Monday, August 31, 2009



There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This is more of the spiritual dimension of having a genuine partnership-a blood-brother friendship. You were created to have this kind of partnership, rather than trying to live your life as the Lone Ranger, many times without even Tonto hanging around to support you.

It's knowing that someone gives a rip whether you live or die. This kind of partnership involves the many "one anothers" taught in the Scriptures-weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, praying for one another, confessing your faults to one another, encouraging and admonishing one another, loving one another, etc. This dimension may be best described by the proverb "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). There are, at least, four specific ways to practice this dimension of the fellowship principle. 1) When you come together, be sure to share what you are learning and experiencing in your walk. This will emerge out of your personal study of the Scriptures and your daily walk with Jesus.

2) When you come together, be sure to share yourself. Share your sins and failures-your vulnerabilities and your need for God. Share your blessings and your joys. You have been created to be dependent upon God. Share how easily you can be distracted away from God's intent and become dependent upon something else in its place.

3) When you come together, be sure to share accountability. You need a support system of people who are going the same direction, live for the same reasons you live and care enough to hold your hand through the good and the bad. You want people in your life like Jesus, who know you and love you anyway.

4) When you come together, be sure to share time in prayer. There is no greater bond on earth than when a group bows down in the name of Jesus (the Higher Power), seeking to follow a Higher Calling.

The second dimension of the fellowship principle is to share with others in need. This has more to do with sharing with those who are in need physically. There are several categories of people in need that come to mind. 1) When you come together, be aware of believers in need around you. This demonstration of fellowship was an integral part of the early church experience, "contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality" (Romans 12:13). "For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things" (Romans 15:26-27 ). And again in Hebrews 13:16: "And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

2) When you come together, be aware of the needs of your teachers and those who minister to you. When Jesus called and sent out the Twelve on their initial assignment He instructed them: "Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support" (Matthew 10:8-10). This same understanding of sharing with those who minister to you is extended in Paul's letter to Timothy: "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages'" (I Timothy 5:17-18).

3) When you come together, be aware of the needs of those who are sent out to do ministry outside of your local fellowship. This is especially true as God raises up leadership in other countries. You are not to just say, "We'll pray for you." You must think in terms of truly sharing with them, so that they are empowered to do what God has called them to do in the name of Jesus.

Again, Paul says to Timothy: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed" (I Timothy 6:17-19). The fellowship must stand ready to share financially to underwrite and support the needs of the kingdom of Jesus wherever it may spread. When the fellowship is functioning properly, there is no need for heavy promotions. It all has to do with attraction to Jesus, Jesus' people and Jesus' mission.

Have you had the privilege of seeing this kind of fellowship anywhere? Look around you. The fellowship of Jesus is either already happening or about to happen through you right where you live.

Sunday, August 30, 2009



The term fellowship is widely known, but even more widely misunderstood. It's more than a pot-luck dinner. It's not a room called the "fellowship" hall. It's more than a group of friends watching football or hunting together. The fellowship may be the most important concept you will ever learn. However, this concept is not just to be learned; it must be lived!

For years I stated my purpose in life, my personal vision, as I want to empower the masses to embrace all that they were created to be and to do. A friend and mentor to me suggested that I tweak this life-purpose a bit by changing "the masses" to "individuals" with respect to my emphasis. Well, I did change it-on paper! I adjusted it to read, I want to empower individuals to embrace all that they were created to be and to do. Although I wrote it and quoted it as my life-purpose repeatedly, I really didn't adjust my actions to reflect this change. In other words, I put the pipe up to my mouth, but actually didn't inhale!

Now, I have had the privilege of building one of the largest churches in the United States and have repeatedly spoken on the largest platforms in the corporate world. Where is the massive movement after expending all my energies into the masses? Although I enjoyed some great moments "making disciples" for Jesus, for the most part, my use of the "Madison Avenue" marketing strategy has been proven to be meager and ineffective compared to the strategy Jesus employed.

Recently, I was challenged by a friend to be more strategic with the rest of my life. He urged me to be more like Jesus. Jesus, knowing that He had 3 ½ years to live, changed His strategy. He left His tent-making work of being a carpenter (most likely, a stone-cutter) in order to totally focus on His life-purpose. He pointed out to me that Jesus utilized a multiplication strategy that is rarely embraced today. Jesus chose a few to be with Him-some were with Him daily (3 and 12) and a few more took His message and spread it at His bidding (72 and 120). Jesus ministered to individuals who then spread His message powerfully to their villages, regions and countries. This multiplication process became the most effective movement on planet earth in all of history!

Jesus' strategic approach to spreading His Good News message throughout the world never involved "putting up another church", but practicing church. He taught His followers not to build the church, but to be the church. This is what the fellowship is all about!

The fellowship is the answer to becoming the genuine salt and light that Jesus intended His followers to be. My friend who challenged me to be more strategic with my life also painted a couple of vivid pictures that are now etched in my mind indelibly. He urged me to be a fountain. "You don't take the fountain to people; the people come to the fountain" he said. "In the same way, you are to be a light that attracts. Bugs are attracted to a physical light... people are attracted to a spiritual light of truth. So be a light! Be a fountain! If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him." The fellowship operates on the principle of attraction, not promotion. This goes against the grain of most every religious program in our world.

The fellowship is not an organization, an institution or a denomination. The fellowship is a verb that, when properly activated, has the power to change the world-one person at a time! In order to use the fellowship as a verb you must learn the fellowship principle.

The primary term for fellowship in the New Testament is koinonia. The word has the idea of communion or sharing in common with another. It's the perfect word to describe the relationship we are to have with God and with one another-a partnership. This partnership is to be entered into-to join one's self to an associate or associates in order to become a sharer.

The designated partners within the fellowship include Jesus, Jesus' followers and you. The fellowship is not a religious system of do's and don'ts. The fellowship is not in an organization, not in Christianity, not in churchianity or not in any institution. The fellowship is with God Himself (Father, His Son Jesus and the His Spirit) and with His people. The fellowship principle is the full application of this dynamic partnership between God and His people.

Have you ever experienced this fellowship principle? Make it your goal to do whatever it takes to participate in the fellowship of Jesus as we walk through this week's studies. Once you catch on to the fellowship principle, you'll never walk alone again!

Thursday, August 27, 2009



Who were the disciples of Jesus? These were men who were trained in Judaism up to a point. Rabbis taught them, until they were not chosen by any rabbi to continue in their studies. Therefore each of these first disciples of Jesus educationally and professionally was somewhat of a "loser" and sent back home to either take up the profession or trade of their fathers or find a new one altogether. But they weren't chosen to be a disciple of any of the rabbis. Can you imagine the pressure in that early society to progress to the point of being a disciple of a respected rabbi? The Jewish mothers were so proud of their sons who had proved themselves acceptable to a rabbi and then one day would actually become a rabbi.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the call of Matthew by Jesus. Let's look at it. 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew's mom was never able to brag about her son, the rabbi. He just didn't make it! Matthew was steeped in the belief that one must perform in order to be acceptable to God and welcomed into the Kingdom. Matthew knew he was not able to match up with this kind of performance. Now this is where Jesus blew the mind of Matthew.

As Matthew sat in his tax stand at the edge of the water of the Galilee, he most likely not only heard many of Jesus' messages and saw several miracles, he also had been privy to the rumor-mill about this radical rabbi, Jesus. Here's where Jesus introduces His revolutionary message of love and acceptance.

He walked up to Matthew and delivered one of the most revolutionary messages ever-FOLLOW ME! These two words have changed the world! What this meant was, "You have heard from your upbringing that you must perform in order to be accepted by God and you have certainly fallen short. Now, I want to dramatically shift gears. I want you to know that I accept you just as you are and you are welcome into my Kingdom. Now, come along and FOLLOW ME."

NOTE that Matthew was so thrilled to be chosen by a respected rabbi and especially this unique teacher named Jesus. This is why he immediately responded to Jesus. And, this is why he immediately threw a party. He wanted to show off this new rabbi and the fact that he was going to be following in His steps. This was something that would make his mother proud.

Jesus was making a greater point here...that God was primarily looking for the sick people, the losers, the down and out, and Jesus' focus was not on the "righteous" but on the sinners. This is still the revolutionary message of Jesus. All of the religions have set up a system of do's and don'ts to be followed in order to be accepted and welcomed by God. Jesus says, "I accept you, so now come and follow me." "All who are weary and heavy-laden, come to me and I will give you rest."

Again, this reminds me of this comparison. All religions say, "Do, Do, Do. Do more. Do better." But Jesus says, "It's already done, now come along and follow me." So, where do you fit on this spectrum? Are you still exhausting yourself with all of your performance of "do, do, do?" Or are you discovering that Jesus' call on your life is the call to rest?

The unknown God is knowable and He requires the following. 1. That you are sick. 2. That you are interested. 3. That you understand His great love and acceptance of you.

I love this story. "Matthew, I accept you and welcome you into the Kingdom. Do you want to come along and follow me?" This is the same call Jesus is making on your life. Now, will you come along and follow Him, too?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009



We keep using WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) and that is a most helpful measuring stick for living our lives more effectively. However, WDJD? (What Did Jesus Do?) may be even more helpful in understanding what Jesus' intent is for our lives. My good friend always says, "Watch what Jesus did and said and do the same!" I want to walk through 3 scenes in the life of Jesus where people from a non-Jewish background came to faith in Him.

I've come to realize that it's possible for a person to be a Catholic and be a follower of Jesus and still be a Catholic. A Mormon can be a follower of Jesus and still remain in his Mormon culture. A Muslim can be a follower of Jesus, a Buddhist, a Hindu can all be followers of Jesus and still remain within their cultural backgrounds. I want to now show you how biblical this is.

FIRST-When Jesus was in Cana of Galilee, He was confronted by a royal official who needed Jesus to heal his son. Jesus told him that his son would live. What's interesting is that this royal official believed that Jesus was the only way, the only hope for his son to be healed. It's important to note that this royal official was probably a Roman citizen with the cultural background of seeking many gods and signs from them. Jesus didn't tell this man to make sure to repent and go renounce the many Roman deities or his faith would be for naught. Why not? Because the most important issue here is that this man and his family would come to simple faith in Jesus. After this expression of faith, this man was a Roman who believed in Jesus.

SECOND-When Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman, He didn't make certain to warn her of her false beliefs and be sure to change the mountain where she worshipped. There was no renunciation of her false doctrines. Why not? Because Jesus was reaching out to her to bring her to faith. She is still known as the Samaritan woman who believed in Jesus and told her entire village about her encounter with Jesus. This, too, resulted in many more Samaritan followers of Jesus.

THIRD-When the God-fearing Greeks were encountered, they were not taken to this point of renouncing their deities to express faith in Jesus. The Syrophoenecian woman is a perfect example, a gentile and from a godless cultural background. What's happening here? She comes to faith in this most attractive Jesus. She is now a Syrophoenecian who was a follower of Jesus.

I'm reminded of one more incident, not in the life of Jesus, but in the Acts of Jesus. When the Ethiopian eunuch was approached by Philip, sent by God to do so for this Divine appointment, why doesn't Philip bring up the renunciation of his Ethiopian culture? They had already built many temples to some gods back then, so why not a call for renunciation of these gods; especially before baptizing this eunuch, making him feel he was now OK and a follower of Jesus. So we have here the Ethiopian official who was a follower of Jesus.

You see, it's very possible for people to come to know God without losing their cultural backgrounds in the process. The early disciples grew up in Judaism with all of its add-ons, yet they were attracted enough to Jesus to follow Him and His teachings. Were the disciples of Jesus believers? Were they born again? The answer, if you are honest with what we know, is no. They weren't believers until after the resurrection. And, they weren't "technically" born-again until Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. Now that was pure, unadulterated discipleship with a group of men who were interested in Jesus enough to follow Him and learn His teachings and principles. This is precisely what we are experiencing among Buddhists, Hindu, Muslim and Jews! We are starting with those who are "interested" in Jesus enough to follow Him and learn His teachings and principles. As they walk this path, the Spirit gets hold of their hearts and transforms them. That's the way it should be! Discipleship is not Christianizing people or worse yet, Americanizing them, but introducing them to Jesus.

Introduce people to Jesus and wonderful things happen. It's still happening today! Maybe instead of WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) or WDJD? (What Did Jesus Do?), we ought to think in terms of WIJD?-What Is Jesus Doing? Remember, see what Jesus is doing and get there as quickly as possible!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009



To continue examining the UNKNOWN GOD motif, I want to walk through an amazing event that happened to Peter. Remember, Peter was probably the leader of the early disciples while hanging out with Jesus. Many believe most of the disciples were in their late teens while Peter was most likely in his early twenties. After all Peter had experienced with Jesus, he was sold out to Him as the Jewish Messiah. You might say he was a very religious follower of Jesus. Now, with this in mind, note what happens.

Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea."

NOW note what happens on Peter's end of things. 9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." 14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. 17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them." 21 Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?" 22 The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only human myself."

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with Gentiles or visit them. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?"

Cornelius told Peter what had happened to him, being visited by an angel. 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."

34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts those from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached- 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

It's interesting to me that AFTER Peter comes to realize that God shows no favoritism, but accepts those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. THEN Peter shifts into a very relevant gear. He moves into sharing his experience, strength and hope in Jesus. Then NOTE that Peter begins closing his remarks with "All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name."

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 "Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

OK, do you get what's happening here? Cornelius and his family were Romans. The Roman culture was filled with a mixture of gods and goddesses, many overlapping with the Greek culture. They had a wide spectrum of festivals and feasts as well as a great interest in the occult world, depending upon good or bad omens. Now, here we find a Roman family who is said to be God-fearing and those who earnestly and frequently prayed. Peter was forced to drop his religious add-ons and to go against the commands within his religious system in order for God to get to these foreigners.

NOTE 3 observations: 1. God's man needed for this mission had to step outside his religious and cultural box. Peter was not to "convert" this Roman family into Judaism.

2. God accepts those from every nation who fear or reverence Him and do what is right. This is an amazing statement of what is necessary for God's acceptance.

3. Peter shares that everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins. This forgiveness is for everyone who believes Jesus. This is Jesus Plus Nothing at its best!

Every story like this I read really perks me up to the amazing grace of God. It's too bad that Christians don't embrace this understanding more. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Monday, August 24, 2009



I want to return to the message that Paul gave to the very religious, without-the- Bible group in Athens in Acts 17. This was the first time Paul has spoken to a group that was without Old Testament Scriptural knowledge. His approach is masterful and teaches us a lot for our communication today.

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean." 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

So, NOTE the response. Some sneered, others said we want to pursue this further and some became followers and believed. How did they come to the point of belief in this case? I want to consider a few things:

FIRST-Paul didn't reject their religiosity, but affirmed them for being so religious. I don't know many Christians who would feel comfortable doing it this way. Can you see how this applies to our present world today with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and the new age spirituality?

SECOND-He didn't quote any Scripture at all. The Bible meant nothing to this audience. To use the Bible as a source of authority or credibility would have been futile. Yet, today we think we must tag everything we say or do with a Bible verse. I know some who believe that you must use a certain kind of Bible in order to be most effective-the King James version! Their thinking is that if it was good enough for Jesus then it should be good enough for us today! Never mind that the King James version is a 16th Century document and not in the time of Jesus!

THIRD-He quoted a well-known poet. He used their credible sources to unpack the truth about this UNKNOWN GOD. In fact, this poet was known for his writing of the worship of Zeus.

FOURTH-He didn't even mention Jesus' name explicitly. He had been speaking of Jesus in the synagogues, but in this speech he doesn't use His name.

FIFTH-Paul seems bent on using their symbols, their authorities, and their cultural traditions to teach the Athenians about the God of gods. He skillfully used the little bit of light that they had-a monument to the UNKNOWN GOD-and shared his thinking on who this unknown God might be and that He can be known to some extent.

THE RESULT? Some believed! NOTE that they didn't have a litany of doctrines to believe; they exercised a simple belief-all that they knew that they were, trusting in all that they knew about this God of gods who created the universe.

This brings me to a very critical principle. UNLESS YOU RELATE TO YOUR WORLD, THEN YOUR WORLD WILL NEVER RELATE TO YOUR GOD. We are so hung up on our little spiritual check-lists that we continually miss the opportunity to share the person of Jesus to the world.

We have become content in talking to ourselves. We judge the world and talk to ourselves, when we ought to be judging ourselves and talking to the world.

Sunday, August 23, 2009



There is something that has always been curious and even bothersome to me. It has to do with the "unknown God" Paul refers to in Acts 17 when speaking to the business men and women in the Athens marketplace. What bothers me is Paul's approach is very different from how I was taught and shown. His approach to these who had no reverence for the Bible, were not "Christians", not "Jews", yet they were quite religious, it's very different. So, I ask the question, "Are we missing something here?" Have we been using the wrong approach with the vast non-Christian world around us as we attempt to introduce them to Jesus?

Let's take a look at what Paul said in Athens: 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship-and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

When you tie this passage with what Solomon mentions in Ecclesiastes 3 that God has placed eternity in their hearts, this intensifies my questioning even more. What does this mean that God has placed eternity in the hearts of everyone?

Then I think of Paul's argument in his letter to the Romans where he says that there is no one in this world-those who have the Bible and those who don't, who are exempted out of knowing the Creator, the God of gods. Paul gives two natural lights that anyone can know and thereby know God. This is found in Romans 1.

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools,

There are two natural lights given for man's observation. FIRST-The natural light of conscience. Francis Schaeffer identified this as having "moral motions"-a sense of right and wrong. SECOND-The natural light of creation. You have to imagine this without the concrete jungle where we live. We are so de-naturalized in so many ways. You can spend a whole week or more without ever noticing or touching or experiencing the handiwork of creation-mighty oceans, the stars, the grass, the flowers.

With these things in mind, then how does a person know God? Note there is no doctrinal system to know and embrace. God is able to be known by what God has placed in them (the eternity that has been placed in their hearts) and by the wonders of what God created.

Our tendency is to trivialize God by making Him more accessible, localized and tangible like the golden calf episode while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai speaking with God. We want to make God OURS. We want to own God for our own little religion, so that we can be RIGHT. We tend to make Him the God-of-my-cause, the God-of-my-understanding or the God-of-my experience. However God is more awesome than this!

Here are only a very few passages of Scripture that speak to this awesomeness:

Isaiah 40:21-26-21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? 
Has it not been told you from the beginning? 
Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. 
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 25 "To whom will you compare me? 
 Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: 
Who created all these? 
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. 
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Isaiah 45:9-9 "Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'The potter has no hands'?

Acts 17:24-24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

We must begin with a pure agnosticism-an "I don't know everything and I don't have all the answers." The difference between the awesome God and finite man is immense! Therefore, "to know the holy God, we must acknowledge what we do not know; to see the light of God, we must pass through the dark night of the soul; to gain faith, we must begin with doubt; to hear a Word from God, we must wait through the silences of God; to experience the comfort of God, we must experience the pain of life!"

The God Who is there is awesome! I like the words of Romans 11:33-36: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

If the God of gods is out there, then you would expect that He will make Himself known in some fashion-through conscience and creation. In fact, you would expect that there would be flood stories in most every religion and culture, and there is! You would expect some sort of motif about the God of gods making some provision for full forgiveness and delivery through a Messiah-like personage, and there is!

If there is a true God of gods out there making Himself known through conscience and creation, then you would expect that God has already made Himself known in most every spot on earth. Our responsibility is to reveal this UNKNOWN GOD to all who are interested, no matter the religious background and culture-Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Tribes, etc.

I've come to realize that the God of gods out there is an awesome God and worthy of searching out in order to get to know Him. Over the next few days I want to examine several we know who have come to know God without doctrinal teachings, without a "Christian church" and without the Bible.

Once we understand how awesome God is, then we won't ever want to put Him back into our little boxes we have created again!

Sunday, August 16, 2009



Are you a control freak? Really, are you? There is a basic tendency for all of us to want to be in control. At the heart of this tendency is the deadliest of the seven deadlies-pride! Pride is believing that you can actually control things in your life. It's when you push your Creator-God aside and take over the universe for awhile.

There's an old Jewish proverb that says: "Pride is the mask of one's own faults." It's when you know deep down that you are not able to control anything, so instead of admitting it, you put on your pride mask. The thing about this is that most people handle life in this way and therefore are playing the game along with you and protect themselves by not taking off that mask. However, pride has a way of showing itself with the destruction that is caused. This fits one of the most popular of proverbs about pride: "Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall." Your pride will be discovered by its damaging results. When this happens, you will be given another chance to be honest about yourself and abandon your attitude of pride. But even though the opportunity to come clean about yourself presents itself, it's very hard not to live in the state of denial in order to continue playing the game.

When I see the ugly head of pride showing up in my life and in the life of others, I just want to say: GET OVER YOURSELF! That's really what is happening. There is too much of yourself that preoccupies all of your thoughts and choices. When your life becomes "all about you", you are wrapping your life up in a very small package-insignificant and inadequate.

Jesus teaches the answer for this pride problem. He says: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) He uses the word "deny", but He is actually saying: GET OVER YOURSELF so there is room for Me in your life!

Denying yourself or getting over yourself is really what humility is all about. Humility is having a right evaluation of yourself before God. It's believing what God says about you is true and believing what God says about Himself is true.

The most interesting thing about humility is that the more you grow spiritually the more humble you will become. As you grow in your walk with Jesus you will see your life more clearly and will have a better handle on having a right evaluation about who you are before God. Paul, in his letters to the followers of Jesus actually seems to be growing backwards. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, he sees God more clearly as the awesome One who owns and empowers him. He is able to understand what Jesus meant when He said: "Without Me you can do nothing." Check it out:

FIRST-Paul says in his early years: "I am the least of the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:9) He sees himself as about 13 on the list of the ones Jesus chose to lead out in following Him. Thirteenth! Now that's pretty high up in the ranks of the followers of Jesus.

SECOND-As Paul moves into his middle years he says: "I am the very least of all the saints." (Ephesians 3:8) He now sees himself a little less on the totem pole of Jesus' followers. He is now no longer thirteenth, but he is the least of all of the saints!

THIRD-Then, later in Paul's ministry, his view of himself is even worse! He says: "I am the chief of sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15) Whoa! He has gone from thirteenth place to the least of all the saints and now he sees himself as the worst sinner of all! What a reversal! That is the great thing about humility. The more humble you are the more grace you embrace to become more spiritually mature. It is a faith-walk with your Creator-God!

Now, one of the most popular criticisms of a faith-walk of humbling yourself before God is that your faith is a crutch. "Oh, your faith in God is just a crutch!" Have you ever heard that? It's one of the most common attacks thrust against believers. I have come to realize that the accusation is absolutely right! Faith IS a crutch! But there is nothing wrong with that at all. It's a natural thing-even understandable! Let me offer two reasons for my thinking:

First, a crutch is good when you need it! If your ankle is broken or badly sprained, a crutch is absolutely necessary. You can't get around very well without one. When you see someone using crutches, you don't criticize them or belittle them for using them. Since they are hurting and have been damaged, it's natural, even wise, to use the crutches! The same is true about your life. When you are in need, hurt and damaged, it's natural to search for a set of crutches!

Second, a crutch allows you to become healed! Those who are in need of crutches and use them will find healing and relief over time. If you need crutches and don't use them, you just prolong your pain and prevent your healing!

If you have a pulse, then you have a real need for a set of spiritual crutches. In fact, humans don't work well when unplugged from a personal relationship with the Creator. Humility is based upon this personal relationship with your Creator-as I said earlier-a right evaluation of yourself before God. There is a wickedness and a wonder about who you are. You have within you a wickedness that is able to do most anything, any place at any time. When you see your need for God, you fall into line before your Creator and you are the created one. But you're not as bad as you could be! There is also a wonder about you! You have been created in the image of your Creator. When you have a right evaluation of yourself-wickedness and wonder, you take on a true humility.

This humility, then, is to spill over into your relationships, so that you treat everyone else as a fellow-created being. Without humility, pride and self-centeredness reign in your life! Pride is such a prevalent and prominent problem of the human condition-so much so that only a personal relationship with your Creator has the capability of diminishing this deadly, spiritual cancer. This is the reason for the following Biblical principle: HUMBLE YOURSELF & GOD WILL EXALT YOU! EXALT YOURSELF & GOD WILL HUMBLE YOU!

You can only secure your spiritual crutches by faith-faith in your Creator! So your faith is a crutch. You desperately need it! Maybe the image of crutches isn't strong enough. There have been many times when I have felt that my need for God is so great that it would be better to call it an IRON LUNG!

Hey, don't you think it's time to GET OVER YOURSELF? Think it over!



Most of my adult life I have been practicing therapy-counseling people caught in every problem imaginable. When I first began speaking, it was on the university campus. I was the main speaker for many weekend retreats over a period of 6 or 7 years. The routine was always the same. I usually spoke 5 times during that retreat. On Friday night I always gave the same introductory message that set up the weekend for the other four messages I was slotted to present. Before delivering this message I asked the students and staff to take a 3x5 card and write out the three most important problems they wanted solved this weekend. They wrote them on the card, folded it and turned them in. I then read through the cards that night and prepared the next four messages to meet the needs they had expressed on the cards.

This introductory evening set up a constant stream of students and staff coming up to me to find counsel for whatever issues they were struggling with. Many retreats I was able to get only 4-5 hours sleep each night, because the need seemed so great. I realized through this early experience how people were desperately in need of help. What they were craving was to be able to talk with someone who was safe and who cared.

What I learned was that my counsel primarily consisted of listening to their problems and bringing a different perspective to the predicament. I was basically helping them discover more options to deal with what they thought was an impossible situation.

To be healthy, psychologically and spiritually, it's so important to have options. Those who are unhealthy find themselves running out of options. And, those who choose the route of suicide have run out of options altogether-ending it all seems like the only logical thing to do. Depression lingers in your life, when you feel you are out of hope and out of options-no light at the end of the tunnel!

When you're out of options, you will find yourself scrambling for security and inner satisfaction. When you run out of options, there is one option that is always available and that's what I want to share with you. Just thinking through a few people who ran out of options in biblical history, there are some interesting insights available to us.

In the Old Testament, Daniel certainly found himself out of options, when he was thrown into the lion's den. Jonah was a man faced with two distinct options-obey God's call to fulfill a mission or to disobey-to run alongside God or to run away from God. Well, as you know he made the wrong choice and ran away from God. Then he found himself in the belly of a great fish, marinating in its digestive juices. Now, that was a situation where Jonah was clearly out of options. Both Daniel and Jonah had one option open to them-turn to God. Daniel was persuaded to do this by the lions and Jonah was dramatically motivated into running back to God after running away by his experience in the fish.

In the New Testament, I think of the nobleman who came to Jesus to seek healing for his son. John records the story of the royal official, the nobleman, who had run out of options and believed Jesus possessed the only way for his son to live. Matthew and Mark share the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, living in a ceremonially unclean state for all that time. She had run out of options and fought the crowd, where she was not allowed to be due to her uncleanness, and was determined to get to Jesus, believing He was her only option to be healed.

The story of Jesus apprehending Paul with the bright light on his way to Damascus is an interesting scene. In this case, it isn't that Paul had run out of options. He thought he was on God's mission, persecuting the followers of Jesus. But Jesus in a spectacular encounter put Paul in a position that he had no other option than to respond in humility.

Here's the principle: When you're out of options, there is always one last option available to you. It's not a belief system. It's not the counsel of a good therapist. It's not some secret you need to know. It's a person-Jesus. Jesus is always available as your last option and would like to be your first option. I've noticed over the years that most people come to Jesus by the process of elimination-nothing else works!

When you're out of options, remember to turn to Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life available to you.

There's one more thing here. When you're out of options, it's too easy for you to be overcome with worry, hopelessness and depression. Remember this: WHEN YOU'RE DOWN TO NOTHING, IT MEANS THAT GOD IS UP TO SOMETHING. SEEK HIM WITH ALL YOU'VE GOT! WHEN YOU'RE OUT OF OPTIONS, MAKE JESUS YOUR NEXT BEST OPTION!



According to James in his early writings there are three ways to handle your troubles. The first way is to refocus by rejoicing in the product God is working in you. God is using your trouble to purify you and make you stronger-refocusing on the end result rather than the problem itself is what's required here.

The second way to handle your troubles again involves refocusing. This time it is to refocus away from your problems and request the wisdom of God necessary to get you through this difficult time.

James says (James 1:5-8): If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God. There it is! He has just made it clear that if you encounter various trials and troubles with an attitude of joy, knowing that the testing of your faith will produce perseverance. And if you do this and allow your faith to be tested and purified by your troubles, then you will be lacking in nothing. However, if there is a lacking in your life, it will be a lack of wisdom. When you encounter various trials and troubles, the most common thing you lack at that time is the wisdom to know how to respond and what to do. You need the wisdom to know how to handle your trouble! So, go to the author of wisdom. Go straight to God and ask Him for wisdom. You are requesting His perspective on your problems from His vantage point, so that you are not limited to your own point of view, which is limited.

Next James says that God will answer your request by giving you the wisdom you are asking for. He says: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. Note God will give you the wisdom you need to handle your troubles and He will give it to you in a generous way. He will give you even more than you need to process the problems you are facing. And, He will give this wisdom to all who ask for it. This is one of the few times I've ever seen where God lets it be known specifically how He will answer your request. In the case of a wisdom request, you will get it.

James then offers an interesting condition: But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.

The condition is that you must believe and not doubt, when you ask for this wisdom from God. When you ask, count on it; God will liberally give His wisdom to you! But if you doubt that He will do this for you, you can count on NOT receiving His wisdom. The result will then be that you will find yourself operating in a storm of instability and uncertainty. So, you can ask for wisdom and count on it, then you will receive it and by receiving it, you will have God's wisdom and actually have God on your side as you make your way through your troubles. Or, you can ask for wisdom and doubt you will receive it, then you will be left to make your way through your troubles all by yourself. In other words, if you ask for wisdom while doubting you'll get it, then you don't have a prayer to get through your trials and troubles.

There is an underlying promise for this principle. This one I call the promise of great escapes. It says: No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

This is an encouraging promise for us. There is no trial or trouble that you can encounter that has only happened to you. You know how it is when you are in the midst of a pile of trouble. Your most common thought is that you are the only one who has ever had to deal with such problems. This promise begins with making it clear that you are not alone in your problem. Others have already or are now going through the same thing.

Then it says that God will be faithful in not allowing any problem to overwhelm you to the point that you will be overcome by it. God will not allow you to face anything that you cannot get through. God will provide the way for you to escape it.

Now, note how you escape this trouble. God provides a way to escape it in such a way that you will be able to endure it-to go through it. This is not a supernatural bailout! He promises to get you through it! This is usually not what we pray for. We usually want to get out of the problem altogether. But God's promise is to give you a way of escape in order to get through it. The image here is like facing a mountain range. That mountain range is the problem or trial you are facing. God provides a mountain pass to get through it. This is why you are to ask for God's wisdom, so that you will be able to discover the mountain pass to get through it, no matter how tough or impossible it seems.

This second way James offers for us to handle our troubles is vital. Ask for God's wisdom to get through whatever you are facing and He will give you what you need. For years I've expressed this principle in a very simple way that has been helpful to so many. Take it for yourself. THE BEST WAY OUT IS THROUGH and God is committed to getting you through it. Just ask Him!



Faith works, when life doesn't! This week as we continue dealing with the stressed out world in which we're living, I want to walk through three ways to handle your troubles. Remember, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens that counts. There are three ways to reframe your situation by refocusing on the right things.

We spend a lot of time studying and considering the teachings of Jesus. I just feel like you can't go wrong with this kind of emphasis. In addition to the five Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts-the earliest of the writings can prove to be most valuable and helpful in embracing the teachings and principles of Jesus as a lifestyle. James is one of these writings.

James begins his book talking about trials and how to handle them. He says: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

This is the first way to handle your troubles. Note that James starts with "consider it pure joy". when you face your trials. Talk about counter-intuitive! Consider it a joyful thing to experience all kinds of trials and problems? The reason? You must understand that these trials are a testing of your faith. He doesn't mean by this a test in order to trick you or to trip you up. It's a testing that is a refining of your faith-purifying and improving your faith. In other words, these trials have come into your life in order to make you stronger.

Now note that there is a goal for this testing of your faith. It is to produce in you perseverance. Perseverance is a strengthening of your faith-a certain resolve or a solid determination to hang on or hang in there. This kind of faith is strong enough to endure and handle anything that comes your way.

James goes on to say: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. This is the ultimate payoff! Your faith is strengthened by your troubles to the point that you are becoming more and more mature and complete, lacking in nothing!

You see, there are two responses to problems. You can focus on your problem or you can focus on the positive result that will be produced by your problems. If you focus on the problems, you will surely fall into deeper trouble. When you brood over your problems, you'll hatch despair. Instead of focusing on the trouble that has just dropped into your life, refocus on the product-what you are going to learn and get out of it.

There is an important insight here that could go unnoticed. He says consider it a joyful thing to encounter various trials. In order to refocus on the product rather than the problem, REFOCUS ON REJOICING over the problem and not spend your time and energy moaning and groaning over what has just happened to you. You don't get anywhere having a pity party and inviting others over or singing your latest "Woe is me" song. Refocus your mind and heart on what God is going to do to strengthen your faith during this trial to get ready for whatever comes next for you and for others around you.

There is a great promise that underlies this thinking. It's what I call the promise of great endings! It is: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) All things-no matter what things-God causes to work together with something else for good. This is not saying that whatever happens is good, but God will cause all things to work together with something else for your good and His glory.

Note the requirement here is "to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." I would restate this as "to all those who are interested in following God with their heart-who want to follow God's purpose for their lives." You can count on it. The God of gods-the Creator of the universe-is concerned enough to process all that happens to you in such a way that it works together with something else for your good.

Don't focus on your problems or your troubles. Wallowing around in your trials will only make things worse and make you bitter. In fact, you will discover that most of the things you fear never are as bad as you had imagined and most of the bad things that have come into your life can be processed in a healthy way. It's as if you have been mountain climbing over molehills all along. So, refocus on what God is doing in the midst of your trouble and even get excited about it. There is a great gift coming your way.

I continually remind myself that the Bible never says, "It has come to stay." Instead it says, "It has come to pass." So, whatever it is that you view as the biggest trouble in your life, THIS, TOO WILL PASS!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009



The theme of being out of control continues! Fear appears when your future is out of control. Anger shows up when your present is out of control. And, guilt gnaws away at your gut when your past is out of control. All three of these render you paralyzed, damaged and ineffective. There is a fourth kind of paralysis-shame. Shame is the residue of having been seized by fear, anger and guilt. It manifests itself in a similar way to a low-grade infection-even a low-level depression. Shame is a tainting of your personness-a blight that leaves you feeling inadequate or feeling not good enough. With shame it's not that your past, present or future are out of control, but you are out of control; like a small boat being tossed about in a storm or a ping-pong ball that is driven by the wind and once in awhile experiences a hard hit.

There is a rule of survival in the harsh Australian Outback. If your vehicle breaks down in a remote area, stay with your vehicle. This is contrary to how you might initially want to react. I mean, you have no alarm system or phone whereby you can call for help. You are stopped in a very remote place where it might take several days before another human being happens to drive by. Many don't follow this survival rule and attempt to walk to a place where they might find help. Eventually, they are reported missing, a search locates their vehicle, but no one is there. The Coroner's investigation later confirms that vehicles are more easily located than walkers, there was more water in the vehicle than walkers can carry, and the extra exertion demanded of walking hastened the dehydration and sunstroke that led to death. They died because they tried to save themselves. This survival rule is so counter-intuitive that it's just too difficult to sit still and wait to be found-to trust that someone is on his way to rescue them.

This introduces a most foundational principle that defines most of our lives most of the time. This principle simply stated is: God is God and I am not! The tendency is for man to play God to some extent. "God, I can handle this one. I'll call you if I need anything." The most deceptive thought of all is that somehow we can live our lives without God and His empowerment. It's a self-centered belief that we can and must solve our problems, make our way out of our predicaments and save ourselves. It's the pride of believing that somehow we are in control, when just the opposite it true. Our past, present, and future are out of control with the result that we are personally out of control.

Jesus lived this way. He confessed: "By myself I can do nothing," (John 5:30). This principle of survival is not just a rule for the Outback; it's a principle for life. There is a story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Who is the winner here? The one who is full of himself (the Pharisee) and believes he can somehow perform well enough to save himself is the loser. Jesus says of the tax collector: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

The world says love yourself-save yourself, Jesus says deny yourself-lose yourself. Now, here is where the great exchange occurs! Jesus says: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25). He also says: "What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?" The great exchange here is: you try to save your life and you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Jesus you will save it.

Remember the little boy in the midst of the hungry thousands. For the boy to offer the crowds his lunch would be a noble but futile gesture. So rather than give the first hundred people half a crumb each, he gave his lunch to Jesus. Making Jesus the central focus transformed the situation. Then, not only the boy, but thousands were being fed with something that moments before was totally inadequate by itself.

The secret is to hand everything over to Jesus and then wait for him to move. Give yourself to Jesus and he will give himself to you. Lose yourself in him and you will find yourself in Him-no longer restricted to human possibilities.

Just as the boy could not expect to be fed after giving away his lunch, so people cannot expect to thrive emotionally if they give away their self-esteem-unless they give it to Jesus. Then a miracle takes place.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?

Maybe the ultimate expression of the mystery of the great exchange between Jesus and you is: You get God and He gets you! Such a deal!



Out of control! Life just gets out of control no matter which way you turn. When your future is out of control, fear grips you. When your present is out of control, anger pops up. Today I want to discuss being out of control in the past. When your past is out of control, it's usually due to guilt.

Dealing with your past can be so destructive. Most tend to dwell on the past so much that it becomes impossible to move forward. Some spend so much time focusing on the past that they just can't see anything else. They are stuck there. It's like having a rear-view mirror that is larger than your windshield. You have to stick your head out of your window to see where you are going and that's dangerous!

What must happen is to take the past out of your future and put it back into the past where it belongs. But this, in itself, is not enough. You see, you might think you are burying your past, but when you bury it alive, your past will nag and haunt you, working toward your destruction. Somehow you have to do something to put your past to death, then your past will be under control.

One of the first things to do with your past is to identify its source. In II Corinthians 7:10, Paul compares two kinds of sorrow: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. One kind of sorrow that surfaces out of past mistakes is a sorrow that comes from God. This kind of sorrow is good in that it causes you to make changes, which is called repentance here. Sorrow that causes you to change is Godly sorrow and you will have no regrets. Note when you are moved to make changes, you are out of your past and are very much alive in the present. The other kind of sorrow brings about death and destruction. This is the kind of sorrow that rises up out of your past to condemn you and to spiral you down to your destruction.

The second thing to do with your past is to resolve it. There are three ways you might attempt here: FIRST-Sometimes you need to remove yourself from the annoying, toxic connections from your past. This is very necessary for those who are in the recovery process from chemical and relational addictions. You have to get some new playgrounds and playmates.

SECOND-Sometimes you need to let it go. Simply let it go. There are times when you can do nothing to resolve your past or to do so will stir up more trouble. The common illustration of this is when you have been wronged, maybe financially and you choose to spend an enormous amount of negative energy to correct this wrong. It just isn't worth it. Let it go!

THIRD-Sometimes you may need to seek the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness moves in two directions-either people you have hurt or people who have hurt you. When you have hurt others, it's important to solicit forgiveness. Make a list of people you have hurt. Write out what you want to say and be completely honest. Keep it simple and be specific, taking personal responsibility for what you have done. Then, you must be willing to face any and all consequences. By the way, when you solicit forgiveness, make your method of communication as personal as possible.

Jesus taught us to solicit forgiveness: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24) It's interesting to note that if don't solicit forgiveness, you can't work well for God.

When others have hurt you, it's vital to forgive them. This is the ultimate act of "letting go". Forgiving is not forgetting, excusing or tolerating another person's hurtful acts against you. Jesus taught how important it is to forgive: For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15) In other words, God will not work well for you.

There are 5 steps to forgiving those who have hurt you: 1. Remind yourself that they are only human. 2. Relinquish your right to get even, because you never will. 3. Be ready to hurt in order to heal-willing to take the pain without making anyone pay for it. 4. Pray for them and wish them well. 5. You may have to repeat the process. When you forgive, you don't do it for others, but for yourself! This will set you free from the paralysis of guilt that haunts you from your past and is the ultimate way to resolve your out-of-control past

Recently, I was given a terrific visual on how to handle a past that is out of control. After listening to a client emotionally rehearse how many people had victimized her over the years, the attorney cut her off and handed her client a porcelain frog. She said, "Take this as a reminder for your life. A frog cannot jump backwards-only forwards. Don't be quick to jump into your past and dig it up. Stay in the present and when you jump, jump forward."

When your past is out of control, make like a frog and jump forward!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009



When your future is out of control, you will have fear. When your present is out of control, you will have anger. People and circumstances just aren't doing what we want them to do and are out of control-the spouse or child who is out of control, the driver who just cut you off on the freeway, the water heater just blew up and your car has broken down-again!

In addition to the people and circumstances that are out of control, there is one more thing that continues to fuel anger in your mind. It might be called brain-chatter. Here is how it works. You can do the following: Expect the worse. Personalize everything. Live by the power of the "shoulds", shoulding yourself to death. Specialize in mind-reading games, thinking you know what's really going on. Take in criticism and block out compliments. See everything in terms of black and white. Compare, compare, compare. Over-generalize-always and never! Blame and attack. Insist that nothing be changed. You must always be right and never, ever wrong. Thinking this way is a guarantee to fuel your anger!

Anger occurs when you are frustrated with your present being out of control. And every time you try to control your life you are rejecting God's ability and willingness to control your world. There is a certain sense of surrender you must give in order to allow God to control your life.

Maybe the most important factor in surrendering the controls of your life in the present is the Spirit of Jesus Who now lives in all who are genuine followers of Jesus. Just to give you a sketch of what the Spirit of Jesus does in your life, check out the following:

(1) He is the seal of God in us (Ephesians 4:30). He is like an engagement ring that promises the fulfillment of marriage. The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is our guarantee that God will continue to do His work in us until the return of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus-the presence of Jesus living inside us right now.

(2) He leads us to life. This work of the Holy Spirit is closely related to His sealing. Paul alludes to this work when he says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Through this work of perfecting us God intends to "conform us to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). He's leading all believers to being like Jesus. In this work of leading us to life "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).

(3) The Holy Spirit is our enabler (John 14:16,26). It's like spiritual adrenalin! There are times when His enablement is very clearly recognized for what it is, such as at the time of Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers permanently). This would be a special enablement of the Spirit.

Many people feel the need to label the experience (the second blessing, the baptism, the filling, slain in the Spirit, etc.), seek it again, propagate it as an experience for everyone, and hold it up as a prerequisite for spiritual maturity. This kind of experience can become so important ("I can't know God's fullness without it!") that people will do anything to get it. Just keep in mind that "all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus in bodily form" and the mission of the Spirit of Jesus is to glorify Him.

(4) He instills desires in us. In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul says: "But I say walk by that which is spirit (reborn spirit), and you will not carry out the desire of that which is flesh (old sin nature). For the flesh sets its desire against that which is spirit, and that which is spirit sets its desire against the flesh". The reborn spirit has spiritual desires in contrast to the desires of the flesh.

(5) He intercedes for us. The Spirit "helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26). He is our constant Helper in our finite efforts to relate to the infinite God of the universe.

(6) He illuminates the Word of God for us. The non-spiritual man (non-believer) "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are (only) spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things" (I Corinthians 2:14-15).

(7) He gives us wisdom. "But if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). It's a wisdom "not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age" (I Corinthians 2:6). He will give us wisdom so that we can make wise decisions for His glory and our good.

(8) He works all things together for good. In the same context where the Spirit is said to be our prayer partner, one of the most popular promises of all is delivered: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It's not that He'll work everything out to be good, but that He'll work everything (trials, tragedies, etc.) together with something else for good.

Once you surrender your will and the controls of your life over to the Spirit of Jesus one day at a time, then you have the possibility of turning your anger into a force for God and your good. Anger is a feeling that is neutral. You will have these feelings from time to time. There is nothing wrong with being angry.

There are two passages that offer great insights here. In Ephesians 4:26 it says: Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. In other words, don't let this natural emotional expression of anger fester into resentment. And then in James 1:20 there is a warning: For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.

A lot of what triggers the anger with people who seem out of control in our lives is the tendency for us to judge in a condemnatory way. It's that old problem of wanting to be right and straighten out the rest of the world according to our standards.

To this I want to share something I heard many years ago: There's so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it's very difficult to decide just which of us should reform the rest of us. I think what we must do is to get over ourselves and to turn the controls over to Jesus. And the only way I know to do this is to surrender to the Spirit of Jesus who lives within you.