The Elections and the Toothpaste Tube

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The Election and the Toothpaste Tube

election-and-toothpaste-tubeOur nation is in a state of turmoil and confusion. We are facing elections soon in which it seems we have two candidates that many are describing each one as the “lesser of two evils.” Accusations, name calling, and stories abound that no one seems to know what is truth and what is not.

The Church is in a state of turmoil and confusion. We are facing elections soon in which it seems we have two candidates that many are describing each one as the “lesser of two evils.” Accusations, name calling, and stories abound that no one seems to know what is truth and what is not.

What is going on here? Why do we find ourselves in such a quagmire? Some would say that we have indeed entered into a time of judgment upon our country as a result of the decisions that have been made over the past decades regarding abortion, the removal of prayer from our schools, the removal of Judeo-Christian values from our society. Some would disagree that this is judgment, but that God has lifted His hand of protection from this nation because of those and so many more issues, as well as the lethargic and lukewarm condition of the Church.

A few are standing up and trying to give direction in this situation we find ourselves in, but would you allow me to give another perspective to what is happening here? And I want to use the illustration of the toothpaste tube. Most of us have heard and many have used the illustration of the toothpaste tube, how once you take the cap off the tube, and squeeze, whatever is in that tube comes out. You squeeze the tube, you will find out what was really inside there. No matter what the label may say, or what pictures are on the outside, when you squeeze it, you know soon enough what is on the inside.

In Deuteronomy chapter 8, Moses is recounting to Israel, how the Lord dealt with the while they were in the desert. In verse two he says:

And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

Moses reminds Israel that the testing in the wilderness for forty years was to show what was in their hearts, whether they would obey the Lord or not. God in other words, was squeezing the tube to see what was on the inside. Perhaps, just perhaps the Lord is allowing these circumstances in our nation in order to squeeze the tube and to reveal to us what is on the inside.

And I have to say, a lot of what I have seen come out of the tube has not been nice.

And I’m just talking about those who call themselves “Christians,” or “believers.” If social media is any indicator, the tube has been full of bitterness, and hatred and conflict, and discord, and venum on every side of these issues. And it seems that we feel quite justified in hurling insults and spewing venum back and forth, sometimes even in the Name of Christ.

STOP!

Let us please take some time to truly examine the condition of  our hearts before our perfectly just and holy God. Let’s stop with our self-justification, and humble ourselves before Him with the realization that there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).

Can we stop long enough to examine from God’s perspective what has been squeezed out of the tube or our lives, and our interactions?

Absolutely we need to stand for and support those who reflect the values we hold dear. But for God’s sake (REALLY!) let us take some time to allow the Spirit of God to do His work of examination of our attitudes and the condition of our hearts. We want God to come and turn things around, but He will not do that despite our sinful unrepentant attitudes. He desires acknowledgement of our sin, and genuine repentance. II Chronicles 7:14 is addressed regarding a people who had turned their backs on God, and had built their own idols, and refused His counsel.

That is us.

I bless all of the movements of prayer that are trying to call us to prayer and repentance, but we have been doing that for years! I have been a part of those. And we are still in this mess. Perhaps it’s time we take responsibility before God for what has been squeezed out of the toothpaste tube of our lives, and fall on our faces before God and confess our, my, your contribution to this current situation. If you say you have no responsibility, it is only a reminder of how far from God’s standard we have strayed. It is missing the understanding that what is laying out for us all to see now, squeezed out of the tube so to speak only indicates that there is a sickness at the very root that must be acknowledged.

Richard Owen Roberts in his amazing book, “Repentance, The First Word of the Gospel.” Asks, “It is clear in your mind that there are sins which are fruits and sins which are roots? If one repents merely of the fruits of sin, the roots will continue to produce more fruits.”

Take some time alone before God, and give Him in His Holiness, to search your heart and reveal to you the roots of the issues, the actions, the attitudes that have been squeezed out of your life, your mouth, your thoughts in this season. You might find yourself on the floor before Him in tears for what He has shown you. Then truly repent, and ask Him to help you to reflect the heart of Christ through your thoughts and words and actions. Let us start being the light of the world again, and not a reflection of our own darkness.

God bless us, and God bless America

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Walk INTO the Darkness !!

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Light of the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Early Church” lived in a culture that was not receptive to the message of the Gospel. The culture was hostile to the message of the Gospel. The mindset of the people and the reaction of the government was one of hostility and confrontation. That is what we are seeing rising up today. The early disciples were emboldened to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel in the midst of this culture and government, not because they had hours of seminars and instruction, but because they were firm in their relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because they had a firm and solid faith and understanding of the power of God in the Gospel, they did not need to be intimidated or have fear. They knew it was better to obey God than be intimidated by mere man. This new move of the Spirit will be a move of intimacy. Ingrained in these warriors because they have learned how to take time in intimacy with their Lord, and hear clearly His voice, and be confident of His reality in and through them. Because of this rock solid assurance, they will give no thought to their own lives, but be radically concerned for the lives of others. Through these wounded warriors God will raise the dead, heal the sick, stop plagues, and demonstrate the true power and mercy of the Son of God.

This army will march INTO the darkness

Because YOU ARE the Light of the World – Matthew 5:14

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An Angels Easter Story

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An Angels Easter Story

based upon Matthew 28: 1-7

Zaphnath-Paaneah took his place before the Throne of the Great I AM. The sense of anticipation that he had had from the beginning now seemed to be palpable. From the time of his creation, he had known that this would be his assignment. He did not understand all of it until this day. Now, he felt like he was the most privileged of all the angels of heaven. Like all the other un-numbered angels, he felt most fulfilled when he was privileged to serve in some way, the King of Heavens Armies. It was what he was created for, and he felt the Lord’s pleasure in him when he would serve the King.

But these days were different. He had watched in amazement as thousands of his fellow angels had sung “Glory to God in the highest” as the Son, in some eternally mysterious way had been born in that dirty, and smelly, stable. But at the same time as it was in many ways revulsive because of its smells and looks, it was a holy place. None of them could quite fathom the mystery or the wonder that they felt to see the One who had created them, now wrapped in human flesh as a helpless newborn child. On the day of his birth, it seemed like all of heavens inhabitants were peering over the portals of heaven to get a glimpse of this unspeakable act of humility.

They watched as he grew in his human form, and walked among those he loved from before they were created. All of heaven never quite understood how those he had created, those he had called as a special people, and by his presence in the pillar of fire and smoke had lead them all those years in the desert, was now rejected, reviled and renounced by the objects of his eternal love

But it had become so much worse. Zaphnath watched with others as their King and Lord submitted himself to such cruel beatings and torture. He could still hear the echoes of the weeping in heaven as “Messiah” as they called him, was beaten and crucified without mercy. The stunned silence when he spoke from the midst of his pain, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” No one among the angels or creatures of heaven could fathom the depth of love in that simple expression.

Then, he died. None of them quite grasped how this could be possible, that the King of Heaven’s armies, the Eternal One who spoke all things into existence, now hung in a battered body, dead on that cross. How could it be? How could anyone love with that kind of love? They knew only in part of this plan that the Father, Son and Spirit had conceived. They had heard about it, but this idea of salvation was a mystery to them. Now, however, some of the pieces began to fall into place. Not one of those countless bulls, and goats, and sheep and birds that were prescribed for sacrifices had ever been enough to pay the eternal price for the rebellion of mankind. But now eternity took on mortality, and died. What love the Godhead had for this creation, just a little lower than themselves as angels.

But, oh the celebration throughout heaven when he who had suffered this unexplainable death, had risen, and conquered death! All of heaven rejoiced as one when the Son, now forever in human form, joined them again in heaven’s glory. It was a celebration unlike any they had ever experienced. But then came that moment when the glorious Son called his name, “Zaphnath-Paaneah, it is time.” The time had come for him to fulfill the purpose for which he was created. The reason why he was given the name that he had carried from the beginning of his existence, Zaphnath-Paaneah which means “revealer of mysteries.” Now! Now he understood. Now he put the pieces together. What an honor! What privilege was his. “Yes, Lord!” was his immediate response… it could be none other. And with his inner being filled with the joy of this occasion, he flew from the glories of heaven to that place where they had laid his master.

The sun was beginning to show it’s beautiful rays of light over the horizon. The morning was brisk and the air was filled with electric excitement. It had been three days and nights, and now was the time. The moment he arrived there was a strong earthquake, as the Master seemed to put an exclamation point on that had happened, and what was about to happen. When the Roman guards felt the earthquake, and saw him before them, they were filled with fear and ran away. Now all was ready. With little effort, he rolled away the stone. He already knew what he would find. His master had risen, now the only thing in the tomb were the grave clothes they had wrapped him in those three short days earlier.

There they came, the women. They were prepared to finish the task of preparing the body. They had not had time before, and bless their hearts, out of their love for the Master, they were ready to finish the task. But they were not ready for what Zaphnath had for them. As they approached the empty tomb, they were at first dismayed that the tomb was open. In their thoughts, someone, maybe the Romans or the Pharisees had come and stolen his body. But how was his time. He revealed himself to them and said the words He was commissioned to say, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. Now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women were frightened and ran away. But Zaphnath was filled with joy. He had completed that for which he was created. The mystery conceived before anything was created. As he flew back to the splendors of heaven, he could hardly wait to join his fellow angels to once again be in the presence of the great I AM, and worship him around his glorious throne. But from this time on, forever and ever, for Zaphnath-Paaneah that worship would have a special meaning. He was honored and privileged to be the revealer of the mystery of the empty tomb. He wondered if the Masters disciples would feel that same sense of privilege when they would be commissioned to be revealer of the empty tomb, and be send with this glorious message throughout all the earth. He thought, surely they would feel that same joy that he now felt. He would be watching from the portals of heaven to see what they would now do with this glorious message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Warriors never Retire!

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13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Bangazi

This past week I went and saw the movie, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Bengazi,” It was a very powerful and moving story of the September 11th attack on the American Consulate in Bengazi, Libya. I would recommend going and seeing it. Afterward, I sat in  my car and wept for what I saw and the tragedy that could have been avoided.

But at the end of the movie, after the battle was over, two of the men were on the roof, battered, and tired, and bleeding. One was dying and spoke of his family and life. The other spoke some words that immediately grabbed my attention. That phrase is: “Warriors never retire.”

This is not a thought just for intercessors, but to all of the Body of Christ, because realize it of not, we are those who are entered into this warfare against principalities, and powers and rulers of darkness (Eph. 6:10; 2 Corinthians 10:3). We live in days when the forces of darkness are raising the stakes, and being much more overt in their deceptions, and their attacks. This is a time when, especially those who have been fighting this battle many years, are weary and wounded, and there seems that there is no support, that we just want to find a place of peace and safety, and just quit the battle.

If you have been discouraged, if you have been wounded, if you are weary of the battle, let me tell you folks, we have a Commander in Chief who is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and you are NOT abandoned! You are not forgotten! We are called to fight, but with the weapons of the Spirit of God, and against these weapons, no forces of hell can conquer. But we must rise up and fight! There are souls whose eternal destiny will depend upon us being members of His Body who, though wounded and battle weary, will continue to put on the armor of God, and continue to contend in prayer.

You do not always see the unseen consequences of your prayers, but you must keep fighting… because A“a warrior never retires.” As the few remaining men are waiting to board a plane to take them home, one of the guys calls home. He’s made many such trips and been away from home too long. In the course of the conversation, he is speaking to his wife and says; “I’m coming home to stay.” Yes, there is a God appointed day when His warriors will go home to stay. There will be a day when our Commander in Chief, who is the Captain of Heavens Armies, will welcome us home, heal our wounds, and reward us for being faithful warriors… but until then…

Let’s fight!!

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Thinking Like God Thinks – When Terrorists Strike at Home

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My last post I began to talk about how I have been challenged with the idea of learning to think the way God thinks. God had challenged me during a day of prayer when I was in Brazil that I needed to learn to think like He thinks. This is an all-encompassing subject, but it has been working on me for some time. And given the recent uproar surrounding the murder of fourteen Americans in San Bernardino, California, and other terrorist attacks, I began to ask, “how would I respond with God’s way of thinking in this situation?”

This is a topic that is far broader than is possible to address in one post here, but I would ask you to prayerfully consider how the following might apply in our current situation in our land. And how the Church needs to rise up and be the Church in these days, not simply in political activism, but as ambassadors of the King of Kings and Ruler of the Universe. Thinking and acting and speaking as God would.

My first reaction would be to realize that at the very outset I must love. The very and maybe sometimes too familiar verse, John 3:16, says, “for God so loved the world…” As perverted, as deranged, and as “radicalized” as these people may be who carry out these acts of terror and murder (yes, let’s call it terror. That is part of the whole purpose of their actions is to put us in a state of terror of the next time) may be, they are still people for whom Jesus hung and died on the cross. They are people for whom Jesus rose from the dead an ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Does my heart break for them in the same way that God’s heart breaks for their “lostness?” If not, then I must start by repenting of the hardness and the waywardness of my own heart. That is not to excuse their actions – never. It is to put God’s perspective on my perception of them as people whom Jesus loves.

Secondly, if I am thinking the way God thinks, I would be outspoken in denouncing sin at every level. Not only the sin of murdering innocent people, but the sin of turning people away from the true and living God to follow the deceptions of demons. Let’s be honest, the desire, the teaching that it is pleasing to any god to behead your enemies, kill and subjugate those who do not believe like you is sin. Yes, that includes anyone who teaches in such a way. I know there is a whole discussion to be had about the Old Testament actions of God’s directions to Israel, but that is for another time. Here, the point is, the people of God must denounce sin. And the sin of those who use these kinds of situations for their own aggrandizement, or gain socially, politically, or financially. This must be done from hearts that have been examined for our own sins first.

Thirdly, if I am thinking the way God thinks, I would be fearless in pointing out the hypocrisy at every level. Hypocrisy in the Church when we are quicker to point out the sins of others than confessing with tears our own sins. We must denounce the hypocrisy of those like our president and other political leaders who use “selective language” for his own purposes. Like John the Baptist calling out Herod, or Jesus speaking plainly to the Pharisees of His own time. Let us ask God for His wisdom to see through the deceptions and call out hypocrisy when it is found.

Fourthly, if I am thinking the way God thinks, I will understand how I need to understand the words of Jesus when He said, “render therefore to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God the things that are God’s”  (Matthew 22:21). Jesus said that He was about His Father’s business. Jesus chose His battles, whether it was when He was tempted by Satan, or whether he was being tested regarding political issues. I’m not saying that we are not to be involved in politics. We are to be light and salt in every sphere of society. But we must know how to choose our battles with wisdom from Him. We ought also to take a lesson from Jesus here and learn how to answer those trying to trip us up with wise words from eternal truth. We need to speak not from our own political leanings, or even religious prejudices, but from the eternal truth of the Word of God.

As I said, this is a subject that is way beyond one blog on one website, but I think it is time that we as believers in Jesus Christ learn to look at our world through the eyes and with the mind of Christ, with humility, and with God’s truth, but not with concession to cultural or political “trade winds.” What a challenge for us to learn to think like God thinks. Especially in these days.

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Thinking Like God Thinks

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Thinking like God thinks… a few years ago, I had a “day of prayer” on the beach in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. And to answer your question, yes, that is a very easy place to be still and listen to the voice of the Lord. The warm ocean waves lapping over your toes, the warm breeze, and the vast expanse of beach all made it very easy to just quiet my heart and listen. There were many things on my mind… past, present, future. I needed direction and help with decisions I needed to make. At one point as I walked the beach, the Lord spoke very clearly to me and simply said, “you need to learn to think like I think.”

At first the words of Paul came to my memory, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5. I am currently doing more of a study of what does that really mean? What does it really mean to think the way God thinks? How do I wrap my puny mind around the thinking process of the creator of the universe? Well, I’m still working on that, and will post more about that here as things progress.

However, there was one thought that came to me recently in the midst of some very difficult and painful circumstances. A situation I never thought would be a part of my life, yet  here it is. Unwanted, unwelcomed, un-enjoyed, but smack dab in my face. How do I react? How do I conduct myself in this situation? How do I think the thoughts that God would have?

When we are in such circumstances, our first and best option is to turn to the Word of God for direction and counsel. I found myself reminding myself of all of who God is to me. He is my savior, my strength, my redeemer, my wisdom, my protector, my shield. So many more I could recount, and then… this thought: “He does not have to remind Himself of Who He Is.”

WOW! He does not have to remind Himself of Who He Is! The depth of that began to seep down into my spirit like golden honey. I, in my struggle to try to understand my circumstances, needed to remind myself who He is. But He never has to do that. He is always totally aware of all of who He is. In every moment, in every circumstance, in every disruption, every trial that comes our way, He is constantly and totally and fully aware of all that he is. He does not have to go and search the concordance to find a character to meet today’s need. He is “I AM” totally and eternally everything I need Him to be.

As I pondered this thought, and brought it before this idea that I need to think like God thinks, WOW!  What a revolution that would be in my life, in our lives, if we could come to that place in our walk and our relationship with Him so that in any situation, every circumstance, we would know who He is for that particular moment.This is profound for my daily walk. This requires not simply a study of theology (the study of God), it requires an intimacy with Him, so that in any circumstance I don’t need to search around, I will know who He is for me at that moment. It takes a knowledge and intimacy born out of time spent together. It brings a familiarity with Him and who He is for every situation. He who goes with me and lives within me desires that I come to such a place in my knowledge of Him that in any given moment I walk in the assurance of His sufficiency for that moment, that challenge, that crisis, that obstacle because the sufficiency is in who He is, and I know Him to that point I no longer have to stop and search… at that moment I know.

May the Lord grant that we come to know Him with that kind of intimacy and purity, that like Him, we will not have to remind myself of who He is, I will simply “know” and walk and rest in the character of who He is.

 

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Turn Your Eyes…

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Turn Your Eyes…

It’s been a long time since my last blog on this site. My life has had maybe more than my share of changes and challenges in the past couple months. I have started some blogs, but then got interrupted, or didn’t want to continue that particular train of thought for various reasons. It did however get me thinking about the truth of an old tune that has been playing in my head lately; “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”

So I want to scribble down here some thoughts on “turn your eyes…” Yes, I know, it’s obvious, where we are looking makes a big difference in where we go and how we get there. But what am I turning my eyes to? I have to admit that lately I have been turning my eyes to the circumstances that have been challenging me. To be honest, starting a new life in a new culture with a new language and a new family, and new habits and customs is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, and when you are my age, it makes it even more difficult to adapt. Add to that the challenges of an accident that results in a broken leg… I now have a place and eight screws in my right leg, the removal of my gall bladder, double pneumonia and a weakened heart muscle, and a burn on my hand from hot bacon grease. All of that has kept my eyes pretty much focused on my circumstances, I admit. If I were to change that little tune to the other side, it might go something like this: “turn your eyes on circumstances, look at all that is challenging your life, and the things of this world will overwhelm your soul, and you’ll be sure to despair every day.”

Turn your eyes…. Friends have asked me, “what is the Lord saying to you?” and I had to say that in this season, the heavens were bronze, and I was not hearing anything. Once I started a blog entitled, “Insights from the backside of the dessert.” But I thought it might be a little too negative. I was stuck… all I could turn my eyes on were the challenges, the difficulties, the disappointments. Not a good place to be. Not a healthy place to be. The stresses of my new challenges were taking a toll on my physical health resulting in a weakened heart muscle, and another change in my lifestyle.

Then there’s the other old song; “Where could I go, oh, where could I go? Seeking a refuge for my sould?” “Where could I go but to the Lord?” Hebrews 12:1- 2 says:Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne

OK, Lord, I am turning my eyes to you, I want to look full in your wonderful face, because I know you are beautiful, and merciful and gracious, and in your face I find the acceptance and love that you proved on Calvary. I want you to perfect my faith because I am not able to do that myself. I do not have the power. I turn my eyes to you who are in heaven, and I await the day when I will be able to look into your face in person. You have to help me because I cannot keep my eyes on you without your power and your help. It’s too easy for me to turn my eyes back again on my circumstances. Help me to strip away everything that hinders me from turning my eyes upon you, and looking full in your wonderful face. I’m looking, Lord, and I am fascinated. I’m looking, Lord and that is enough for this moment because that it all I have.

 

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The Inconvenience of Brokenness

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The Inconvenience of Brokenness

broken vessel

 I was reminded recently how inconvenient the Biblical teaching of brokenness really is. In many Christian teachings, it is much easier to talk about verses such as Romans 8:37, Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, or Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But if the subject of brokenness comes up, the topic seems to be quickly diverted to all we can conquer through Christ. To talk about our weakness and frailty doesn’t seem very victorious. It’s much more encouraging to talk about how we will overcome and win the battles and vanquish every foe. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a valid place for all of this teaching, but these teaching of conquering and victory must be understood in the light of what the Bible teaches about brokenness.

Part of the problem with this thinking is a lack of understanding of how God views brokenness. You see, to God, brokenness is never weakness. Some Christian teaching and the views of the world around us would have us believe that being in a place of brokenness is a place of weakness and vulnerability. Our response is that we need to get out of this place and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going. And to be perfectly honest, at least some of what results from the teaching of overcoming and more than conquerors is nothing more than Christianized self-effort. And that is abhorrent to God. It is a glorification of our own self will, self efforts, and self talk. So we need to understand the Biblical principle behind this idea of brokenness.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most Christians acknowledge the importance of brokenness but do everything they can to avoid the experience of it. There is a fundamental teaching about brokenness that helps us to understand it’s importance in the economy of God. That is simply, brokenness brings us to the place to complete and total dependence upon God. And that is God’s gracious purpose, because when we are completely and totally dependent upon God, then He is free to fulfill in us, all the destiny that He purposed for us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). There is an interesting cycle of brokenness and strength that is found in Philippians 4: 11 – 13. We are used to quoting verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but that comes in the context of Paul saying that he has learned how to be content in any circumstance. How did Paul come to that place? To be able to be content whether starving or having plenty? This is understood in light of chapter 3 where Paul says he puts no confidence in the flesh, and considers all his fleshly advantages to be as garbage. The one thing that is of utmost importance to Paul is to know Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Allow me to give this simple insight into “brokenness.” I have read several posts where people do not agree with the idea of “brokenness” and when I read them I realize that there is a misunderstanding of what this brokenness really is, and how it works. So here is my humble attempt.

Brokenness is being in that place where we have come to realize the total emptiness, and abhorrence to God of our fleshly efforts to please and serve our Most Holy God (John 15:5). Brokenness is the state of being more and more totally dependent upon the power of God to work in and through us for His purposes (Colossians 1:29). Brokenness is constantly on guard against the subtle influences of the flesh and when it realizes that fleshly attitudes, or efforts have begun to influence our total trust in God, there is immediate repentance and turning from the flesh to God (I Corinthians 15:31).

Brokenness can occur in times of trial, where God is testing us as He did Israel, to see what is in us, and Brokenness is an ongoing attitude of dependence upon God alone for our power, wisdom,  and service for Him. Think of this, take an unbroken clay jar and put a light inside, cover the top and how much light will shine through? NONE
Take that same jar,break it and then glue it together again, but the light inside, cover the top and light will shine through each of those broken places.

The flesh rebels against brokenness, the Spirit of God guides us into brokenness because brokenness is the place of usefulness and blessing, and God’s loving presence. Let us learn to embrace brokenness (James 4:10).

Finally, I leave you with this illustration that has touched my heart many times over the years…

THE TALE OF THE WILLOW

bamboo

Once upon a time in the heart of the western kingdom, there was a beautiful garden. There in the cool of the day, the Master was wont to walk. Of all the dwellers in his garden, the most beautiful and beloved was a noble bamboo tree. Year after year the bamboo grew more noble and gracious, conscious of his masters love and watchful delight.

One day the master himself drew near to contemplate his beloved tree, and bamboo in a passion of adoration bowed his great head to the ground. The master spoke: “Bamboo, I would us you.” It seemed the day of days had come. The day for which the tree had been made! Bamboos voice came low, “Master, I am ready, use me as you wish.”

Bamboo, the master voice was grave, “I must take you and cut you down.” “Cut me down! Me whom you, master have made the most beautiful in your entire garden, cut me down? Not that, not that! Use me for your joy, oh master, but do not cut me down!”

The Masters voice grew graver still, “If I do not cut you down then I cannot use you.” The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his glorious head. There came a whisper, “Master, If you cannot use me unless you cut me down, then do your will and cut.”

“Beloved bamboo, I must cut your leaves and branches from you also.”  “Master, spare me! Lay my beauty in the dust, but would you take from me my leave and branches also?” “Unless I cut them away, I cannot use you.” The sun hid its face. A butterfly glided fearfully away, and bamboo shivered in expectancy, whispering low, “Master, cut away.” “Bamboo, I would divide you in two and cut out your heart, for if I do not, I cannot use you!”

Then Bamboo bowed low to the ground. “Then master, cut and divide.”

So did the master of the garden cut down bamboo, and hack off his branches, and strip off his leaves and branches and cut him in two and cut out his heart. Then he carried him to where there was a spring of fresh sparkling water in the midst of the masters dry fields. Putting one end of broken bamboo into the spring and the other into the water channel of his field, the master gently laid down his beloved tree.

And the spring sang, “Welcome!” and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of

Bamboos torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted. And the days went by and the shoots grew, and the harvest came.

In that day, Bamboo, once so glorious, was truly put to use in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty, he had life abundant for himself, but in his brokenness, he became a channel of abundant life to his master’s world.

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Give Thanks with Me…. Dar Graças Comigo

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give-thanks

The day was January 3, 1969

I was in the Air Force with orders for Vietnam. My life up to that day had been increasingly filled with drugs and alcohol abuse. I had been watching my life slip farther and farther away, but I had no power to stop the slide.

My friend from High School, Mark McPherson had written to me about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and my response was, “I’m glad you found something that works for you, but that’s not my thing,”  But January 3, 1969 found me headed for his house in San Jose, California… just for a quick visit. I was on my way home to my parent’s house in Palos Verdes, in Southern California. I was planning only about a ten minute visit. After all, we didn’t have that much in common any more. He had his faith, I had my drugs, and booze. I was coming from a time with friends in Sacramento, California where I was on drugs or alcohol most of the time.

All I had was Mark’s address in San Jose. I had no map, so at the first San Jose exit off the freeway, I pulled into a gas station to ask directions. To my amazement, when I asked how to get to that address, the attendant said, “oh, that’s easy! Just go to the next light, take a left turn, take another left turn and you are there.”  I thought that was rather strange… little did I know I was being set up by the God of the universe! Mark told me years later that when he saw me walking up to his house, the Lord spoke t him and said, “Don’t let him leave until he knows where he is going.”

That planned ten minutes ended being the entire day. Mark was faithful to what the Lord spoke to him, and faithfully witnessed the love of God to me over and over again. We had lunch together, and he talked about a personal relationship with God. All through the afternoon. Over dinner, he faithfully answered my questions and continued to share about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross for me.

That night, about eight in the evening, while waiting to see a movie, sitting in my 1969 Triumph Spitfire,  spitfire1he asked me the ultimate question… “Are you ready?” I said yes, and prayed right there, asked the Lord to forgive my sins and make me a new person in Christ. There was no big flash of light, but the lifting of the burdens on my heart was immediate and profound. The desires for drugs and alcohol were immediately gone, and never returned.

My time in Vietnam turned out to be a time of rapid spiritual growth thanks to the img080ministry of then, Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Centers, now called Cadence International. I was baptized in April of 1969 in the South China Sea off the coast of Nha Trang, Vietnam.

vietnam-baptismEach year, on January 3, I take time to remember the power of a faithful witness, THANKS AGAIN, MARK! and the power of God to transform a life. This year, 2013 marks my 45th spiritual birthday, and I am eternally grateful to God for His grace and mercy, and how over these past 45 years, He has been faithful in every way. I would never go back, and count myself among those most blessed by God’s amazing love. I have never doubted for a moment since that night that I have a personal relationship with Him. Since that day 45 years ago, my only desire has been to serve Him in whatever way He has directed me.  As Pastor, Bible Teacher, Prayer Ministry leader, I have only one desire.. that on that day when I stand before Him,

I will hear the words, “Well done, Steve! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

I invite you to give thanks with me to God for His love, and mercy and grace that sent His Son to die on the cross for you and me, rose from the dead to conquer death, and ascended to heaven, and one day He will return for us.  If you do not have a personal relationship God in this way, feel free to contact me, I’d love to share with you how Jesus can transform your life, and give you a personal relationship that is for all eternity.

Thanks for sharing this Spiritual Birthday with me….  The Adventure Continues….

…till next time…

 

 

 

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Lessons from my Accident – part 1

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On Sunday, October 27th, in our church, I opened the prayer time by running down the isle of the church saying, “The Word of God is Running!” based upon 2 Thess. 3:1, Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.

 

On Tuesday, October 29th, as I was riding my bicycle home, I was struck by a hit and run motorcycle driver. The accident left me with a severely fractured tibia, and assorted contusions and bruising. I was taken to the local trauma hospital here in Joao Pessoa, Brazil.

What follows are some reflections on things the Lord has been speaking to me about this incident, and lessons for myself and all of us.

WHY?

It is the most common response, and the least answered question in times of tragedy and pain… “why?”  Because God made us as rational beings, with reasoning powers, our first tendency when faced with overwhelming circumstances is to ask why. What caused this to happen to me? Or my loved one? Did they do something wrong? Is this a result of some sin or poor choice?  The best response to these kinds of question is found in the incident with the man born blind in John 9:1-5. Jesus response to the question of why by the disciples was to point them to the work of God, and the power of God at work in the man’s life.

Certainly being hit by a motorcycle and fracturing my tibia and being laid up for weeks of recovery was not something I ever thought would happen to me.

head - smAnd, to be honest there were those times when I asked that unanswerable question of why. Why now? Why me? Why here in a foreign country so far from everything familiar? What’s happening to my life?

But in the midst of the confusion and the tragedy, God was showing that He was in the midst of the situation. My fiancé, Crizelania was on the scene almost immediately, and became my life giving advocate. The pastor of the church was there to help and to advocate at the hospital, members of the church  became involved and were touched by how God was working in the midst of this difficulty.

kika2-smPersonal stories were written on the hearts of those who got close to our experiences. God was showing up and working, and as Jesus said to His disciples… so the power of God might be seen in him.

This saga is not yet finished. God has spoken to our hearts that He can use this for His glory on into the future. When I came to Brazil, it was with the call of Psalm 71:17-21 on my life. Verses 17 – 18 say: O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

One of the things the Lord spoke to me after the accident as I was reviewing this call on this season of my life, was that God reserves the right to decide HOW that will be fulfilled. His calling is still in effect, and He can decide how he wants to demonstrate that power in and through us. Our part is to be a willing vessel.

I do not know if,  in the Lord’s presence He will explain to us the “why’s” of our lives. But I suspect that when we are there in His presence, we will no longer have a need to understand why, because He will be all the answer we need.

’till next time…

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