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Same Old Problem
Hate me if you want, but I’ve already bought my wife’s Valentine’s gift this year. Figuring out what to get is often the hardest part, isn’t it? Sourcing it can be a lot easier once the “big” decision has been made. Shopping on Amazon meant I didn’t pay shipping – I mean, who wants to pay shipping? Who wants to pay for anything, right? Can’t we just have the perfect inspiration weeks in advance and get what she wants for free?
Not a chance. Everything has a price – either now or in eternity. True? So, when I say “under $5”, I don’t mean these gifts won’t cost you anything, I mean there’s no money involved.
Just crack open your bible to 1 Corinthians 13.4. I know, you’re mad at me, because you think I’m pulling a fast one on you. Read on. Trust me for a moment, here. “Love is patient.” Stop. How’s that going for you right now? Now, I’m aware there are 15 more qualities of love that follow, but let’s just start with this one.
I’m not always patient. How about you? Why is it that we’re most impatient with the people closest to us? The easy answer is this: “they should know better not to get in the way of our agenda”. The harder answer is this: we’re never going to get over this hump (or whichever other of these 16 qualities) on our own. In fact, everything Paul talks about up to that point, even in the previous chapter, is an act of God via the Holy Spirit.
What the Self-Help Books Won’t Tell You:
“Try harder” is practically the mantra of the secular humanist movement. “Try different” is the second commandment of the same. But, what God has given us is something far more powerful, far more helpful, and far more lasting than mere “man up, get up, do it again”. The Holy Spirit has been given to us not only as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:14), but as a helper to walk with us (Greek: paraclete).
This Year, Give God a Try
Love is the first mentioned “fruit of the Spirit”. Implication – love can’t be “mustered”. It’s an act of the will, but it’s only present in its true, 1 Corinthians 13 form by… the… Spirit. So, what if everyday, we paused with our bible, played “tap the bible app”, or just got really silent and recited that verse, but with a hook – “Lord, grow me patient, grow me kinder, kill my boasting…” What if we did that with a long, silent pause in between each of the 16 qualities?
Do you know the voice of God? Do you know the convicting, yet not condemning sound of the Holy Spirit answering your question – “Where have I been impatient, unkind, boastful, etc.?” God doesn’t provide the Holy Spirit to crush us, but to come alongside us and lock arms with us as we walk through every challenging season of life.
What would the fruit of this labor look like? What do you think your love for your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, co-workers, overbearing supervisor, or enemy look like if you spent just ten minutes bringing that question before the Lord and waited in silence for the answer? “Lord, where have I been ___?”
Give the gift of honesty before the Lord and repentance to those around you this year. It’ll cost you some time, deep introspection, reliance on the Lord, and less than $5 every time.
NOTE: Late this afternoon, we will begin publishing the transcript of Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s keynote address at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. For now, please enjoy this week’s installment of Monday Morning Momentum in a Minute.
“But, if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 2 Peter 1:9”
When we lose touch with the massiveness of the sins we’ve been forgiven, we’ve become nearsighted and blind. You and I are “eternally opposed” by the enemy, be it Satan, our old sin nature, or the world and their common MO is to keep us so focused on present circumstances and worries of what is yet to come that we are just that: nearsighted and blind. The result – discouragement, ineffectiveness, and “unproductiveness”.
This morning, I was interrupted on several occasions by each one of our three toddlers and even a few requests by my wife. When you crave uninterrupted time in the word like I was craving it this morning, “interruptions” can easily become the objects of your wrath. Knowing I couldn’t unleash my full fury on my bride or these three precious children, my brain followed the natural pecking order – “point your anger somewhere else”. In this case, it was inward. In other words, rather than exploding at my wife and kids, I chose to be discouraged. I had become short sighted.
Ever been there?
The beauty of my folly, or should I say the God who saves me from my own folly, is that ten minutes later, my wife encouraged me with this very verse:
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1.10-11)
Don’t Be Tardy to the Party…
Imagine for a moment, the scene outside the Oscars or the Super Bowl – the atmosphere is rife with celebration and anticipation of the imminent event. The air is charged with excitement, with everyone looking forward to great moments of victory for someone(s) who will be honored very soon. But, this isn’t the Oscars and the crowd is far larger than all of the Super Bowls combined.
It’s THE biggest party EVER – the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) and the day we all get to meet Jesus face to face! And, that’s not all… You hear your name announced in 4-D Dolby Pro Logic 10.1 Infinisound. At the mention of your name, Jesus and the billions in attendance all shout “WELCOMMMMME!!!!” in unison. Balloons fall from the ceiling of heaven, a warm blizzard of confetti flies in your face, choirs of angels sing and Chris Tomlin (God’s worship leader) plays power chords on his 50-string guitar. You are given a VIP welcome to the biggest party EVER!!! Whoop-whoop!!!
Would that not be “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom”?
This is the target we have to keep our eyes on. This is the target I’m praying right now that God keeps my eyes on. It is so easy to become discouraged, ineffective, and unproductive when we are caught in near-sightedness. Lift up your eyes – look far into your past to see all the sin Christ has lifted you out of. Lift up your eyes – look into the future where a rich welcome awaits those who choose not to forget that we have been cleansed from our past sins.
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to his death. (Prov. 19:18, NIV)”
The most dangerous addicts are the ones who don’t know they have a problem. They endanger themselves and those around them by either their ignorance or their denial.
This morning, I was talking with one of my mentors – a guy who knows the God of the word and the Word of God. He’s a very savvy business guy and I’m honored to have his voice speaking into my life. We were chewing on the topic of clutter. We agreed that an upcoming talk I’ll be doing about clutter could really hit some guys hard. My concern wasn’t just that it hit guys hard, rather that it hits the guys who need to hear it.
When a man hears that another man will be giving advice or wisdom regarding clutter, chances are strong that he’ll mark it irrelevant if he doesn’t see himself as having a clutter problem. I don’t see you nodding your head in astonishment… Of course not – it’s obvious – and you probably already know firsthand the value of accountability. So often, it takes an outside eye to “yasar” (chasten, admonish, discipline) us when there’s sin in our blind spot. But, who wants to be a nag? Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? Who wants to be a Nathan to David?
When we don’t have ears to hear that we’re overweight, drinking too much, looking too long, etc. what’s required is a father figure to save us from our own folly while there is hope. Blind spots are funny like that… you never see them coming. David didn’t and it cost him a mighty man named Uriah and a son who was born to die.
But, sin always brings consequences, often brings collateral damage, and failure to point out sin in others’ lives doesn’t have to be about being a nosy Christian with nothing better to do. If you chasten me not to have one more drink for the road, you may save more than just my life – you might save your neighbor’s kid’s life who just got his license and doesn’t see me coming until it’s too late.
Jude tells us to “snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” James ends his letter to the 12 tribes with this: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (Jas 5:19-20, NIV)”
So, what do we do? Do we risk being called a “nosy Christian” or do we speak up? The fine line we are encouraged to cross is the one between having nothing better to do and looking out for the safety, well being, and life or death of those around us. Check your motive – are you seeking to feel better about yourself or truly concerned for saving your brother/son/other “from death”? If there’s danger lurking at the end of their sin, be a nag… and be alive.
“…let no sin rule over me. (Psalm 119:133)”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)“
I wonder what Jesus’ audience thought about this statement. After all, the Pharisees had been teaching people to obey the law of Moses and then some for what seemed like forever. For Jesus to say this in the about the same breath as “poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:2)” must have seemed a bit strange: He had already begun to unfold the wrapper of grace, was He now exposing more law as the gift?
Or, was it much simpler than that?
Whether Psalm 119 was written by David or Ezra, it is clear that the author’s heart was broken, wrecked, and shattered for the Lord. As we read through v 131 and 133 we hear from a man who opened his mouth, panting for God’s word. Jesus makes it clear throughout the Beatitudes that sincere and pure devotion to God isn’t about the outward behavior, rather a heart desperate for God, dependent on Him, that propels us to outward behavior.
A resume rich in church activity doesn’t necessarily indicate a beggar’s heart for God. Only the poor in spirit have room for God in their hearts.
As we enter week 2 of the fast, there are times when our flesh begs for old forms of satisfaction: “comfort” food, entertainment, and other forms of self comfort rather than on the God of all comfort. Jesus’ statement from Matthew 5.8 is clear – you can’t have both. These lesser gods have not only stolen our full devotion from God, but deprived us of experiencing the God who sent us “the Comforter”. Why would we want anything less? Because it’s wrapped in a more tangible, sleek package and available with free shipping or for instant download?
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1.27)”
Question yourself as you pray – “What in the world is polluting me, Lord? What has my heart leaning even the slightest degree away from You? What can be done about the condition of my heart that would make me hate “even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh (Jude 1.23) and bring me to a place where I pant for Your commands?
How can any sin “rule over” us if our hearts are that hungry for God?
God sent us the Comforter to do just that – comfort us. Let us call on Him today with hearts that desire not God’s blessings, but the God of all blessings. Surely, His blessings will follow, but we cannot manufacture a heart desperate for Him. This is a work of God and it must be begged for. Would you be willing to beg God for this?
What’s Got Your Eye?
This year, as our church-wide fast began, I felt compelled to dig into Psalm 119. Glad I did.
“Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
It’s All About Value
Free Chapel embarks on a corporate, 3-day “water only” followed by 18 days of “Daniel Fast“. I never truly realize how valuable something is to me until I don’t have it. You? Yeah, I value water. MAN, I value food! Unfortunately, I have an addiction – refined sugar. That’s one food I value above all others. I’ll eat refined sugar products – desserts, cereals, candy, desserts to a gluttonous level – often to control my mood rather than for my stomach. Sugar is nowhere on the Ten Commandments, but abuse of any substance is idolatry and begs the question: “why would anyone want to delight in anything less than Jesus?” For me, it’s a rival god, it’s nutritionally worthless and it’s killing me and my potential with my own fork/spoon/hand.
Not everyone struggles with food addictions, but we all struggle with something. In the past, I’ve tried to manage my refined sugar addiction by behavior modification: “don’t”, much like I used to try to manage my addiction to pornography. Knowing that, Lord willing, this year I will celebrate 12 years clean from pornography, I understand that defeating that demon wasn’t about behavior modification, it was about hating the sin and surrender to Christ… oh, and a supernatural act of the Spirit, no?
When we come into alignment with what God values, we begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates. Selfish ambition is gradually replaced with God-ambition. When it comes to food, I need a double dose of love for God and a dose of hate for what is worthless. What’s your rival god? What are you using to fill that familiar empty feeling? What do you occasionally value more than God and His plan for your life?
Filling in the Blank
|John Woodall will kick
off a transformational
ONE TH1NG this Friday.
We all have a blank spot in us, an ache, a God-sized hole in our hearts that we try to fill in with lesser solutions: accomplishment, material gain(s), sex, drugs, etc, things that at the judgment seat of Christ will be exposed for their true value – worthless. Side note: If you’re a man in the Alpharetta/Cumming area, you don’t want to miss John Woodall at ONE TH1NG this Friday morning at the Cabernet Restaurant at 7AM. He’ll be talking about the ache – an ache that in a Genesis 3 world, refuses to be healed until Christ returns.
In the meantime, the Psalmist points out the relationship between life and things: it is the nature of worthless things to suck the life out of us rather than to preserve our life. And yet, we chase after this stuff, often to the exclusion of the life giving plan that the life giving God has for us. Selfish ambition always finds us knocking on the door of stuff that is utterly worthless in God’s eyes. “Can you please fill in my blank?”
In fasting, I am constantly reminded that I am blessed with opportunities to clean out the clutter that clogs my heart – literally and figuratively. The challenge is keeping it out. Behavior mod is a short road leading back to square one. Only a transformed mind and surrendered heart will do.
Experience True Life
Today, I encourage you to give up food or something incredibly valuable for more than 48 hours. You know your idols and rival gods. Pick one, but try food first. Then, pray as the psalmist did that God will help you keep your eyes and heart delighted in Him and away from things that are ultimately worthless in His economy.
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you, sanctify you, and transform you into the image of Christ you were designed to be from the start.