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Pray for the Cheerleader and Fisherman

…”Put out into deep water, 
and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5.4b)


Sportman vs. Professional
     If you fish for sport, you know your gear, the boat, the weather, and how to find the good spots and how to find a good spot when all the good spots are taken. If you fish for a living, you not only know where the good spots are, you also get there before anyone else does – it’s your livelihood, isn’t it?

Sound Advice:
     What Jesus told Peter to do made no sense. It sounded “foolish”. A carpenter turned rabbi telling a fisherman what to do? Are you kidding? If anyone else had commanded him to do it, Peter would have rebuked them on four logical, well reasoned grounds. After all, he’s a trained professional.

  1. Availability: We’re not going to catch anything, because we’ve been out all night and have already caught nothing (which Peter reminds Jesus, anyway).
  2. Exhaustion: We’re not going to catch any fish because we’re exhausted – these aren’t butterfly nets we’re cleaning. They’re made from strong, heavy rope, made heavier by the weight of the water within them, and we’ve already labored all night to place them, pull them in, and clean them.
  3. Timing: We’re not going to catch anything when the daytime sun is high because the fish are all hiding in darker places.
  4. Location: We’re not going to catch anything in the deep waters because fish are caught where the water is just deep enough and not too deep.


     Any logical, wise person would hear the counsel of this seasoned professional and intelligently decide not to ask him something so foolish. Yet, the Lord asks Peter to do something utterly counter-intuitive. Scarcity of fish, exhaustion, wrong timing, bad location.

     Have you ever sensed the voice of God calling you to the wrong place, at the wrong time, when you’re discouraged and spent, and there’s no logical hope for accomplishing what He’s asking you to do?

Who am I?
     I’m adventurous, with a moderate to high tolerance for risk. Right? I’m strong in my faith – after all, I’ve been called to “full time vocational ministry” for the past 6 years, right? I mean, I’m a trained professional, right?! I cheer on fisherman for a living! Uh, oh… You can see where we’re headed here, can’t you?

     Yet, over the past month, I’ve heard God call me to cast my nets into the deep. When I look at my assets: high risk tolerance and previously held beliefs about the strength and depth of my faith, I’d normally say “sure, Lord. You say so, I’m in.” If it were someone else asking me what to do, I’d pull out my pom-poms and cheer them across the finish line: “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!!! Go, team, go!!!” But, this is different.


So, What’s the Problem?

     But, this time… This time, I’ve heard God calling me to do something, trust Him with something so big, so dangerous, so counter-intuitive, that if He doesn’t swoop in with a miracle, dozens of people are going to be impacted negatively, including my family. This is deep water – not someone else’s life, calling, boat, or nets… Not only does my boat look too small, but my pom-poms feel like they’re 100 lbs a piece. When I realized the fisherman I’m to cheer on is me, God exposed the shallowness of my own faith when I, a mere man, began to weep and tell the sovereign of the universe: “I’m going to trust you in this, but you’d better come through!” Can you imagine such arrogance?

     Yet, Peter wrestled with the soundness and depth of his own faith so much that when the Lord did what Peter expected could only fail, he was brought to his knees by his own lack of faith. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! (Luke 5:8)”

Prayer:
     So, today, I ask your prayers – that I will trust God in the area He’s asking me to. That I will not rely on my own senses, wisdom, will, or nets, but on Him who calls me to the deep. That I will not be overwhelmed by the fear of men who would later say “why would you have done something so… foolish?” Today, I encourage you as always by allowing God’s faithfulness in my past afflictions and faults to overflow to you as a testament to what He might do in your current circumstance. But, this time, I’m doing it before the fact… With sweaty palms on heavy pom-poms.

Be encouraged: fisherman’s boat nearly sank with the catch… And, he later walked on water.

in Christ,

AP

The Difference Between You and Satan

     Ninety percent of the problems we have are the result of a lie we’ve believed – about God, ourselves, others, etc. Problems can’t be properly solved outside of God’s order. He is a god of order. When we violate His order or refuse to walk in His structures and statutes, things get… more complicated… 

that relationship you can’t seem to break free from… 
that deal you just closed, but weren’t completely honest about… 
that interest only loan you signed before the market tanked…


    As a result, many of us walk around unnecessarily feeling a bit empty, unfulfilled, bored, or even bitter. The reason behind these ridiculous and annoying feelings is one word:

distraction.

What You and Satan Have in Common
    God has called every one of us to a purpose so high that if we understood the enormity of it, we might shrink back in terror. We might also scoff at it as “too simple”. But, if we look at the history of the Great War going on around us through proper perspective, we might instead be inspired, refocused, realigned with our proper place on the battlefield. The short version of it is this: you were designed to do what Satan failed to do.

A Look at the Battle
     Ron Dunn was kind enough to share with me his summary of God’s great moves and Satan’s weak, sleazy counter moves for some clearer perspective on the story already in progress (it’s a long list, but don’t be intimidated – crank up the theme to “Rocky” and read it out loud if it won’t get you kicked out of your office):

  • God created angels to bring Him glory
  • Lucifer reacted in rebellion, jealousy, pride and selfishness and took 1/3 with him. 
  •  God countered his rebellion by creating man a little lower than the angels to show what great things can happen when His creation serves Him.
  • Satan countered that move with 6 great lies and tempted Adam and Eve to disobey
  • God countered that move by providing redemption and a way that man could restore relationship with God
  • Satan countered that move by enticing Cain to kill Abel and cut off the Godly line
  • God countered that move with the birth of Seth and man once again called in the name of the Lord
  • Satan countered that move be enticing Nimrod who founded the Babylonians and Assyrians and built the tower of Babel establishing religion that replaces the worship of God.
  • God countered that move by going to an heir of the Chaldeans and a man named Abraham who he called out to establish a nation that would worship the one true God.
  • Satan countered that move by trapping them under slavery in Egypt.
  • God countered that move by rising up Moses with a message from I AM to Pharaoh to “let My people go” and the entire world acknowledged the God of Israel as the true God.
  • Entire OT is move counter move…sometimes not clear who is winning
  • 400 years of silence between OT and NT then Matthew 1…the lineage is reviewed and Jesus is born to save His people from their sins.
  • Satan counters by tempting
  • Jesus counters with God’s Word
  • Satan countered that with a crush move by enticing the local powers to crucify Him
  • God countered that with the Big Move… the Resurrection.  Life conquered death for us and the victory parade took place.
  • That is our deciding move! No matter what is happening we must line up with and tie into that move.
  • Satan is a defeated foe…but isn’t giving up.
  • Until Christ returns He is active with schemes of deception
  • God counters that by providing a Helper and Armor

Back to You and Satan
     So, God created the angels to bring Him glory and Satan (Lucifer) as the Son of the Morning Star, to lead the angels in the greatest purpose: to worship God. How could there be any higher calling? In heaven right now around the throne are three angelic beasts swirling around the throne crying “Holy is the Lord, Holy is the Lord, Holy is the Lord”. Again, could there be ANY higher calling? Yet, when Satan was cast out of heaven, God’s counter move was to reach down into the dirt, blow air into the dust of the earth, and create a replacement worship leader out of mud. Do you get it? That’s you and me… We’re God’s “in your face” reply to Satan’s rebellion!

Five Take Aways
     Satan – the original, fallen Rockstar – designed and commissioned to lead the angels in worship. You and I – the replacement worship leaders: the mud people brought to life by the breath of God and redeemed from sin by His own blood. If you were Satan and you heard the replacement band rehearsing next door for the ultimate worship party, wouldn’t you do all in your power to distract them? Cut their power off? Play louder to get them off tempo?
 

     If you were that band and you knew that God did nothing to redeem Satan, but gave everything to redeem you as his replacement – would you sit idly by and allow Satan to distract you from your true calling?

     Stay on track: Jesus warns that the “worries, riches and pleasures of life” are the very things that keep us from growing in maturity and fulfilling our purpose. 

     Fight the good fight: worship despite the distractions. You and I, especially here in contemporary American Christianity are being actively sold a bill of goods that allows us to believe it’s okay to be self absorbed with our own wounds, problems, offenses, that we miss the Big Purpose. Worship. 

     Be alert, be on your guard: There are many false prophets preaching in large pulpits to global audiences – that are selling Christianity as the answer to your problems, the deliverance from addictions, the “Best Life Now”, when all of such false gospels deliver far… too… little.


     Remember the bigger picture: Our problem is bigger than addiction, discomfort, unemployment, the Falcons losing – it’s sin. Our position is worship. Our enemy is bitter and bent on distraction – to steal, kill, and destroy. What do you expect from a rejected mega-star?

     Worship better than a rock star: We’re here to outworship Satan. Satan refused to worship God. Often, we worship smaller gods – football, career, status, personal disappointments, bitterness, etc. If we’re coming unglued about a football game and barely lifting our voice in church, we’re horribly distracted from our purpose. So, yes, musical worship is important. But, pride was the chief sin of Satan – being self absorbed in any way is a distraction. If we are to “do everything as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23) then everything becomes worship. Work is worship, raising kids, caring for the sick, sharing the gospel, suffering persecution, standing in line for hours without being bitter… You and I are here to take the place of the one who failed to do his job – let’s be the best replacements ever.

in Christ,

AP

NEED TO KNOW: ONE TH1NG will resume this Friday, Sept. 13th with a new series on Biblical Manhood “Broken Arrow”, led by Ron Dunn, from 7AM to 7:55 at The Cabernet on Windward Parkway and 400.
 

The Magic Question That Saved My Life

“Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:2, 9-10)”

The Mile Long To-Do List:
     Two weeks ago, I had an insurmountable task list in front of me. Major headings included: “Move your entire family of 6 and their belongings from Gainesville house to new rental in Cumming”, “Finish basement in Cumming house”, “work”, and “be husband and father”.

     I neglected to keep “sleep” on the list and allowed my quiet time to run shallow. On top of that, I had one friend I had factored in as a vital helper to make it all come together that suddenly found himself covered up in new leads, quotes, and more work than he’d had in two quarters this year. Opening up drywall at the new basement exposed far more severe water damage than I’d first imagined and added at least two more solid days to my already endless list of things to do before we could really make the “move”.

HALT?
    Remember Charles Stanley’s acronym “HALT – never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired”? Last weekend I’d already put in 60 hours toward the move/remodel and was hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and still had a page and a half of “incompletes”. But, Sunday, we packed all the toddlers in the Man-van and headed off to church anyway.

The Magic Question or “I Said What?
     We ran into a new couple friend of ours on the way back to the van after service. His wife asked mine how we were doing. Cristine replied “great, Godwilling, if we can get through with this move.” She looked at us and said “Can we be of any help?”

     In reality it was only a 2 second pause. But, in my mind, it seemed like all of the boxes and furniture and childrens’ toys and papers and office equipment were swirling around us in a slow-motion whirlwind as I prepared a humble “No, thank you, though.”

     I spoke.

     I pushed those carefully prepared words out of my mouth with what little energy I had left. But, something odd happened. I heard a voice, identical to my own, blurt out a desperate “YES!!!” Where did my “No, thank you” go?! Did I just say “yes”?!

The Result

Before – concrete floor littered with water-
warped wood paneling. New insulation being added.

     God, who is much smarter than me, had cut me off at the pass. Before I really understood the one word answer that had mysteriously jail-broken from my mouth, her husband was hopping out of their Suburban, (which was loaded with over half a dozen kids), and walking back to our van to help us with the move.

     This morning, because of his help and the unexpected help of two others along the week, I am writing this post from the new Seasons of Life Ministries Worldwide Headquarters, a room in a previously water damaged basement which now has been scrubbed for mold, re-insulated, drywalled, and has brand new carpet in it.

After: Drywall, electrical cut-in, with pad and carpet laid.

     Despite my own pride, the question God keeps asking me to preach to others in discipleship made a near miracle happen in our own home: “How can I help?” The Ryan family had that question heavy on their hearts. Shouldn’t we all? In light of what Christ has done for us – saving us from the law of sin and death, freeing us from slavery to those things we do that always bring us regret, forgiving us every time we call on His name – shouldn’t we all just “carry each others’ burdens”? Shouldn’t we all be on the lookout for burden-carrying opportunities?

Benediction
     May you and I, as disciples of Christ, follow the Master’s lead as He nudges the “magic question” out of our lips. May the Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear those who are heavily laden with burdens and the opportunities where we can help. May we, in this practice, fulfill the law of Christ.

in Christ,

AP

Image of Christ Appears! (Video link included)

Playing “Where’s Waldo” with Jesus…
     But, first, a little teaser… No, this isn’t about a picture of Jesus appearing on a wall in South America or in someone’s latte. Just trust me on this for a moment and read on.

     “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:6-7, NIV

     Some people get really geeked out on the Old Testament prophecies that foretold the coming of the Messiah. Even more get wide-eyed about the prophetic scriptures that foretell the Apocalypse. Today, I want to talk about a different kind of prophecy – one that will encourage you today, where you are, in which Jesus “appears” in the Old Testament. Understanding this old story gives us an encouraging picture of our current standing “in Christ”.

     Saul, chosen by God as first king over Israel, rebelled against God in disobedience and God rejected him as king. God then chose David (outside Saul’s family) to succeed him. Saul’s son, Jonathan became great friends with David and entered into covenant with him. Then, when Saul and Jonathan died in battle against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, the nurse who cared for Jonathan’s infant son, Mephibosheth, dropped the infant as she fled for her life, crippling the child. Years later, when David became king:

“David asked, ‘Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?'” (2 Samuel 9:1)


     Subsequent to that request, Mephibosheth, crippled since infancy, had all his grandfather’s lands restored to him and ate at the King’s table daily.

     Whoopee, right?

     Wrong.

     This is one of the coolest images of Christ in the entire Old Testament!!!

Here, in history, we have a picture (or, “type”) of Saul, depicting Satan:

  1. Chosen by God to lead (worship in Satan’s case, Israel in Saul’s)
  2. Rebelling against the Creator
  3. Rejected by the Creator
  4. Replaced by another (David)
  5. His position and possessions passed on to another (Mephibosheth)


Additionally, we have a picture of man in Mephibosheth:

  1. Broken and literally “fallen”
  2. He did nothing to receive the “curse” of being crippled, practically “born that way”.
  3. Unable to “walk with God”, both literally and figuratively, without the help of another.
  4. Descended from the rebel whose fall brought about his own. 
  5. “Raised up and seated with the King…”


We also have a picture of Christ in David (from whose line the Messiah must come):

  1. King and agent of God
  2. Cutting a covenant (by blood) with the son of disobedience.
  3. Powerful enough to track down the descendents of the deposed/defeated king and kill them, yet showing restraint in not doing so.
  4. Showing mercy and kindness where he could have shown judgment
  5. Essentially “adopting” the broken and crippled (sitting at one’s table regularly was a big deal in that time and culture, even more so when it is the table of the king)
  6. Giving man regular and free access to the King.


Find Jesus, Find Grace
     If you’re reading this and you get chills – you understand grace. If you get really geeked out by Ephesians 2:6-7, you understand grace. If you suddenly begin practicing how to say “Mephibosheth” so you can thank God for this story, you understand grace. 

     May you understand what you’ve lost through the fall. May you understand who God is despite the fall. May you grasp the truth about grace: regardless of how you were born and in spite of who you’ve descended from, Christ came to give grace to you. May you eat at the King’s table daily and know you are restored by the King to the place Satan was initially appointed: to lead worship of God forever!

in Christ,

AP

4 Math Mistakes Your Faith Must Avoid

The Love/Hate of Math:
     You either love math or you hate it, right?
 
     Most of us never pay any attention to how much math is really involved with our lives. In any decision, we’re doing math – something is more important than “>” something else. Simple math. “If these three things don’t get completed by noon, they will add up to trouble with my supervisor and impact my annual review and subsequent raise…” Complex math. If I tell Tom the whole truth about this, he’ll think x which means he’ll do y and tell Renee z and then she’ll never call me again… Relationship algebra.

     I’ve met a lot of people who say they hate math, but I don’t think I’ve met more than a handful that don’t like to make good decisions. Math is the process by which we get to any desired result through weighing priorities, predicting outcomes, hoping for the best, etc. Whether we realize it or not, we all have a certain love for math. Always calculating something, planning the next thing, dreaming, wishing, praying… Math, math, mathing away.

     Recently, I was thinking about “commit your way” and “He who called you is faithful and He will bring it to pass”…

     There’s math there. Did you spot it? It’s like what happens when we add a hundred complex numbers together but multiply them by zero: everything we did before the zero is wiped away, or impacted by the zero. In math, the zero is called a factor. In life God is the factor that impacts all of our busy work, calculating, and… mathing around.

We all run the risk of making four critical mistakes as we make our figuring:

  1. We assume we have more time, resources, talent, influence… (presuming on God)
  2. We assign too much value to the power evil instead of the power of God to accomplish His plans (fear & worry).
  3. We assign too little value to the consequences and implications of the evil inherent in a Genesis 3 world and get angry or disappointed with God when things don’t work out. (blind faith/prosperity gospel)
    3a. We rely too heavily on the result looking like our picture rather than God’s. (outcome management)
  4. We spend too much effort avoiding pain or gaining pleasure, resulting in white knuckle gripping the wheel to arrive at our destination… (walking by the flesh instead of the spirit)


     In all of these mistakes, we commit one debilitating sin: factoring out God.

Three A’s on the Next Math Test:
Authority – If God is truly sovereign, here’s the impact:
     God is painting on a canvas the size of the universe stretched across eternity and is sovereign over it all, eternally. Therefore, our perspective is vastly limited and we must constantly factor in His authority over it all: Job was keen to accept both good and bad from God’s hand, more importantly he recognized it as God’s hand. (See Job 2:10)

     However, considering that power and authority are only given for purposes of the giver and those in our authority helps us to hold on to outcomes a bit more loosely. Deciding and acting with this factor in mind can self correct our math throughout the process. In Charles Stanley’s words: “God takes full responsibility for the life fully surrendered to Him.” Minimizing or maximizing what time we do/don’t have, resources, talents, etc., ceases to be an issue, freeing us to exist in the zone of relying on God to provide resources, influence, and “sun stood still” moments (see Joshua 10:13). 

     Further, keeping God’s sovereignty front and center keeps us focused on the fact that He is our prize, He is our judge and will ultimately reward us for all we have done, regardless of temporal outcomes. See 2 Cor. 5:10. God is not limited by time, will not be defined by temporal victories/defeats, and ultimately assigns the absolute value to all things done “under the sun” whether they appear good or bad in the eyes of man.

     Consider right now the impact this has on all of our worrying, complaining, and anger and outcome management. No, I’m not going to expand on that – this is your assignment. Go, do it. 🙂

Abiding – If we are truly surrendered to Him, full time, here’s the impact:
     Remaining in God effectively means we’re safe from the lures of the sinful nature. That’s it. If we’re connected to Jesus, we’re by default not gratifying the flesh (as in #4 above). This is a crucial factor in every decision we make. A friend and mentor of mine tells me that all business will naturally reach the same conclusion as long as ego, greed, and agenda are kept out of the room. Abiding in Christ is like Febreeze for the stench of these three. God becomes less a factor and more the math itself.
 
Availability – If our plans are guided by the Spirit, here’s how the math flows:
     God presents a project or outcome and we set out for it. Circumstances as we see them change and that outcome is no longer possible. When we’re available to God (via abiding) we not only hear the “audible” that God called after the huddle, we’re able to recognize that the outcome we were chasing was not the point… the process was the point. God is not a god of events – He is our sanctifier. Thus, He is a god of processes. Being available to God’s purposes, plans, and processes vs. outcomes saves us from shame, guilt, regret, and disappointment.

Homework:
     Where are you in most danger of making these critical math mistakes? Which are your pet math mess ups?



The Grace of the Speeding Ticket

Pull OVER!

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7 NASB)”

     “Do you know how fast you were going?”

     Of course I wanted to say “At the moment, Sir, I didn’t even remember my van even had a speedometer. But, I’m sure I was going fast enough to warrant you pulling me over.” But, I restricted my response to “No, sir.”

     “64 in a 45.”

     That was a kick in the gut.

Are You Sorry?
     Two kinds of sorrow: worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow says “I’m mad I got caught. It ignores the sin and blames the cop or the person who pointed out the fault. It is impotent and devoid of transformative power. Godly sorrow recognizes there was sin involved and deals with it. It says I’m mad that I sinned.” Inherent in godly sorrow is the vital power to affect change. 

     Deputy Parker made a point of giving me an epilogue after he gave me my citation: “Mr. Pina, you were very polite. Most people are belligerent and argumentative when I pull them over, but you were very decent… if that makes any difference to you.”

     Funny, at the moment, it was a flimsy, cheap, second place trophy. It didn’t make a difference to me I wanted a verbal warning. But, God loves me too much for that. He loves you too much for that. I can’t say that it was me, Mr. I’m-So-Holy who was so polite. I’m rejoicing now in the fact that I could see this evidence of the Holy Spirit doing what my weak flesh wanted nothing to do with: enduring hardship in the knowledge that through this deputy’s actions, I was being chastened by the Father who loves and disciplines me as a dearly loved son. It could have been an accident. It could have been the death of my three toddlers in the backseats or even someone else’s…

“…God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will…
(2 Tim 2:25-26 NASB)”

     We’ve had this talk before, haven’t we? “Trials are necessary.” But, every once in a while, don’t we all find ourselves “out of our senses”, doing what is contrary to God’s design for us, and in need of a grant of repentance that leads to the knowledge of truth?

The Pause That Refreshes
     Sometimes bad things happen just because we live in a Genesis 3 world and are stalked by an enemy who hates us because of his hatred for Him who created us in His image. But, for the blood bought, born again believer in Christ, abiding in Christ will have its challenges, hardships, and curve balls. Today, consider something you’re doing that would make you sorry if you got caught and ask this: “would I be angry if I got caught… or thankful?”

     Sin is heavy and its consequences are a great burden. The knowledge of truth helps us experience the relief of its weight. It can set us free from an enemy who holds us captive to do his will. It is only by grace given. Godly sorrow is the thumbprint of God on our souls. A right attitude toward God and proper perspective that He truly wants good for us changes our attitude toward sin and leads us away from weak, worldly sorrow.

     Pause for a moment in your next or current affliction. Pray today that God catches you in whatever sin has you snared and beg for a shift away from worldly sorrow and toward godly sorrow. It is available. It is necessary, fruitful, and it is… a gift… by grace

Blessing:
     May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He open your eyes to the places where you are being held captive by the enemy and set you free by the knowledge of truth.