Archive for March, 2011

Whatcha Collecting?

Everyone collects things to some degree, and most of us collect a lot of things we don’t need or use any longer. I enjoy talking to people with bizarre collections. Some folks enjoy things I never thought of finding delight in like antique wooden toys or tea cups. Something makes us collect things.

We collect to feel “value”!

My favorite thing to collect as a young person was bottles. I’ve had all sorts of bottles, big and small, old and new, hand blown and factory made; but I always had some kind of attraction to a bottle before I would collect it. When my parents or friends would buy a bottle for me, they would generally tell a story about how they got it or how unique it was. This made the bottle special in my eyes.

 In collecting things, I’ve come to realize some things have value and other things have significance… knowing the difference is vital. I think that is true in life as well; we see things that we think are important in the eyes of others and there is an attractive pull toward it. An example might be the “Beanie Baby” craze of a few years ago. Other things carry enormous significance, they hold a position in our hearts. Maybe there are memories attached to the items or they were in the family for a long time. I have a drop leaf table that my Great Aunt Georgia had, who was a missionary in Africa. It has a value because of its age, but it carries significance to me, because it was my Aunt Georgia’s table. 

Some collections become attachments?

I am not very proud of this, but I also tend to collect things like painful memories, goofy ideas, foolish mistakes, and offenses from the past. For the most part, these collected items need to go, be forgiven or dumped in the garbage. Inevitably, I find this stuff hindering my identity and distracting my life from the purposes of God. While I think I do a pretty good job of cleaning out my closets, I know there are some things in my mind I have to avoid holding onto at all cost. I just cannot collect things that will hinder me spiritually. I call these things attachments, because they weigh me down in my Christian walk.

What do you collect?

 The problem with collecting is that we can allow the worthless stuff to get in the way of the significant. If that is the case, it might be time to do some spiritual and emotional house cleaning. I’m confident that all of us could benefit from a good old trip to the dump. Take a few minutes to ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What do I collect?
  2. What do I need to let go?

 If you will think about these questions… then take action on your answers. You will be more successful, almost immediately.

Life Support

Brings me refreshing

Alone with God

Our devotional life is the substance of our personal relationship with God. As a passionate Christian, I have found my devotional life to be my “life support system”. It includes seeking Him through prayer, Bible reading or study and fellowship in the Holy Spirit. My tendency is to lean on likeminded believers to create a false sense of Christian devotion and substitute their thoughts for true spirituality. God will often remind me to return to my first love.

 Real revival is kept ablaze only in His Presence!

A healthy spiritual life feeds and draws its energy from the intimacy and relational growth enjoyed in fellowship with God (Ps 1:1-3). This kind of life has all sorts of dynamics that stir its effective development. Balanced growth has a lot to do with our personal time reading and prayerfully studying the Bible as our platform of knowledge. It is easy to fake it and live on the thoughts from the last time we read, but Jesus makes it clear that we are to live daily from the words that come from the mouth of God. Yesterday’s manna will actually “ferment” in our mind quicker than we want to believe and when we fake our spirituality we will live in “rotten” counsel and yesterday’s knowledge.

The Elephant in the Room:

In church life, our devotional difficulties can become like the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone knows is there, but nobody wants to talk about. This is frequently true of Christian leaders. We find it difficult to openly encourage others in their devotional lives, because we are struggling with our own. Often our lives become too busy doing those things we believe are urgent and lose our devotional time with God. These devotional moments are vital, because they connect us relationally to God. The Apostle Paul said that we must set our minds on the Spirit to be lead by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:5). The prayer life or ”secret place”, is where we learn to hear and know the voice of the Spirit. We discover our hunger for love and relationship needs more than just knowing Christ as our Saviour and Lord. By developing this life support system, He becomes our strength and closest Friend.

Some other thoughts:

  1.  Jesus demonstrated and talked about a devotional life with God.  (Mk 1:35)(Mt 14:23)(Lk 21:37)(Lk 5:16)
  2. It strengthens us in times of temptation. (Mt 26:40-41)(Ps 119:11)
  3. It becomes our guidance in everyday life decisions. (Jn 10:27)
  4. It is the platform for spiritual assignments and fruitfulness. Others around us benefit from our devotional lives. (Jn 15:4-8)
  5. It plugs us into God as our Source of Power. (Jn 7:37-38)(Acts 1:8)

Our spiritual life support is like a well that provides Living Water to all of the growing parts of our being. Our wisdom and understanding must come from His Presence, and it must be current for us to live in Christian maturity. We would never want to willingly restrict the water flow in our home to a trickle; but this is what we do, when we try to live without a healthy devotional life. It is through our devotional supply line that we experience God’s power and hear God personally speak to us about His love, His purposes and His destiny for our lives… It is our life support!

Be Happy

Fellow Citizens and Saints
Fellow Citizens and Saints
 
“Now, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the houshold of God.” (Eph 2:19)

Becoming comfortable in our new citizenship is the defining reality of how happy, joyful or effective we are as people of God. Notice how the Apostle Paul uses several identifiable relationships to help us connect to his point. Being a stranger means, I’m completely outside of my comfort zone. Much like a foreign person might speak a different language, so a spiritual stranger would find it very difficult to understand or relate to happiness inside of the Kingdom Culture. So the answer is to become a citizen, a member of the “family culture” and come under its influence.

 The household of God is not just an embracing culture; but a Holy Spirit habitation, built on values that bridge all limitations and barriers. You learn the values of happiness and joy within the Kingdom Culture by experiencing the Holy Spirit’s activity in your heart and life (Rom 14:17). Those who belong are saints and members of a family, with a common Father. Jesus said it like this, “…don’t rejoice that the demons are subject to you, but that your names are written down in Heaven” (Lk 10:20). Be happy; find your greatest joy, in the fact that you are a member of the household of God and a blessed saint in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Learning to Be Happy

Happiness for our current American Culture seems to mean, no risk and no inconvenience. We like our TV remotes and our McDonalds, fast food culture. But we are paying a price. Those who settle for the easy way eventually find themselves with little excitement, limited adventure and becoming numb to the thrill of success. It dismantles our ability to process joy, when we have no contrasting stress or discomfort. The Bible says to rejoice when you face various trials of faith, because it produces things in your life (Jms 1:2-4). Laziness not only kills the joy level, but limits the production of those character traits that are found in the Father’s house.

What I want to propose to you, is that the most important reason to pray or serve God is for the joy of experiencing a Kingdom Culture, based upon the high value of bearing spiritual fruit. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb 12:1-2) and we are to set our eyes on Him. Excitement is the joy that comes in seeing the purposes of God arise out of inconvenient, sacrificial circumstances. Jesus said to pray so that your joy would be full, because you will receive answers from your Father and experience the family culture (Jn 16:24).

Jesus also said that the Father gets joyful pleasure from our fruitfulness (Jn 15:8). We know that the Father’s joy is the overshadowing atmosphere of the household. Seeing the outcome of the Holy Spirit at work in your life is what connects you to the family culture, His habitation in the Spirit (Eph 2:22). It gives us some history in the household with God and makes it the Blessed Place where happiness and joy abound.

Feeling Desperate

God will meet you there

Feeling desperate and alone

Desperation is one of the most confusing and dangerous feelings a person can have. It’s dangerous because anxious, despairing people often do things without thinking about the long-term consequences. This sense of panic can cause you to make bad decisions. It can trick you into thinking that if you don’t act in the immediate, you’ll never have another chance.

We don’t want to focus our attention on Satan, but desperation must be one of his most effective tools. This feeling of hopelessness can detour people off God’s path and intimidate them into taking paths of fear and destruction. By the time the truth is realized, we’ve lost months, maybe years of our lives that we can never get back. So how do you defend yourself against this problem of desperation? What can you do as a Christian, to conquer the feelings and the desperate state of mind?

The Great Exchange:

Let me begin by reminding you that God loves you and has a plan for your life that He invested in about 2000 years ago. When the Heavenly Father sent His Only Son to die on the cross, it was in order to demonstrate His love and passion for you and I to become His children. It may sound odd, but His ability to know the end from the beginning, enables Him to creatively connect His love to us and our fulfillment of His purposes. Every day of our lives are written in the prophetic books of Heaven and His hope is that we will step into that prophetic flow, move in sync with His heart and find a faith empowered life… abundant and free. When we lay aside all that hinders us from hearing God, He opens up a pathway that makes following His will a joyful experience. Jesus said, “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy laden… learn from Me, by becoming yoked with Me and I will give you rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28-29). In essence we can lay aside our desperation and exchange it for the peace that passes our understanding. Yea God!

Its that Simple?

Realize that desperation is a spirit and must be resisted. What the Bible tells us is that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us and as we then resist the Devil, from this secure position he will flee from us (Jms 4:7-8). This really does work, in that you and God together are a mighty force that totally intimidates the Devil. Recently I spoke to our fellowship about the Devil’s fall from Heaven at a speed of 182,000 miles/second. Imagine that fall! How do I know this, well Jesus said He personally witnessed the fall of the Devil and described it as… “like lightening”. Then in the next verse we read that Jesus has given us authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy (Lk 10:18-19). He has delegated authority to us for a life of fruitful abundance and has no plan of our delay, defeat or distractions. We must find the strength that comes from His Spirit and walk in victory over all fear based hindrances.

More than Conquerors!

The greatest hope of all is the knowledge that we are more than conquerors in Christ. Because His lives we also are alive in Him. Because He has conquered sin for us we overcome sin in this life. Because He has defeated death in His mortal body, we are fully equipped to face death every day and arise in the strength of His resurrection power. Yes, we are more than conquerors, because He has conquered the things that come against us, to cause feelings of desperation. Therefore, we rejoice in tribulation and bless those who curse us, we love and do not hate, forgive and believe the best. And we recognize more than anything that we cannot fail, for we have not come to represent ourselves. We are His Ambassadors, citizens of Heaven and friends of the King of Kings. He is and always will be Lord of All, which means there is no place remaining for feelings of desperation.

Snares and Traps

Do we want to be free?

God holds the power to set us free

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Mt 5:6)

A snare or trap was set for me the other day and I fell in, because the bait was something I was surprised to find strangely appealing. The bait was pride that was cloaked in an opportunity to judge others simply because I did not approve of their behavior.

It happened just the other day when a driver passed our minivan in a “no passing” zone. I thought, “Hey buddy I don’t mind you endangering your life, but don’t pull my family into your foolish behavior.” I noticed that as he flew by, he gestured with his hand out the window as if I had done something wrong.  As much as I tried, I could not shake the experience from my memory. It felt like I had a smoldering fire inside that made me watch this car the rest of our trip into town… it provoked me. Well, into town we went, but at the first stop light there we were side by side, both of the vehicles waiting for the light to turn green. You could cut the tension with a knife. Fortunately he turned left across traffic into McDonalds and I journeyed on to my destination without any further problems on the road.

Yet the irritation inside remained.

 It sat just below the surface and festered like it was alive… I couldn’t seem to let it go. I put on my Christian face and walked into the fellowship with a smile and a sweet little “how do ye do”. My guess is that nobody noticed; ’cause like most of us, offences are something we ignore and assume they will simmer away into nothing more than a distraction in the routine of life.

Yet with God, nothing is routine!

As our gathering concluded, we jumped into the minivan and started toward home. Little did I know that the spiritual lesson of the night was about to reach a lot deeper. We had gotten no more than three miles from town when once again someone passes us in a “no passing” zone. Now I am back in amazement, looking at the car in front of me, saying… “what kind of crazies drive these roads?”.

That’s when I heard the voice of God say, “Snares and traps are only effective when they are baited with the stuff you have an appetite for.” I immediately realized that I was caught; snared by anger and trapped, because of a pattern of wasted opportunities. God was saying, “I am showing you this, for it to end tonight.”

 I had become used to living as the victim of circumstances. In allowing myself to become lazy in my thoughts, I had formed an appetite that was reactionary, natural and fleshly. What God was impressing upon me was that He wanted me to be spiritually minded and supernatural, drawing upon heavenly resources. Rather than settling for the fat little baby food of “just gimme what makes me happy”, God wanted me to become proactive in my thoughts and stronger in the inner man (2 Cor 10:3-6)(Eph 3:16).

God wants us to become spiritual people.  

  The Holy Spirit was quick to remind me that Jesus said to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Mt 5:44-45). The Holy Spirit wanted me to allow His power to work in and through me so that I could respond to circumstances without a loss of peace, joy or love.

 By allowing resentment and anger to rule me, I was deceived into thinking that the fruit of a selfish lifestyle would not effect me.

 Well, it was effecting me and it effects us all when we are ruled by our selfish desires, rather than being ruled by Christ. This was the night when snares and traps began to lose their entisement… the night when I began to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

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