Good Over Evil

All the classic stories share the same tension between what is good, versus what is evil. We live in a world were this isn’t just a story in a book or in a good movie, but it is something that plays out every day. The difference between the stories we read in a book and watch on a screen and the real life stories of our lives, is that the stories in a book come to a concise end after a few chapters. When that story ends it brings about a sigh of relief, when against all odds, the good wins out. 

What we face doesn’t often end after a few chapters or after 120 minutes of screen time. In the story of one’s life, when good seems like it won’t win, one needs to remember to turn to God, and to trust in His truth from Romans 12:21: Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

If we try to fight evil with the weapons used against us like fear, anger, hurt, ridicule, or selfishness, we will never win. Our enemy knows that and is thrilled to see us take up his tools. These are not the weapons designed for our hands.

We must remember that each battle is a part of the bigger war. This is a war where the final battle has already been fought and won—on the cross and in the grave. What Satan intended for evil our God transformed into the ultimate good. The story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate example of good triumphing over evil. It is “the good news.” Greater is the Spirit who lives inside of you than the enemy who wages war against you.

A key tool to overcome evil with goos if found in James 4:7, which says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Surrender your will and ways to the Lord and overcome evil with the goodness of a restored relationship with your heavenly Father. Because of the power and authority of the Lord, when you put up a fight with the enemy you will win. He will flee from you. That’s God’s promise for you. You have victory over the enemy in Christ alone because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Christ has set you free from bondage to the world. However, you are free to choose who you submit yourself to. Experiencing consistent victory requires you to submit yourself to God and not to the world. You have to wake up and choose to live every day for God. You have to choose to live your life in light of eternity. Make this choice and God will lead you to victory over sin and its destructive effects, and He will equip you to help others to do the same. When you keep your focus on the Lord, you will discover the incredible life He has in store for those “who love God” and “are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Jesus knew we were going to feel overwhelmed by the brokenness around us, which is why He reminded us that He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). But until He returns, we get to represent His kingdom and His ways here on earth, so reflect God’s goodness and His promises in your choices. As you do, He will faithfully show you the unique abilities for good that He’s given you to follow His ways to overcome.

Better Hurry Up…!

I love print cartoon images. I still look for them each weekend in our local paper. We have some of the greats like “Peanuts” by Schultz and Larson has done “The Far Side.” There are hundreds of classics that have survived the changes of life and impacted countless generations of readers – myself included.

Throughout their existence, print cartoons – even political humored one – always seem connect with a very real issue.

One of my favorites has always been, and will always be, “Calvin & Hobbes” by Will Watterson. His humor included politics, family life and satire in these two specific characters, following the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious, mischievous, and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his stuffed tiger. At one point, it is said, that this comic strip was in over 2,400 newspapers weekly. I am one of the millions of people who own some of the books that have collections of this comic in them. Calvin was said to be named after pastor John Calvin and Hobbes was named after the 17th century philosopher, Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes was just a stuffed animal. But to Calvin, he was very real. Perhaps that ‘little guy’ inside of me still resonates with that view on life and all of the issues that were examined through this lens.

Many of the issues that Calvin and Hobbes faced, are issues we have faced as well. Whether that be in our past, or even in our current reality.

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Within each of us is a competing nature: adventure and risk vs. logic and reality. Some of us go through life so unbalanced that we find ourselves up a ladder and even with a friend/spectator cheering us on – completely disconnected from the truth. We may even have someone in the distance speaking objective truth to us…but we are razor focused on what we think or perceive to be the best decision possible. And, we hurry up and jump!

Scripture, in Romans 8, it starts off with a powerful truth: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” And yet, far too many of us find ourselves up a ladder, ready to ignore all the realities around us, and and we go out and make choices that keep us from walking in the power of the life-giving Spirit of God.

Many seemed doomed to repeat past mistakes. Bad habits drive us and making a poor choice is often fueled by not only what is easiest in the moment, but also fear. Fear of failure. Fear of pleasing others. Fear of being found out. Verse 15 of Romans 8 says: “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.” The battle that can rage within us to climb the ladder and jump into danger before we actually stop and listen to what God the Father is saying for us to do, is very real.

So what can you do? Romans 7:21 and following says: I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

First, we must stop and listen. And in doing this, we need to know who we are listening to. At some point, Calvin is only tuned into Hobbes. And well Hobbes, his only wise statement is ‘hurry’ because the true voice of authority in life (a six year old boys parent) is saying ‘something’ and we can probably all guess what it was. STOP.

We have to stop listening to the wrong influences in our lives. All the self-help gurus in the world cannot compare to the answer we should all first seek: Jesus Christ our Lord. The heart of God has been perfectly revealed in His Holy Word. If the ladder we are climbing is leading us to something that contracts Jesus as the answer and away from His revealed promises within Scripture, then you must STOP. Ephesians 4:22-24 says: “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

In a message called “Put on the New Person” by Pastor John Piper, he teaches that “that THE KEY QUESTION for how to live the Christian life [is]: How do you think in such a way that God will be the creator of your thoughts? How do you feel in such a way that God will be the creator of your feelings? How do you act in such a way that God will be the creator of your actions? How do you put on a new person created by God?”

We can’t be a ‘hurry up’ people any longer. Rather, we need to be a people, so consumed with the goodness of God the Father, and so devoted to His Lordship in our lives, that we don’t move ahead of His sovereign working in us, and around us, and that we passionately wait on Him to reveal His ways by stoping, and asking the Holy Spirit of God what is truly controlling our motives in that moment.

You were made for this. To live this way. God’s way. Not in a ‘hurry up’ and do it myself kind of living. That is not walking in the power of life-giving Spirit of God. It might be in rhythm with man’s best. Or the world standards of success. But it is actually out of step with God. Ephesians 4, verse 10, says that “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us…”

I’d rather know God, know His voice and climb the ladder with God – the ladder He purposed for me to climb – any day – then to keep climbing up my own-made ladders and doing life my own way. My best is often less fulfilling. Less joy-filled. It lacks. God’s best for me has always been more than I could ever imagine and provides for me in ways I didn’t even know I needed, until I exactly needed it.

So stop climbing those ladders you’ve placed in your life. Stop listening to things that oppose God’s Holy standards for Christlike living and start passionately waiting on His voice and resting in His promises for your life. As you wait, God is developing your character and you are able to grow spiritually in ways that meet current needs but also prepare you for future realities.

Another tool you will need: others – but, the right others. Ecclesiastes 4, verses 9 through 12 say: Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. You need to have the right people around you, and perhaps, below you on the ladder, that will counsel you correctly. Not someone who is just as blind to the truth, to the issues, as you are sometimes. Not those who only take from you – emotionally and such – but rather, those who are invested in a real relationship with you and who you know are personally connected to and walking in faithful obedience to God the Father. People you see alive in Christ and not just those who will tell you what you want to hear.

Everyone of us, as Disciples of Christ, should seek to live a life that glorifies God, and to live a life worth following – as we follow Christ. And, each of us should have true friendships with others who have purposed to live in the same way.

Stop listening to the wrong noises in this life. Be connected personally to God and His Word. Let God, be God, in your life. Let the Holy Word of God define truth and goodness. And, be connected with others in a healthy way that fulfills your pursuit of loving God, glorifying Him and making much of Him in your life each day.

The Dance of Life

If I close my eyes, I can picture riding shot-gun in my grandfather’s single cab Chevy pickup truck and listening to him sing (off key and loudly) to his favorite country music station. You could always tell when grandpa really liked the song. He rolled the windows down, drove a little slower and sang even louder. 

I remember one specific time when a song by Garth Brooks came on the radio, called “The Dance.” I remember at the end of the chorus, where it says, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance,” that my grandpa shared something in that moment that was so simple, but something that would forever impact me.

Grandpa shared: “Nothing you will ever face in this life is worth missing out on – it is all meant to be, Nick, it all will teach you something you need to know.”

The windows rolled back up a moment later as we pulled up to the ice cream shop and got our favorite ice-cream…mint chip.

“Lord of the Dance” is a hymn written by songwriter, Sydney Carter in 1963. It follows the idea of a traditional English carol which tells the gospel story in the first person voice of Jesus of Nazareth, portraying Jesus’ life and mission as a dance. Jesus commanded those who love, who obey Him, to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. 1 John 2:6 says: “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

Jesus has made it clear for His people, that in the dance we call life, that anyone who claims to be intimate with God, ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived. The song, “Lord of the Dance,” has a profound refrain that is repeated throughout the song that says: “Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the dance, said He. And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be. And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.”

Now I cannot know the true intent with this songwriter when he wrote this song. Nor do I believe that Garth Brooks is a great spiritual influence. However, both of these songs have pointed me back to my daily pursuit of God. For very experience that our sovereign and holy Lord brings us to, is by His perfect design. We must respond in obedience to Him and make choices that bring Him glory. When we do, we can learn and grow as we walk – or dance – as Jesus did.

We cannot say “I know God,” and not abide in Him, and not pursue a growing relationship with Him. We will not dance through this life well, or in any way God the Father purposed, if we are not truly abiding in Him. So how do we do this? Through a consistent time in the Word of God, through being connected to other growing Christians, and by being faithful to a local church family where the Word of God is taught in a way that glorifies the Lord and stirs us towards a deeper walk with God. 

Everyone is out there dancing the best they can through this life. Jesus danced it perfectly and has called us to follow Him. We must be people so consumed with the goodness of God, and so devoted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that we walk as Jesus walked, allowing us to live a life worth following as we make much of God. 

There are some really poor examples out there. You don’t have to add to that number. You can purpose to grow spiritually and in community and dance in such way that the people see your dance – your faith and walk in the Lord, that they praise your Heavenly Father. Dance like this, in this life, and see then how your obedience to the Great Commission, in the spirit of the Great Commandment, brings joy to your life and to the lives of those God has placed within your reach.

(Adapted – originally written for the Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – February 2019)

Fulfillment Requires Obedience

True and lasting fulfillment requires obedience. True obedience to the Lord is fulfilling. God’s perfect love has provided the pathway to real obedience.

For many, however, the conviction to obey is saturated with a concept of negativity. Why do I say this? Well, far too often when one thinks about obedience, it normally brings about a feeling of completing a task, apart from the actual desire or longing to do it. Meaning, we associate obedience with obligation, rather than what it was intended for: fulfillment. When Jesus walked among us, He demonstrated fulfilling obedience. He carried out what many would see as a very different lifestyle of obedience. The life Jesus lived demonstrated what obedience to our Heavenly Father should look like in each of our lives today.

Obedience to the Lord is about making the choice, it is about purposing to live each day, (a lifestyle) to live a lifestyle of Biblical love and devotion to God, the same God who has fully and completely loved us with an enduring and extravagant, perfect love.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus said: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (vss. 9 & 10) So why then is it so easy for us to miss the heart, the intent of God, when He calls us to pursue true fulfillment through obedience? Jesus demonstrates in John 15 that He purposed to live in such a way that it reflected, and it reciprocated the love He was shown by the Father. He lived His life in obedience to the Lord out of the depth and wealth of relationship He had – never out of simple duty or obligation. Jesus asks: will those who follow me now, do the same?

Another Biblical example we have regarding fulfilling obedience is in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus states the greatest commandment in Luke 10:27“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” The heart of God for us incredible, as He does not call us to a lifestyle of obligation, or even undesired sacrifice – rather, He calls us to a way of living each day that enables us to fully reflect and reciprocate the abundance of love that has be demonstrated in Christ and poured out for all the the world. The Lord does not merely set rules before us, rather He has made a relationship with Him the goal. He is after your heart – which comes in total and complete surrender to Him.

Our culture is often marked by its self-seeking, self-satisfying agenda – but, the Lord in His strength and power and wisdom, has set us free from this, enabling us to step outside of the burden of living for ourselves. We have been freed to live for others, by reflecting and reciprocating the perfect love of God when we live out a life of fulfilled obedience to the Lord. Our current way of living is often marked with the weight of pride, but God provides a way of freedom. The Father pours our His unceasing, selfless love which has the power to transform us into His beloved who can abide in the Lord and reflect His heart of truth, love and obedience.

If we purpose to truly obey the Lord, to abide in God’s commandments and to love wholeheartedly, we will experience true satisfaction that is unknown to those around us that are filled with the pursuits of our culture regarding selfishness and pride. We can and we will experience the abundant life promised to us by God if we abide in Him alone, if our identity rests in Him, in what He has revealed in His Holy Word, and when the Lord is our source of approval, and the source of a fulfilled life. 

May we abide in the commands of the Lord, choosing to live a lifestyle of wholehearted love for Him and of others. May we choose to live in obedience to Him, in response to His profound love for us. And as we do, may we discover the power, the purpose, and the radical freedom that comes from serving others with the very love that has been demonstrated through Jesus Christ for us, and them. May we experience fulfillment when we truly obey that which God has commanded His beloved to do.

Lions, Honey & Lust – Oh My!

If a story was written about you, what would you want it to say? Perhaps you would want it to share a good mixture of different experiences from your life. Or, perhaps you’d want just the highlights to be proudly reported for all to read.

When we look at Scripture, we see many stories shared about different people. From Moses to the Samaritan woman at the well, we see people from different generations of life and from a wide variety of places and circumstances. Sometimes, Scripture gives us but just a glimpse into ones life, and then other times, the Bible goes into great detail.

For example, take David: From a shepherd boy to the King of Israel. Declared by God, as a man after His own heart, when we read his story we see moments of triumphant and moments of tragedy. We see his faithfulness and obedience to the Lord and we learn first hand from his missteps and mistakes as well.

Another amazing story is about a man named Samson. As a young boy, I was captivated by the stories I heard of the strength of this guy – how he lost it all after seeking only what was best for himself, but, how in one final moment, God used Samson as an instrument of Israel’s deliverance where Samson would die in a final act of courage.

Samson’s miraculous birth, exploits, failings, and redemptive death is covered in the book of Judges from chapters 13 to 16. These verses in Scripture share about everything from his mullet-like long hair, to his rated R lifestyle and all of it produces some profound stories for us to learn from.

If one is honest, they probably can see themselves in many of these stories. For even when we believe that God is for us, we can still pursue what we believe to best for us instead.

One experience in the life of Samson has always truly captivated me. In Judges 14, Samson sought to marry a Philistine woman. His family didn’t understand what God was preparing this marriage for. Scripture shares though, that God was using this marriage to create an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time. Verses 5 and 6 share that As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it. “

What a crazy thing to have happen? Right?! Almost out of nowhere, a lion attacks and you rip it apart with your bare hands?! Crazy! This experience would have made Samson a candidate for the TV show “I Was Prey” on Animal Planet. Now, I don’t know about you, but a wild animal attack is not something I am actively preparing for and I am sure that this moment during his travel to pursue a woman he wanted to marry, that it was definitely an unwanted experience as well. But unlike that TV show on Animal Planet that tells the story of surviving an attack, Scripture clearly said that Samson did not tell his parents about what had happened. He didn’t share this experience…yet.

The Nazarite Vow that Samson took came about because before he was even born, his parents made a promise the Lord – dedicating Him to the Lord, and promising that throughout the life of their son, he would fulfill this vow.

This specific vow can be summed up into three basic guidelines: do not consume alcohol, do not touch anything that is deceased, and do not cut your hair. Samson wasn’t suppose to “cuss or chew or hang out with girls who do” but man oh man, did Samson end up breaking all the rules, especially theses core guidelines of the Nazarite Vow.

Samson actively used his God-produced strength to tear apart that attacking lion. After some time had passed from his first trip, Judges 14 goes on to tell us that he would return again to Timnah for the wedding to this Philistine woman, and along that path, he looked for the carcass of the lion he had killed. (Side note: WHY? If I had been attacked by animal, and survived, I doubt I’d want to revisit that spot.) Samson goes and finds the lion, and he sees that bees had made a nest in the animal and were making honey in the carcass of the lion. Verse 9 says: “He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion.”

It appears that without much thought, Samson ignores a key guideline. For the life of me, I cannot imagine doing what he did – it seems pretty disgusting, to dig around in decaying animal and to eat honey found in that animal. However, Samson saw something he wanted and took what he wanted. Making his vow out to be nothing!

We are much like Samson because far too often when we see something we want, then that becomes all that we can think about. Take ice-cream: see it, want it, and then we justify how we will work off those unnecessary calories, perhaps telling ourselves why we deserve a little treat like this, and then…we take what we want, that glorious ice-cream.

In a teaching, Pastor Craig Groeschel said: “Lust makes us think, ‘I want it.’ Entitlement is that love that takes ‘I want it’ and adds ‘…and I deserve it.” And like Samson, we can live our lives with a simple thought pattern: “I see. I want. I need. Heck, I deserve this…” type of mentality.

What God wanted for Samson was clear: do not consume alcohol, do not touch anything that is deceased, and do not cut your hair. But in the heart of Samson was something that pulled him away from God’s best: lust.

What causes you to pursue or even choose your own way over what we say we believe to be God’s best for our lives? It is an all consuming lust that is developed by what we see, and then think we want or need and what we believe that we deserve.

With this story of Samson, and with many stories from his life, we learn what happens when we seek to justify our sin and desires to fit our agenda. But when we do this, we are making a choices to turn our hearts away from what God wants for our lives.

What God wants for your life is actually the very best thing!

The Lord has given you abilities and strengths to make choices within your life – some big, and others small – but to make choices that not conveniently ignore God’s direction and His best for you. But rather, He has given you these abilities and resources so that you can continual turn your heart toward what we know God wants: an abundant life.

Remember where your strength comes from. It comes from your Heavenly Father.

Recall your own less-than-perfect story, and in doing so, begin to identify why you are giving into your own weaknesses, and seek to understand why it is easier for you to sell out your own God–given strengths, purely so that you might gain some kind of acceptance from people who don’t have your best in mind.

Seek to guard your heart. Keep an account of your strengths, of the the unique gifts, talents and abilities God has poured out on you, that He seeks to develop within you. Write them out. Look at the value God has for you. He believes in you. He has equipped you. Don’t give up and remember that the next time you make a commitment to God, that you will not sell out these strengths to anyone or anything. And when you do mess up on your promise to Him, be quick to confess that and repent of it. You must not forget that the Lord loves you and that He longs to forgive and restore you, and that He will help you pursue once again, His best for you.

Stay away from those lions and the girls that cuss too! Seek to make choices each day, in each relationship and within each experience, that push you closer to God while following the guidelines within Scripture. Strive to make each day, a holy and joy filled pursuit of God’s best, growing in His wisdom and strength everyday.

 

tragedy

Americans started off this past week with horrific news. Dozens upon dozens of people are dead and hundreds more are injured after a gunman opened fired at a Las Vegas music festival. This is being called the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. It is senseless. This attack hit close to home for Carson City residents remembering our own local tragedy that hit our city on September 6, 2011 when a gunman opened fired at IHOP killing four people. This is not the first time (or last time) our community has felt the sting of death and the pain of searing loss.

Our hearts break far too often because of the senseless rage of a lone gunman or because of the seemingly endless assault of terror, death and tragedy that plays out in lives, our community and in the world. Perhaps you have thought or prayed about living in a world in which friends could go to the movie theater, where athletes could run marathons, where our kids could go to the park or school, where people could attend concerts and where one could go to places like nightclubs and or even churches without the fear of violence.

The reality is that have to deal with events like natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, and although those are devastating in their own right, it is the unexplainable and senseless acts of evil that is poured out on others that bring about a deep level of grief and pain. And often in those experiences, we are left asking: “Why?”

How do we as Christ followers respond to the senseless tragedy within our own lives? How do we answer the “why” question, or even more difficult yet, what do we say when the world asks us, “Why did God allow this to happen…?” Perhaps, there is no single response that can adequately address the complexity or these questions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, nor is there any election result that can fix this once and for all. But, in the midst of the pain and confusion our God is big enough, great enough, powerful enough, and merciful enough to handle every single “Why?” In His divine nature and His role as Creator and Sustainer, He can and will reveal to those searching how He was and is present with us during the most painful, tragic, and senseless seasons in our lives.

God’s Word is very clear on how His people should respond when tragedy hits. Romans 12:15 says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Jesus taught that: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Psalm 42 is a beautiful prayer that encourages us as we read it, to rest in the Lord for His hope and wisdom during the toughest experiences in life. Psalm 34:18 declares that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” If you have ever been through a tragic event or experienced the death of a loved one, then you know that often that time of difficulty can be but a blur. Days may seem endless, sleep is fleeting, and the tears rise like flood waters. Yet, if you are blessed enough to be surrounded by a strong support system, this network is somehow getting you from place to place, it is present, and it is sustaining in the midst of the blur. The Lord is like that for us spiritually, but in a much deeper and much more profound way. In our time of need He will take care of us in ways we cannot fully explain or always comprehend. He is there and He is at work – just like the wind we may not be able to see it, but we can sure see its affects!

So how do we as Christ followers respond to the senseless tragedy? The church, our leaders and pastors, the neighbor, parent or student – we must respond, but how? We simply do. We do not stay silent and we do not stay at a distance. We go and be the church, the kind of church that Jesus had in mind all along. We should not stay silent and we should not sit back doing nothing. We pray. We stay humble. We serve. We laugh with and cry with those around us. We confess and repent of any wrong. We cling to Jesus and the Holy Word of God, and nothing else. We forgive, and love, and hope, and trust. We turn to the Lord for the strength we fear we might not have, for He has it. And, we point people back to the hope of knowing Jesus personally and the joy that is found in eternal security in Him.

We actually do have the things that can change this world: the hope of Jesus Christ and His ever present comfort to those in need. What you do in response to senseless tragedy matters more than ever. We are meant to be the conduit of God’s mercy and grace to a hurting and broken world. So, let us go and be the church, the church that boldly declares: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)

Lord, as we have learned to do in all our experiences, we come to You now. We know that You love us, and that You can turn even the shadow of death into the light of morning. Help us now to wait before You for healing and hope as we grieve and mourn. Make this a time of opening our eyes and our understanding of Your comfort and of your love. I pray that you would bless those who feel this sorrow most deeply, and unify Your Bride, Your church, so that we may share with our friends and family our spiritual strength and faith in You which is ours through the love of Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

(Adapted: Originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” which appeared on Oct. 7, 2017)

admitting our wrongs

I received a brief message from a trusted friend that said: “I was reading Isaiah 30:15 and was led to pray for you. Blessings on this day my friend.” Not knowing this verse by heart, I went to it. What I was anticipating in that moment was an encouraging verse that might affirm me in a positive way. What I got was this: “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing…

One thing that I have learned to do is that when God speaks, I should listen. And, with this trusted friend, who is also a ministry leader in our community, in knowing that I can trust his heart, I wanted be open to how the Lord might working through him to speak to me.

Regardless, I can I honestly say that I’d rather someone else admit to me all of their wrongs, while keeping mine a special, little secret. And more than likely, you are a lot like me when it comes to admitting to others your shortcomings, your struggles and those things that seem to keep you from an abundant life in Christ. It is easy for us to have misconceptions about ourselves. We are remind in James 4:1 that there is war within us, and that we have a significant part to play in our behavior. While we have to accept the things that we cannot change, we must still take action with the things that we can. Admitting to our wrongs, whether that is a behavior or our words, it is something we can do. Blaming others takes no courage at all. Admitting our wrongs is courageous.

If one admits their specific wrongs, I have found that they will probably have to face at least four different aspects in that experience. The first is fear. Fear in the fact that this admission might cause others to leave you because of what has happened. The second involves anxiety and stress, or some form of that. This happens over the reality of the loss of “what was” and the pressure to deal with what is left. The third aspect could be depression. As a result of being left and losing things, one may face depression at the loneliness of their current circumstances. And yet, there is also a fourth aspect: love. Yes, when we admit our wrongs we will encounter loss and loneliness, and others may leave or have to leave, but we can also experience love – the love of the Father, and the love of our true friends – a love that takes us towards restoration.

In looking at the context of Isaiah 30, you would see that in the first 17 verses the people of God are being warned not to make an alliance with another group of people. And verse 18 through 33 reveal that the longing of God is to be gracious to His people, while remaining holy and just. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says: “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.” The spiritual reality is that when we abide in the love of God, and not fear or stress, and when we have taken a real look at ourselves, we can more freely admit to what we have done to ourselves, to the Lord and perhaps, to others. We can do this because of the gracious posture God has towards His beloved, while keeping His purpose for our lives close to the heart which is our holiness and purity in this life.

And when you do, when we are courageous to admit our wrongs, what we actually loose is that sense of isolation, we loose that desire to do wrong, we can also loose our unwillingness to forgive, and we can address our false pride and those misconceptions we have created for ourselves and bought into throughout time. The great news in all of this is that in exchange for our wrongs we can receive healing (James 5:16); we can experience freedom (Psalm 107:13); and, we can get real help and support (1 John 1:9).

And just like you, I desire to be courageous and to abide in the loving restoration of the Father.

May we then purpose to be, a mighty movement of the Lord that is so consumed with Him and His promises for our lives that we live honestly and authentically in all that we do. And may His church, may those who call themselves Disciples of Christ, may they be known for, not what they can do themselves, but, for what the Lord has done in and through us!