Monday, December 10, 2018

The Most Difficult Word in the Bible

There are quite a few mind-twisting concepts, statements, and words in the Bible such as "propitiation," "sanctification," and "regeneration." If you think those are relatively tame, I challenge you to tackle the book of Revelation.
But, seriously, despite these things, I feel there is still one word not many have thought about as being a difficult word to understand, comprehend, and live out. I am talking about the word "walk." So you respond, "are you kidding? The word 'w-a-l-k' as in 'putting one foot in front of the other?'" Yes, THAT word.
After all, “walking” is referenced well over 200 times in the Bible. The first reference to walking comes as early as Genesis 3:8, where Adam and Eve “heard the Lord God walking about in the Garden in the cool of the evening.” Also, one of the most preached “walking story” of Jesus is the post-resurrection event of traveling along with the two disciples on the road towards Emmaus.
For us, walking is obviously one of the Bible’s most vivid metaphors for how godly people should live. In a positive way, it shows us how to “walk in newness of life” and how to “walk” on the right paths and how to avoid walking along the wrong paths of the world.
Yet, in the end, all this “pedestrian talk” as a Christian, is hard and takes committed effort. It is challenging. It takes great discipline, obedience, surrender and sacrifice. So, the walking that I am talking in this BLOG is about walking with God.
I am talking about having such a deep, devoted, personal, intimate and loving relationship with God that you can truly and honestly walk with your heavenly Father spiritually and physically every moment of your life.
Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day. Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:22) as did Noah (Genesis 6:9). THIS is why "walk" is the hardest word to understand. The fact that the Creator of the universe wants to be more than "just God" to me...more than just "up there in Heaven."
One of God's greatest desires is for us to come near...close...even closer. James 4:8  tells us, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you….” Am I willing to get "up close and personal" with God or have I come too comfortable staying at a distance? 
May we discover a whole new meaning to the word "walk" when it involves deepening and strengthening our relationship with God. Blessings to you along the journey.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Lateral Violence

Have you ever had something go terribly wrong, fall apart, or become rejected only to find out that a co-worker, family member or dear friend was the "culprit" behind the dismantling process? 

Nothing is more painful than betrayal etched in the cold stone of slander and malice. Have you ever had a neighbor or co-worker who just cannot accept you and is constantly criticizing your work, talking viciously about you behind your back, and doing what they can to frustrate you and keep you on edge? Then guess what? You are a recipient of Lateral Violence. 

This is an interesting concept I came across that seems to be more prevalent today than ever before. According to the "definition," Lateral Violence is bullying that takes the form of back-stabbing, innuendo, infighting, sabotage, verbal affronts, failure to respect privacy, and others.

This bullying always includes an imbalance of power, an intent to harm, and the threat of further aggression. This usually is intent to stunt your progress or elude any possibility of success. I have always been amazed at those who just can't stand to see others succeed. They are the type of people that are so jealous that they can't stand anything "good" derived by others.

To protect themselves, they feel they must be "laterally violent" to others by bad-mouthing sound ideas, thwarting good intentions, and purposely sabotaging projects that are heading for success. They just can't stand to see others do better than themselves. They seethe at the notion that someone else could receive accolades for a "job well done."

It is not easy dealing with the laterally violent as there is usually no arbitrating solutions for them other than for them to see your demise and failure. Thankfully, most work areas have arbitration, rules, and regulations to help circumvent these displays of aggression (so it doesn’t lead to physical violence or breaking the law), but as a Christian, we have even stronger solutions.

Jesus teaches us to “take the high road” in these situations. He tells us in both Luke 6:28 and Matthew 6:27-28, "But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."

May it be our prayer that our petitions reap the dividends of turning those against us towards a restored relationship with Christ and ourselves. “Doing what is right” can, at first, seem impossible, beneath our dignity, or insulting, but it is (in the end) what is necessary. 

Relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit, we can come to a point where we “can do it” to love and pray for the “laterally violent.” Always keep an eternal perspective in mind so that we can see the long-term investment is worth it for these wayward souls for whom Christ died.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The "Law of the Garbage Truck"

There are some people who can't seem to talk about anything but what is hurting them, what isn't fair, what stinks and how bad things are at the moment. Whether it is life in general, politics, a Facebook post, or how things are at Church, they are constantly "dumping their garbage" on every possible unsuspecting "victim" who happens to accidentally use the greeting "so, how's it going?" For some, you get it whether you want to hear it or not!

That reminds me of the 
"Law of the Garbage Truck"....which is told:

"One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us.

My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!' This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.'

He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take it personally.

Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so ... Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!"

Don't allow yourself to become the "landfill" for others to dump their garbage into. By ingesting other's garbage, you inadvertently begin looking to, in turn, get rid of it by dumping it onto others....and, the cycle not only continues, but you also become a garbage truck. The saying is true: "Garbage in - garbage out!" 

Be mindful of all forms of "garbage trucks", it is not just "people"...garbage can get dumped into our minds/hearts through the internet, TV, social media platforms, movies, etc. So, be cautious of what you watch, read, listen to or ingest physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Psalm 101:3, "Help me to refuse the low and vulgar things"....Have a garbage-free day!

Monday, November 19, 2018

To Advance the Gospel

I read with interest the introductory words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:12 when he talks of his own personal hardship and possible disappointments, sadness, and struggles. He said in verse 12"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel." 
I honestly don't know if I could say those words with full assurance while sitting in prison especially when I know I haven't committed any crime or broke any law. I wonder how many of us, when faced with a set-back, illness, job loss, or other life-challenging situation, would step back and happily exclaim "well, at least this will advance the gospel of Christ!" 
Don't get me wrong, because as we know from the book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, there IS a season to mourn and to grieve loss, to weep because of disappointment and set-backs. There is also a season to be angry and to ask questions during these momentous times of great challenge.
But there also needs to be a time to allow God to not only use these challenging times in our life, but to use our response to these events to bring Glory to Himself and to show others how they can come to Him, through His Son Jesus, to experience a loving, close, personal and intimate relationship with Him.
Our issues are never isolated events “just for us”! What we go through…how we respond to what we go through….how we handle what we go through….are ways others learn more about God’s mercy, love, and grace. The various stages we go through in our lives are not ours alone! They can be used by God to be the stepping stones of awakening the soul of a non-Christian and it can end up being the answer to the prayers of other people simply because they “watched us” go through our event.
2 Corinthians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Allow God to work through YOUR issues so that, in turn, you can use your experience to touch the lives of OTHERS going through the same thing (or something similar) as you went through. THAT is how you can allow your issues to “advance the Gospel”. Through your specific experiences in life, many other will be blessed and capable of finding comfort and peace in order to see that their "issue" too, can indeed, "advance the Gospel" as well.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Love Despite Failure

Many I have spoken with through the years have had a concept of failure as being "final." They express that "all is lost" or that they should just give up, throw in the towel and quit because "it's over." 

I think our society is too quick in sending these kind of messages. Just look at how easy it is to go from "Hero to Zero" today. Look at how quick our world will disown, discredit and destroy those who fail "just once." There just doesn't seem to be even an ounce of "mercy" left today!

I am sure the Disciples of Jesus were feeling like they totally blew it when they suddenly realized what they had done...abandoned Jesus (in the Garden of Gethsemane) at the most crucial time in human history (when Jesus was arrested). Unfortunately, Judas took the "easy wrong" instead of the "hard right" and committed suicide by hanging himself. Peter cursed up a storm to emphatically deny knowing Jesus (three times).

But, it wasn't just Judas and was all 12 Disciples. When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:56 tells us "...Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." Betrayal, abandonment, name it, Jesus endured it all. 

His main purpose was not to be just a punching-bag or a 'sin-sponge' to absorb all the brokenness we could dish out. His purpose was to show us the unconditional love of God the Father. It was to invite us into a personal, loving, intimate relationship with him.

This is what I find so fascinating about how Jesus restored Peter (John 21:15-19). Jesus didn't take Peter's denials and rub them in his face or grab him by the collar and demand an apology. In fact, Jesus wasn't looking for a confession of sin...Jesus was hoping for a confession of love...and that is precisely how Peter responded. PETER GOT IT! Peter said, "You know all things. You know that I love you!"

Jesus covers all our failures with his unconditional and pardoning love. What disappointments, mistakes or failures are you STILL holding on to? Failure is not in falling is in the refusal to "get back up." Will you allow Jesus to help you back up? His hand is outstretched...will you grasp his hand and let Jesus help you get back up on your feet? I'm sure Peter would be cheering you on saying "do won't be sorry!!"

Monday, November 5, 2018

Have We Become Like Samson?

There has been some discussion recently about what each of us considered as some of "the scariest" scripture in the Bible. Of course, most would probably say that "blaspheming the Holy Spirit" would rank up near the top of the list (Mark 3:28-30). However, I came across one that startled me a little because, quite frankly, it had never struck me like this before.

It comes out of the book of Judges as part of what we know as "The Story of Samson and Delilah." It is Chapter 16, Verse 20 and it reads, "Then she cried, 'Samson, the Philistines are here!' When he awoke from his sleep, he said, 'I will escape as I did before and shake myself free!' But he did not know that the Lord had left him."

Wow...can we, as believers, actually get comfortable enough in our faith or even become so routine in our walk with God that we don't even notice when we start "drifting away" from Him? Has our ministry lost its vitality...has our influence lost its grasp on we even find ministry all that enticing anymore? Does it even bother us (or convict us) when we miss attending Church on Sunday?

Think about may be assuming "all is well...everything is fine," but seriously consider where things stand at this very moment. Take inventory and see...for instance, when you pray, do you notice the answers don't seem to come as they once did? The positive effect you once had on those around you seem to be negligible or even harmful? 

Were you once a friendly and reconciling person, but now have been noticing more problems in your relationships? Have those who have relied on you stopped coming because you're not proving to be as helpful as before? Some things to consider....have we, like Samson, taken our relationship with God for granted?

Spiritual decline is something to guard against daily. If we can get to the point, like Samson, that we don't even realize the Lord "isn't even with us," we need to stop and get our relationship with God back where it belongs. The fact remains: God desires a relationship with that is close, personal, loving and intimate.

May it be our prayer that we would invite God to search our lives to see if there are attitudes, relationships, or activities/habits that need to be removed from our life. When He reveals this to us, we quickly rid them from our life, and walk with God to grow in spiritual strength.

Maintaining a loving, personal, and intimate relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit will allow us the vitality to stay alert and strong so that we don't "fall asleep" like Samson and end up in a ton of trouble. We should never get to the point where we don't even realize "the Lord had left...." Have you become like Samson? Let us all make sure our relationship with God remains loving, personal and close!

Monday, October 29, 2018

God is....WHAT?


One of the joys of reading the Scriptures multiple times is "finding" something different each experience. It is most noted when, despite numerous readings, something "jumps out" that I never "caught" before. Almost like an epiphany, I think to myself "why haven't I seen this before?"

Well, another one of those moments occurred as I was reading Luke 6:27-36. It is the discourse on "how" to treat our enemies. Yes, we know that if someone is an enemy, we love them. If they happen to curse us, we bless them instead. Even if they out-right hate us, we do good to them in return. 

The hard part (for me at least) is that when they obviously go "out of their way" to hurt me, I am supposed to pray for them. Why, because Jesus instructs us to love them...unconditionally as he loves me. So, we "get the picture" on our enemy. I thought. This is the "ta-dah" moment.

Tucked away in the final sentence of verse 35, there is the "how come" and "what for" answer as to "why" we treat our enemy in this degree of love and concern. "For He is kind to the unthankful and evil." GOD IS WHAT?? Yes, God is KIND even to the unthankful and to those who are evil!

God loves all of us regardless...even if not all of us love Him in return. It is God's desire that we always respond in the way that He love. I think we need to reverse our current trend of "making things worse" by retaliating or seeing that an offender "gets what they deserve" in a punitive sense.

God is kind to the ungrateful, the unthankful, the evil, selfish, self-centered, egotistical know, like me...and you, possibly? That's why I get a lump in my throat when I begin to sing about God's "Amazing Grace" that "saved a wretch like me."

Everyone is equal and on level ground when on their knees at the foot of the cross. His love knows no bounds or labels, no classifications...just love...period. He died for me, for my enemies, and for those who are "unthankful and evil."

So, the challenge, then, is to ask "how can I model God's example towards my enemies...those I can't stand...people that are hard to get along with...those who are annoying, mean, vile, crude, and down-right hateful?" We love them, because they are still people who God loves! :)