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. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rebutting a Skeptic / Killing the Seed

a seed is ever so small
but planted grows so tall
firm in solid soil
it roots and springs with little toil
the most dangerous seed ever uncaught
is yon seed planted to corrupt our thought 

You know how it works, right? It's a small thing; tiny, even. Doubt. 

Hang with me on this one, and I promise, it'll bless you or hurt you, but either way, it'll help you. 

It's helping me just to think through it!

It's at it's worse when it's about the most important things. Our enemy, using divers methods, would love nothing more than to cast doubt into our thinking of God. That's what the serpent did in the Garden of Eden. Here's the testimony from Scripture about this character: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made." (Genesis 3:1a) See that? Crafty. Yep. What is the first act of this craft trickster? "He said to the woman, 'Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'" (Genesis 3:1, ESV) Catch that? He planted a seed of doubt!

That's how the enemy works.
"Did God really say ____________?"
"Do you think that's what He really meant?"
"Isn't that
just and old book?"
On and on...a doubt creating machine is our enemy. 

I think there are hoards of websites and college classrooms designed by Satan himself for the sole purpose of casting doubt. Sure, they claim you are "getting informed" or "gaining an accredited degree," and you just might be getting those things, but we'd do well to make sure we don't get some other mess along the way.

The Apostle Peter was given a word about this: "This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.' For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished." (2 Peter 3:1-6, ESV, emphasis mine)

Sounds quite Eden-ish, doesn't it? 

This stuff is the most dangerous. It is. It subverts our relationship with God, and no other relationship is more important. No other relationship matters more. No other relationship comes with larger blessings or more dire consequences. 

But, that's not what I really want to write about. Do not mistake what I mean, NOTHING is more important than our relationship with God, and we must wage all out war against doubt and unbelief. 

There's this other thing, though...
Relationships are tricky enough, right?
Love relationships.
Work / school acquaintances.
The authorities over and around us. 

That's the second biggest thing the enemy wants broken, or jacked up in our lives: relationships with others. 

I'm becoming firmly convinced that the enemy's number one tool in those relationships is doubt, too. People do it all the time! It's usually disguised as ordinary conversation or gossip, but it does its dirty work, no matter how unassuming it seems. 

"You know how they are..."
"Someone said they ..."
"Bless her heart..."
"I heard..."
"They've always been like that."

Sometimes it's just a look when someone mentions someone.

That's a scoffers work!
And, that mess ruins relationships. It casts doubt.
We must refuse it.
Maybe even rebuke it.
Definitely not receive it...

I've been thinking about this since the other day, when I was sitting in a hospital, talking to someone. They asked me a question about someone else, and it was like the Lord revealed to me that my answer would possibly cast doubt upon another person's character, so I just refused to answer. There was no flattering answer to give, and really only my unneeded opinion. I was pressed for an answer, but I refused. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I knew, in that moment, I was growing. (I wanted to go find a door frame and scratch something in it.) 

I've refused gossip before, but this was so subtle. God gave me discernment in the moment. It was a tiny seed, and I could see how we (I) plant them, and we jack up relationships.

I don't want to be a scoffer. Here's God's wisdom advised for scoffers: "Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease." (Proverbs 22:10, ESV) 

I think God is right! Hushing-up the scoffer would be the quarrel-killer.

Absolutely, I know what you're thinking, and you're right... sometimes we have to caution people and report things we don't really want to report. I know. But, keep it real with me, what's the ratio of times it's needed and times we just say stuff? I'd wager the need-to-say times are far, far fewer than the not-need-to-say times. 

We need to edify. There's the goal we make and the line we draw. Does it build up? Was that our goal when we spoke it? Do we desire to be built up? Are we desiring to build up the one we are talking about? Are we desiring to build up the one we are talking to? 

We must be careful of what seeds we plant. We may be seeding doubts and ruining relationships. That ain't good. 

Rebut the skeptic.
Rebuff the scoffer. 
Rebuke the flaming tongue

Let me close with James 3:1-12, 'cause he says it better than me... 

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we putbits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (ESV)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cracking Hard Shells

Life often feels like a full on assault. Seriously, I keep my knuckles up most of the time, and I remember the necessary armor requisite for the fray. Fightings within and fightings without, and that's when I'm alone! 

Things get hard. I dig in and scrap. There's an old saying: "It's better to make a good run than a bad fight." Let's just say I don't subscribe to that thinking. I'll make a bad fight without blinking! 

Now, don't you go mistaking what I'm saying. I'm not talking about fighting others. I'm talking about the spiritual battle that is my own life. Too often, I dig in and scrap rather than remember the battle is the Lord's. 

You know, being a man fit for the fight has a terrible side consequence at times, and that is, in my case, a closed heart. No, I don't mean a hard heart. I mean a closed heart. I don't let anyone new in. It seems I get all I can handle and there's no space for others; more accurately, it doesn't feel safe to let others in. Well, beloved, that ain't good for the ministry, it's not good for my life and it's not remotely close to who God calls a believer to be. 

I know that. Really, I do. 

I literally have a list of things I do to combat such a spirit when it comes creeping in.

  • Consider Jesus. Seriously, ponder HIM instead of me! Think on His life, His teachings, His character, His coming, His coming back...just intentionally ponder Jesus.
  • Get in the Word and let the Word get into me... I mean, you know, I'm in the Word, but sometimes I start thinking and scrapping so hard I forget to listen.
  • Remember from whence I have come. The Lord HAS given me many victories in Christ Jesus! It's no coincidence that every big move for Israel -- whether negative or positive -- came with someone recounting their entire past. 
  • Humble myself. I so do not like this, but I know it's right.
  • Check my love meter. Am I embodying love in my relationships with God and others. 
  • And, because I like do be palaverously redundant all over again, I simply go back to the most basic issues of the faith. The basics never fail me. Who God is; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What He desires to do to, for, through mankind. What are my purposes as a believer and disciple? On and on...
  • Last, but certainly not least, count my blessings and be THANKFUL. 
That's where I am today. I am being thankful. I have a long, long, long, long, rather long, extensive list of things for which to be thankful. Did I mention the list is long? 

However, I am cracking the hard defensive perimeter today with a certain kind of thankfulness. I am thankful for the ministry God has given me. 

"I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service" (1 Timothy 1:12, ESV)

I know I'm no Paul, but I don't have to be; I'm Tim Bowes. That's Timothy Will Bowes to the official record keepers, and "Man Of  A New Name In The Heavenlies" to those watching and waiting for the Great Day. I've got a calling, too. How do I know? 'Cause I'm His!

In Paul's case, he was an apostle. I'm just a preacher / teacher, table server, encourager and exhorter; nothing so heady as an apostle. Sure, I'm a "sent one," but I've not yet experienced any of the "sign gifts" of apostleship, and I'm okay if I never do...all that's up to God.

See, the thing isn't about Paul or Tim or Billy or Martin or Count von Zinzendorf  or Peter, James or John...it's about Christ Jesus, because HE is the one who enables, who gives strength. I'm not as thankful to be numbered among the servants as I am thankful to be enabled to serve by the Master's power; I much more treasure His strengthening than I do their approval. 

It's humbling. 

Especially when I consider from whence I came. 

I think Paul could understand what I mean. He said, "...though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief..." (1 Timothy 1:13, ESV)

See, YOU might not know or remember who I used to be; YOU might not know how horrible of a product I was to begin with, but I know. I remember. You bet, I remember. How can I be anything but grateful? What other response would be proper? Well, you know, not just grateful, but humbled and grateful. 

People can question my theology. They can wonder about my intelligence. They can criticize my personality. All of these things may need questions and wonderment and criticism. One thing they can never take from me, and one thing I want to always remember is that I remember who I was and how when I called out to Jesus, He helped me. He saved me! 

It's humbling, and joy-restoring and encouraging!

And, I know it came by grace, not by merit...

"...and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:14, ESV)

Grace remembered.
Shell cracked.
Humility restored.
Fellowship grand. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A look inward should only last as long as it takes to make us look upward

Be sure of this, when God tells us to look in, He really wants us to look up. When God commands us to look at ourselves, He desires that we see our need of Him.

In his work "Pensées", Blaise Pascal said, "Let man now know his value. Let him love himself, for there is in him a nature capable of good; but let him not for this reason love the vileness which is in him. Let him despise himself, for this capacity is barren; but let him not therefore despise this natural capacity. Let him hate himself, let him love himself; he has within him the capacity of knowing the truth and of being happy, but he possesses no truth, either constant or satisfactory." From the Oracle at Delphi, Socrates heard "Know thyself" and determined, according to Plato's conversation, in Socrates' work, "Phaedrus", that he could not be curious about anything outside himself until he knew himself. So, Pascal says love yourself and he says to hate yourself; Socrates, via the Oracle at Delphi, says to know yourself. What does God say?

He says, "Examine yourself." (2 Corinthians 13:5) He says, "Consecrate yourselves." (Leviticus 20:7)

We spend much too much time hating ourselves, and much too much time loving ourselves and probably much too much time trying to know ourselves. That's an inward focus. The Scripture does say we should "examine ourselves" but that examination is to determine whether we are in the faith, and not just in the historical sense, but are we walking in the faith in the moment. The Scripture tells us to "consecrate ourselves," or "separate ourselves" if you prefer, meaning, do not practice or be defined by worldly ideologies or false religion.

Pascal: Love yourself. Hate yourself.
Oracle at Delphi: Know yourself.
God: Examine yourself. Separate yourself.

"Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!" (Lamentations 3:40, ESV)