, I don’t know, but I’ll bet that you do. It would seem that we always do. But I do know that whatever giving yourself to Jesus entails, His love will empower you to do it. Know this: this person can’t fill the place in your heart that was created for the Great Romance. That is a fact.

Lastly, you said on the phone that you didn’t know how to “give it all” to God. Well, it’s really not all that complicated. It’s another lie we tell ourselves. Let me ask you, how have you given yourself to addiction? How have you given yourself to your “person”? Think about it, we all know how. And the cool thing is that He will give you the grace and faith and love required to do it!! He is able to do more than you can even imagine. And believe me, I know first-hand how great an imagination you have.

I love you “Bob.” And any faithfulness, loyalty, compassion, gentleness, etc… that you’ve seen in me is only a small reflection of the perfect LOVE He has for you. You will make it. He is working in you RIGHT NOW. Give yourself over to Him. Just say, “Yes.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Homeland

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

No, this is not a review of the upcoming season of the Showtime series “Homeland.” I’m sure that Carrie, Quinn, and Saul will continue to strategize, lie, cheat, seduce, and “disappear” the necessary bad guys in order to preserve homeland security. Instead this article is a result of my pondering on the verses displayed above and how they may apply to us 21st century American Christians, many of whom have forgotten just what/where their homeland is. And nowhere is this “lapse of memory” more evident than when it comes to American politics.thCK82J2W1

It doesn’t take too long a visit to the popular social media sights to figure out that many of us have forgotten who/se we are and where we’re going. I think it’s safe to say that a vast number of American Christians no longer see themselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” and have fallen in love with the “American Dream.” Instead of being Christians who happen to be Americans, they tend to see themselves more as Americans who happen to be Christians. Consequently, they eagerly support the political candidate they think will best keep the dream intact, i.e., please no one come and take all my stuff. I honestly do think it’s our “stuff” that we are so earnestly trying to guard, and we have forgotten that “strangers and exiles” are transient, rarely holding on to anything too tightly.

One also has to be saddened by the divisiveness politics reveals among Christians. So called leaders will vehemently endorse or oppose different candidates, their acolytes will rally behind the leader, and carnal arguments play out on Face Book for all the world to see. And it seems that nowadays, racism of all colors, shapes, and sizes figure into the arguments, creating further division and bitterness. I even read an article the other day in which a pastor blamed the “Left Behind” series for paving the way for a Donald Trump presidential candidacy. Now while I don’t subscribe to Tim Lahaye’s eschatological paradigm….REALLY!!!!?????  I could go on, but I think you get my point. Brothers and sisters, all of whom love the Lord, arguing the politics of a homeland that is not even their own.

We know that God works through, in and among the nations of this world. He sets up kingdoms and removes them. And the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that men and women of faith have been used of God to “conquer  kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, made strong out of weakness, become mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight.”But I would submit to you that most of what we see happening when American Christians become political today is a result of a people who have ceased walking by faith, looking for “that city whose builder is God” and have instead embraced the United States as their ultimate homeland. And out of a disposition of fear, they desperately desire a political leader who will shore up their treasured kingdom.

So, what is the answer to dilemma? First, we must remember that as Christians, our true Homeland is a “better country, that is, a heavenly one.” While we are of this world, this nation, we are now first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of heaven. But we are not merely holding on, waiting for Jesus to come snatch us away from all this trouble. No, in Christ we are men and women of faith who know that TRUE FAITH sometimes mean that the people of God have also “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Finally, it is our abiding intimacy with Jesus that ensures our proper understanding of homeland. He who is the author and finisher of our faith, the One who will rule over all the nations of this world, is the overcoming Lord who sits at the right hand of the Father until all his enemies are made into a footstool for his feet. We do not put our trust in political leaders. Nor do we allow nationalism of any kind to separate us from others in the Body of Christ. In fact,  I would say that perhaps it is nationalism itself that we American Christians must lay aside as “a weight and the sin which clings so closely,” hindering our walk with Jesus and his people.

Homeland. Home, the city prepared for us by God himself.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,  and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

 

 

From Glory To Glory: Pain In The Process

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…”

For followers of Jesus, I think that the verse quoted above (part of a verse actually) has to be one of the most exciting passages in scripture concerning glory. Here, the Apostle Paul brings us into direct contact with the glory of God. The glory which was veiled to the Israelites during the time of Moses and remains hidden to those not in relation with Jesus has now been revealed to those who have experienced the freedom of the Spirit.

BRIEF RABBITT TRAIL: It is not my intention to spend a lot of time quibbling over the correct translation of κατοπτριζόμενοι (beholding). It is a fact that the Greek word could mean seeing as in a mirror or reflecting as a mirror. I think we sometimes force ourselves into an “either, or” definition when in all actuality it could be both at the same time. If you asked me, “So, which is it, seeing as in a mirror or reflecting as a mirror?” My answer would be, “Yes.”

As we who are in Christ are experiencing the glory of God, both seeing it and reflecting it, we are told that we are also being transformed into that same image of glory (Jesus), from one degree to another. That sounds wonderfully awesome to me. But what in the world does it mean, and how is it accomplished? I’d like to discuss one aspect of this process with you. It’s something we all experience (go figure) and none of us enjoy. PAIN.

There are many who believe that upon coming to Christ we are to be completely delivered from all pain and suffering. All of our distress is attributed at once to the enemy. I fear that at times we may have been “rebuking the devil” when actually our discomfort has been part of our transformation into glory. We insist that we want to be like Jesus, that we truly desire his glory, but somehow we have forgotten that in bringing many sons and daughters to glory Jesus himself had to experience much suffering. Is a servant greater than his master, or a messenger than the one who sent him? Of course not. Then we would do well to understand that our participation in glory will hurt at times. It was Jesus’ assumption of humanity that required even the author of salvation to learn obedience through what he suffered. So it is that the recipients of salvation experience pain as we are transformed from glory to glory into the image of the Son.

Lastly, we must never forget that the Father disciplines those children that he loves. Our “Western mindset” seems to always possess connotations of punishment and anger when considering the “discipline of the Father.” But discipline does not necessarily imply that sin has been committed and that punishment is being meted out. No, like any good father, God sometimes trains us, molds, shapes, and directs us in what is painful that we might bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness, that we might share his holiness, that we might be transformed from one degree of glory to another into the image of Christ.

Be encouraged today!! As a follower of Jesus, your pain and suffering are not in vain. You are experiencing the glory of God, being transformed into the glorious image of him by whose stripes you have been healed.

“ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

 

Glory

“[Father,]the glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

I’ve been thinking about “glory” a lot lately. Whenever I’m in the Word it seems like I’m always being drawn to passages about glory. Or, I’ll go somewhere and someone is talking about glory. My wife & I led worship at a conference last Saturday evening, and guess what; yep, the message that night was about- glory. In the past, when I’ve contemplated glory it has had to do with God’s Shekinah Glory or “Christ in you the hope of glory” or “Man, we got on up in the glory today at church.” For me, glory has always been some illusive, intangible thing that God has, and every now and then we get a little taste of it. Then finally one day we’ll be with him and literally see his glory. It had never really dawned on me that, in Christ, we are partakers of glory. Not only later, but right now.

One of the wonders, and an “aspect” of the glory of the Triune God is the “agape-knowledge” shared by Father, Son, and Spirit. Within God there is complete disclosure, intimate knowledge, mutual adoration, and unified participation- God is love. And this love, this intimate knowledge, this glory has been given to us by God, in Jesus. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “In fact, it is this knowledge, this revelation of God through/in Christ that IS eternal life itself (John 17:3). Not only later, but right now.

This glory of the “agape-knowledge” of God does not exist merely for our personal benefit. Another aspect of the glory is that as the Son came to earth and glorified the Father through the manifestation of his name, we too as partakers of glory declare the reality of God in Jesus. As the world beheld the glory of God in the person of Jesus, so it is that we who are the fullness of him who fills all in all make known the manifold wisdom of God, the eternal purpose that has been realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not only later, but right now.

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

 

Golden Years?

 “Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.’

” So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.”

One of the oldest tricks in the book is the consolidation of political power by manipulation of religious systems. And strangely enough, God’s people have fallen for it time and time again. I believe we are witnessing this same deception play out in American politics, and Christians are eating it up. We as followers of Jesus need to realize that while God most definitely works in and through the nations of this world, there is a danger that like ancient Israel, we too will find ourselves drawn away from following Jesus, going instead after “idols.”

I believe that the most dangerous form of politics is that which appears to shape its ideology around biblical theology. Christians have swallowed conservatism without even chewing it to see what it tastes like. And I wonder if many of us are not being deceived by those who hold to a form of godliness, but deny its power. We hate those accursed liberals, the baby killers, the gay rights activists, etc…, and we fear that they are destroying our nation. But I believe that it is the appearance of piety without true intimacy with Jesus which poses the more lethal threat. We must never forget that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces that disguise themselves as angels of light.

My dear brothers and sisters let us hold fast to our Lord Jesus. May we come to know that the answer we seek does not lie in any political ideology, but in the grace, mercy, and love of our God. We must be being continuously filled with his Spirit, asking for wisdom and discernment that we may rightly interpret national and global events. For the kingdom of this world (even America) will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. The Spirit and the Bride say come!

I Know A Man

I know a man who knew from the time he was a little boy that there was a God who loved him and that he was called to share His word.

I know a man who as a child experienced abuse and abandonment.

I know a man who as an adolescent began to turn from the Light and descend into darkness.

I know a man who abandoned his family, his mother, his brother, and his own children.

I know a man who was a thief.

I know a man who was a liar.

I know a man who was a murderer, taking the life of his own unborn child.

I know a man who stayed locked in a room for days, staying high, drunk, ranting and raving like a madman.

I know a man who has participated in unspeakable acts of perversion.

I know a man who could not buy food to eat.

I know a man who sat in a parking lot for two days, with no money for a spare tire, until a stranger showed him kindness.

I know a man who in his brokenness was forsaken, written off, and left for dead…

BUT:                                                                              

I know a Man who is God.

I know a Man who bled and died.

I know a Man who is eternal life.

I know a Man who sought out the wanderer and cared for his wounds.

I know a Man who said to the forsaken, “I love you; you are Mine.”

I know a Man who forgave the liar, the thief, the murderer.

I know a Man who fed the hungry.

I know a Man who said to the immoral, “I don’t condemn you. I have come to set you free.”

I know a Man who said, “I will NEVER leave you, abuse you, or abandon you.”

I know a Man who heals broken families.

I know a Man who restores to the hardened the tenderness, awe, and wonder of a child-like heart.

I know a Man they call Jesus.

 

“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.