Doing Exploits

“Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.”

 –Warren Wiersbe

“…the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”

Daniel 11:32

 

 

Going Crossless

We are a bucket full of nails,

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matt. 10:38

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matt. 16:24

We can so easily process our faith to something respectable and somewhat pleasant.  This is a natural tendency. But the cross has a stigma, we might think we can easily defuse it, rendering it as harmless.  Acceptability is a wonderful thing to the modern day believer.  It is easy to turn from all that would make us different, and grasp a crossless faith. It does seem we conform rather than transform.

Effort is being made right now to twist and nullify your belief in Jesus.  It is a force that works on us, relentlessly.  Satan intends to destroy you. He is frightened by the power of the cross, and the spiritual truth it contains. The cross (and resurrection) destroyed the devil’s kingdom of twisted darkness. He will never recover.

Just as Jesus carried the cross He was to die on, you and I are to follow His example.  Jesus had to go to this place of death, and so are we.  My cross is not purely emblematic or abstract symbolism.  It entails a real death.  I pick it up and go to die.  Crucifixion is the end of me, it all comes down to this final point of termination.

Jesus escorts us to the point of death.  This is to become the framework for a sincere discipleship.  The cross, our cross, brings us to an end.  To be worthy of Jesus is to bear it boldly.  The cross develops into our thinking, and its dynamic pounds us into a spiritual reality.  Jesus intensifies the cross, making it the mark of authenticity of a disciple.

We have no options, if we follow it must be with a cross.  There is absolutely no room for us if we approach Him without it.  The cross transmutes our lives, and transmits a signal that we have complied with Jesus’ wishes.  If we advance at all, it will be through the cross only.

We must deny ourselves.  That denial is an intense working. “I do not know the man” was Peter’s statement against Jesus.  If we deny ourselves, we will take a stand against our own selves, turning against ourselves.  We will be pinned to the mat.

Our focus should be on the cross.  We must infuse it into our lives.  A tea bag will flavor an entire cup.  It turns a cup of boiling water into a wonderful beverage.  The cross that belongs to us will have the same effect.  It will make something where there was nothing.

“All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.” 

 Oswald Chambers

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More Current, Please!

angel1I have always had a crazy connection with electricity. As a young boy of six or seven I started to push nails into the wall outlets of our home. My mom would come in to find me in a heap, with the nail still in the outlet. It would blow me backwards, and I remember “smelling the ozone” from each experience. I did this fairly often. Mom grew very concerned about me.

Then I discovered the shocking world of electric fences. Most were “pulse” currents, which meant they were alternately energized– and then off. If you grabbed it at the right time, you could beat the fencer and not be shocked. Of course, complicating things would be standing on wet grass. But bringing your little brother meant you could grab his hand, touch the wire, and he would get the full voltage. This was always fun.

Coming into the presence of a holy and loving God should be a powerful jolt. But it needs to be real– never theatrical or showy. Whether it is prayer or worship, we reach into a real world. While electrical shock is detrimental, the Holy Spirit is always strengthening and affirming. My prayer the last few months has been this: “May it be the real me who connects with the real You.”

In a nuclear power plant the workers clearly understand the nature of fission. They can’t see it, or feel it. They must take precautions, because what they handle is really dangerous. In 1 Samuel 6, we read of the time when the Philistines controlled the Ark of the Covenant. But the power they received was not anything they could handle or manage. They finally sent it back. “But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” they cried out. “Where can we send the Ark from here?”

God is dangerous, “my Bible tells me so.” My thinking often would regard Him as docile and tame, but I challenge you to understand differently. I submit to you that our faith should put us into a perilous place– one in which we are asked to do outrageous things. Like building an ark, or going from a slave to a prime minister, or getting out of our boat and walking on the sea. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation is John’s account of being in God’s power and majesty (Rev. 15).

“We worship a dangerous God and He is coming to threaten every area of your life.  God is a loving God, do not be mistaken about that.  His love, however, is unlike any human love; its chief concern is not to make you comfortable, but to make you free and to be free is dangerous and the act of making us free is dangerous.” Joe Spann (and below)

electric-shockPlease don’t try to domesticate God.

He is wild and pretty much unpredictable– and we will not ever tame or teach Him. You can’t manage Him, or train Him to use a box. (He will defy this.) If we are truly going to draw close it will be like stepping into a spiritual reactor, or sticking a figurative nail into a metaphorical wall outlet.

“He is about to become dangerous to your everyday trappings, dangerous to your comfort, dangerous to your retirement plan, dangerous to your schedule, dangerous to your social standing, dangerous to your secrets, and dangerous to your religion. The good news is, He is also dangerous to your limits, dangerous to your fear, dangerous to your addictions, dangerous to your sickness, dangerous to your unforgiveness, dangerous to the chains that bind you chains that you have become way too comfortable with.”

The end result of this is that He wants to make you dangerous again; dangerous to your neighbors bondage, dangerous to the pain in the people around you, dangerous to the generations of abuse and pain in your family and the families you know, dangerous to the culture you are in every single day. And He wants to make us dangerous again. Dangerous to our neighborhoods, dangerous to our friends, dangerous to our culture, dangerous to the kingdom of darkness.”

I would like to make a toast, “May you see God as He is truly, and may you stick your nail into direct contact with Him. May you never settle for less, or want for anything more.” Amen.

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The Art of Offending Jesus

SIN_KILLS_SIGN Our actions can bless God, and others immensely. We really have no idea that we have such power in our grasp. But we do say and do things that do alter the realities of those who are trying desperately to draw close to Him. We like to be unattached from these very real things. We suppose that it is a “no-brainer,” we will always avoid any complications or entanglements, about our behavior.

However, reality is much more “unforgiving” then we imagine. How we conduct ourselves is certain, and is significant. Honestly, when we become believers and are added to His church, can we honestly behave worse than we were before our salvation from sin?

I’m afraid salvation from sin means “turning off the faucet.” We can’t avoid this, it will determine what kind of a Christian we are. What do we do? Do we continue to sin? “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”

Romans 6:1-2, NLT

I’m truly convinced of this. Our decision to keep enjoying sin is disturbing. Our “death” in this case, has never happened. We have died to nothing, and remain untouched by the Gospel. We become just inoculated enough to make us believe that we are “ok.” Our lives keep moving, and we will never consider that we have made these wrong adjustments.11831809_417345445125926_2957479398676821867_n

Are we not “offending Jesus Christ” by not dying to our own sins? If we have pretty much remained the same kind of people, then it is very likely we have. Our enjoyment of sin indicates our real allegiance that we will have when “push comes to shove.” It really seems that we must shake off the old way before we can put on the new.

I simply suggest that you liaten to the Spirit as you make your choices.

Let him accompany you and show you what offends. I only speak boldly, because it matters more than you realize.

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I’m a Steamroller! [the Tongue}

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“And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”

James 3:6, NLT

I have done many things in my 50+ years.  My resume is pretty broad and quite diverse.  I have been a corporate trainer, and I have been a commercial fisherman.  I have been an inner-city evangelist, and an Army medic.  I have been a senior pastor, and a missionary to Mexico.  But more than anything, I have been quite consistently, “a steamroller.”

Steamroller. I think I better explain myself.  I’m a man that has consistently used my words to crush other people, and this really disturbs me.  I have flattened people, smearing them on the pavement.  There was Vicky at the SOS- San Francisco Evangelism Ministry house.  She irritated me, so I went up and told her, the “Vicky, this is the Word of the Lord. Read Judges 16:16!”  And she melted before my words, torn and ripped apart by my twisting of scripture.  I steamrolled over her heart.  And I really don’t know why I did it. I wanted to be cute I guess.

As a pastor, I plowed over the hearts of “a children’s ministry.”  It was more subtle, but it had the same degree of a deep intensity.  (They would go on, but fizzle out in less than two weeks later.)  I was the steamroller that crushed their hearts and dreams.  Years before, at my Bible college, I stamped out and destroyed those who were not as precise as I was when it came to proper believing.  I steamrolled them as well.

Over the years I have become very grieved over my consistent crushing of those who were different, who saw ministry in a differing way.  When they would become “clear and obvious” to me, (their false doctrine and such) I considered it a scriptural necessity to “roll, baby roll” right over them.  But, I was oh, so foolish.  I harmed so many of His servants.  What I was doing was wicked.

My words–like weapons, were cutting and hacking and lacerating.  My words were crushing and stamping out the gentle hearts and their vision.  People, dear ones.  The things we say, go on to “burn and burn” and nullify the kind hearts of those who want to follow.  Often our “professionalism” as pastors and teachers very often cripple those who tenderly follow.  We go “nuclear” on them, scorching the earth, when all they needed really was a calm and directive word.

Brothers and sisters.  We have to stop this,  being right does not mean we are loving.  We divide the flock far too often.  We most likely will be right–but we don’t love.  We jump up in our steamroller in a split second.  We put it in gear, and we roll over those for whom Christ died–and we feel quite noble and holy, as we protect the Church from “bad thinking,” or bad examples.

Could it be, that what are you saying, wounds?

Be very careful.  You maybe right, and you just might be true, but if you are not loving, you will only hurt them, and undoubtedly you will regret what you have done.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14, ESV

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Playing Defense, [Protecting Others]

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“Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.”

Nehemiah 4:17-18, ESV

Nehemiah was supervising the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. He gathered the men and assigned them to various parts of this. His focus was on building as fast as possible.

But there was enemies who threatened to disrupt the work. There was a conspiracy that directly threatened the work that was taking place.

Nehemiah had to act. He prayed and then posted protection among the men in strategic places, These stood guard to defend the workers. Nehemiah then ordered those who labored to wear swords while they worked.

We who are building God’s kingdom need to arm themselves against our spiritual enemies. We are called to give diligent attention to this, and defend God’s people.

“Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

Furthermore we are “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). We’re not working against “flesh and blood.” but the “spiritual forces in the high places.” This is an unseen war that really does exist.

God’s Word is our powerful defense. We’re called to handle it skillfully. This is a mark of maturity. The sword must be engaged to help those who aren’t really aware of this present darkness.

Nehemiah understood. He was diligent and very aware of the evil that swirled around him and his people. He wouldn’t minimize this problem, but met it head on.

We must be like him. We are to be aggressive defenders of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot afford to look away or pretend the enemy is not resisting us. We see his work daily.

“Father, thank you for the Bible. The Word is alive and active as we yield it. Teach us to overcome the enemy as we protect our selves and our loved ones with it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Having a Resurrected Heart, [Brand New]

“You have been raised to life with Christ. Now set your heart on what is in heaven, where Christ rules at God’s right side.”

Colossians 3:1, CEV

Paul’s explanation is given that is meant to clarify things for us.  Perhaps it is too simple, too straight-forward.  We seem to prefer the complex; ideally a 12 point plan, on ‘PowerPoint’, that makes us feel holy and strong, and even ‘spiritual.’ We’d feel much better if it was just a question of intelligence, rational mind and ‘practical thinking.’ Paul shares with this young Church of the Colossians. By the time he gets to chapter 3, he is ready to communicate an essential truth, which is meant to challenge our weak and faulty understanding.

“You have been raised to life with Christ.” The truth is this; the real world starts for you when you understand your resurrection as already taken place.  You were once dead, and now you are alive!  The life that you live is a resurgent life.  You have awakened from death. Essentially, you entered ‘piggyback’ on Jesus.  He has carried you into the deepest place in heaven.

It all can make sense if, set your heart on what is in heaven.”  This is the first mention of us taking action. Up to now, Jesus has did everything.  But at this precise moment, we must act– to set our heart on the deep priority of eternity.  To commence becoming who you really are.  You’re now a spiritual man, or woman, who just so happens (at this point) to have a physical body.

It is a place of triumph and power, “where Christ rules at God’s right side.” This is no inconsequential place. This is the ‘very center of the center.’  The presence of God is all-powerful, and all-knowing.  And it is accurate to say that we have been brought into that same atmosphere, where we breathe in the ‘shekinah’—  that is God’s glory.

Embedded in this single verse in Col. 3:1 is a vigorously rich sense of how and what is the spiritual life.  It should never be formulaic or mechanical.  (We will not find our intellect charging the way into God’s presence.)  Simply, we must believe in our hearts what has happened already.  We enter by faith. It is so easy, but can be quite challenging. You are now a ‘citizen’ of heaven.

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”

Philippians 3:20

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