Friday, December 06, 2013

What? There's a war going on?

Are you a constant casualty in an unknown war? 

Our enemy hates us: God said to Satan, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring" (Genesis 3:15a). Enmity is hatred. Our enemy hates us. Therefore, we need the strength of one who is stronger than our enemy. 

In Luke 11, Jesus said, "But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." (Luke 11:20-23, ESV)

Do you see that, dear friends? For centuries upon centuries, we have been locked in an epic struggle against an enemy that hates us. This enemy would harass us, oppress us, depress us, and, if possible, possess us with himself and dispossess us of our senses and make us mad (see Ecclesiastes 7:7).

Who's with the enemy? I'll tell you: everyone who is not with the Lord Jesus is with the enemy. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters..." (Matthew 6:24). If we are not "for Him," then certainly, from Jesus's standpoint, we are "against Him" (Luke 11:23). 

This war is constant. It doesn't let up. There are no sidelines and no timeouts. There is no peace treaty.

Spiritual armor* is not available for unspiritual people, so many are unprotected in a war they don't even know exists. The spiritually blind don't look into a spiritual war, even though we are all spiritual. The spiritual dead are being held captive by the enemy, and all that enemy wants to do is steal, kill and destroy...lie...roam around, being crafty, disguising himself as an angel of light, looking for someone to trick, ensnare and devour (ref. John 10:10, John 8:44, 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 14. 2 Timothy 2:26, 1 Peter 5:8).

Romans 8:31 says "If the Lord is for us, who can be against us?" But, dear friend, that is the catch...we must be hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3) for the Lord to be for us! 

Many are not even fighting a losing battle; they are suffering a defeated life! Friend, we must have the Strong One on our side! He is willing to fight for us! The Lord Jesus casts none away who humbly come to Him in surrender. He grants life and gives partnership to all who come to Him! If we are not with Him, we are against Him. We already have one enemy, and, unsurrendered to God, we position ourselves against Him as well. That means we'll be defeated in both life and beyond. We need victory! We need Him who has won! We need supernatural, super spiritual strength to defeat our natural predilections and spiritual foe.

Be aware of the war.
Be surrendered to the Savior.
Be victorious!

*Spiritual Armor

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit,with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I am NOT the captain of my soul

Morgan Freeman is cool. Matt Damon is a decent actor. Rugby rocks. Nelson Mandela was a boss leader. "Invictus" was fun movie. Poem quoting is manly. Okay... all that's covered. I ain't hating on people, 'kay? 

"Invictus," by William Ernest Henley, sounds great, but it points heavily to humanist self-sufficiency for this dude's understanding of the Bible's teaching on the necessity of depending on God. Don't take my word for it; read it here... 

William Ernest Henley 

Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
Finds and shall find me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate; 
I am the captain of my soul

Now, this cool lady, Dorothea Day, wrote a counter poem. I think it's more in line with my understanding of relating to God and myself. 

Dorothea Day 

Out of the night that dazzles me, 
Bright as the sun from pole to pole, 
I thank the God I know to be 
For Christ the conqueror of my soul. 
Since His the sway of circumstance, 
I would not wince nor cry aloud. 
Under that rule which men call chance 
My head with joy is humbly bowed. 
Beyond this place of sin and tears 
That life with Him! And His the aid, 
Despite the menace of the years, 
Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.

I have no fear, though strait the gate, 
He cleared from punishment the scroll. 
Christ is the Master of my fate, 
Christ is the Captain of my soul.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Curing post-short-term-mission-trip sickness

Post-mission-trip sickness can be cured! Take two John 15s and a shot of Great Commission and call me in the morning.


Abide in Jesus and make disciples. There; you’re fixed.

What? Someone is saying, “Tim, what in the world are you talking about?” I’m talking about folks who go on a short-term mission trip and say for an entire year how much they miss it. That’s post-mission-trip sickness! And, it can be cured!

Maybe I should spell this out a little more. If you had a sickness that would take ten treatments to cure, would you go back to the doctor all ten times? Sure, yes, you know you would. You’d be concentrated on the healing, not the burden of going back and forth so many times.

Likewise, this will take you a few moments to read, and it make take a few days to get over your feelings about it and it may take a few weeks of God’s stirring before you begin to accept it and it may take a couple months for you to make it a reality. But, if you’ll concentrate on the cure, the trouble will be worth it.

Mind you, it doesn’t have to take so long. Remember, abide in Jesus and make disciples; that’ll fix you right up. But, I believe most of us need some convincing if we’re to take these things into our hearts. So, whether the following are considered treatments or truth we need to face, get ready for a potentially convicting ride.

First things first, a mission trip is about Jesus (or should be; if it wasn’t repent and then lovingly rebuke whoever planned it or rebuke yourself for going for the wrong reasons). But, assuming it was about Jesus, that’s something you miss. You went out for the Lord; you lived for the Lord; you served the Lord. Your time was spent focusing on His will for your life. Your time was spent watching your words and using up your energy in fellowship with Him.

Can you say your life is about Jesus today? One thing we miss when we come home from a mission trip is living for Jesus. Most folks return to “normal life” and drop the 24/7 living for Jesus they were experiencing while they were on mission.

Maybe, if we’re honest, some of us do not even know how to live for Jesus. Seek counsel. You may not even know it, but it’s the big thing you miss about the mission trip you were on… you miss living for Jesus!

Jesus' call to “Follow me…” is not meant to be for temporary visits to foreign countries or short trips to corporate gatherings of the Body of Christ. It’s meant for life. It’s meant for times in your family and school and job and friendships and community and EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME! He is THE way. He is THE truth. He is THE life. We don’t go to the Father, except through Jesus. We must have a Jesus focused life!

That Jesus focused life is the prescription, and most of these other 9 pills come from that bottle!

We need a Jesus focused life, and we also need a Word focused life. We were in the Word (devotional books) and under the teaching of the Word (team leader teaching and 3 Story) and leading in the Word (all the ministry activities) for 9 solid days. Not only that, we lead up to the trip with extra times in the Word. Not only that, we spent time teaching others how to teach others the Word!

Word! Word! Word!

It set your thinking.
It told your heart how to feel.
It resisted self and self-centered attitudes.
It informed our every day, all day.

Are you in the Word? That’s a start. Having a reading habit is a start. But, we also need a Word-centered meditation habit and we also need to build the habit of applying the wisdom of the Word to our lives AND living it out in obedience.

Again, you don’t know it, but one thing you missed if the focus on the Word of God the mission trip gave you. It shaped your approach to EVERYTHING!

Thirdly, the mission trip gave you constant fellowship with believers. That’s tied to the fourth thing (which has two parts); you had constant accountability.

Many of us live and identify constantly with people who do not care about God, or if they “care” about God, it’s hard to tell it affects their lives on a day to day basis. Seriously, let’s keep it real, being caught up in American culture and tripping over the silly stuff of everyday life can be cured with intentional discipleship. 

On a mission trip, we’re with the Body all the time. It matters! We are encouraged! We are held accountable for our behavior, speech and work ethic.

Who’s doing any of that for you now?
What do your friends focus on?

You see, that accountability deal is big. You were on a big team and part of a smaller team and we kept pushing each other. The other part of accountability was that excuses weren’t offered or allowed. In other words, we went on mission to get the job done, so we worked through tiredness and sickness and irritability or ____________; our family in the Lord held us accountable and didn’t allow us space for excuses!

Accountability is a huge blessing. Nothing encourages me more than someone who really cares about me staying on track as a disciple of Jesus. Do you have an accountability partner?

Are you on mission in your personal life and with your local church?

One of the great shames is (a) when people will go a long ways to serve God but won’t serve God right where they are and / or (b) people who expect to represent the Body of Christ in a foreign country when they are not committed to the Body of Christ right where they live. There is something hyper-hypocritical about these things.

You didn’t think about it then, but one thing you loved was the fellowship in the Body of Christ, every day, all day and the accountability that afforded you.

And that led you (and ME!) to the fifth thing… constant service. Even when we aren’t doing a project or preparing to do a project, we minister to one another.

Is that your mentality and habit right now?
What hobbies and habits keep you from a life of constant service?
Why will we go away and serve till we’re exhausted, but will barely lift a finger at home?

You don’t know it, but you loved the exhaustion of good works while you were on mission. The constant service blessed your heart!

And, though you might hate to realize this, the structure of your days and nights blessed you, too. You had a time for “lights out” and a time to get up and a time to eat and a time to study and a time to rest and a time to work. The structure of the trip created for you a discipline that you need to now create for yourself.

Too many things grab our attention. We are constantly diddling these blasted phones and pads and laptops and games and and and and and…

The structure of the trip was like a big knife, shaving off junk and getting to the good stuff. I think one of the BIGGEST blessings of being on most mission trips is our stinking cell phones don’t work! We actually get to hold our heads up and look around and talk to people.

Do you create structure for yourself?
It can be a huge blessing.

Honestly, it’s one reason you miss the mission.

Plus, it’s a no escape escape. What?

When we don’t have to answer the phone, we don’t have to answer the phone! We don’t have to run away from it! It’s not there to run away from.

We actually need this. We need no escape escapes. (This is #7, by the way.) We need to run away without having to go anywhere. The cell phone deal makes me think of it, but it’s true; we need to simply let some things go in our lives.

Often we cannot even tell what’s in our way until something shows us, but, when we discover it, we need to let it go. Then we don’t have to wrestle with it or run away from it. On a mission trip, you escape from all sorts of things without even knowing it!

Some of our relationships and hobbies and habits are anchors in our lives, and they hinder us from running the race of faith and service.

Some of us didn’t even know how good letting that stuff go was. We thought it was the mission trip that made us feel so good, so we want to go back. We want to escape.

What we need, though, is to let some stuff go.
Then, we don’t have to run from it or that…we can just run for the Lord!

We also loved living for Jesus without our personal history being on the scene. In other words, when we go out for the Lord to places where people don’t know us, they don’t know our hang ups and histories. They just see our smiling faces.

What is awesome, however, and where God gets glory is when we live for Jesus in SPITE of our personal histories. For example, nobody in Ukraine or Puerto Rico or Colombia or Nicaragua or any of the places I’ve gone knows I’ve been a drunk and a drug addict or that I have a criminal record. I seem like “awesome dude” to them.

And they remind me…

I don’t have to face any of that out on the road.

Not only that, but my family knows I struggle with anger and that I’m borderline sinful in how much I work and that I need quiet time (ALONE) or I’ll become a monster. I can hold it together for a few days, but at home, they know me.

At home, we have to face that stuff.
The monster is in the secrets and the denial.
If we turn it over to Jesus and let it out in the open, the power of it is released.

Finally, two tough truths (#s 9 & 10)…

IF we really missed the people, we’d be building them up in the Lord while we were away from them. IF we really missed the people, we’d be praying for them. IF we really missed the people, we would want them to come to Jesus, or if they are Christians, we’d want to see them walking passionately for the Lord. It would not be simple sentimentality.

When we really have a burden for people, and when that burden really comes from the Lord, and when that burden is born out of truly being on mission with God, we want God stuff for those people. We remember the jokes, but we long for their souls to be encouraged and for them to draw near to the Living God. That’s when we’ll know we’ve been on mission from the Lord.

That other stuff, well that’s something else.

And, if our hearts were bent for the place where we were on mission, then we’ll be working for that place from where we are. We’ll be trying to get the Gospel to them. We’ll be trying to build up the church there, so they can take the Gospel to their community.

These things are what it means for having a burden from God for a people and a place.

Now, I know, I know… you’re thinking, Tim, that’s hard. Maybe so, but it real, and it’s biblical.

Living for Jesus…
Word focused…
Constant fellowship…
Getting rid of weights that hold us back…
Facing personal history…
Getting a burden for people…
Getting a burden for places…

On a mission trip, we got all of that!
We can have it now, too!

Friends, this COULD BE the greatest thing about short-term missions; they COULD BE the thing to show us that living a life of service is good and right and a blessing to our souls. We miss that place and that time and those people because they represent a time when were starting to see through the fog and see what our lives could be.

That’s what I’m saying! But, it all starts with that first one; that first admonition...we can live on mission, but we’ve first got to focus on Jesus.

Will you? Will you focus on Jesus? Will you get on mission?
This is the life you were called to, not just a trip you got to go on…

Monday, October 21, 2013

Possibly the worst advice ever

"Follow your heart." This has the potential to be the worst advice known to mankind. According to the Prophet Jeremiah, our hearts are "desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). Most of us don't want to believe this, but God's assessment is from perfect knowledge, and our motives and actions pretty much nail us and prove Him right. 

We can't follow a heart that is like that! It can get worse... 

When we don't recognize God for who He is and worship Him above all things, we lead ourselves into dangerous grounds with our hearts. Notice what happens when a "desperately wicked" heart is given over to its natural course. Notice what following that type heart leads to!

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Romans 1:24-25, ESV)

Before we can follow our hearts, we need a new heart. We need what God spoke of through Prophet Ezekiel, when He said, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). Then, that heart needs constant guarding (Proverbs 4:23) and abiding (John 15). Without the new heart, and without the Spirit's constant help, we will epitomize Ecclesiastes 10:2, which says, "A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left."

New heart; surrendered heart; growing, guarded heart: wise.
Stone heart; heart that follows own desires: fool.

I only trust my heart when it agrees with God. Period.

"Follow your heart" may indeed, depending on the condition of the heart, be the worst advice ever given.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SECOND and FINAL draft of petition

With all due respect to you as an individual and with due regard to your elected office, we the people, the citizens and your constituency, the people of this area and of this nation, enlist your fullest attention and effort toward initiating and affecting immediate change to the benefits and terms of the entire legislative branch of the United States.

In our own Declaration of Independence, it is stated that “Prudence indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” Rest assured, the items listed here can in no way be equated with the terms of light and transient. The inherent significance of this is amplified when considered alongside the lot you have been appointed to bear as an advocate for the American people in your current elected position.

Public servant, many of the privileges that you and your elected colleagues in Congress have come to perceive as entitlements have become encumbrances to the American people. Consequently, with all prudence, we unwaveringly seek effective change.

It is our understanding that our American patriarchs desired a government of citizen statesmen, not career politicians. It is time to restore that intention, and to hold it to the depth of regard that it merits.

We the people, as citizens of the United States, in peaceful cohort, request the immediate adoption of the “Congressional Reform Act of 2013,” which should include, in our fair judgment, nothing less than the following...

1.                  Tenure/Pension- Members of Congress are paid while in office and will receive NO further compensation when their terms have ended.
2.                  Participation in Social Security- Members of Congress, past, present, and future, will participate in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund will be moved to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds that would have gone into the Congressional retirement fund will flow into the Social Security system, and members of Congress will participate in this system alongside the rest of the American people.
3.                  Retirement Benefits- Members of Congress will purchase their own retirement plans, just as the rest of the American citizens do.
4.                  Pay Raises- Members of Congress will no longer be able to vote for their own pay raises. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 2%.
5.                  Health Care- Health Care for members of Congress will be changed to align with the costs and benefits allotted to the rest of the American people through the Affordable Care Act.
6.                  Law Abiding Responsibilities- Members of Congress must equally abide by all of the laws that they impose upon the American people. To this end, Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution must be amended to allow for any member of Congress to be arrested for just cause, even misdemeanor form, equitable to all other American citizens.
7.                  Term Limits- Members of Congress will not be allowed to serve more than two terms in the House or Senate, whether consecutive or not. Should Congress members serve two terms in either the House or Senate, they may then be allowed to seek election for two terms in the other. No member of Congress shall ever be allowed to serve additional terms by representing a different state or district.
8.                  Lobbying- No former member of Congress shall be allowed to serve in any capacity as a lobbyist once leaving public office, neither in his own district or state or in another district or state, including the national capital, Washington D.C.
9.                  Campaign Funding- No member of Congress can receive campaign funds from outside of his area of constituency, save immediate family. A candidate for the House of Representatives, whether incumbent or not, can only receive campaign funds from persons with legal, abiding residence within that district, which shall be defined as 10 months out of the year. A candidate for the U.S. Senate, whether incumbent or not, can only receive campaign funds from persons with legal abiding residence within his state, which shall be defined as 10 months out of the year.

We, your undersigned constituents, do peacefully command attention to the effective reform of Congress as is outlined above. We submit this in effort to produce results that will greatly benefit all of the citizens of this great country, and to the end of restoring the functions of Congress that are conducive to the restoration of the just practices that our founders intended.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

FIRST DRAFT, SUGGESTED Congressional Reform Act


I am totally open for discussion and change. What I am not open to is unpeaceful fellowship. Comment with love and the good of others in mind, and do so as ladies or gentlemen, or refrain from participation.

Here is the congressional reform I suggest "we the People" demand immediately. My plan, upon receive counsel from wise friends is to indeed create a petition, beg for its reproduction among friends, seek signatures (my personal goal will be 5,000 eligible voters) and indeed send said petition to all parties who represent my Congressional District and the State of North Carolina (House Representative Howard Coble and Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, in my case).

A Peaceful Petition Demanding Change
Sirs and madams, with all due respect to you as a person and with all due regard to your elected office, we the people, the citizens, your constituency, the people of this area, and of this nation, demand you work with other like agents and effect immediate, fruitful, peaceful change to the benefits and terms of the entire legislative branch of these United States.
Our own Declaration of Independence wisely warns us that “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…” Sirs and madams, your offenses, which have become so commonplace that you call them rights as servants, have become an encumbrance to the American People and demand, with all prudence, immediate and effective change. These Legislative offenses are surely no “light and transient” causes, for the lot of you bear upon the American People hardship with your current service.
Further, as our Declaration of Independence wisely states, it has become the “Right of the People to alter” the course upon which you are woefully operating.
It is our understanding that our American patriarchs desired a government of citizen statesmen, not career politicians. It is time to restore that intention, and to hold it in higher regard than its current establishment apparently does.
We the People, the citizens of these United States, in peaceful cohort demand the immediate adoption of The Congressional Reform Act of 2013, which should include, in our fair judgment, nothing less than the following.
1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressperson collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 2%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people, and altar the Constitution (Article I, Section 6) to allow for any Congressperson to be arrested for just cause, even misdemeanor form, equitable to every American Citizen.
7. No Congressperson is allowed to serve more than two terms in the House or the Senate, whether consecutive or not. Should congresspersons serve two terms in one House, they are then allowed two terms in another. No congressperson shall ever be allowed to represent more terms by representing a different district or state.
8. No former Congressperson may be allowed to serve in any capacity as a lobbyist once leaving public office, neither in their own district or state or in another district or state, especially including the national capital, Washington, D.C.
9. No Congressional candidate can receive campaign funds from outside of said candidate’s constituency’s area, save from immediate family. A candidate for the House of Representatives, whether incumbent or not, can only receive campaign funds from persons with legal, abiding residence, which shall be defined as 10 months of the year, within their district. A candidate for the US Senate, whether incumbent or not, can only receive campaign funds from persons with legal, abiding, which shall be defined as 10 months of the year, within their state.
10. All contracts with past and present Congresspersons are void effective 12/31/13. The American people did not make this contract with Congresspersons.

We the undersigned do peacefully demand immediate, effective reform of Congress, that that body may once again become a servant to the American People, rather than a belligerent, mostly useless, ineffective band of privileged politicians. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank You, God.

Thank You, Father. 
Thank You for sending Jesus. 
Thank You, Jesus. 
Thank You for loving the church so much that You died for us. 
Thank You for counting us Your joy. 
Thank You, Holy Spirit. 
Thank You for revealing the Son to us, and giving the church Yourself. 
Thank You, Father. 
Thank You that I'm no longer an orphan. 
Thank You, Jesus.
Thank You for loving me as Your brother, and sharing Your inheritance.

Thank You, Holy Spirit. 
Thank You for invading my life and being intimate with me; knowing me and filling me. 
Thank You, God. 
Thank You for being personal. 
Thank You for being knowable. 
Thank You for revealing Yourself.
Thank You for revealing my sin.
Thank You for not leaving me helpless.
Thank You for the breathe of life.
Thank You for a quickened spirit. 
Thank You for calling me out of darkness and into the marvelous light.
Thank You that my wife loves You.
Thank You that she works hard.
Thank You that she is kind to me.
Thank You for the patience You give me through her.

Thank You for the oft-granted affirmation You give through her.
Thank You that she truly is a helpmeet.
Thank You that both my daughters love You.

Thank You for their tender hearts.
Thank You for their simple, honest faith.
Thank You that they have a fear of hell.
Thank You that they have an expectant hope of heaven.
Thank You for their work ethic.
Thank You that each one is unique.
Thank You for causing them to love each other.
Thank You that You are the Lord of our home.
Thank You for a sound mind. 
Thank You for a healthy body.
Thank You for a fine family.
Thank You for supplying more food than I can eat.
Thank You for a solid home. 
Thank You for plenty of clothes.
Thank You for my pots and pans.
Thank You for good friends.
Thank You for a great local church.
Thank You for refining me. 

Thank You for encouraging me.
Thank You for rebuking me.
Thank You for allowing me to hear Your voice.
Thank You for the Word, written and Living. 

Thank You for giving me ears to hear music. 
Thank You for eyes that see the beauty of all that you've made. 
Thank You for a curious mind.
Thank You for a changed heart.
Thank You for this computer.
Thank You that I can read and write.
Thank You that I can walk. 
Thank You for all the experiences You've allowed to work in my life till today. 
Thank You for every person You've used to shape me.
Thank You for every hill.
Thank You for every valley.
Thank You for the times I've been able to give.
Thank You for the times when I've only been able to receive.
Thank You that the giving and receiving is of You, and not me. 
Thank You for pillows.
Thank You for blankets.
Thank You for furniture. 
Thank You for our minivan.
Thank You for purpose on Earth.
Thank You for the waiting reward. 
Thank You for work.
Thank You for rest.
Thank You for honey badgers.
Thank You for puppies. 
Thank You for buzzards.
Thank You for clouds.
Thank You for the sun.

Thank You for the rain.
Thank You for oxygen.
Thank You for water. 
Thank You for magnets. 
Thank You for for listening... 

Thank You Lord for Your blessings on me!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Do you believe in demons?

Some people see a demon on every doorknob. So many, in fact, that they blame every single thing on demons. Some people dismiss the entire idea of demons. They say such things are not for the modern mind and do not stand up against intelligent thinking or scientific scrutiny. I say the truth is somewhere in between. But, beyond others' opinions to the extreme and my understanding in the middle of those extremes, their lies one important reality: Jesus believed in demons.

Consider this account:  "And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 'What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.' But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be silent, and come out of him!' And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.' And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee." (Mark 1:21-28, ESV)

There, that's enough for me. It seems they believed in Him, too.

I think it's safe to say that Jesus believed in "normal" sickness, too. Consider this: "And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him." (Mark 1:29-34, ESV)

I also think it's safe to say Jesus believed in sickness springing from sin. Consider this: "'Which is easier, to say, "Your sins are forgiven you," or to say, "Rise and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'--he said to the man who was paralyzed--'I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.'" (Luke 5:23-24, ESV)

My point is not to dispute the conventional wisdom of going to medical and psychological doctors. My point is that we begin to consider, in a fresh way, the fact, which Jesus believed, that there are some behaviors, activities, sickness and emotional disturbances directly linked to the presence of demons in our world.

And, then, petitioning God with all humility, ask Him to work against such evil. Fact is, what I am blatantly suggesting is to seek Him first in everything, even before we seek out the help of doctors, seek out the help of God.

I think one of our key problems as a culture is failing to consider some things as spiritual problems. We think everything is something the hand of a man or a pill from a bottle can attend to. Fact is, speaking of a demon in Mark 9:29, Jesus said, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."

Speaking specifically about spiritual warfare, Ephesians 6:18 says, "...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 18 say, "....pray without ceasing...for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Not everything can be repaired by human hands...

Nor do I believe everything people face falls simply into the realm of psychological or physiological problems. There is a supernatural enemy. Against such a foe, we should be knowledgeable. More so, we should be watchful. More so, we need God to deal with such a foe. Our role is often prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord and exercising dependency in Him.

Spiritual issues require spiritual solutions. Let us first and always seek the Lord.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's the exact same, except worse

I've always wanted to be a tough guy. I don't know that I am, and I'm not going to start counting scars or sharing stories to determine for myself or you if I am. I mean, I've got scars and stories, but they prove I've survived; they don't really tell how I fared or feared in the middle of the trouble. 

You just can't look at a fossil and tell if the flower smelled good or not. That's a rabbit that I want to chase, but I've got an elephant to eat, so let me move on...

I'm out of shape. Anyone who knows me knows that. That's not revelatory to anyone. Some of those scars are directly related to that fact, too. 

You can't tell it now, but I wasn't always out of shape. I used to run, regular and far (but never very fast). 

I'm not copping out. Much of this is still in my hands (or, more geographically correct, around my waist). I've got to work and there's work I can do. Don't get hung up in this, or you'll miss the reason for my writing today.

I've got bad knees. Really bad knees. I've got feel-like-I'm-always-grinding-corn kind of knees. The right one is shot, as the saying goes. When I was 35 the doc told me he'd be surprised if I didn't get a knee replacement before 40. I dislocated my knee for the 40-teenth a few days ago. To say it swelled is an understatement. It ballooned. I knew a visit to the orthopedic doc was necessary, so I resigned myself to it and went. 

Today, he said I need a knee replacement. It's been 7 years (or maybe 8 -- maybe I was 34 ... ????).
"What's the other option, doc?"
According to him, keep on keeping on; expect bad days and worse days and bad weeks and long stretches of recovering from constant issues. Or get a knee replacement (expensive) and another in 20 years (expensive). Knee replacement or more of the same, except worse? 

So, I say, "Oh, so just keep living like I've been living for years?"

Well, there's the good news! It's the exact same as it's been for years, except worse. (I can't find the emoticon for this blog, so I'll just say "smiley face" and "winky face" and "LOL".)

Or, maybe not...

I really cannot remember how many orthopedic surgeries I've had; I don't recall all the broken bones; I lost count of ER visits and braces and I don't know how many sets of crutches I've owned. I'd say it's been a ride, but that would be a lie; it's been a limp. I've never felt like quitting. I've never felt like giving in to the injuries and the surgeries and the physical rehab. One time, I came back from a totally ruptured ACL faster than Jerry Rice (you know, that kinda thing is one for the annals and whoever reads those boring things knows my name).

Today, I kind of felt like quitting... 

Today, I felt punched in the stomach. Okay, not really. It was worse, and not in the "lower" sense, but in the higher sense. I felt punched in the heart. 

It was an unusual feeling for me. I'm no quitter. I'm no down-in-the-mouth kinda cat. I come up swinging.

I limped to my car, started it, turned on some Jesus music, adjusted the A/C and stared blankly for a few moments. Then in machine gun fashion, my thoughts roared so fast that statements where yells and questions had no time for answers:
"I'm never going to feel like walking more than a few hundred yards again."
"I'm too young for this junk."
"I think I'll quit."
"How can I get on disability?"
"Shut up, idiot."
"Buck up. Be a man. Get your game up."

"I'm going to be fat forever."
"Good grief..."

Thank God, He loves me. Thank God, He intervened on my self conversation. Self conversations aren't always good, and my self-derision can get pretty brutal. So, yes, thank God He intervened.
I began to drive. I'm a do-the-next-needed-thing kind of guy, and the next thing was a needed trip to the grocery store, so I headed that way. 

Under Spirit-led compulsion, I pulled over; I knew God was communicating something to my spirit.  I didn't try to disguise it (who can trick God anyway?), so I'm sure my frustration bubbled out, or up in this case...
"What, Lord? I'm listening." 
"Tim," (that's what He calls me, or sometimes, "boy"), "Remember My joy. Rejoice in Me. None of this diminishes Me. Get your head right. Look in my word. Rejoice." 
I sat and read all of the letter to the Church at Philippi.
And, I began to pray...

Great Physician knows best. I set my mind on things above. I rejoiced in my Redeemer. I remembered that I can limp to heaven and run when I enter in. Then, as the Holy Spirit is so faithful in doing, I began to hear Andrae Crouch's voice in a song that is drilled into my heart and became re-convinced of how through it all I've learned to trust in Jesus and I've learned to trust in God. I began to thank God for the "storms He's brought me through." I've learned to "depend upon His word." He's good. He's true. He's right. 

Pretty soon, Lynda Randle's voice invaded my space, remembering a special song I love to hear her sing. The words came to me: "Life is easy when you're up on the mountain..." The tune began to stir in me: "For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley. When things go wrong, He'll make them right. And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times. The God of the day is still God in the night." That woman can sing! I can't, but I did. 

So, yes, my knee is the exact same, except worse. But, my heart is better. 
That's the point of this.
God is faithful...

...and good...
...and I love Him more today after "bad" news than I did before.

Did He fix my knee?
Can he?
Will he?
I can't say, but He knows these bones will live. 

But, my heart is so much better. My head, too. 
I needed this word, and not just for knees; for my whole life...
"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV) 

I can strain forward in a limp. I sure can. 

I walked into the grocery store singing Tom Petty

I know, I know... it's not Christian. Still, it's my song for today: "No, I won't back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won't back down. No, I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around, and I'll keep this world from dragging me down. I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down. Hey, baby, there ain't no easy way out..."

After all, if God is for me -- and more important for today, WITH ME -- what have I to fear?
Yep, after 7 or 8 years, the knee is the exact same, except worse. 

But, the man, after those same years, well, I'm not the exact same, but I'm still depending on the exact same God.