Archives For God

NebulaThe first four words of the bible are the most important words ever written. They dispel virtually every thought of the worldly, scientific mindset our culture is enmeshed in. We depend on data. If there’s no input, there’s no progress – that’s one thing that’s never changed. What needs to change is the source of that input.

In the beginning God…But after that, we.

We tried to become our own source. The world we live in was created by the Word of God, but as masters over this creation, we have formed it in our image. God created the world and gave it over to mankind to rule, and then Adam made a choice to trust knowledge over the life-giving power of God. We’ve been trying to get God’s attention ever since.

In the beginning God created. Then with what He created, he formed some things as well. We were formed from dirt by God, then He breathed His Spirit into us. At that time, we were perfect, fully alive, 100% connected to Life. Our choice was to remain connected, or to not.

God placed man in the Garden – the first temple – the place where He dwelled with mankind. The Kingdom, heaven, was here. And at that time we walked the earth alongside God. At that time, we saw as He saw, we thought as He thought, we lived as He lived. Genesis 2 reveals that in the garden were many kinds of trees, and in the middle of the Garden there were two – the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

God said they could eat from any tree except one. They could have apples, pears, bananas, kiwis, oranges, peaches. They could have life, too, if that’s what they wanted to eat from. It was all good.

In the middle of the garden were two trees and a choice to be made. They could eat from the forbidden tree or not eat from it.

Rather than call upon God, they chose on their own and did what they thought was right. And then, banished from that first place of worship, physically, spiritually and mentally, mankind has sought to find a way back to God on his own terms ever since.

We try to do good, thinking it matters, but we have forgotten that in the beginning God. We learn all there is to know, and by our observations try to understand even more, but we forget that in the beginning God. We make plans, formulate hypotheses, create, innovate, build, rebuild but in the beginning…God.

We deny what we are trying to do by striving. We say there is no God. We trust the scientific method, we try to unlock the mysteries of the heavens and die in that attempt never having found what is all around us, right in front of our eyes.

For this reason Jesus came to die. To break the cycle of mankind’s struggle to “get it” on our own – to solve the problem of the knowledge of good and evil. Remember, knowledge of good and evil are both fruit from the same tree, and neither bring life. Bob Hamp has said, “When the problem is knowledge, more, or better knowledge is simply like pouring gasoline on an already blazing fire.”

The more we know, the farther we are from God. Jesus came to give us life, to reconnect us to God, to make us citizens of the Kingdom. And if you’re His child, the Kingdom is here, and you are living in it right now.

You can walk with God, just like in the beginning. You can know Him. He can be your source. The cycle of striving for more can be broken. You eyes can be opened to what is all around you. You can see as Adam saw in the beginning.

We have proved, over and over again, that our desire is to know God, but the means to do so is beyond us. We can’t get to the Kingdom trusting our own way. We have to make a willful choice to not trust our will. We have to make a willful choice to lay down our will and enter the Kingdom of God.

In the beginning, God. It will end the same way. How you walk through the middle part is up to you.

 

Shiny and New

February 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

shiny and new

There is something so nice about things that are new. Sometimes, new things are hard to explain. What makes them so great? Is it the feel of new fabric against your skin, the excitement of bringing a new baby home for the first time, the smell of a brand new car? People talk about “new” often, but rarely can they explain “new” – we explain our experience with the new thing, but why we feel the way we do escapes us.

We all long for new. New is preferred to the old, the worn out, the unusable. New, as such, is more of a concept that an actual thing. New could also be described as a state of being.

Those who reach a certain age often complain of various aches and pains, and remember back to the good old days when bringing in the groceries didn’t result in a trip to the chiropractor. How many times have we seen older folks struggle to walk a flight of stairs, or stand after sitting for a while?

The fact is, everything wears out. Clothes, cars, shoes, minds, bodies and universes.  Science has predicted the inevitable heat death of the universe – it will continue to expand, molecules will separate, and everything that generates life will cease.

God has a different plan – for us and for every bit of his creation. While science would teach us that we are not the center of the universe, God’s word says that at His chosen time in the future He will make everything new – a new heaven, a new earth, new, glorious bodies such as Adam and Eve had in the beginning – the first time everything was new. What God makes new will never decay, never rot, never grow old and never wear out. And He is bringing all that New right down to where we are!

What would it be like if nothing ever wore out? Do you think this is how God designed things in the beginning? If they had never sinned, do you think Adam and Eve would still be around?

Before all this “new” can come to be, many things will occur. Evil will seem to prevail. The very foundation of the earth will seem to crumble. People will lose hope. People will be hurt and killed for their faith in God. His Word is true, and it will endure, and His promise to His people will come to pass – Jesus is preparing a place for us and when the time is right, we will be where He is!

This is the final piece of God’s plan. He will restore everything to its pre-fall state. Our earth, and everything upon it will be changed. God will walk with His people again, and we will see Him face to face. We know that as believers, we are living in the Kingdom even now, but then – Heaven will actually be on the earth, and all believers will live there. For all eternity, no death, no sickness, no sadness. Just new.

This is His promise for His people – that we will live with Him in “new” forever.

Debt

November 25, 2012 — 1 Comment

debt

I am no stranger to debt. It started, like it does for many these days, in college. I remember the first “student loan meeting” I had to go to. They showed a film on what life would be like if you defaulted on your loan. It showed a guy (college graduate?) slaving away as a short order cook, and explained that regardless of how little you made, if you defaulted, they would still probably garnish your wages.

This really didn’t bother me. I got through college mostly on grants. Considering where I went to school, it could have been much worse.

After this, though I went to the student center where they basically had a huge stack of credit cards they were giving away to incoming freshmen. I signed a form and 10 days later I had my first credit card and it was all down hill from there.

I worked full time my first semester at OBU and my grades reflected it. I decided I needed to focus, live on campus, take 16 hours, and study.

Well, I did some of that, and still made it through. My first two years I funded my night life with that stupid credit card. Remember, I had no real income – I did take some side jobs, cash only, weekend work, and I worked every summer. But once that card was maxed out, it was not as much fun as it had been in the beginning.

Eventually I graduated, got married, and decided to move to Texas to go to seminary. My wife and I refinanced all our student loans so we’d be making one payment, and then deferred while I was in school. We were so poor back then that we could not afford the interest payments. By the time I graduated from seminary, we owed twice what the loan amount was to begin with. Our payment, to this day, is almost as much as our mortgage payment, and most of that is still interest.

I’m not whining. I was told up front how it would be. I made informed choices. I thought I’d go to school, get a great church job, Cheryl would be writing and selling music by now, and we’d live in the big house and have no worries.

What killed that? Two high risk pregnancies, bad choices on my part of what churches I would agree to work for, more credit cards – full of mostly medical debt and car repairs, although I do remember buying a plane ticket to Boston that one time. It was a great trip by the way.

I’m glad to say, all those credit cards are paid off, both our cars are paid off, and the accounts closed now. We do have a card, and it has about $300 on it. It seems that to be able to do things in the world, like buy a house or a car, you have to have a credit rating, and to do that you have to borrow money and repay it. With interest.

I’m not complaining about that either. It just is. What I’m saying is, our choices messed up the first 10 years of our lives together. We were in debt to our debt. It crushed us in every way you can imagine. That is mostly over now – although we do still owe the student loan. I don’t see a good way out of that one. It’s at the tail end of a long list of debt that we couldn’t pay.

So how did we get the other credit issues resolved? One word – bankruptcy. That’s right, we paid a fee in cash to a lawyer, he wrote up some papers, we went to a judge, and he dismissed our debt. He saw what we were up against, and he forgave that debt.

I know a lot of people do this, and I tend to disagree with it for a variety of reasons. People go out and buy cars and houses and run up credit cards to furnish those houses and they have all the toys. When we filed, we didn’t have any of that. What we both did have was great jobs that pay well, and a mountain falling on us. We needed help, and we did not go into it lightly.

We had been paying for years, and we were not making a dent. We tried consolidation, snowball, Dave Ramsey, Crown Financial and about 12 other things and we were still not going to be able to pay off what we owed. So we filed bankruptcy. And it went away.

So, who pays for all that? And believe me when I say, it wasn’t all that much money. But who pays for it? Well, the company writes it off, they increase their costs, which you, the consumer, end up paying. So – you pay for it. And so do I.

Now that this little episode is several years behind us, I’m beginning to rethink all of it. Did we do the right thing? I don’t know…one thing I do know is that we were extremely uncomfortable, and being out of debt helped. We can actually function now, and we have no interest in being in debt anymore. As soon as the student loans are gone, that’ll be it. No more debt.

What brings all this on is something I heard in church this morning – We define comfort as having what we want, but God defines comfort as giving us what we need.

I think for us what it came down to was, we didn’t trust God. That is why this failure stings so much every time I think about it. We trusted ourselves, our jobs, our talents, and when those failed us we trusted the system. Did we ever once pray about it? Not that I remember. I do remember wallowing in self pity and whining a lot. But I didn’t share any of this with God, and as a result, we’re still kind of in the same place, even though the debt is gone.

Today, the pastor talked about how on the city walls, people would nail up for all to see the names of those people who could not or would not pay their debts. From time to time, someone else would take pity and pay the debt off. In that case, the paper was removed, folded over, the name of the person who paid the debt was written on the paper.

Regardless of my mistakes, regardless of how much I screw up my life, regardless of what I owe to whom, the name Jesus is written across my heart. God doesn’t see a failure. He sees a son. Beloved and worthy. Now my task it to learn to trust him, so that what he sees in his heart and mind can become real.

See how bad I messed everything up? And still God loves me. No matter what you’ve done, or not done, God still loves you all the same. He can’t love you any less, because he is love! If he did love you less, he would not be God! Learn to trust him, as I am learning. Your life will change.

Tonight, I’m going to write on paper how much we owe on our student loan, and I’m going to nail it to the wall. I’m going to pray every night that God would provide a way to get that stupid thing paid. And when he does, I’m going to fold that paper over and write his name on it in red ink. I may have it laminated at that point so that I never forget – where I’ve been, and just how much God has provided for me.

Fear

September 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

scared_face

Fear – not something that’s easy for me to talk about or even think about. I feel like I have to be strong, hold it all in, deal. But it’s there, showing itself in a variety of ways – panic, blood pressure, negative thinking, various minor illnesses.

My church has a wonderful healing ministry. Every Monday night, people come from all over to be prayed for, with, over. Many of these people have experienced healing from illness and injury. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

I went last week because I’ve had constant allergy problems for over 40 years, including sinus infections, tinnitus, vertigo, hives, and other pretty nasty symptoms. I was assigned to a prayer team and walked into the room and as I was walking in I looked at everything going on around me – people crying, praying, laying hands on people. There was laughter, too, and excitement and some shouts of joy. I didn’t know what my experience would be – I just wanted to be made well.

I was led to my prayer team and saw the look on their faces – there were three people all looking at me – eyes wide, mouths slightly open, like in shock. I thought maybe my zipper was down or something…And I’m going to tell you what they told me. It’s hard to talk about and I’ve been processing it all week. I’m not making this up either -

The first lady shook her head and smiled and told me there was a glow about me and something that draws people to me. The second lady said she felt calm and secure in my presence, then all three of them started telling me I would minister to multitudes of people – “thousands” they said. But at this point it is just potential – I need to deal with my fear.

This is the point when I told them about my sinus issue. It’s like they didn’t even hear that part. I was dizzy, my ears were ringing, and I hadn’t tasted anything but snot for days. Gross, right? And I went to be prayed over and experience a miracle healing event and never have to blow my nose again.

They did pray over me. They prayed that God would show me the root of fear that was holding me captive, keeping me from my destiny. They layed hands on me and prayed that I would be strong and courageous. They got on their knees around me and prayed even more that I would learn to trust God and his provision for me instead of focusing on what people have done to me or against me.

And this is when it gets weird. Some very specific things came to mind. Things I don’t think about much.

When I was five my dad walked me to school and said he’d be back to get me but he didn’t show up and I walked home by myself. I was afraid because I’d never done it and I didn’t know what happened to my dad. I didn’t see him again until I was nearly 40 years old.

I got home, and my mom was there but had to go out. She said she’d be right back. My little sister was there with me. We were left alone for several days and finally rescued by my aunt and uncle, who eventually gained custody of us and adopted us both. I saw my mom several times after that, but never lived with her again.

After that, I never really trusted anyone. I was afraid to trust. I did things to keep people away, to make people not like me. I was rude at the very least and even violent a few times. I prayed that God would kill me sometimes. I never felt on the inside like anything was right.

Before all this, I knew things weren’t perfect, but I felt loved and protected. Then that was gone. I thought it was gone forever. I’ve always, always felt that way. Even as a Christian, I’ve felt and acted like I was on my own, like I had to do everything under my own strength.

My fear is the fear of abandonment. Everybody leaves. Everybody dies. My real mom died years ago and I still don’t know how to feel about that. Sad? Relieved? Happy? My Grandmother died next. I miss her every single day. I still feel like I need her. Same for my dad – the one who adopted me. I miss them both so much.

I had a wife a long time ago, and she left too. Will Cheryl? How about my kids? They’re growing up so fast. Yesterday they were babies, tomorrow they’ll be living in Possum Trot Indiana with kids of their own.

I’m afraid that God will abandon me, too. I’ve felt like that for a long time, like he already has. I know in my head that’s not what he does, but I feel like he has anyway.

All of this goes back to the day when I was so happy my daddy was walking me to school and that he’d be there to pick me up at the end of the day. And he wasn’t. And I never saw him again until almost 35 years later. With no good explanation of what happened. I was never sick before that either. And I’ve been sick ever since.

Crazy, right? How an emotional wound can turn into a spiritual wound which can turn into a physical illness that can keep you from being who you were born to be. How it can cause you to hold people at arms length your whole life. How it can cause you to wonder if anyone really cares or if they are just saying that because that’s what people say.

I need to get past this. I know where it came from, what it has caused. And I know I can be free from this.

I don’t know if this is helpful to you or not. But whatever is blocking your path, whatever is keeping you from being who God created you to be – you can’t turn it around by yourself and neither can I! Now that I know, I’m taking it to God, and he will be strong for me. He’ll tear it all down and I may just turn out to be who he dreamed I would be. You can do it too!

How do you honestly see yourself? And how do you think God sees you? God thinks you’re amazing, wonderful, beautiful and worth dying for. If you see yourself as anything less, you need to realize you’ve been lied to, and it wasn’t by God. He’s not going to condemn you or make you feel guilty. He wants to free you from that! Learn to trust him, and trust him to be everything you need. Trade your fear for freedom and be his child. He won’t let you down, you’ll never walk alone.

Hey Man You Got 50 Cents?

September 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

YUMMY-TACOS

I must have uttered those words 5000 times during college. “Hey man you got 50 cents?” I was always in the mood for tacos, always broke, but there was a place right across from campus that sold crunchy beef tacos three for a dollar. I usually only had to hit up about five people before I had enough to get me some lunch.

It’s funny how that was like 25 years ago and I still don’t have the coin to buy tacos with. I was in the mood just now, and since this is my next to the last day of PTO and I don’t get paid until midnight, I’m flat broke. The cool thing is, in a house with four people, three of which have purses, I can always scrounge enough loose change to get me a few tacos. And I just did, and they were awesome!

It’s also funny how life imitates art sometimes. I am an artful scrounger, and when I was in college I might as well have had a cardboard sign, “Will work for tacos. But not really just give me 50 cents.” If I had to pay all those people back I would owe a lot of money.

Sometimes in life though, we feed off the scraps of others – we live vicariously though heroes on tv or the movies, we scour facebook or twitter for juicy updates on people from our past, we keep an eye out in the paper on the obits or court records pages to see if we’ve died or gotten divorced. And most of us go to church once a week or so “to get fed.”

It’s ok. I understand. I’m just as busy as you. Two growing kids, a house that always needs some kind of maintenance, a beautiful, loving, awesome wife, a job, and 47 other things all vie for my attention. Sometimes I forget that I’m all growed up and I’m able to feed myself.

I love my church. I could listen to my pastor talk all day long. His words are solid gold, life changing, straight from God. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard anything like it. Everything that goes on during worship resonates within my spirit and I reach out for God and long to be closer to him. Then I go home, and life starts up again.

Kids fighting, what’s for lunch, did we get on the plumber’s schedule and who is going to miss work to be here when he arrives? Did you make the kid’s lunch or do I need to do it? Don’t forget about Trinity’s dentist appointment, Zoey still needs her 5 year old shots and I have to go to the ATM to get tooth fairy money. The bathroom door is sticking, too. Might need to look at that.

We tend to overindulge on the Sunday milk and starve ourselves during the week.

Do you think that is what your pastor wants for you? To just rely on him for all of your spiritual needs? Where does that put God? The pastor received a great word, and shares it with you, but what do you do with it after that? If you’re like most people, you put your notes in your bible, put your bible on the shelf, and then when Sunday hits and you’re in a mad dash to get out the door to be at church on time, you forgot which shelf you put it on and you’re late anyway. Because you can’t go to church without your bible, now, can you?

You also can’t make it during the week without it. You can’t make it during the week without a constant, ongoing conversation with God. You can’t make it without your own word from him. You can’t make it unless you get off the bottle feeding and start taking in some heavy duty calories.

1 Peter 2:2 says we should long for the pure spiritual milk, and grow up in our salvation. Remember how important milk is for babies? But at some point they grow teeth and want some crunchy tacos. If they stayed on the milk, they’d never grow, never mature, never develop in the proper way, never be able to function as an adult.

What I’m saying is, grow up! You’ve got teeth, use them. Dig into the word, on your own. Do your own learning. Pray your own prayers. Talk to God like he’s a real person, and listen for an answer.

Hebrew 5:13-14 says, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” If you want to know how to live life, and live it the way God created you to live it, you’ll need to grow, you’ll need to learn to feed yourself! “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (Hebrew 6:1).

Who’s responsibility is it to tell you all about Jesus and lead you to him so that you can be saved? Other Christians, pastors, church leaders. Did you know the first person to share Christ with me was just some kid at school? He didn’t just unvite me to church, either. He told me all about Jesus and left me with a choice to make, which I eventually did – when my pastor led me to Christ.

Since then I’ve done the same thing for a lot of people – explained the basics, and left them with a choice. And once the choice was made, I taught them to stand on their own. There are a lot of people out there right now, living and growing and being who God created them to be. Is it easy? Nope. It takes time, patience, consistency. If you want it, you’ll have to work for it, and you’ll have to work for it every single day, even when you don’t feel like it. But it beats living off the scraps of others.

Be who God created you to be! Engage him in conversation, listen for his voice, grow to maturity in Christ, bear fruit!

The next time you’re scrounging up some taco money, remember this – You’re not a beggar at the table, you’re a chosen son or daughter of God, and he wants to know you!