Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 30 - Should Christians expect persecution?

Is suffering for faith predicted and to be
anticipated from the beginning of our faith?

Jesus said,
"Blessed are you when people revile you
and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted
the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11-12

Is suffering for faith predicted and to be anticipated from the beginning of our faith?



It won’t happen to everyone – for sure. In fact, most of us are lucky Americans. We’ve lived in a time and a place where we haven’t had to worry about real persecution.

And that’s good.

And that’s bad.

I have a young friend who prays for persecution of the church in America. And he’s a strong Christian – not a belligerent atheist. Why would a good strong Christian pray for persecution? Because too much comfort tends to make the church lethargic (and God’s not fond of lukewarm Christians (see Rev 3:15-16). On the other hand, look at church history to find out where the church has always thrived. As the old saying goes: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

There are more practicing Christians in Buddhist China right now than in America. Why? Because you can’t be a passive Christian, coming to church when it’s convenient. Agreeing to follow – passionately – could mean literal imprisonment … and sometimes even death. Therefore, when the Chinese encounter a Christian, they’re not encountering lukewarm church goers who say they believe and yet live like the world. When the Chinese encounter a Christian, it’s a TRUE Christian – passionate, devoted, willing to risk everything.

I’m not like my young friend. I don’t pray for persecution. I do however pray for revival.

Nevertheless, I still try to prepare my heart for persecution. It’s not always effective from my comfortable perch on my La-z-boy. But if my Savior sacrificed everything for me, how can I be authentic and be willing to do anything less for him.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy praying for authenticity

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29 - What kinds of people does God choose?

What kinds of people does God choose?

Jesus said,
"If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and
take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 9:23

About half the counseling I do comes back to one issue: People may intellectually know about God’s forgiveness, but in their heart, they don’t really believe it. Why? Because how can God forgive them if they can’t forgive themselves?

Unforgiveness locks people in a prison of doubt and insecurity.

That’s why I like to teach the Old Testament. People have always heard about “the Heroes of Scripture.” I enjoy pointing out their failures. Most Old Testament “Heroes” sinned in bold and vibrant colors. There was stubbornness and willfulness. There was drunkenness and debauchery. There was adultery and murder. It was constant and consistent. As Paul says in Romans 3, “all sin and fall short of the glory of God.”

So why do we still call some heroes? Because at crucial moments, they crucified their selfish desires, repented of their sin, and/or obeyed God when what heaven was asking was impossible.

Read those again: Repentance. Obedience. And selflessness.  

What kinds of people does God choose? Anyone who’s willing to repent and obey. Anyone who’s willing to follow self-sacrificing Savior rather than their own selfish heart.

In Christ’s Love,
a hero
… but only if I follow The Hero

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28 - Do you like to wait?

Do you ever want more precise instructions before acting?
Or are you willing to be still and wait?

But get up and enter the city, and
you will be told what you are to do.
Acts 9:6

I’ve walked with hundreds of people through hundreds of illnesses. Do you know what is often the hardest time? Waiting.

Imagine that a biopsy’s been done. Waiting for the results is often harder than hearing the diagnosis. Once you have a diagnosis, you can do something – even if that something is as tough as chemo. But while you’re waiting, you’re out of control.

In Acts 9, the not-yet-an-Apostle, Paul, was out of control. Jesus bowled him over with a bright light. Our Lord demanded an accounting for the violence and persecutions that Paul was leading. The Lord left him blind … and with one instruction: Go to a nearby city and wait.

That period of waiting had to be terrifying. The God of Heaven and Earth had just called Saul/Paul a violent betrayer. The King of Creation had just accused him of ravaging the kingdom. Like a convict, Paul was waiting for a verdict of guilt. Like a person worrying about a diagnosis of cancer, Paul was trembling as he awaited the inevitable diagnosis of death.

But God had a different plan.

The Healer would use Paul as his “9:15 instrument … chosen to bring [his] name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.”

But Paul didn’t know that yet. So what did he do as he waited? “11 At this moment,” says scripture, “he is praying.”

Hardship can lead us to prayer. In fact, it should lead us to prayer. We may wish for perpetual sunshine, but it’s often the rainy seasons that produce the most prayer and the most growth.

Waiting is often ordained by God. As we close today, let me give you one other example of patience-before-purpose. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is being hunted by the evil queen, Jezebel. She wants to kill him. So Elijah runs and runs until he falls exhausted, begging God to let him die. God sustains him with food and nutrients and then leads him out on a mountain.

Then God makes him wait.

And wait.

In fact, as God is making the prophet wait, the Lord is also hurtling calamities all around him like fiery darts – earthquakes, wind, and fire. When and where does Elijah finally encounter the Lord? When he’s finally still … and in a “12 still small voice.”

Are you feeling like fiery darts and calamities are falling all around you? Are you waiting for word on something that’s out of your control? God is there. Pray. And look for him in the still, small whispers … and graces.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who was never a waiter
(obviously, it’s a noble job)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27 - What's the brightest way to describe God?

What is the brightest way to describe God?


God is light and in him

there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5


Saul persecuted Christians. Then God knocked him down. Scripture says, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” Acts 9:3.


The light was from Jesus.


The light was Jesus. “I am the light of the world,” said the Messiah in John 8:12.


Saul – who became Paul – was blinded by this light. “Though his eyes were open,” say Acts 9:8, “he could see nothing.”


How many people do you know whose eyes are technically open, but they do not see the light of the world?


One of three things happens when we encounter what is really the glory of God …


1.       We ignore it. In Romans 1, Paul puts it this way: “20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been … seen through the things he has made. So [anyone who doesn’t believe is] without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Technically their eyes are open, but they do not see the light of the world.


2.    We see it, and get knocked to our knees. While Paul trembled and fell, Isaiah is an even better example of this. In the sixth chapter of his book, the prophet says, “1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him … 3 call[ing] … "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." 5 And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” While we may get literally knocked to our knees by the glory of God, it’s more important to figuratively get knocked to our knees and bow our hearts in confession.


3.    The third type of encounter leaves our face glowing! This, for example, was the fruit of Moses’ encounters with God – Ex 34:29ff. Jesus, when he was in human form, had his face glow too when he encountered God on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now, our face might not literally glow like Moses, but the closer we draw to God-who-is-light, the more others should see his light on our face (see 2 Cor 3:7-18, especially v. 16).


In life, we can choose to be blind like Saul originally was, ignoring the glory of God … or we can fall on our knees and acknowledge the God who is apparent to all who choose to look (that’s a good first step) … or we can keep drawing nearer and nearer the light and radiate the love of Christ.


Saul – who became Paul – puts it this way: “Once you were darkness, now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light” (Eph 5:8).


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to be fluorescent

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26 - Why do religious people murder and ravage?

How do religious people get to the point of
approving murder and ravaging other religions?

Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:44

EVERYONE in the world is religious.

Do you agree with that?

Here’s what I mean … Millions may not believe in a god or participate in a religion; nevertheless, look at how we ought to define “religious.” What if it rightly means: “a person’s way of make sensing of the world.” With that in mind, then EVERYONE is religious. EVERYONE has things they believe are true. It is their way of making sense of the world. It, therefore, is their foundation. It defines them. It determines the way they think and act and react.

In general, most people are willing to stand up for what they believe. Now, standing up for what we believe can be noble. It also can turn firm. And that firmness can occasionally become rigid. And rigidity can even turn violent, when we feel that our religion, our identity, and especially our god is being attacked.

Every religion has a few misguided souls. Let’s exclude the fringe from the scope of our discussion.

Let’s focus instead on religions that have tenets that can be construed as condoning violence. And it’s not just strains of Muslims that condone killing “infidels.” We’re talking about this because some first century Jews picked up stones too, and even “Saul [who would become the Apostle Paul] approved of their killing [Stephen, the first Christian martyr] [which prompted] a severe persecution … against the church in Jerusalem.”

Those are our roots. Nevertheless, as Christians, we should always remember that violence is neither noble nor prescribed. On the contrary, Jesus calls us to love our enemies.

That’s hard.

So is praying for those who persecute us.

But Jesus is our absolute model. Rather than responding violently to his arrest, Jesus loved even his persecutors and prayed for God to forgive those who literally crucified him.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’ll rise up for what he believes …

… but might I have to rise up
on a sacrificial cross in love
instead of in anger?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jun 25 - Acts 5:32

What does it take to be open to the Holy Spirit?

Peter said,
we are witnesses to these things,
and so is the Holy Spirit
whom God has given
to those who obey him."
Acts 5:32

There are several steps to receiving the Holy Spirit.

·         The first steps include the initial encounters that lead us into faith: Paul says, “Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?” Gal 3:2
·         The second is drawing nearer by hearing the word and learning more: “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.” Acts 10:44
·         The third and fourth are baptism and repentance: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
·         The fifth is the laying on of hands: Acts says, “Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands …” Acts 8:18.

Let’s summarize … The normative steps – after the Spirit’s wooing and our initially coming to faith – are …

·         Scripture
·         Baptism
·         Repentance
·         Laying on of Hand

… and one more step:

·         Obedience.

That’s our lesson for today: “the Holy Spirit [is] given to those who obey him." Acts 5:32

Chances are that you’ve done most of the first steps already. That means that the Holy Spirit has always been given to you. So why don’t we see more of it? We leak.

Obedience stops the leaks.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants more love, joy, and peace
(therefore, I ought to obey so I quit leaking)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Matthew 7:13-14 - Wk 4 Day 5

Jesus said,
"Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road is easy
that leads to destruction,
and there are many who take it.
[But] the gate is narrow
and the road is hard
that leads to life,
and there are few who find it.
Matthew 7:13-14

Have you ever seen a road rally? People race across the countryside. Depending on the particular rules of that particular race, the racers can often choose any route they want, but they have to hit certain checkpoints to keep moving forward.

The will of God is kind of like that.

In general, there’s lots of flexibility, but there are several hard and fast checkpoints. For example … in the Old Testament, God said he would bring descendants of Abraham into the Promised Land. Once they left the shores of the Red Sea, the route they took we unexpectedly round-about. Because of their rebellion, it them took forty extra years to get to the next checkpoint and cross the Jordan. But

God’s ultimate plan was hard and fast.

There are several other hard and fast checkpoints …

·         God, for example, promised that he would send the Messiah from the line of David. Checkpoint crossed.
·         Jesus promised he would come again. That one’s in the future and people are already gathering at this checkpoint, cheering, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

That’s the hard and fast will of God. Let’s call it the ultimate will of God.

There’s another form of God’s will, the provisional will of God. This is what God deeply desires to happen -- to honor and worship him, for example – but he doesn’t force us. Think of it like this …

·         Life is like being given a car.
·         Scripture is the road map.
·         God is the judge waiting at each checkpoint.
·         He wants to give us a trophy at the end. It is the grand prize.
·         He says, to keep advancing in this journey, you need to keeping crossing certain checkpoints.
·         And then he sets us free.
·         We are free to turn left when we should turn right.
·         We steer in our own directions.
·         We get busted for ignoring the traffic rules.
·         Most of us don’t progress at a very quick pace.
·         We convince ourselves that our personally chosen route is more scenic, more exciting … and much wiser and much quicker, of course.
·         We pick up the hitchhikers along the way, and the wrong friends steer us the wrong way.
·         Fortunately, God keeps calling out to us.
·         On his cell phone, he says he’s waiting at the checkpoint just for you.
·         He says he has refreshments waiting to help sustain you for the next leg of your journey.
·         With his GPS, he’s even willing to help re-route us and help us find the next checkpoint more quickly.
·         Some people take him up on it, and the race goes smoother.
·         However, most people – to one degree or another – like to do things their own way. They call it an adventure …
·         … but they wonder why there are so many accidents and so many hurts and so much hunger along the way.
·         Indeed, when it’s the time for their race to end, they begin to wonder why they never got much of anywhere and their purpose was never fulfilled.

Where are you in this race? Hitting checkpoints? Wondering lost?

Who do you know who’s lost? How might you help them along?

God’s will is for you to honor and worship him … to serve him and know him … to forge a relationship that will last forever … and to be with him in the kingdom to come.

It is the will of God – see our lesson for today – to enter through the narrow checkpoint and avoid the easy highway that leads to destruction.

In Christ’s Love,
Speed Racer

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ephesians 1:17 - Wk 4 Day 4

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of glory, may
give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
as you come to know him
Ephesians 1:17

There are three answers to prayer:


Why? It’s all linked to the will of God.

The No is the most obvious. If something’s not in the will of God, he won’t bless it. For example, what if I were to pray, “God should I have an affair?” or “God bless this affair.” God would NEVER say, “Yes.” Why? In spite of my human logic and excuses, God cannot and will not bless anything that is contrary to his will.

The Yes is also pretty obvious. God obviously desires to bless our lives and our plans when we pray according to his will. And yet, sometimes he says No – even when we’re apparently praying according to his will.



Well, what if there are two people praying to receive the same job? Good work is a godly thing. And both are honorable and faithful people. From a human perspective, it appears this job would be an obviously blessing to both families. And God truly wants to bless them both. So what does God do? Do you see where this gets complicated?

This is where faith comes in.

Do you believe that God can find ways to bless you even if you don’t get your dream job?

Indeed, what is the greatest blessing? It’s not good jobs … it’s the relationship with God. If you know him, you’re already receiving the blessing. If you trust him – in spite of circumstance – you’re already receiving the blessing. If he says Wait, and you learn to keep abiding with him – even when you can’t see the desired outcome on the horizon – then you’re already receiving the blessing.

God wants to bless you and he’ll use whichever answer will inspire greater trust and richer relationship.

Are you willing to trust God even if he’s not a genie in the bottle who says yes to your every wish?

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants relationship
more than answers

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

John 5:30 - Wk 4 Day 3

Jesus said,
“I can of Myself do nothing …
I do not seek my own will, but
the will of the Father who sent me.”
John 5:30

If you want to know the will of God, Jesus shows you one simple tool:

Don’t seek your own will first.

Emptying ourselves is the first key to discovering God’s purposes for our own life.

How do we do that?

1.    Study God’s will – Read Scripture.
2.    Learn to hear God’s voice – Listen through Scripture and Prayer.
3.    Get to know God personally – Spend a Lot of time in Prayer.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who does better with step one
and needs to spend more time with step three

1 Kings 18:41 - Wk 4 Day 3 - part 2

Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel,

where he bowed to the ground,

with his head between his knees

1 Kings 18:41


After three years of drought, if you heard God’s voice clearly and absolutely assure you that He was going to bring rain, what would you do?


I know me. I’d probably be like the ten lepers whom Jesus healed. Do you remember? One came back to say thanks. But the other ninety percent hurried home in excitement, forgetting to acknowledge their healer. If God promised the He was sending rain, I might devote 10% of my time to giving thanks, but I’d probably spend 90% of my time running home to get the laundry off the line before the rains come!


How about you?


Do you know what Elijah did? This prophet – who heard God speak more clearly than any of us – heard powerfully and absolutely that God was sending rain. So what did Elijah do? He prayed the rain into existence.


Wait!!! God brings rain into existence, not prophets and people, right?! Yes … but God often waits for us to invite his actions into our world!


A drought-ending rain seems spectacular and supernatural, so let’s make this principle using more day-to-day terms. Say you’ve been fussing with your brother. It’s gone on far too long and some of the words have been very hurtful. We KNOW that God wills reconciliation. Like Elijah’s rain, we KNOW and can hear clearly that he wants to bring reconciliation into existence. But often God waits for us to invite his actions into our lives.


And so we pray. Elijah prayed and prayed and prayed until one little cloud finally dotted the horizon. If you’re separated from your brother, pray and pray and pray until the first little sign of reconciliation dots the horizon.


Praying for your brother will do several things …


1.    It will day-after-day soften your heart.

2.    It will day-after-day draw you closer to God.

3.    It will gradually open your corner of earth to heaven’s will.


The principle: Pray for the very things you know God wants to send.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who sometimes forgets

to pray for the obvious


Monday, June 18, 2012

John 6:40 - Wk 4 Day 2

Jesus said, “This is

the will of My Father …”

John 6:40


This week, we’re talking about discerning the will of God. One suggestion I heard was “look up all the places in the scriptures where ‘the will’ occurs.” That’s what I did. There are many, many, many more things that are clearly scriptural reflections of God’s will, but here are few to start with …


First – and here’s the motivation – what is the result of following the will of God?!


·         BECOMING PART OF THE FAMILY OF GOD: Jesus says, Mt 12:50, “Whoever does the will of My Father … is My brother and sister and mother."

·         ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: Jesus says, Mt 7:21, “The one who does the will of My Father … will enter … the kingdom of heaven. And John 6:40, “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” And 1 John 2:17 “The world is passing away, and also its lusts ; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

·         SILENCING THE IGNORANCE OF THE WORLD: Peter says, “[this] is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

·         FINDING TRUE SATISFACTION – WHICH IS SPIRITUAL, NOT PHYSICAL: Jesus said, Jn 4:34, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”


Second, here are few things that ARE the will of God …


·         HELP DRAW OTHERS TO GOD because Jesus says, "it is not the will of your Father … that one of these little ones perish,” and “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all [of the people] that He has given Me I lose nothing.” Mt 18:14, Jn 6:39

·         ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS based on a parable of Jesus: “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir '; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" Mt 21:28-31

·         DON’T SEEK YOUR OWN WILL because as Jesus says, “My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” and – John 6:38 – “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jn 5:30

·         DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD … so that you may prove what the will of God is.” Rom 12:2

·         REPENT. In fact, sometimes God’s will draws us to this point: “for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God … sorrowful to the point of repentance … so that you might not suffer [a greater] loss … For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation …” 2 Cor 7:9-10

·         SEEK UNDERSTANDING: “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Eph 5:17

·         SERVE GOD, NOT MAN:Do this not only when they are watching you, as people-pleasers; but with all your heart do what God wants, as slaves of Christ.” Eph 6:6

·         STAND FIRM: Epaphras… is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Col 4:12

·         BE SANCTIFIED / MADE INCREASINGLY HOLY:For this is the will of God, your sanctification” 1 Thes 4:3

·         SEXUAL PURITY: “For this is the will of God … that you abstain from sexual immorality” 1 Thes 4:3

·         TREAT YOUR BODIES AS A TEMPLE: For this is the will of God … that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God …” 1 Thes 4:3-5

·         DON’T DEFRAUD: For this is the will of God … that no man defraud his brother” 1 Thes 4:3,5

·         LOVE ONE ANOTHER: “For this is the will of God … you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” 1 Thes 4:3,9

·         BE COGNIZANT OF YOUR WITNESS TO UNBELIEVERS: “For this is the will of God … behave properly toward outsiders …” 1 Thes 4:3,12

·         PRACTICE PATIENCE AND ENDURANCE: “you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised [for] those who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Heb 10:36, 1 Pet 4:19

·         SHEPHERD THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU: “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight … according to the will of God” 1 Pet 5:2


In Christ’s Love,

A guy who knows which one

he needs to start working on

(How about you?!)