Monthly Archives: October 2011

No Trespassing!

As one travels north, up from the Sea of Galilee, the scenery is breathtaking. The beautiful green slopes from which Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount give way to a steady climb through the northern mountains on the way to Caesarea Philippi. As the tour bus climbs the setting begins to change and the sites become somewhat ominous and foreboding. It was here in the Golan Heights that a significant victory was won by the Israeli Army against Syria during the Six Day War in June of 1967.

The bus ride through this area is a venture back in time 30 years. The view from the window does not change for several miles as the bus steadily climbs on its way north. Out the window and to the right of the highway is mile after mile of barbwire fencing and countless signs which contain a message in Hebrew, Arabic, and English: NO TRESPASSING!  Old concrete bunkers dot the landscape, the decaying remains of Syria’s former military claim to the land. Occasionally, one can see the rusting wreckage of a bombed out tank or truck and is vividly reminded of what the residue of war looks like. Today this fenced land is a part of Israel but it is still dangerous due to innumerable land mines that lay buried in its brown dusty soil. NO TRESPASSING! DANGER! DO NOT ENTER! LIVE LANDMINES! These are signs that point to the danger that has swallowed this land making it unfit for habitation or even visitation. They are there for one reason and one reason only—to keep people from being maimed or killed. And yet outwardly to those unfamiliar with the terrain and its history, the land looks harmless—just like any other pastureland in the mountains of Northern Israel.

Imagine what would happen if the bus stopped and all the tourists disregarded the signs and climbed over the fence. In a matter of minutes, perhaps even seconds every person walking in the field would be blown to bits and if they were not killed immediately by the explosions, their bodies would be maimed and riddled with shrapnel, rendering them wounded, helpless, and unable to return to the bus. No bus driver in his right mind would come to their aid and eventually they would die from their wounds.

Far-fetched story you might say, but that is exactly what happened with Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God in the Garden. And the truth be known, it has happened to you on more than one occasion. God has put up NO TRESPASSING signs throughout the spiritual and physical landscape that each of us is called to traverse. Warning signs in flashing lights to turn us back from destruction and death and yet some continually climb over the fence and wander aimlessly among the hidden landmines. Over and over they are hit by the shrapnel of sin and are wounded. Hopeless and helpless they lay scattered across the landscape ignoring the signs that were put there to protect them, all the while crying out in loud laments, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?”

Whenever God says, “Thou shall not,” you must understand His purpose in hanging the NO TRESPASSING sign on a particular action or attitude. The Father always seeks to protect your holiness rather than prevent you from having fun. God’s NO TRESPASSING signs are there to protect you from the danger and death you either cannot see or will not see. A word to the wise: ride the bus—enjoy the breathtaking scenery and the incredible destinations—but whatever you do, don’t ignore the clearly posted signs and climb over the fence. The ground that looks so good from the bus window is not what it seems.

Get Your Praise On!

“Honor and majesty surround Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”                                                                               Psalm 96:6

 The praises of God’s people are the wings on which our prayers ascend into the very heart of God. We were created in unique ways to offer up the sacrifice of praise. With our voices we sing and shout; with our arms and hands we can clap and lift them in honor; with our minds we can contemplate and meditate on God’s greatness; with our legs and feet we can dance in worship. Our hearts beat with the rhythm of heaven and our spirits search with eagerness for that ultimate satisfaction of intimately connecting with our Creator. Praise is the heavenly language imprinted in our DNA. We were made to praise. Consider four simple nouns that describe God’s awesome glory and engage your body as well as your mind in praise.

Honor surrounds God. The idea of the word is grandeur, an imposing form and appearance. In honor of God’s holiness, the cherubim who continually encircle the very enthroned presence of God, humbly cover their faces and their feet with four of their six wings. Perhaps today you might bow your head, slip off your shoes, and kneel a few moments in honor of the King of Glory. Your body knows these positions even if your heart has forgotten them. Praise Him!

Majesty encompasses God. Magnificent splendor radiates from Him as He sits on the throne of heaven. The crystal sea, which serves as the floor of His throne room, reflects the glory of this magnificent splendor, as it reverberates throughout His creation. Lift up your head and look deeply with the eyes of your spirit into this majesty and reflect back with your heart His majestic glory. Be a mirror, you were created in His image and in His likeness. Praise Him!

Strength fills His sanctuary. Literally the word means “stout.” God is a so strong nothing can remove Him from His position. He is secure. Our God is an awesome God filled with power and might. Prostrate your body before Him. Prostrate your will before Him, and He will give you the strength that will drive away every weakness you struggle with today…His strength. Praise Him!

Beauty saturates His sanctuary. God literally gleams with beauty. He is the magnificent One in whom there is no blemish. He shines with utter holiness. His appearance is beyond description and His countenance gleams with the brightness of a thousand suns. He is utterly breathtaking in His beauty. Allow your eyes and heart to feast on His beauty. Let it take your breath away. Stretch forth your arms and hands and embrace His beauty. Allow the rhythmic beating of your heart to guide your feet as you dance before Him in worship. Praise Him!

 By the way, you…yes you, are His sanctuary. You are His holy temple. Allow the Father to open the doors of His temple and enter in to be praised. Ascend on the wings of praise and enter into the inner courts of worship with the Lover of your soul. Engage all that you are for the glory of all that He is. It will change you forever and He will be glorified as you praise Him!

Beware the Enemy Within

As the sun slowly began its rising journey over the trees and the mist slowly burned away above the wheat field, a squad of seven soldiers knelt quietly but nervously, awaiting the signal to attack the bunker that guarded the main supply route into the city. For months, these seven men had trained for this moment. Over and over they had rehearsed their individual responsibilities, which would insure the success of the mission. They had over time begun moving as one – not seven, and now all the training had ended and the plan was now ready to be carried out. This bunker located on a sharp rise just above the road offered the only resistance to the city. The objective was simple: “Kill the bunker, control the supply route, and you control the city.”

Each soldier was heavily armed and trained to carry out a specific task in the siege. Each had also been trained to carry out each of the other tasks in case a team member was wounded or worse, killed. But the success of the mission demanded that at least one of them reach the bunker and deliver the explosive charge that would render the concrete fortress ineffective.

At the precise moment, the signal came and with a barrage of machine gun fire the squad of warriors began their ascent up the hill. Almost immediately they were driven back by the destructive assault of heavy machine gun fire. In the heat of the battle, one comrade was killed. Again they began the deadly climb toward their target and again encountered heavy fire that drove them back with another member of the team falling wounded on the slopes.

Again and again the same thing happened until there were only two commandoes left.As they began one more time to mount the attack, the squad leader began to notice as they crawled inch by inch up the hill that each of the men he had lost had been shot in the back while climbing toward the bunker, not in their retreat away. Within just yards of the bunker and only inches from accomplishing their mission, a sickening realization enveloped him. The mission has been compromised and the real enemy was a member of his own squad. Rolling to his right and looking back, his fear became reality as he stared helplessly down the barrel of an M-1 rifle.

This story serves to remind those believers who are involved in daily spiritual warfare of a tremendous principle: “You cannot take ground from the enemy if the enemy has ground in you.” The result will always be the same – defeat – disaster – and even death. You cannot take what you have already surrendered.

Today as you kneel before God, surveying the enemy out in the mist before you, take a few moments and make sure that no sin has control of your life. The very thing you war against cannot destroy you unless you carry it hidden under your uniform. Its shrapnel cannot pierce the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness unless you yourself slip its razor sharp edges up under that breastplate and hide it in the soft tissue of your heart. Sin is a bullet loaded in the chamber waiting for just the right moment to pierce your back and leave you dead or dieing on the hillside within just inches of that victorious moment when the bunker you face should fall.

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires.” (Romans 6:12)

 

Hey Homer Listen Up?

 

Frustration is the frequent companion of a father. His may be the most misunderstood and misrepresented privilege on the face of the earth. He is constantly ridiculed in the media and entertainment industries as a bumbling idiot, an arrogant jerk, an over-sexed deviant, or an inept psychopath. And yet the length of his shadow and the tenor of his words guide and shape his children for a lifetime. His role defines masculinity for his son. He validates femininity in his daughter. His influence is powerful but His presence must be gentle and tender as he shapes fragility into potency.

The privilege he is given comes without roadmap or instruction. Oh there are some snippets here and there of what to do or not do, but most he simply learns on his own or by repeating what he witnessed in his own father, which almost always dictates the results will be mixed, both good and bad. To multiply the degree of difficulty—every child is different—no two are alike. Just when he thinks he’s figured it out and is ready to swing for a homerun, he gets a curve ball with the next kid low and inside. It totally messes him up. Frustrating does not even begin to describe it.

He retains an almost god-status in the life of his toddler, but soon becomes the buffoon who knows absolutely nothing about anything by his teens. How can anyone go from divine genius to dumb goober in the span of just 13 years? His wisdom from years of experience often go unheeded and seem wasted as they bounce off the force field surrounding the superior intellect of a 16 year old prodigy who thinks he know everything but has little or no common sense.

And then he enters that period where there are brief moments of joy in seeing his progeny excel in the things he has taught them—only to see them take a different direction and pursue another cause. They may acknowledge his wisdom but politely say no thank you to his ways. Their ears are enchanted by the beat of another drummer and the siren’s enchanting diddy seems to be one you can dance to. So he patiently waits and prays and eventually helps pick up the pieces of Humpty Dumpty after she falls off the wall. His counsel may have spared her the fall since he himself had already seen that ground up close and personal in the not so distant past. Frustrating?—yeah a little.

Ultimately, he witnesses the echoes of history as his own repeat the cycle in the lives of their little ones. He must now quietly watch being careful not to interfere but knowing secret formulas and schemes that could make life easier for everyone. He may be revered but seen as old fashion—loved but endured—remembered but only at the last moment. In a few short years he has made the short journey from essential to extinction—from the warrior-king of the castle to a white-haired stoic in the recliner. Frustrating?—you bet!

And yet, if a father is paying attention—it will dawn on him sooner or later that the feelings he is experiencing are similar to the ones God must feel as the Father. For you see, every human father bears a strange spiritual resemblance to his natural children. Their experiences are or have been experienced in his relationship to His heavenly Father. And yet the testimony of God as Father is this: For God so loved…that He gave.

Perhaps the solution to the frustration is to ultimately recognize as a father that your job is no different. You are called to love without condition and give without measure. In doing so, you mirror the perfect Father and if that is the heritage you leave—you have been successful even if you are portrayed on TV as an over-weight bald imbecile named Homer.

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 12)

Thinking that you may achieve something new by continuing to do the same thing is definition of idiocy. We have reached that tipping point within our culture where we must choose a new direction or slide hopelessly into the abyss by following its current path. We talk of justice, integrity, and basic human rights out of one side of our mouth and with the other side dishonor those who disagree with our particular point of view. There can be no justice without honor—no integrity without honor—no real concern for basic human rights without honor. Honor is a key building block in the foundation of any culture, and if it goes missing—so goes that culture.

We need a new breed of cultural farmers who will sow the seeds of honor into the fertile fields of the human heart–social gardeners who will tend the soil and care for seedlings of respect and dignity as they break through the rocky soil of apathy and unconcern. The broken heart of humanity is rumbling and growling—consumed with a hunger to be recognized for who and what we were created to be. God’s image and likeness has not disappeared in humanity—it has silently gone underground—awaiting the moment when it is once again recognized by another human being.

This will not happen through legislation or laws. Councils, study groups, and experiments will not bring this to reality. Only the body of Christ—the church—a believer here and a believer there—will make this dream a reality. We, above all people, should recognize the value and necessity of honor. We have received it without merit or measure through the grace of Jesus Christ. Can we not give away a little of what He has so infinitely given each of us?

 If each of us sow a seed of honor today in the life of another person our supply of seeds will multiply enabling us to sow more tomorrow. There is a principle of synergy here. There is also a biblical principle at play here which was mention earlier: Whatever you sow be sure you will reap. If we sow honor and cultivate it—we will reap an abundant crop of honor.

If enough of us work these fertile fields dishonor will be forced to flee the throne room of modern culture and honor will again ascend and sit on its rightful throne. Integrity, esteem, morality, and decency will once again fill the halls of government, entertainment, and media. When this happens—men and women will flock to the cultivators of honor and we will guide them by the scores into the very presence of the One who gave us this gift of honor in the first place—the King of glory and honor Himself—Jesus Christ.

Idiocy screams, “Hold the current course!” Wisdom says, “Give honor where honor is due.” The question remains—who will you follow?

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 11)

Jesus is perfect theology. If you or I want to know what or how God would do something all we have to do is look no farther than the example Jesus gave us. But—that example of honor is more than simple actions.

Imitation begins in the heart not with the hands. Most of us have been taught to do—to act right—without understanding the why. We learn the rules—“do this”—“don’t do that”—and because we mimic the right action we fall into the trap of thinking we are righteous. Imitation goes far deeper than just actions, and if we hope to imitate Christ we must understand His attitude of honor.

The right attitude must come before the right action, or the action is empty. If the right attitude is there the right actions will follow. Right actions without the proper attitude turn into burdensome activities that eventually result in the cessation of the action. That is human nature.

Therefore, we cannot imitate Jesus’ actions of honor until we internalize Jesus’ attitudes concerning honor. Once our actions get insinc with His, our actions will have real purpose and power. Thus the ability to give honor starts here within our hearts.

Paul shares these attitudes of honor in his letter to the Philippians. He was dealing with a feud—a dishonoring relationship between two ladies—that threatened to derail the whole congregation. His solution—honor one another with the same attitude that Jesus had, which he clearly lays out in Philippians 2:1-9.

Jesus had a surrendered attitude. Surrender destroys the striving that is associated with selfish ambition.  If you are unwilling to surrender there’s little use in reading this, for it will do you no good.

He possessed a unified attitude. Jesus was not an independent cowboy-style operator. No—His attitude was one of interdependence. He listened and did only what the Spirit showed Him the Father was doing. His attitude was unified through interdependence rather than fractured by independence.

Christ modeled a humble attitude, which was intently and intentionally focused on others. His concern was for people. His agenda was not to build an earthly kingdom although He was a king. There was no arrogant conceit—no demands to be given pre-eminence—no cries for recognition. His selflessness (a great definition for humility) eclipsed human selfishness.

Jesus exemplified a submissive attitude. He bowed to God’s plan of redemption, which meant He must die. He did not strive for power, position, or prestige, and as a result, the Father gave Him all three. Willing submission brings perfect obedience, and obedience is the perfect demonstration of love.

These four attitudes allowed the Lord to have a confident attitude. He knew exactly who He was (identity) and what His mission (purpose) required. He was not afraid of losing anything. He was not confused about what He might become. His significance was not threatened by what anyone else thought. He knew who He was and He knew He could trust the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Attitude really does determine our altitude. If we hope to soar with Christ we must first learn to honor others in our heart and then with our hands. Bad attitudes hidden within the heart are like buckets of lead shackled to our feet. We will never get off the ground in this area of honor until we jettison their drag from our heart

Cultivating a Culture of Honor (Part 10)

Jesus demonstrated honor in the way He related to people. He used eye contact and physical touch. His actions were representative of the infinite value affixed by the Father on the individuals He encountered on a daily basis. His methods were simple, yet their impact was profound.

Palestine was a Roman province—occupied and overseen by zealous politicians intent on pleasing Caesar. Everything was Rome’s way or the highway and that particular highway led to an excruciating crucifixion on a cross if Rome’s way was not obeyed to the letter. Opposition was ruthlessly crushed in an immediate manner. Therefore, there was little outward opposition. The common people could not speak out, nor were their needs heard.

Rome allowed the Jews to practice their religion with little interference and their religious leaders the political privilege of limited rulership. Needless to say, these priests knew who buttered their bread, and thus, their ears were also closed to the cries of their people.

Jesus stepped into a culture crying to be heard and He listened. He listened to the masses that were ignored, and by listening restored their voice. He listened to the common people—those considered worthless slaves by the Romans and wicked sinners by the priests. He listened and He heard the cries of their heart.

Everyone yearns to be heard. We all hunger for that simple dignity. Talking is easy—just pause for a few moments and listen—everyone’s doing it. But listening is hard work and actually hearing what is being said is even tougher. The average person will only listen for 15 seconds without interrupting and giving their own two cents, which means for at least 7 of those seconds the person listening was not really listening. Instead that person was formulating a response. In other words, most of us either don’t know how to listen or simply like to hear our own voice more.

Jesus honored people by listening to what they had to say. He heard their words and understood their hearts. His heart was tuned to the wavelength of the suffering—the sick, the poor, the shattered, and the ostracized. He often heard them before He could see them.

The story of Bartimaeus exemplifies this. A blind man who lived on the fringe of society, subsisting on the coins pitched on his mat, Bartimaeus had a dream—a burning desire within his heart. He wanted to see. As Jesus approached, this blind beggar began to yell with all his might. The response of the crowd was, “Be quiet!” The response of Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?” In other words, “Tell me what your need is. I’m listening.” Jesus honored Bartimaeus by listening, and then healed him by restoring his sight.

Each day we walk past men and women who have no voice and will not be heard if we are unwilling to listen. Their silent screams fill the air but their needs go wanting and ignored. If you and I are unwilling to listen—who will?

My father used to say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. Think about it!”—meaning we were created to listen twice as much as we speak. What if we stopped talking about being Christ-like and started listening like Christ? Talk is cheap—action speaks far louder than words.

Honor someone today by just listening. God may use that simple act of dignity to work a miracle in them and…you.