Thursday, June 11, 2009

Luke #64 - I Get Sad When You Leave

Luke #64 – I Get Sad When You Leave
“And when it was day, He departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought Him, and came unto Him, and stayed Him, that He should not depart from them” (Luke 4:42 – King James Version).

At the writing of this story, Katie was a wonderful little 3 1/2 year old person that God had blessed my life with.

Recently, she and I were reading a book about feelings. The book identified and gave the proper name to a range of feelings that we often feel. It has helped Katie tell me how she feels on several occasions; it’s not often that a young child her age knows how to tell someone that she is “disappointed.” I asked Katie several questions about her feelings, like “What makes you happy?” and “What makes you angry?” Of course, she gave me childlike answers like “When I go to church.” or “When someone takes something from my hand.” Then, as she often does, she floored me. I said, “Katie, what makes you sad?” Already seated on my lap, Katie laid her head against my chest, began to rub the back of my head, and said, “When you leave.” I almost lost it! I nearly began to weep. I realized that my child so loved me that she was saddened when I was not around.

Another story (if you don’t mind)…I am always amazed that the young people I minister to hate to go home from retreats and camps. I usually cannot wait to go home and see my family. Something occurred to me one day when we were packing up after a retreat. During these various outings these kids find themselves in an insulated environment, away from routine and distractions, and they meet with God. When it comes time to leave they do not want to go because they are afraid that the preciousness of that encounter with God cannot be duplicated in another place.

Jesus went to spend time alone with God and the people followed Him, sensing that He was preparing to leave Capernaum. They had seen and felt the awesome power of God’s healing in Christ Jesus. They had felt the dear touch of God and wanted Him to linger among them. They wanted more! Nearness to this wonderful power had become sweet and they begged the Christ to stay.

When God stepped down from heaven and took the form of man in Jesus it was Isaiah’s prophecy coming to life…God was with man (Isaiah 7:14)! He walked among us, talked with us, died for us, and defeated death and sin for us. Jesus healed, taught, and broke the power of sin and broke the bonds of sin. I cannot blame the people of Capernaum for begging Jesus to stay.

For the believer today, we need not hearken to some certain place or cling to a location for we have a much sweeter Jesus amongst us…by that I mean to say that He is no longer ONLY “God with us” but GOD IN US! Praises to His wonderful name! Bless God, O my soul, bless God! By His dying on the cross; by His going up, ascending to the Father, He provided a coming in for Himself…an indwelling in believers that assures us the never ending access to His presence. After all, that was His promise (John 15:5; Matthew 28:20). We do not have to depend on a solitary moment or place to experience His presence.

Were we like to Christ as my sweet little girl is to me…that we would be saddened by His absence, or even at the thought of the possibility. Were we to so love our Lord that to not be near Him would make us sad, we would finally grasp the intimacy that He wants with us.

The sad truth is that He doesn’t leave us, we leave Him. We sin or become apathetic. We drift away, sometimes not even knowing exactly how it happened. Maybe it’s got something to do with the distractions. Maybe it’s got something to do with busyness. I am sure it has a lot to do with lack of focus and much to do with our selfish and sinful hearts.

This much is certain…if we seek Him, He will be found (2 Chronicles 15:15). That’s a promise that we should gladly accept and pursue. He will not abandon us (Deuteronomy 4:31; Joshua 1:5; 1 Samuel 12:22; Hebrews 13:5…and many more!). We simply must walk in His ways and in humility meet with Him in prayer and the Scripture. Trust me, He’ll show up.

How sweet is fellowship with Christ to you today? Are you saddened when He’s not near to you? Do you need a place or a certain feeling to meet with Him? Seek Him out today; beg Him to be near. He will.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Luke #63 - Time For Everything But That

Luke #63 – Time For Everything But That
“And when it was day, He departed and went into a desert place” (Luke 4:42a – King James Version).

I remember very plainly that I was sitting in my office when the planes struck the twin towers in New York. My pastor and I went to his house and watched the news. We did not speak for an hour and a half. We were listening; we wanted to know what went wrong and were in stunned silence at the events that we witnessed.

Every time I go to the doctor the nurses put me in this little room. Eventually the doctor comes in and at some point he sticks a stethoscope on my chest and back. We both like to talk, but when he is doing that we are both silent as church mice. I want him to hear clearly to tell me what’s wrong and he wants to listen intently to hear if anything is wrong. I don’t want a single thing to interfere with a proper diagnosis.

I was working through a personal prayer and repentance guide at a recent retreat when I became convicted of the time I actually devoted to my prayer life. Part of that morning’s retreat instruction was to spend time, and I mean serious time, praising God. As I went through my repentance guide I kept thinking I pray quite a bit, but I don’t have the time to spend that these instructors are urging me to spend in prayer! Finally, the convicting voice of God broke over my protests and excuses and made me realize that I have time to watch Sportscenter almost every day and many times TWICE a day. I realized that I MAKE time for the things that I want to do!

I know that you all know where these illustrations are going by simply reading the Scripture for today. Jesus rose early to have QUIET time, alone with God. I am sure that the hectic ministry that He did in Capernaum required a time of refreshing, but I believe that more than that was His desire to fellowship with God on a personal and intimate level.

Having a meaningful quiet time is essential for a good walk with God. We can say we don’t have time, but we seem to have time for anything that we WANT to do. We have time to pursue hobbies. We have time to go to movies, watch TV, listen to music or play video games. I have been freshly convicted of this and Lord, before You even now, I repent. Having a quiet time with God is not only something I want, but something I desperately need. Do you feel this is important too? Do you feel the drawing of God; calling you to spend more intimate time with Him?

Most of our days are filled with shocking events; our emotions are shocked. We need to sit still before the Lord in the morning to prepare for those things and sit still before the Lord during them so that we may survive and thrive during them, and sit still before the Lord after these events to recover from them. We need to hear from God; gain HIS perspective on things.

There are things wrong with each of us; most of it sin that we may not even realize (sinful thoughts and attitudes are often hard to detect with a quick analysis). Like going to the doctor, we need to be silent and still before the Great Physician as He examines us and shows us the things that ail us. We need all the distractions to be out of the way that we may hear clearly during these quiet times with God.

More than recovering from days of shock and more than being examined, we need to experience intimate fellowship with Almighty God on a regular basis. That may require that we rise early or depart from our normal routine. I am sure we will have to sacrifice something to make time for God. I am also sure we won’t regret it. The question: will we do it? When it comes to spending time with God, alone, unimpeded, it seems we have time for anything but that.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Luke #62 - Too Close for Comfort

Luke #62 – Too Close for Comfort
“And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God.’ And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ” (Luke 4:41 – King James Version).

Relay For Life is a wonderful fundraising organization that helps the American Cancer Society help raise funds to fight cancer. Individuals form teams and do various fundraisers; then, the teams get together for an all night, non-stop relay in which team members take turns walking to symbolize the twenty-four hour struggle that cancer is for those stricken with any form of the disease. I wholeheartedly support what they do and have helped them raise money for several years.

I say all that to let you know that I support them; these next comments will not be flattering, but will serve as a perfect illustration for today’s devotion. Recently a team from our church participated in the all night relay event. We were given shirts to wear. On the back of the shirts were the names of corporate sponsors. One was a tavern; I blacked it off my shirt. I won’t endorse drinking in any way. The Bible never says “Thou shalt not drink!”, but I have seen too much damage done by alcohol (Scripture does say “Don’t get drunk” but I haven’t found many folks that drink without wanting to be drunk!). Another sponsor that sickened me was a company called PHE. I have no idea what the p, h, and e stand for, but that company sells pornography. I blacked that out too (FERVENTLY!).

One person saw me marking it off with my paint marker and asked me why I was doing it. I simply told them that I refused to walk around with that trash on my back. They didn’t know what the company sold. When I told them they said, “Well, at least they are giving money to a good cause.” To which I replied, “If it were up to me, Relay for Life wouldn’t take a red dime from them. Dirty money, earned by immorality and sin is still dirty!” Needless to say, I feel pretty strongly about this. The person then said, “Well, I didn’t know what it was and most other people won’t either.” I said, “I don’t care what other people know; I know and God knows the filth they peddle.” The person then said, “Well, people can look at other shirts and know what it was that you crossed out.” I replied, “They sure can…and I hope someone asks me why I crossed it out. I will be pleased to tell them.”

We live in a world that compromises too much! We have church buildings full of people who compromise too much! We have too much to do with too many things that God would call evil and hellish! Sure, we are to be IN the world, but not OF the world. Christians live by a different rule (or at least they should) than that of the world.

Some of you may think I am going a bit far with this, but I don’t. We are to be different than this world. The Living God abides in believers and He did not tolerate evil in any form. Don’t forget this; He loved sinners and hated sin. I don’t hate the people that produce pornography; I love them. Their sin is no worse than mine. I don’t go around wearing advertisements for my sin on my shirts and I’ll not wear theirs either! I am not having a part of it! I do hate pornography and will stand against it any chance I get. (For the record, I stand against gossips, murderers, drug dealers, grudge holders, pride, and the entire host of sin that Jesus stood against too!)

That day, as Jesus walked around Capernaum healing people, He casts demons out of some of the people. When the demons came out they identified Jesus as the Christ. Jesus told them to hush! He did not want to be identified with these fallen, evil creatures so even their accolades were unwanted. Those demons were telling the truth; Jesus was and is the Christ, but Jesus did not want any part of their rebellious endorsements…even if it was the truth. Jesus was not denying the truth, but He was refusing association with those evil ones who were saying it.

I’ll you as plain as I can do it…we need some of this in the church today! We need to disassociate ourselves from a bunch of this mess! Too many people are endorsing things that God would hate! I don’t care how much money some company or person gives to a church or good cause, evil is evil and sin is sin and we should have no part with any mess like that!

Listen, I could write a list that would take days to read noting the things I have seen Christians consciously and unconsciously endorse, but I want to make a simple point. It’s up to each of us as individuals to let God deal with us on the trash in our lives. My point is this: Christ wouldn’t let a demon speak a truth…a good truth, that He is the Christ…because He didn’t want any association with them, yet we have part with trashy things that are just plain trashy with no kind of goodness or truth about them at all! It’s wrong and ridiculous! It’s time to get right and live holy! It’s time to cast away the altars to this world and live solely for God! We are sojourners, foreigners in this land that is not our home…it’s time for us to realize that too much evil is too close for comfort! It’s time to get uneasy about the junk we endorse and allow. It’s time to live Godly! It’s not time to be politically correct; it’s not time to be tolerant to a fault. Love the sinners, hate sin. Rebuke evil by the power and in the name of Jesus; let’s clean up and live wholly for Him!

Remember this too…it’s not our actions that most concern God, but the heart attitudes that cause the actions. If we get our hearts right…get the demons and sin out of our lives…our actions will get right.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Luke #61 - Demons? Here? Now?

Luke #61 – Demons? Here? Now?
“And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God.’ And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ” (Luke 4:41 – King James Version).

It was late at night and I can’t even remember the city I was in, but I lay awake watching that city’s local news. There was a high speed chase on the streets that night; praise God no one was injured and the culprit was apprehended. As the news teams talked with the police, I could see the man in the background, sitting in the police car. He kept insisting that a demon was after him. The policeman chuckled and said, “He’s hopped up on dope.”

Drugs do make people do some strange things, but I cannot believe that every evil or strange things that are done these days can be accounted to drugs alone. That man may have been on drugs that night on the news, but whatever was the case, he looked awfully scared. Whatever was after him scared him more than those policemen. Even considering drugs cannot account for all the crimes and horrible things that are done. I believe, just in Jesus’ day, there are still demons at work within and around the realm of mankind.

Now that reality doesn’t sit well in many minds of the day, but that doesn’t change the truth of it one iota. What then do we do with the knowledge of this reality? We pray against evil; we cast evil away by the power and in the name of Christ Jesus; we win those captured souls to our Lord. Paul said, “A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 – NLT).

No matter the stage, no matter the odds, stand against the powers of evil that are raging. Not only did demons possess people in Jesus’ time on earth, I believe they still do. We need to realize and be ready for them.

I know this…demons could not stand to be around Jesus! So, that’s where I want to be…near Jesus! He promised He would never leave us and I am going to do my best to stick with Him. As a matter of fact, I want to be so true and pure of a vessel for the presence of Christ that demons get almighty nervous around me or flee altogether. There is nothing in me, save that presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit, which can stand against these supernatural powers, so I know, if for no other reason than to keep me from this evil, that I want Jesus to be near me and in control of me.

How about that? Demons in the 21st century might sound strange, but I truly believe they are at work here and now. I know this too…my conquering and good God is still alive and still on His throne! He reigns! He is jealous over His children! He is able to save! I will call upon His name and He shall my shield and strength be! Jesus’ touch cast out demons; my prayer is this: Take not Thy hand of mercy and grace from me, O God of my strength and salvation!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Luke #60 - I Can Help

Luke #60 – I Can Help
“Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘Thou art Christ the Son of God.’ And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ” (Luke 4:40-41 – King James Version).

At my chiropractor’s office the lady always answers the phone with this greeting: “It’s a good day at Williams Chiropractic! This is Rana; I can help you.” I usually am lying on the table getting my neck snapped back into proper order when I hear her say that and I wonder; “Oh yeah...can you?” Rana is a nice lady and Dr. Williams is a wonderful chiropractor and they both have confidence that the chiropractic field can make the world feel better. Rana answers that phone and declares she can help with such surety that I want to believe her when she says “I can help.” Sure, my neck feels better, but there is so much more wrong with me!

Jesus started His day in Capernaum teaching in the synagogue. He cast out evil spirits from a man and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Now the crowds thronged around Him with divers, or all kinds, of sickness asking for healing. He moved among the crowd touching people and casting out sickness and demons. That must have been a beautiful scene; to watch the Lord Jesus tenderly laying hands on person after person and dramatically changing their lives.

When Jesus said, “Come to me all ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” He meant it! That was His way of saying “I can help!” There are a lot of people in this world who want to help, but none like Jesus.

There are a great many unsolved mysteries of the human body known as sickness; man cannot cure them all and in many cases do not have the first clue as to how to treat or maintain them. I would be presumptuous at best to say I have any clue. Though I know Jesus CAN heal them, I would be doubly presumptuous to try to guess why He does in some cases and does not in other cases. Yes, some sickness IS caused by sin and can be cured by repentance (a subject that is little talked of these days). Yes, some sickness is to glorify God, that as He works His glorification in us we praise Him beyond (or in spite of) our circumstances. Other than that I just don’t know.

What I do know is that Jesus did not come to the earth, live and die to heal every sickness, but He did come to fill the pain with Himself. The disappearance of human suffering will not happen this side of heaven, but the filling of God through Christ Jesus can happen the moment we turn in full surrender.

Let me challenge you to think about something…

Who do you turn to FIRST for your health, emotional, spiritual, and mental sicknesses?

Do you turn to doctors, friends, 12 step programs, psychics, or any other of the host of worldly solutions? Yes, God uses doctors and friends and the occasional 12 step program (though I am POSITIVE He doesn’t use psychic weirdos who take money to tell people junk!). The question at hand is not who God uses; the question is who do you turn to first?

Even the demons believe in Jesus and tremble; today’s verses teach us that. They obviously recognized and feared His power. Do we? Today’s lesson is really quite simple…no matter the problem you may be facing, turn to Jesus. He may not heal your sickness, but He will fill you with Himself. Whether in the throes of depression or grief, burdened with sin, or beat down in the body, there is nothing He cannot handle and we certainly will not surprise our sovereign and omniscient God when we come to Him with our problems. His holiness may be offended by our sin, but His healing hand of grace will answer confidently with “I can help!”

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fat Body, Big God and Discipline - Entry #4

What I love about the battle of my weight is the battle. I mean, listen, I love to fight! The life of faith is marked by fighting. And, as I’ve been here before, I can tell you I am in for a fight. It is a good picture of walking with Jesus; I am constantly faced with choices and I battle my own desires, I fight against my own ignorance and I war what is “normal.”

I contend also that it is a personal battle and a corporate one as well. What I mean to say is how I am in the fight by myself, because it’s my choices that have to be faced and it’s my problems and it’s my weight. It is also corporate because God has already sent some prayer warriors and encouragers alongside me; some cheerleaders and friends who are wanting and wishing the best for me.

I am already encouraged by that. It is amazing to me that a few small posts on my pretty obscure blog have brought 2 people into this war with me. I am being honest; albeit through my normal lens of humor and straightforwardness. I am testifying of struggle and hope and anticipation and God’s people are responding with encouraging words and prayers. I mean, hey, it’s like church ought to be!

Which brings me to one of my oft exercised side sermons…

What if we did truly share our struggles and dreams with our brothers and sisters in Christ? What if we braved confession? What if could? Would? Did? I am constantly confirming two things the Holy Spirit has taught me in relationships: (1) a person loses steam when they try to argue someone who is humble; (2) honest confession is met with kindness. We desperately need this honesty! We need confession. We need the support that the Family will give in response to our confessions of struggle and need.

Sure, there are some who won’t understand. There are some that will ridicule. There are some that will laugh. Sure. Okay; good. That’s just the way it is. But, in my experience, for every 10 people that drag you down it only takes one to erase all of that junk and lift our spirit!

Therefore, I offer these verses to you (and myself):
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I know James says to “confess yours sins” and that is necessary. Also, it is useful to confess our struggles. Both are often encased in a stronghold. We need the prayers of righteous people; we need to see the problem, have the right mind about it, and go to war against it. We need people who will tell us the truth and desire God’s best for us. We need prophets, accountability partners and cheerleaders. We need people that will lay a willing hand to our burdens!

Onto something else…

I was riding a stationary bike and I noticed that it would tell how many calories a person burned as they exercised. When I noticed this I had burned 140 calories and had ridden about 4 miles in 20 minutes. Suddenly I remembered that a Mt. Dew has something like 170 calories. I thought, “Hey, no danged wonder I am fat! I am putting in more than I let out!” (I know, you are thinking, “Duh!”) However, what was so sobering, so weirdly sobering, is to put numbers to that stuff.

I like numbers. I know them. However, I have added them up in my case. It’s called math. I am working with a negative that has built up to positively too much weight!

Now that I’ve made this calorie discovery I am afraid that some cad may reveal to me the dangers of sweet tea. If you know, keep it to yourself. One thing at a time!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Luke #59 - The Natural Response

Luke #59 – The Natural Response
“And He arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought Him for her. And He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them” (Luke 4:38-39 – King James Version).

This is a true story, but I won’t name the physician because I don’t want people bugging him. I didn’t have insurance and I didn’t have money, but I was sick, sick, sick! I went to a doctor in town and said, “I don’t have any money right now, but I WILL pay you. I don’t have insurance and cannot afford a prescription.” I knew this particular doctor to be a Christian, so I appealed to him for help. Not only did he see me for free, but he provided the medicine I needed for the very painful sinus infection that I had at no charge. Needless to say I am a great admirer of that doctor these days. I would recommend him to anyone. As a matter of fact, I recommended him to a single mom who was strapped for cash, but had a sick child. He did the same thing for that lady’s child that he did for me. Now, there is not much I can do for this guy, but if ever I can, you’d better bet your bottom dollar that I will be quick to do it! I pray for him daily and thank God that He used that doctor as a minister of His grace. I think that is a natural response to his kindness towards me.

I am amazed at the power and tenderness of the Lord Jesus. He entered Peter’s home and found there a sick woman; specifically the mother-in-law of Peter. She was sick; Jesus told the fever to go away and by jingy if it didn’t! WHAT POWER! I see His tenderness in every healing He performed. He cares about people and wants to show them His love and mercy.

I also see in this passage a woman who responded to Jesus’ kindness. He healed this woman of her sickness and right away she served Christ. I think that is a natural response to the goodness of Christ…to serve Him.

Many times we serve God out of fear; fear of punishment or fear of His wrath. That’s good! We ought to fear God; we ought to have a great reverence of Him. We ought to realize that His judgment and wrath are perfect and serve Him so that we might avoid those things.

I believe the woman in today’s verses served Christ out of appreciation and out of love. Jesus is still in the business of healing today. Sometimes He uses the hands of doctors for His own and sometimes He does it miraculously. I went with a group of men to pray for a woman that had been diagnosed with two kinds of cancer. The next week the doctor’s could find NO trace of cancer in her! We prayed and God healed!

Physical sickness is horrible and I will not begin to say that I am an authority on why God heals some and does not heal others (that is a discussion for another day!). What I do know is that there is another sickness that is worse than any the body might endure. That sickness is sin and Jesus desires to see every case healed. The cross is the cure for ALL sin! It is the medicine He has provided and prescribed for sin sickness. Not only did He prescribe it but He paid the entire bill! Rather than paying from His pocket, Jesus provided this cure by paying with His life! Have you had your dose?

Further, I hope I am writing to some people that have experienced physical healing, but especially spiritual healing. I want to ask you, how have YOU responded to His grace? Have you responded by serving Him? Did you rise up from His healing power ready to give Him your all? I think it is the natural response!

No excuses…are you serving God in response to what He has done in your life? If not, hop to it!

Fat Body, Big God and Discipline - Entry #3

So...I finally weighed...I hadn't wanted to weigh, but now I've done it. I weigh 340 pounds! I can't and don't want to believe it myself. Yes, a lot of it is my beard and muscle. Okay, I know. And, I also know that in my case it means more sexy to spread around. Still, that's heavy! However, I think I was heavier last week before I weighed. I know the way I was soaking down soft drinks that simply quitting them was a good move in this endeavor.

I've been doing great! I don't feel lighter...hmmmm...I think it's this danged gravity!

Katie's First Recital

Katie was magnificent! Please take a moment and listen to her on the video!