Category Archives: God
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,… (Eph. 1:16-18 ESV)
In Christ, we all have a ministry. Some work for a “public” or vocational ministry, others less formally minister “privately” to coworkers, colleagues, friends, etc. There are three things we typically tend to compare ourselves to in ministry –
- Insiders – Ministries, other peoples’ ministry efforts, organizations, or businesses
- Outsiders – People in “secular” careers, the unsaved, or those not following God’s call (“but I’m doing God’s work!”)
- Ideal vs. real – Our internal vision of how things should be vs how they actually are.
Generally it’s when things aren’t going well. It commonly manifests as either shame, self-doubt, or anxiety. Shame says “Woe is me, I should be further along, like so-and-so.” Doubt says: “If I were all I should be for God, I’d be making a bigger difference doing x, like them.” Anxiety (fear) says “what if program x flops?”. In all of these cases, we’re putting the course before the heart. Why? Because, it’s not about you.
Can I rub some salt in? Really, it’s not… about… you. Contrasting where we are to where we think we should be, where others are, or where we’d like to be factors out where God has placed us and what He desires of and for us. God didn’t make you them… He made you you. Does that clear anything up?
Repeat that to yourself while I do the same, so we both remember it, mmkay? Guilty.
Matters of the Heart
At the heart of this struggle is this: by grace, God has me right where He wants me. If I’m disappointed with where I am, I have a vertical issue: an idolatry issue with God. What I’m in effect saying is this –
Core issue: we’ve taken a man-centric view rather than a God-centric view of things. But, take heart – “no temptation has seized you, but that which is common to man.” Easy enough mistake to make. As a card carrying member of the “been there, done that” club, I ain’t mad at ya…
My dissatisfaction with where He has me, even if I’ve been disobedient along the way, is ultimately dissatisfaction with His sovereignty. He can do whatever He wants and He’s not out to make you or I rich, famous, or even successful in and of ourselves. If He has me stalled out (which I’ve felt like many times in “full time ministry”), He’s aware of it. There is not a circumstance that has come about in history that hasn’t passed through his fingers. Nothing surprises God.
Satan‘s very first ploy was to get Eve to believe she was missing out on something. Trouble is… If you’re longing to be doing something else, there’s a good chance the only thing you’re missing out on is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Read on, and we’ll uncover what it is we’re really missing…
Did God Allow It or Cause It?
I’ve been wrapped around that axle before, too. So, let me ask you… What difference does it make? Are you going to prosecute a case against the God who told the oceans how far they could go and no further? In my darker, heavier moments, I’ve tried it. Losing battle. Turn back.
Scripture contains enough references to God causing disaster and affliction (e.g. Daniel 9:14, Psalm 119.75) and God allowing the same (just search “God permitted”) that the doctrine of sovereignty ought to put to rest our anxieties over what isn’t, what could have been, and what calamities or shortcomings are yet to come down the pipe at us.
This isn’t to say that our desires and dreams don’t matter to God. Louie Gigilio recently tweeted: “What you do matters to God and man, but you matter because of what God has done. First things first.”
What’s Really Missing?
Paul gets it. His unceasing prayers (above) for the church at Ephesus are that they would know God, not see their ends to their desires met. Rather, that through a deeper heart knowledge of and intimacy with the Father their desires would become His desires. How about you?
If a dissatisfaction is a holy dissatisfaction, it is the kind that points us toward knowing God, not questioning Him or our circumstance. I would argue that sanctification is about God purifying us from matters of the heart that obscure us from truly knowing Him. Agreed?
I pray today, that you would come do a deeper intimacy with God so that your anxieties, fears, disappointments, and shame over what is not would be eclipsed and replaced with joy over who He is and what He has done. Don’t be robbed of present joy by what went wrong in the past, is missing in the present, or looms in the future.
“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)”
I’ve often wondered as I’ve read the Gospel accounts of Jesus why He would do a miracle and then tell someone not to make a big deal of it. I mean, he heals a guy of leprosy and tells him – “Just show the priests and offer sacrifices and keep the rest on the down-low. (Matt 8:8, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14)” What’s with that?
Okay, so Jesus had a reason. I get it.
Why Are You Here, Lord?
But, he does this awesome, public miracle where he feeds over 5,000 people and comes up with leftovers and then “withdraws” to a mountain. We all know that Christ’s miracles were never done for the sake of spectacle, rather to authenticate the power of God in Christ and for His glory. So, in front of a crowd of thousands – AUTHENTICATED! Your Kingdom come, we’re with you, Lord – now BE OUR KING!
So, why doesn’t Christ just come out and say it? “I’m the Christ! Repent and come to God!” Instead: Withdrew again to a mountain? Come on!!!
The Core Issue
The trouble in this scenario is identical to 1 Samuel 8. It is the familiar cry of the depraved soul that says “I want to be like everyone else!” Or, in Israel’s case – “Give us a KING!” The Lord’s reply is similar to the prophet Samuel’s. God told Samuel that the nation hadn’t rejected Samuel, rather God himself. And, so in tragic irony, despite the fact that they wanted to make Christ their king, the people were still rejecting God as their king.
Though they were asking God in a body to be their king, they didn’t really want to make God their king. In classic Jesus form, Christ knew the motives of their hearts: it wasn’t God they wanted. It was freedom from oppression. But, not as Christ would have it. They wanted freedom from the oppression of man, not the freedom from the oppression of sin, self, and spiritual depravity. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not like the kingdoms of men…
So, Lemme Askya:
Lemme ask you this day: do you want Christ, right now, or do you want merely His blessings? Paul Washer once said even the devil himself would like to be back in heaven as long as God wasn’t there and he didn’t have to bow his knee to Christ. So, what do you want? An earthly king to provide for you and go out and fight your wars like the rest of the nations, or do you want a Holy, sovereign, and worthy King that you can worship and serve for eternity? Do you want Christ because you don’t want hell or because you want Christ?
The Bible asks the same question over and over from Genesis to Revelation: “will you trust Me?” So asks the Lord of you right now: “Why Me? Do you want Me for Me or for my blessings?” Let us resolve to answer that question daily.
in it with you,
Watch Your Own Film Lately?
There are some great communicators out there in the world. Last month, I had opportunity to communicate truth through a 90 minute one man show. While I don’t think it put me in a class among those men, it did renew my appreciation for such men.
The amount of time poured into the craft of communication cannot be understated, if one is to do it with excellence. Today, I’m watching video of my performance with a critical eye and a yellow pad of paper. World class communicators make it a habit to “watch the film” like elite athletes who seek to achieve peak performance.
Two Extremes and an Extremely Dangerous Center
There is great value in learning from mistakes and honing one’s craft. But, there is a tension in our culture between sharpening one’s communication skills on one end, foolishly “winging it” on the other end, and yet an even more dangerous spot in the middle where we become worshipers of our gift of communication instead of relying on the Giver of all gifts (often referred to as “the liability of ability”). This happens when we cross the line of developing our skills and believing our own press…
But, there is a reason why Paul makes it a point to explain that he didn’t use flowery language, etc., isn’t there? There is a reason why so many were astonished at Peter and John, though they weren’t “educated men” (Acts 3 & Acts 4), isn’t there? Was it because they dumbed down the gospel? Was it because they had graduated from the Tony Robbins school of Communication on the Cutting Edge of Relevant Leadership?
Who Does the Attracting?
In His letter to Titus, Paul gets to the bullet points of preaching and teaching and makes it clear how to make the gospel as appealing as possible. Paul never advocates for being intentionally foolish and simply blurting out nonsense. But, Jesus hints that it’s not our words that draw people to God, rather the God of the word who does so. (See John 6:43) Further, here are a few points Paul also does not make:
- Make the music in your worship service as appealing as all other contemporary artists so that converts to Christianity will not be repelled by it.
- Manipulate crowds of people by emotional altar calls designed to answer temporal needs (freedom from addiction, restored marriages, financial prosperity) rather than clearly addressing their greatest need: a Savior and Lord, who delivers them from depravity and eternal damnation.
- Stay away from words like “sin” and “judgment” that are unappealing or even offensive to a culture steeped in the gospel of self esteem.
The gospel is about grace, not performance. But, the overflow of a life surrendered to Gospel is… wait for it… godliness… God initiated, God directed, God glorifying and God pleasing performance. (Not to be confused with man made behavior modification or putting on airs of “fake it till you make it”.)
The common thread here is this: don’t rely on your slick communication, some grandiose new, “relevant” presentation of the truth, or softening, denial, or watering down of the truth to make the teaching of the gospel more appealing to the lost. Instead, abide in Christ and God’s agape love so tightly that the natural overflow of your life is godliness – this is the outward manifestation of a changed, exchanged life which God Himself uses to attract others to the Savior. Performance is the result of grace, not the other way around. And, it is this performance that God uses to attract the lost and dying.
Meditate today on these:
“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)”
“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:21-25)”
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them… (John 6:43a)”
The Train Wreck:
Everytime I pick up Chuck Swindoll’s “Intimacy with the Almighty”, it’s a spiritual train wreck… but a wreck that needs to happen. This book first exposed me to Paul’s mission statement in the Amplified version. This is a translation I very rarely pick up, but it seems to tease out Paul’s greatest desire as also captured in other epistles:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wickedor stand in the way of the sinner orsit in the seat of mocker.
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and he meditates on his law day and night.”
in it with you,
What’s True Manhood All About?
Last week, a friend of mine kicked off a discussion for a group of men at ONE TH1NG, part of a series there on “biblical manhood”. That morning, only a few exits in either direction on GA 400 and at the same hour, a couple thousand men stepped into a new season of “Seven” at North Point Community Church and Brown’s Bridge Community Church. I half expected ONE TH1NG to be ghost town. Instead, the room was packed with 67 guys, riveted on the topic of manhood. In groups of 4 to 5, they processed out loud: “What does God have to say about manhood and is manhood as badly shipwrecked as it can be?”
Who’s the Man?
Cut to the chase, most men today operate out of poor definitions of manhood given by poor definers, generally speaking, such as: bad fathers, absentee dads, sitcom fathers, country music, rap music, you get the point… It’s hard, following popular examples, headlines, or even our own churches, to see where all the true men have gone.
Ron Dunn contends there are three “hoods” we can either move through or stay stuck in:
- “Malehood” – doesn’t take any effort: you’re either born with male genitalia or not.
- Boyhood – a season of life when a male is dependent and irresponsible. Often characterized by ungodly strategies such as lying, demanding, blaming, retreating, or relinquishing.
- Manhood – taking responsibility under God’s rule.
It’s Really That Bad
Bottom line, while men are born into malehood and boyhood, many walk into adulthood ruled by their malehood, or refuse to relinquish their boyhood, leaving millions of women either scratching their heads or taking over men’s roles because they’re fed up with the resulting void of leadership:
- 40% of children born last year were born out of wedlock. Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy and criminality.
- Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
- and on… and on…
- Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
Fatherhood is only one example of manhood gone wrong… Listen to Albert Mohler from last week and you’ll hear how the “he-cession” is being followed by a “she-covery” and how manhood gone awry is impacting the culture at large. Or, maybe you already get the point.
Maybe you’re doing just fine. Maybe you’re living the dream, abiding like a champ… Until you compare yourself with your heroes. Today I got my weekly e-update from friends at Centurion Advisory Group. Great info on what’s going on with the Dow, Bernanke, etc. Today, they note the recent release of the purely Satanic game “Grand Theft Auto, V” produced sales of over $1B. Then went on to point out a few matters regarding manhood:
At age 20, Bill Gates founded Microsoft. At age 21, Thomas Edison created his first invention, and Steve Jobs co-founded Apple. At age 22, Samuel Colt patented the six-shooter, and at age 24, Johannes Kepler defended the Copernican theory, and described the structure of the solar system. At age 25, Orson Welles directed and starred in Citizen Kane, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly the Atlantic solo, and Alexander the Great became King of Persia.At age 26, Albert Einstein published five major research papers in a German physics journal, Ben Franklin published the first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanac, and Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Italy.I’ve wondered if we haven’t emasculated a generation of young men, urging them toward a safe, risk free life, instead of encouraging them to use all their passion, energy, and idealism to solve the problems of the world. Too many, it seems, are content to live out their dreams of changing the world vicariously, through a video game, rather than charging the hill to make the world a better place.
|Mel Gibson, as Lt. Col. Harold Moore calling
in “broken arrow” on desperate men.
About a week ago, Rory woke up with so much on his heart and mind, he just wrote it down as fast as his fingers could type, added my email address, and hit “send”. What he wrote was exciting to hear – a breakthrough in his walk with Jesus. We talked about it some more and with a little editing, I’m honored to present his thoughts as this week’s Monday Morning Momentum Minute… (More like 5 minutes, if you read like me.)
I hope you’ll find it worth a read and equally worth a “share”.
You see, there is a reason Christ refers to God throughout scriptures as Abba…or father…not “buddy”, “the dude”, “big guy”, or even “brother”. Even though as a Christian you could argue if any one person who’s been on this planet could refer to God as a peer he could. But, He didn’t. In fact, read Phil. 2.6:
“although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…”
Remember Jiminy Cricket? “Always let your conscience be your guide!” He was that one friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, didn’t look at you with rose colored glasses, and told you right from wrong. But, Jiminy was a cricket. His advice was worth taking, but surely it had a loophole in it if you were young enough, smart enough, and fast enough to outrun danger, right? Consultants give opinions, not laws of life and death, right?
So, the good news is – God is holy. The bad news is we’re not. Outside of Christ, we’re dirty, awful, objects of wrath. The better news is, that’s why God sent Jesus – not to give us good advice, be our buddy, take away all our troubles, and give us comfy chairs to sit in as the Titanic leaves port. Jesus died to save us from the worst problem ever – indwelling sin, which cannot stand in the presence of a holy god. Our trust in His sacrifice grants us not only saving grace, but sustaining grace – the power to live a godly life. (Titus 2:12) His grace is not just a fact, it’s the empowering force that helps us to do the impossible: live the Christian life in a Genesis 3 world.
Thanks, Rory, for listening to the voice of the Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing sacrifice. Thank you, Father, for your incredible justice and for sending Christ in the first place. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for empowering us to do all you designed us to do and become all you designed us to be so that we can bring you more glory.
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…
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:
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.
Last Friday morning, I had a chance to talk to a room full of men about a topic that’s been all over my heart and my life. Clutter. We talked about why it’s so sneaky, so dangerous, and what’s at the core of it. I guess I was surprised how many detail oriented, organized guys also struggle with keeping a clean, undivided heart.
By the feedback I got, it turns out just about every table of men agreed that when life, schedule, work, and commitments get cluttered up, the one thing that suffers most is family. Yet, even there, a few of the wisest put their fingers on the fact that when they’re clean with God, have an undivided heart with Him, and stay deep in the word, the clutter seems to fall away. From that base line, organization goes from a “just try harder” behavior modification tactic to a natural outpouring of God’s work in their lives.
It’s easy to walk away from a teaching/preaching/leading opportunity like that and spot the things you could have done better in your rear view. But, the Lord has assured me that the perfect “preach” doesn’t exist this side of heaven – when we abide in Him, He’ll handle what needs to be said, not said, and most importantly, what gets heard. That saved me from a lot of “I wish I’d have remembered to say x.”
Then, I got this email, from Dan Diaddigo. We’ve featured him here before. One of my favorite local writers. And, it sounds like “clean” has been on his mind, too. I’ve said what I need to say for a time and I’m sure we’ll come back to it again. For now, here’s a sympathetic thread that’s been on Dan’s mind, too…
2 Peter 2:11
If “sterile” has a taste it is found in the plastic contrast bottles I drink before they put me in the machine. I prefer the “chocolate”, if it can be called that.
The machine sounds more clean than sterile. It whirs and hums as it travels up and down my mid-section, occasionally pausing to the instructions of a mechanical voice. Never mind that it’s pumping me with radiation.
This is what you do if you want to stay healthy. You go where it’s clean and you look inside, and you take come risks.
The same is true of our souls.
Too often, we avoid the scans. We miss appointments with God’s Word and opportunities to obey the Spirit’s prompts. I know I do. I suspect you do as well.
And I wonder why.
Sin is a cancer more deadly than the chromophillic renal cell carcinoma that claimed a couple of my organs. Sin pollutes the decisions of our leaders and it poisons our relationships with others and with ourselves.
Most of all, sin corrodes our faith. It gets between us and God and it makes us forget that He is good and that His love endures forever.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this world is not our home, that we are forgiven and “clean” before God because Jesus took our cancer into Himself.
We need to remember that sin is deadly and sin is dealt with. Let us also remember who we are. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9).
Behind me to my right an elderly man listens intently as his daughter speaks loudly into his ear. He’s a black man in a grey warm up suit. I’d place him in his eighties. His speech is slurred and he’s waiting, as I am, to meet the machine.
I notice this then I busy myself on something else. Several minutes later I hear a loud voice bellowing from the hall. It belongs to the man. His daughter is trying to move him past the nurse’s station, but the man has something to say. I can make out three words clearly.
“God is good” he says.
My spirit yields. My soul remembers. I am clean.