The difference between burning and burning out

I learned something today. I imagine that a host of you might scoff that I did not know this before, but I am honestly happy to at least have learned it now.

Last year, after teaching through the book of Revelation, I became quite intrigued with the lampstand. Jesus walks among them; they “are” the church; the lampstand may be removed… And the idea of the church burning with light that is not its own but fueled by the oil of the Holy Spirit… all these mystical, analogous, yet very real and powerful things left an impression on me.

Today I decided I wanted to try and “light” the lampstand and display it during our all-day prayer meeting. You can’t fit candles in there – and I knew it was supposed to be oil… so I bought a wick, cut it in pieces and placed them in the lamp. I filled the cups with oil and lit the wicks.

Here was my personal “ah ha” today: fire destroys the wick. The wick will burn up, quickly, when set aflame. But… BUT if that wick can soak up the oil, it ceases to burn up, and just burns. The oil burns, but the wick just hosts the flame. The wick becomes the conduit for the oil. The wick can burn bright and pure as long as there is oil running through it. Without a supply of oil, the wick burns out. With fresh oil, it just burns continually.

Wow. There is no substitute for oil. There Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary and totally sufficient. Oil-less effort, personality, will-power, busy-ness, self-reliance, ego, the flesh… all of it will burn into ash. It cannot host the flame. But as we receive and rely (totally) upon the oil of the Spirit, we become conduits of the oil; we host His fire. We burn, but we will not burn out.

Thanks for reading,

Dav’

Life Is Not A Marathon

They – whoever they are – say that life is a marathon. I get the point – that it is long and not a short-term thing and requires endurance etc. But I don’t think life is a marathon. For one thing, marathons are exhausting and people collapse at the finish line. Life is not Designed to be that way.

Life is not a marathon; it is not made up of decades or years or months strung together all the while just looking for the finish line.
Life is made of moments. Small, priceless moments. Moments that, if recognized and embraced, if savored, become rare tiny gems. And if you are careful, you can collect a treasure-chest full of them. If you’re careless, you may have nothing but sore legs at the end of the race.

Tonight, as I was going through unceasing motions of study, writing, and study, my nine-year old came into my office. He asked if his big brother had gone to bed (his brother is 10 years older than he). I said, “yes, Bubba’s been in bed for a while.” “Can I go say goodnight to him?” “No, bud, he’s probably asleep by now.”
He broke. He crawled on my lap and wept. No agenda. Nothing to gain. He just was deeply sad to have missed “good night” to his 19 year-old brother.
He sat on my lap (he’s a biggy) and cried for few minutes. I could have patted him off and sent him to bed. But I had the state of mind – of heart – to just wait. This was a priceless moment. This is life’s savor. I am holding my youngest son to comfort him over not being able to show enough love to my oldest son.
I just got richer.
And I wasn’t running anywhere.

Fresh Hope From the Miracles of Jesus: Water into Wine

It was a wedding celebration five short miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, nestled in a small village named Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus was invited as were the small but growing group of His disciples. Family members, friends, and several if not many of the village residents gathered to celebrate. The sun was hot and the warm winds blowing from the sea coast made for the perfect outdoor party. A wedding feast. Everything was ideal for the big event. And then – life happened. They ran out of wine. Not tragedy; not death; not war or famine or violence. Life happened. And on this regular Wednesday afternoon, in a small town, at a no-name wedding, for no particularly epic reason, Jesus performed His first miracle. And hope burst onto the scene like the first rays of a sunrise.

Look at John 2:1-11 with me, and let’s find fresh hope in the miracles of Jesus

John tells us where the wedding was held, and that Jesus’ mother was there. Some early, non-canonical documents suggest that Mary was there as an auntie – that it was her sister’s son getting married. If that is the case, it certainly helps us understand why she was hands-on solving problems and giving orders to servants. It also explains why Jesus was invited – who hasn’t got roped into a family wedding?

Some sources say that by tradition, if not requirement, Jewish weddings were held on a Wednesday. The actual ceremony was held in the evening, after a great feast. Following the feast, the couple were married. Then they would be escorted to their new home – under a glowing canopy of flaming torches and lanterns. They would take the longest route possible to their home, so that all in the village may bless them and wish them well. And the next week or more they would have “open house” – dressed in their finest clothes and richest adornments, being treated like royalty by on in their village. This was a high-point in their lives and the lives of their families. And though a celebration, it was serious… the family’s honor was at stake in the festival going well.

But there was problem. They ran out of wine. We aren’t told why. But we do know that wine was very important. “Without wine,” the Rabbis said, “there is no joy.” This would have cut short the feat and cast a shadow of gloom on the entire celebration. In short, running out of wine would have shamed the family and ruined the occasion for everyone. Life happened.

Has it ever felt like you, too, have “run out of wine?”

Mary comes to Jesus and matter-of-factly informs him, “they have no wine.” I just have to wonder what Mary knew, what she assumed – why did she come to Jesus about this?  People sick, people dying, corrupt tax collectors, oppressive government… and not to mention she’d been informed of the humanity-saving destiny of Jesus by angels when he was born… and she brings him this? Why?

I don’t know. To me it doesn’t make sense why she would bring this kind of problem to Jesus – but I’m glad she did. I bet in hindsight the guests were glad. I am glad for the testimony Mary has provided. Have you ever hesitated to involve Christ? Have you ever wondered if he’d care about what matters to you? May we be as bold and ready to anticipate Christ’s involvement in our lives.

Jesus’ answer may prove troubling to some as we read in the English translation.  It sounds a little rude in the ESV. It sorta sounds like Jesus is saying, “Woman, why you buggin? Ain’t nobody got time for dat.”

Well first, the phrase, “woman,” when compared with other times Jesus uses it and how it used in other Greek literature, is far more affectionate than it sounds. A better reading would sound something more like, “My lady…” Further, the “what does this have to do with me” is a transliteration of a phrase that originally could have expressed two different sentiments: one harsh, one warm, depending on the tone that was used. For example if I said, “I’ll handle it,” that could sound harsh or it could come across comforting – depending on the tone. So, a better way of understanding what Jesus said to His mother was, “I will handle this in my own way; have no more concern over it. My hour – the big reason and purpose for mission – has not yet arrived.” Jesus essentially tells her, “I’ve got this.” Some of us may need to hear those words – “I’ve got this…”

Mary then turns – as if merely mentioning the need to Jesus is sufficient- and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.

And nearby stood six stone water pots – used for ceremonial washing. They used the water from these pots to wash off dusty or muddy feet. They used this water to ceremonially wash their hands before a meal, and also to ceremonially wash their hands between courses. If, in fact, they did not wash between courses in the prescribed manner, they were considered unclean. I imagine this got wearisome. Doesn’t religion wear you out? And this was all religion – it was more about ceremony and ritual and fear of being unclean than any real change.

Jesus tells the servants to fill these pots with water, and they did – to the brim. Then Jesus told them to draw the water out and take it to what would have been the “head waiter” – the friend or family member responsible for coordinating the guests and food. His response was this: “you’ve saved the best for last.”  Most people dish out the generic brand after no one notices anymore. But Jesus made available 120-180 gallons of fine wine – more than enough, more than could likely have been consumed by the wedding party. He made more than enough of the best.

So remarkable: many things that man does fades. But Christ’s work never fades or grows dull. He never simply settles for left-overs. We do not have to live off of the stories of the past or the memories of yester-year. Jesus saves the best for last.

In this story of an everyday event in a small town in the middle of nowhere, where “life” happened to everyday people, Jesus works His first miracle. And in this act, unknown at the time by almost all of at the party, his disciples caught a dazzling glimpse of who Jesus was.  And they placed their faith in Him.

What Hope do we find here?

What is revealed to us about God?

Jesus reveals the goodness and kindness of God to help us in our time of need. Christ is vulnerable to our concerns. He is not distant. He is as close as the mention of His Name. Mary didn’t even need to yell. Life happens.  God cares.

Jesus reveals the power and will of God to bring real transformation. The ceremonial washing was powerless. It was ritualistic, and had temporary benefit at best. But in the cup that now holds water made wine by Messiah’s hand, we see that the change that Jesus brings is not ceremonial, but actual. Jesus didn’t turn the stone water pots into wine bottles. He changed the ceremonial washing water into rich and pure wine. Jesus doesn’t give us the Cinderella treatment. He doesn’t change our exterior to make us acceptable to others. He changes us on the inside. And then then he says, “draw out what I’ve given you and give it away” – so that others may taste and see that the Lord is good. So that others may partake of the hope we have.

Jesus reveals how overwhelming and complete His grace is. By turning so very many gallons of water into the best wine. He demonstrates that there is a super abundance of His grace. There is more than enough. Regardless of your need. Regardless of your mess. Regardless of your past or present – His grace is here and it’s more than enough to meet you, to help you, to heal you to refresh you, and give you new life.

Jesus reveals a gospel of joy. The rabbis said that without wine there is no joy, so then what does it mean if there is a super abundant supply of the best wine? It means there is glad tidings of great joy: The Kingdom of heaven is here. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus is Lord. Repent and believe the good news.
How is Our Faith Informed?

We can have confidence to involve Christ in all of stuff of life –  when “life happens.” Mary came to Jesus with a concern that to some, to many even, may make no sense as to how it might concern Jesus. Again, I am glad she did!

What if she hadn’t? Consider what we would have missed? Consider what happens when we don’t…“Oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to the Lord in prayer.”

We can have confidence that obedience leads to our joy. Doing “whatever he” told them – the servants obeyed Jesus. And the result of obedience was everyone’s increased joy. Apparently, we really should obey God for our own good. Nothing good happened here until someone obeyed. Agreeing isn’t sufficient. Obeying is what brings change. I am inspired by the fact the servant filled the pots “to the brim.” Whole hearted obedience, total devotion, nothing held back. No half-way obedience. Come one friends, let’s be bold in our obedience and see just how much of Christ’s transforming power can be produced and released in our lives.

We can have confidence that God’s best is God’s will. Of the wine that Jesus made abundant, it was said it was the best. God does as God is – Profoundly good.
What is the immediate Hope from this Passage?

For those for whom “life” has happened… there is hope. God cares. He can make a way. He’s got this. Involve Him today. Draw near with confidence to the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). Believe that, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Cast all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

For those who are out of joy, the next step of obedience can be your gateway to new joy. There really is no better way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey. Bold, whole hearted obedience is the only way to abundant joy.

For those trying to be clean – going through the motions – Jesus Christ will make you new. Put your trust in Him.

Thanks for reading,

‘Dav

How Does the Holy Spirit Feel About Human Sexuality?

In the fifteenth chapter of Acts, leaders in the church gathered to address the conflict that arose between Jewish Christians and Gentile believers.  Some teachers had gone out among the new gentile converts / churches and told them, essentially, that if they really wanted to be “saved” – if they wanted to be righteous, they’d need to follow all of the Torah. This caused no small frustration.

There was called a conference in Jerusalem for the elders and apostles to resolve this issue. They deliberated the matter until affirming that since the gentiles had received the Holy Spirit in the same way the Jews had, and that to place a burden on the gentiles that the Jews were unable to bear for generations, that they would require gentiles to observe only a handful of the elements of the Torah. Specifically, gentile believers should abstain from idolatry (from things offered to idols), from strangled meat and blood, and that they should abstain from sexual immorality.

What is important, absolutely, to grasp is that these were the things that were to be carried over that were unique to the Torah. Murder and theft were not on the “list,” but that doesn’t mean that it seemed good to the Holy Spirit that now those things were fine, and that any reference to them in the Torah were antiquated, obsolete. Rather, what is presented is an affirmation of things unique to the Torah that the Holy Spirit pressed as necessary for righteous living.

Prohibitions against murder were not unique to the Torah, nor laws against theft. By the time of the Jerusalem council, these types of regulations were not uncommon in any organized society. But what was NOT unlawful was various forms of sexual congress. Nor was idolatry illegal (just the opposite, in fact it was prescribed in many places). So, what the leaders in Jerusalem affirmed, under the affirmation of the Holy Spirit, were the unique elements of OT law that were germane to righteous living.

Among the requirements set forth by the leaders in Jerusalem was that believers should abstain from sexual immorality. Remember, these are regulations being imported from the Torah. Therefore, one must keep in mind that these Jewish leaders, prohibiting sexual immorality in all Christ-followers, had in mind the context of sexual immorality as delineated by Moses. For the Jew, sexual immorality meant any sexual relationship with any person in any way outside the sacred covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Anything else was fornication. This is what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit” to prohibit.

It is hip to redefine sexual immorality in the context of contemporary culture. Today sexuality is “moral” if it is consenting. Violent sexuality is still considered wrong.  So, what is sexually moral is no longer a matter of the actual behavior, but the intent. If the intent is mutual stimulation, or even one-sided stimulation met with acquiescence, then it’s all fine. More than fine, in fact, it is celebrated. It is insisted upon. Practitioners of experimental sexual congress build for themselves small mole-hills and plant in them a flag of moral high-ground. And they demand agreement that their behavior is normal, normative, and in some cases, they require it to be recognized as holy – ordained by God Himself.

But no matter how loud their cry, no matter how many times they repeat their claim, it is still absurd. It is fornication.

Many claim that their aberrant sexual expression must be right – because it feels so right. It feels good; it’s fulfilling; it’s pleasant and even helps them feel close to their sexual partner. None of this is evidence for righteousness. There is nothing meritorious about an orgasm.

The ability to climax is not sacred. It’s nothing to be proud of, march in a parade over, or celebrate. In fact, the chemicals in the brain generate feelings of desire and commitment to someone after – because of – sexual release with that person. Literally the brain can be trained via sexual expression to bond to almost anything or anyone. So powerful is this bond, that victims of abuse who unwillingly experience sexual arousal might retain feelings of desire toward the experience.  It is precisely because of the fragile nature of human sexuality that it is so important to regard it as sacred, to protect it and use it as designed.

Human sexuality, as designed by God, to be shared in love, in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, is sacred. Anything else is fornication. And it is pleasing (seems good to) to the Holy Spirit for believers to abstain from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Loses Its Taste

There are seasons, it seems, when life loses its taste. By that I mean that the things that once tasted savory or sweet no longer taste like anything, like sand.

I don’t believe, I don’t want or choose to believe, that these seasons are healthy, normal, nor helpful. I don’t believe they are indicative of reality – meaning a loss of taste does not mean a loss of an ability to taste. When life loses its taste, it is more likely a symptom of a deeper problem.

It could very well be that the issue is that one has had an appetite for the worthless. Like cheap chewing gum, worthless things lose their taste quickly and just become a chore to chew. The often-attempted solution is to get more gum, only to repeat the above cycle of disappointment.

Or, perhaps the things that should be joyful and rewarding don’t feel that way. I say, “don’t feel that way” because it is a feeling, not a reality. Relationships, family, hard work, achievement and improvement – those are all time-tested, God-ordained tasty morsels. They are gifts that meet the nutritional needs of our soul. So, what makes them taste bland?

If life loses its taste, it is because a lie has numbed our tongue. We tasted a lie. Some deceitful, discouraging accusation about God, ourselves, or the circumstances around us has been offered to us like the proverbial apple-in-the-garden and “chomp!” we’ve lost our taste. Things feel sad. The music of hope isn’t heard. The anticipation of good (joy) is flat. “What’s the use?” “I don’t care.” Passion disappears. Then comes cynicism, accompanied by criticism. If I can’t taste it, I don’t believe others can either; “who are they kidding?” Of course, this is quietly accompanied by deep jealousy over the apparent taste others are enjoying, but to acknowledge that someone else is experiencing a genuinely joyful moment is to acknowledge it is possible, and that the problem may not be “out there” as much as it is “in here.” Life hasn’t lost its taste, I have.

So, how do we recover? If a lie has displaced our taste, then the lie must be replaced. It isn’t easy to go lie-hunting; that too often leads to tail-chasing, introspective, too-much-like-Freud behavior. Instead of trying to look for the lie (which has already hidden itself into the landscape of your life), turn to truth. Just turn your eyes, your heart, your will, toward what is true. This seems to be what the Psalmist so often did, “I will…”

Consider Psalm 9:

  • I will give thanks to you Lord, with all my heart
    • Deliberate gratitude, fervently and deeply expressed gratitude is one of the most powerful and proven means of increasing our joy. It re-calibrates our thinking and speaking away from “woe is me” and forces a focus on the good we have received, and the good-will behind it.
  • I will tell of your wonderful deeds,
    • Rehearsing testimony and repeating good news strengthens our faith and repaints the canvass of our imagination with the truth of what the Lord has done.
  • I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your Name, O most high.
    • It is possible, it is prescribed, and it is powerful – to rejoice on purpose. Yes, literally just get-your-joy-on. It is like deciding to get out of bed. You just get up. And it isn’t a joy that is superficial or based on a mood or whim; it is a joy that is rooted in the person, nature – the Name of the Lord. Rejoicing in Him and because of Him is like slipping a long straw into the refreshing waters of eternal joy. We taste and see that the Lord is good. We rejoice in Him: His word, His ways, His will, His works, and then hope rises. Our perspective changes. Our countenance and conversation changes. Our taste-buds return.

When truth regains its rightful place, the power of the lie atrophies and dies. In fact, only when we first and most satisfy ourselves with gratitude, trust, and praise toward the Lord will we be able to enjoy the taste of all the things He graciously provides for our pleasure.

May you enjoy the feast available to you today – with thanksgiving.

‘Dav

Peace and Righteousness: Preference and Prescription

PeaceLikeaRiver0777

Isaiah 48:17-18, This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”

This passage, and scores akin to it, affirm (at least) these two great ideas: peace is heaven’s preference, and righteousness is heaven’s prescription.

First, note that The Lord claims that He is the One who teaches us what is best for us (best for us, best for us – as in “this is the most preferred state for us, the ideal). If “we” (they, in the text – but “we” as the reader) would pay attention to His commands (listen, honor, put into practice what He teaches) then we would have peace like a river and well-being like waves of the sea. Let’s not overlook the significance of peace and well-being. These words likely carried the ideas of “peace and prosperity” in their lives and “deliverance and safety” from their enemies. There’s no way not to see this as “best,” as “preferred” – highly coveted even. And the good news is that it is God’s idea. It comes from His heart and mind. Peace and righteousness are His design and desire for you. This is His preference.

Therefore, (among many other considerations) it would be illogical to embrace the idea that, for our own formation and edification, God will send trauma or pain or suffering into our lives. This is not to say that these things don’t come into our lives. Neither do we agree that if something is going wrong, the causal link is direct disobedience and God is punishing you. Rather, it is knowing what is heaven’s preferred state for us that gives us hope in hard times, confidence in adversity, and resolve to overcome trial and hardship. We need not ever resign ourselves to accept as “the new normal” what is less than that which God has prepared for those who love Him. Your heart doesn’t have to remain broken. Your soul doesn’t have to stay in turmoil. Grief and anxiety don’t have to be your roommates. Hope should be your companion, and joy your strength. Heaven has not assigned you to a desert of malaise; it has prepared for you a river of peace.

The OT never, not ever, presents the narrative from heaven as “when you’re obeying and walking in relationship with Me, from time to time I’ll surprise you with catastrophe and disaster just to keep you on your feet.” No. His preferred state is blessing; peace and righteousness are His plan. Think of it, when God dreams about you, He dreams (envisions, desires, designs) your best, your peace, your righteousness. He wants what is best for us.

Secondly, (again, among other significant truths) this passage affirms that the commands of God are the best prescription for relief from pain and suffering, and the best means to prevent those things in our lives. This is not a recruitment for more of Job’s counselors. But it makes no sense to grieve and mourn and be vexed over the pain and discord and LACK of peace and righteousness around us – and then wonder what (if anything) can really be done about it. The preaching and practice of truth are not just words and wasted breath. They are the only real hope of healing, change, and restoration. Think of it: what good is it if we treat the symptoms of decay (hunger, crime, violence, sickness, divorce, abuse, sexually transmitted disease, “unwanted” pregnancy, etc. – and make no mistake we can, should, must do our best and most to alleviate suffering in any form) but do not prescribe the path to peace? I am saying that the preaching, teaching, practice and priority of sound doctrine, ethics, and obedience are the only real, lasting hope for our society – no less so than it was for Isaiah’s audience.

Our redeemer STILL knows and desires what is best for us. He is still teaching us the way we should go. More than ever, I am resolved to “study, practice, and teach” (Ezra 7:10) His ways. I want what He wants – what is best.

Why Emphasize Healing?

Christ healing peters mother in law

Healing isn’t the gospel, but the gospel isn’t the gospel without healing. The Apostolic message has been, since the beginning, that Christ is risen and that the Presence of the Holy Spirit is proof. Of the messages recorded for us, of the teachings included in the narratives, of the epistolary literature we have, there is scant few didactic statements regarding healing. Healing is almost always contained within the construct of a narrative: included in an imperative from Christ, requested from someone in need, or simply recorded as part of the normal exercise of kingdom commission. It’s consistently part of the story, but rarely the content of the message. And yet we do, we should, we must emphasize healing as part of the ministry of the gospel. Why? A reasonable, quickly-read apologetic follows:

We emphasize healing:

  • Because healing is an essential expression of Christ. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s tyranny” (Acts 10:38). This was Peter’s one-sentence summary of the life and ministry of Jesus. It isn’t possible to adequately, accurately, express Christ without a profound emphasis on healing – for Jesus was (and is) a profound healer. If we are to be any sort of authentic expression of Christ in our community, we must emphasize Christ the healer.
  • Because compassion is our commission: Each of the four gospels record one or more instances of Jesus sending out his followers to continue His work. For example, Matthew 4 and 9 both record, in the same words, the ministry of Jesus as going about “healing every sickness and every disease” (see 4:23 and 9:35). And when Jesus sends out his followers, he commissions them to continue His work, exactly (compare 10:1 – they were to do the same thing Jesus had been doing). When you consider this passage with Luke 9, Luke 10, Mark 16, and John 20 (as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you) – it is clear that the compassion that Jesus exercised is the commission that Jesus expects.
  • Because if we don’t emphasize healing, sickness will emphasize itself. Sickness is a bully. It barges in. It takes over. It talks over. It interrupts. It’s stubborn. It’s rude. It shows up un announced, unwanted, and unwelcomed. It just keeps showing up. It shows up in the homes of the wealthy and the needy. It torments the kind and the cruel. It emphasizes itself in families, communities, epidemics, the elderly, the young, and everywhere. It is relentless. It doesn’t matter if you always wash your hands and only eat carrots. Sickness will seek a way into your life (it doesn’t have a right to, and it doesn’t have to, but it will try). Therefore, we emphasize healing like we’d emphasize a dam when facing a flood. We emphasize healing like we emphasize light when surrounded by darkness. We emphasize healing because sickness is a co-dependent drama-queen who never stops calling attention to itself. We emphasize healing because sickness doesn’t deserve the attention it demands. People aren’t diseases. People aren’t disabilities. People aren’t defined by their pain, their challenge, or their need. Healing reminds us that people are defined by their hope, their calling, their identity, and their destiny.
  • Because the gravity of decay is constant. To overcome or resist gravity, it requires quite a bit of thrust. The g-force felt by lift-off is gravity’s protest of your defiance. And the decay of sin: darkness, disease, despair… is a gravitational constant. Without resistance it would pull us in and down. Therefore, we rejoice by faith; we hope; we love; we persevere; and we keep emphasizing healing.
  • Because our ability to adapt may be one of our greatest assets, but it’s also an Achilles Heel. Adaptation is key to survival. We adapt to changes in climate, in circumstance, and routines. We adapt. It keeps us from going crazy or dropping dead. It also enables us to adjust, little by little, to the encroachment of sickness. It enables us to choose a path of lesser resistance, to cope, to accommodate, to adapt. Adaptation enables us to make room for the bully of disease in our lives, homes, churches and communities. We’re so good at adaptation that we are able to often and quickly redefine a new normal. But healing isn’t an adaptation to disease. Healing is a refutation. Healing is an insistence that we will draw a line, “this far, and no further.”
  • Because we have real hope. Healing is a claim laid on the hope we have in Christ for today and for the future. We emphasize healing even in, and perhaps especially in, the face of delay or defeat. Disease does not have the final word, because not even death does. If death has lost its victory, then disease has certainly lost its bragging rights. Healing, as an in-breaking of the power of the world to come, is a reminder of the hope we yet have for eternity.
  • Because Jesus paid for it. There was real purpose in the stripes on His back. There was real payment in the broken body of Jesus. Jesus deserves to get what He paid for.
  • Because healing remains one of humanity’s greatest needs, one of Scripture’s greatest promises, and one of the greatest expressions of the Gospel. We emphasize healing because we need to. We will emphasize healing as long as hope allows. We will emphasize healing until we no longer have any need of it, until there is no more crying and no more tears. Until we are all healed, forever.

Amen.

Thanks for reading. If you need healing, I welcome the opportunity to pray with you. Use the comment section below, and let me know.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

‘Dav

 

The currency of influence

honor
You have access to what you will honor.
 
At least, you should only have access to what you will honor…
 
I have made an error in my journey – I have given influence to people who did not honor leadership. (Gasp – I know it sounds foolish and it is, but let me explain…)
 
I have made the mistake of undervaluing my responsibility as one entrusted with leadership. In a misapplication of humility, and an over-realized desire to be “empowering,” I’ve given people access to me and influence in areas where I am responsible, without first requiring them to honor leadership. It’s never worked out well.
 
If you have a responsibility over a resource, ministry, or organization – you need to be courageous enough to recognize that the buck stops with you. You are the one held responsible by the Lord. You should not be bullied (not even by your own insecurity) into thinking that you’re just being an egomaniac if you steward and protect what you’ve been entrusted with. Don’t buy the lie that you have some “agenda.” IF someone wants influence without honor, THEY have an agenda.
 
And on that note, if you find yourself part of an organization or ministry and you want to be part of making things happen, being a catalyst or influence, then find someone who has been entrusted with responsibility and honor them. I don’t mean go tell them why they should listen to you and value your gifts; nor do I mean going to them and asking for meetings, for coffee, for fellowship, for a chance to “hang out and connect, and get to know each other more.” Chances are they are buried and aren’t looking for ways to use up spare time…I mean go honor them. Help them in a way that helps them. Encourage them. Be kind; be generous; be helpful. They’ll notice. They will notice. They may eventually seek out your company, opinion, input and even your friendship.
 
Honoring someone isn’t manipulation or any such thing.
Honor is the currency of influence. Without the former, there must not be the latter.
 
At least that’s what my mistakes have taught me.

Pushing a Rock Up a Hill

boulder

Most of the time I feel like I am pushing a rock up a hill.

I am never not aware of the rock. I feel its weight. I cannot let go of the rock. I am responsible to make sure it keeps moving up the hill; I can’t let it roll back down. Every other activity must be done while holding the rock. I eat with the rock on my back. I sleep wedged beneath the rock, with rock-moving strategies and hopes for progress squeezing my dreams. Don’t get me wrong; almost all the time I love the rock, and even more I love making the rock move forward. I just know that I have to push the rock. I don’t feel like I have a choice. I just have to push the rock.

Sometimes I leave the rock with capable hands while I go encourage other rock-pushers, and maybe help them push their rocks through a tough spot.

I do have people with me pushing the rock. I love it when people push on the rock. I can use all the help I can get!

Some people help better than others.

Some people come and help me push the rock like it was their own rock. It really feels like it’s “our rock” and “we” are pushing. This really makes rock-pushing fun. Some people have worn grooves in the rock from pushing so well, for so long. I love rock-pushers, because no matter what, I have to push the rock.

Some people who come to help push the rock like to talk about how maybe the rock should be a different color, or maybe the rock could use some sanding here and there, or maybe they don’t like calling it a rock. “Is it possible to change rocks?” Whatever, just push the rock.

Some people will walk beside me, getting really close to me, and almost touching the rock. They’ll quietly tell me how I might make some changes in how I am pushing the rock. They may regale me with tales of rocks they’ve moved (well, at least they touched some cool rocks). They don’t break a sweat, but they occasionally have to take breaks from not pushing the rock. Often, they wander off, shaking their heads over how poorly I seem to pushing the rock. Regardless, I keep pushing the rock.

Some people come and ask to help push the rock. Sure! Push! But they’d prefer a certain spot to push…no, not there. Maybe there…well, not really there. “I’m not really being used very well at pushing the rock.” Really? Just push the rock.

Every once in a while someone will be upset that I am pushing the rock. Yes. That I am pushing the rock. I mean that I don’t know why they’re upset, because I am just pushing this rock. But somehow I’ve let them down, haven’t pushed well enough, or even that I am pushing too much. Maybe I haven’t let them have control of the rock? Control the rock? I don’t own the rock. I am just pushing this rock up a hill. But in response to my rock-pushing, they stop helping push the rock. Sometimes others stop with them.  I pause to catch a breath after they stop pushing, get a fresh footing, and then I keep pushing the rock. It’s a little heavier than before. But I keep pushing the rock.

I keep studying rock-pushing. I keep learning. I am inspired by the rock-pushers who have moved rocks before me. I can see the trails left by their rock-pushing. Many have made my way easier. Their example compels me. I want to leave a trail for other rock-pushers to follow.  I keep pushing the rock.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever push my rock as well as others. It seems like some rock-pushers sail past me. Others, too many others, I have seen lose traction, focus, or grip and roll back down the hill with their rocks. Rock-pushing can be dangerous. But I just keep pushing the rock.

Because at the end of the day, and at the beginning of the day, and in fact all day long every day, I am pushing a rock up a hill.

Worldly Blessings?

health and wealth

 

Worldly Blessings? Is that a thing?

I am enjoying reading an author. He’s sailing along, stirring me up while informing me. What a great little book (on the importance of church history). Then he uses a tired, worn-out phrase: “worldly blessings like health and wealth…” In one way, seeing a phrase like that in a contemporary text is like seeing an old, faded bumper sticker with a formerly-trendy-slogan clinging in a wrinkled shrivel to the back of an otherwise handsome automobile. It’s just sad. In another way, reading it stimulates my irritance to where I must close the text and murmur exasperated complaints to no one listening.

Worldly blessings? Like health and wealth? I don’t know where to begin complaining. Health and wealth are blessings, but they do not originate from this world.

There are wealthy people in the world. The devil promised “wealth” (sort of) to Jesus, in the desert, in exchange for Jesus bowing down to him. But that wasn’t a blessing, it was a bribe. And the desire for wealth – the love of money – is carnal, worldly. It is so because it is the natural expression of an orphan mind-set that fears not having enough, that has no internal mechanism or well-spring for joy, and has no center of gravity in order to be content. Greed is worldly. Wealth is not. Greed is a curse, not a blessing. Greed is no respecter of person or status. In fact, most of the world struggles under the weight and pain of poverty. The world doesn’t give wealth; it steals it. It hordes it. It hides it. Wealth is not a worldly blessing: the world is not predisposed to bless anyone.

And health? Health is a worldly blessing? As if, somehow, in a way that is so upside down that it can only come from someone whose blood has rushed into their brain and can no longer think, being sick is something to be desired above being healthy? Is it worldly to be well? Is it worldly to want to be healthy? Let us be clear;  the world is sick. It cannot bless anyone with health. People around the world are sick and find new ways of being sick, along with rediscovering old ways. Disease swaggers about like an embittered bully picking on anyone who gets in its way. Health is not a worldly blessing any more than wealth, because the world cannot bless us with either.

On the other hand, there is One who blesses. The Blessed One who delights to bless, who invites us to seek His blessing. Heaven, not the world, is the source and supply of blessing. The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and He adds no trouble to it (Prov. 10:22).  Jesus blessed people with more, not lack:  more wine at the wedding, more fish in the nets, more fish and loaves for lunch. There is much bible that celebrates the blessing of the Lord, the abundance that He provides (and is delighted to do so). There is no bible for lack or poverty (except for how to rise up from beneath it without being overcome by greed).

And health? Is there any reasonable, sane question that Jesus preferred anyone within in his reach to be well? Jesus left no one, not one person, who came to him sick or tormented unaided. The word on the street was that, “God anointed Jesus Christ of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and He went about doing good and healing everyone under the tyranny of the devil” (Acts. 10:28). He never once “blessed” anyone by leaving them sick (let alone making them so). In fact, in more than one place, it seems He paid a significant price to bring aid and comfort to those who have suffered under sickness and torment (Isaiah 53, Matt. 8:16-17, I Peter 2:24).

The world does not bless. Health and wealth are not derived from the world, but from the Savior of the World. Heaven blesses. Blessing is Heaven’s idea and good pleasure. At least one feller even got singled out from all his siblings for having the hutzpah to ask God to bless him (1 Chron. 4:10). Health and wealth are not worldly blessings. Please, go to the store and get some Formula 409 (my dad swears by it) and a scrub brush, and clean that old, worn-out and worthless mindset from the back bumper of your mind.

God bless you,

‘Dav