Monthly Archives: July 2012

An Unbelieving Believer

I once thought I understood God—who he is and what he does. After several years of undergraduate and graduate level study in the theological disciplines, I thought I had God figured out. Unaware that I was constructing a box far too small to hold God (no box is big enough)—I developed my own ideas of what God could and/or would do, or not do. In other words, I made up a god in my own image and replaced the real One with a poor limited imitation.

Oh, I knew a great many facts and figures that related to God—I just didn’t know God very well. I had met him early in my life and he had forgiven me of sin and given me eternal life. But, the problem was relational—He knew me—but I only knew about him. Facts and figures, theologies that make excuses for God, and countless other pursuits that should lead us to God, but often leave us lost in the high grass—filled my life. It was by all accounts a very dry, frustrating time. I was seeking wisdom…just not searching for God.One sacred rabbit trail after another finally led me down a dead-end passage way into a crisis of faith—a God-wall erected to eliminate my ability to flee. It worked…God got my attention. I realized I was dry and dead on the inside—full of knowledge, but possessing little wisdom. I was in effect an unbelieving believer.

I knew all the arguments and could quote them from memory as to why God no longer acted in our day like he had in the distant past. They were well-thought out theologies, just honed in the fires of unbelief instead of faith. They were human attempts to explain “why,” when the “why” rested on the threshold of a faithless church rather than a faithful God.

A crisis by nature forces you to choose. The definition of idiocy is doing the same thing and expecting something new to happen. I may be a lot of things, but I choose not to be an idiot. I cried out to God. I confessed my pharisaical and religious tendency to try and explain an otherwise unexplainable God. I repented—that is, I returned to the God of my childhood—the God who had saved me with supernatural power through grace, and became like a little child again. My only request was, “God, I hunger to know you!

Today, almost fifteen years later, God has yet to disappoint me. The God of the Bible, the One who brings life out of death has not changed one iota. He is still just as powerful today, as he was in the days of Moses or Elijah. He is still doing the things today that he did in the early days of the church. His power is limitless. The difference is I have accepted the plain truth of the Scriptures—God is God and I’m not—I don’t have to know why, when, or how anyhow. Instead I choose to believe the impossible because the God I am in relationship with does not have that word in his vocabulary. With God all things are possible.

Are you an unbelieving believer? Do you have a nice, neat theological system that can explain everything about God? Do you worship a god who lives in a little box of your own construction? If so, then the god you are chasing does not exist and the sooner you recognize that, the better off you will be. Go ahead mash the gas as hard as you like, but you will crash into that God-wall at some point. Perhaps then…like me you will become a believing believer.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere (except mine)

Nothing is more frustrating than a lawnmower that won’t start—especially a big riding mower than was running perfectly, and then all of a sudden just mysteriously decided to shut down. At least that’s the way it seemed this afternoon. Everything was going smoothly and then disaster. The big John Deere went down like a big buck with a bullet through its heart.

I got off the mower and made sure the belts were all in place. Then I checked the battery to make sure the cables were still tight and in place. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I turned the key over and nothing—nothing but crickets chirping—the mower was stone dead silent. I had expended pretty much all my options, when I decided to look at the ignition switch from the backside. That’s when I spot the problem. One of the wires going to the switch had shorted out and part of the connector had melted. Problem diagnosed…but problem not solved.

The lawn tractor was about seven hundred feet from the house out by the road, so I knew I needed to get it a little closer to the house. I was not really worried about someone stealing it (remember it won’t crank), but I was a little concerned that it was about to storm and I needed to get the mower in the dry to work on it. So I clicked a little do-hickey over one the rear wheels that allows you to push the mower. I don’t know what it’s called but someone showed me this little trick the last time the mower broke down. I am not much of a repairman, but I have filed a few lessons deep in the folds of my brain.

I grunted and groan, pushed and strained until I finally got the mower back into my driveway. After a few more shoves, I was out of gas and about to make the journey into hyperspace on a dangerous fuel combination of summer heart and unrestrained anger. Did I mention that lawnmowers that won’t run frustrate me? Perhaps frustration is too tame a word for how I felt standing in the boiling sun in shin-high grass that will be knee-high by the time I get this “nothing runs like a Deere” running again.

I found my rather reluctant spouse and convinced her I desperately needed her to steer the mower while I pushed it. Finally we shoved it into the carport and I broke out my array of tools to get at the ignition switch. Nothing is simple. I removed the battery, the left and right side panels, and finally the shelf the battery rests on. Eventually after taking half the lawnmower apart I finally achieved my goal of getting to the ignition switch and the melted plug. No big problem—head to the tractor parts store and pick up a new switch, plug, and some wire connectors.

I wish this story had a happy ending, but the story is yet endless. After purchasing the needed parts and getting someone who understands the complexities of the wiring, the mower remains motionless. No combination of wiring seems to crank the machine. You can straight wire the thing and it will crank, but when you connect the wires to the switch—nothing but crickets chirping—nothing. After a couple of hours we quite, gave up, or surrendered—call it what you will.

Tomorrow I will get up and resume my battle with the Deere. Eventually it will be fixed, either by me or an expert to whom I will have to give an arm and a leg. But…it will be fixed or at least that’s what I’m telling myself tonight as I lay down to sleep still frustrated (well maybe really mad is truth).

What’s the point of this blog? Perhaps nothing at all, but nothing runs like a Deere when it’s running and I have to get this one running or my grass will go from knee-deep to waist-deep and then it really won’t matter then whether its running or not. So pray for me, and if not for me—pray for the Deere.

Taking a Break

The Fishing Hole

Sometimes, when the days are long and the temperatures too hot, my mind checks out and takes a little boat ride out to a special place where the lily pads are as big as golf umbrellas. Here the pressures of life seem to evaporate in the dull glow of the late evening summer sun. There are moments when all of us simply want to disappear to that place where nobody knows our name. I went there today, yet I never left my home.

It all started with a text message from a friend who happened to be out on my mythical body of water in the flesh. He sent me a text message, and in a couple of short sentences painted a welcomed word picture of this amazing solace of solitude. This image he captured in a few words was filled with numbers: seven jugs, twenty white pelicans, and three-eleven foot alligators coupled with a full moon. It doesn’t get any better than this whether you’re dreaming or not. Perhaps it seems a bit cryptic to you, but to me it is better than a 3-D movie with the glasses. If I can’t go in person, at least I dip my toes and drag my fingers in the waters of my imagination.

My ole fishing buddy is slipping across that still body of water headed for the little slew hidden among the lily pads where he can tie off to the remains of a decaying tree top. Over his shoulder, the moon is full and its light ricochets off the black water in a mysterious way that can mesmerize you if you stare at it long enough. Cruising across the water, you realize you are not alone out here. There are some other predators out here with the same thing you have on your mind—big fish! You can hear them as they grunt along the shore line or occasionally you might catch a glimpse of an eleven foot red-eyed gator as it glides effortlessly through the still waters of the lake. One gets your attention, but three tells you to be very, very cautious. There are others out here tonight that want to lay claim to this fishing hole.  No this is not a clip from Swamp People, but this is the best stress reliever you can get for a couple of gallons of gas, a fishing license, and an ice-cold can of Dt. Mtn. Dew. And the best part is it’s not costing me anything but little time.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the pelicans and the jugs. Those big white birds are roosting like Wal-Mart bags snagged in the branches of the cypress trees, while the jugs are rigged with circle 5 hooks and baited with big bream. To quote my buddy, “The bigger the bait the bigger the catfish we’re gonna catch!”

Now—all that’s left is to kick back, get comfortable, and enjoy the croaking of the frogs and the occasional splash of a smaller fish frantically attempting a maneuver to evade a much larger fish hungry for sushi. The hum of an occasional mosquito shatters the silence, but with a wave of a hand that calming hush returns.

I may not be there in person, but I sure enjoyed the journey in my imagination a

Dreaming

great deal. In case you’re wondering, my friend shot me a text this morning to tell me he had just netted a seven pound catfish. Pretty good I thought, but the ones I caught last night in my dreams were far bigger.

Authority for Living

Each day we face our arch nemesis the devil, but we face him alongside our Champion and Chieftain Jesus Christ. There are no great visible armies supporting us, and often there seems to be no reinforcements to call on.  There are often those moments when it seems Jesus is not even there—although rest assured, he will never leave or forsake you. But, if we’re honest it “feels like,” that is, it seems that we are in a hand-to-hand wrestling match— where it is winner take all.

The truth is you are in a battle at close quarters. It is a wrestling match where there can be only one winner. The close proximity of the fight wears on you as your opponent persistently stalks you. You can almost feel the breath of your opponent as he circles you looking for that weakness in your armor or that moment of indecision on your part. His purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy. What is your purpose? Survival? Escape? Minimum injury? Victory? What?

Your purpose will determine your outcome. In this battle, you will probably get what you are willing to accept. Understanding who you are in Christ is far more important than trying to guess what your adversary will do next. Therefore, to gain that victory you must live in the new nature Christ has given you. Otherwise, your goose is cooked!

Most believers shrink away from this confrontation thinking they have no power. And yet, Christ has both given each of us more power than we know what to do with, and the authority to use it. This happens when the Holy Spirit fills you. He is not there to sleep on the sofa of your spirit, He is there to insure your victory in Christ by guiding you at all times, but especially in the heat of this real battle.

It is essential that you understand you have been given the authority of Christ (read Luke 9:1-2; 10:1; 9; 17-18; and Matthew 28:18-20). He has delegated you to act as his representative in the physical realm. Therefore, when the enemy steps out of the spiritual and into the physical—you have delegated authority to act. Delegated means Jesus has deputized you. He has given you the authority and all the ammunition you need to be successful. The enemy will give you all the opportunities you need, so all that is required of you is to act. And upon acting in the authority of Christ—the battlefield tends to change quickly. Standing in the authority of Christ seems to give each of us a spiritual backbone—we no longer slump or stoop, but stand straight and firm with our feet solidly planted for the battle.

The more we exercise this delegated authority the more authority we earn in the spiritual realm. It’s not that we are necessarily given more authority, but rather we become more deadly to the kingdom of darkness in the way we use that the authority we have already been given. Earned authority opens the door for the Holy Spirit to use us to aid others in their battle against our ancient foe. This exercise of authority is much like exercising a muscle, the more you use it—the stronger it gets! The more you fine tune it the more powerful it becomes!

The enemy would rather wrestle with a person who is fearful and insecure—ignorant of their true strength and power in Christ. He always seems unbeatable when you choose to grapple with him in your own strength. Take up the authority of Christ—pull out God’s gun loaded with devil killing bullets and squeeze the trigger—and watch the enemy back off a little. As he backs off a little, take a deep breath, get your bearings, and jump on his back in the power of Jesus name and defeat him in today’s battle. You have been given the authority for living—living the life of Jesus.

Location is Everything

Today was our annual trip with Kaiser and Cleo to get their rabies shot. Every year we carefully watch for the familiar red and white signs to pop up near the ball park announcing the date and time for the traveling veterinarian. It is the one opportunity for these two dogs to go for a ride. It’s both adventure and ordeal all rolled into one and it goes from one extreme to the other in the span of one short hour.

Kaiser and Cleo are big dogs—bull dogs, with both weighing in at over sixty pounds. They are good dogs, just big dogs with lots of energy and little tolerance for other dogs. This presents a bit of problem, which must be dealt with prior to our arrival at the traveling rabies clinic. We’ve learned to tie them on very short leashes in the back of the truck up near the cab and then station me between them. That means a lot of dog slobber and hair, as well as I end up smelling like a bull dog within a couple of minutes. It also means we park away from the crowd so that our dogs don’t bother their dogs, where I revel in more slobber and hair, while holding a bulldog in each hand.

This little adventure always begins the same way. Kaiser and Cleo live inside a fenced area. We don’t allow our dogs to run loose, although most of our neighbors do. This is a choice we have made for the safety of both our dogs and the ones running loose. God always uses this moment when the gate swings open to remind me of a lesson I learned several years ago.

Whenever the gates on these canines’ pens are opened—they make a mad break for freedom. Once through the gate, they go absolutely nuts. They tear through the yard making 360 degree turns at breakneck speed. They catch a whiff of every tree, bush, or plant in their immediate vicinity and do whatever it is dogs do. My point is, once that gate door opens they turn into a different set of dogs. They are free—no longer held in bondage behind a fence. No, now they can rip and snort and do what they think dogs were created to do. Sometimes they chase each other, sometimes they run in different directions, and sometimes they just roll around in one of our flower beds. Whatever they choose to do is light years better than anything they could ever do behind the fence.

I often try imagining what being so close yet so far away from total freedom must be like. How frustrating it must be to be separated by 3/8’s of an inch from the ability to go anywhere or do what whatever it is you want. That’s when God sort of pulled up a chair and had one of those come to Jesus meetings with me that we have on a somewhat regular basis.

We as people make a choice to either live free or in bondage. The responsibility and the blame rest with each of us. Our own sin becomes a fence that shuts us in and often shuts God out. None of us were created to live in sin—in bondage—or behind a fence. That fence separates us from the freedom Jesus secured for us on the cross. That fence is forged in the fires of disobedience and selfishness by us, and only repentance can open the gate. The latch is on the inside where the prisoner is, rather than on the outside. Whenever I refuse to confess my sin, the fence always grows higher and the yard steadily grows darker. But the very moment confession comes, the door swings open, and I can then run, jump, and scamper about like I was originally designed to do.

Every time Kaiser and Cleo squeeze through that crack in the gate and get loose, I’m reminded of what forgiveness looks and feels like. Perhaps you may need to make a break for the daylight shining through the crack in your gate. Freedom feels really good! Take a run, I guarantee you will enjoy it far more than the fleeting pleasures of sin behind the fence.

Keepers of the Flame

A flame of fire is filled with tremendous power. That power cannot be extinguish as long as the fuel lasts, the flame is protected, and oxygen is plentiful. There are few things in existence that can stand against a flame that has all three. But, take away the fuel and the fire dies on its own. Take away the flame’s protection and it can be blown out by a puff of wind. Take away the oxygen and the flame is extinguished by suffocation. To be so powerful, that fiery flame is also extremely sensitive.

So too, is the disciple of Christ. That individual is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. But like fire, that follower must tend the flame of passion burning within or the power will wane and the passion grow cold.

Every believer must learn to feed themselves with God’s Word. The Scripture is like high octane gasoline. Read it, feed on it, memorize it, meditate on it, and apply it, and that fiery passion for Christ will explode. But—a sermon on Sunday or a Bible study every once in a while is not nearly enough. Though important, they will not sustain the flame, and quickly there will be only a few scant embers glowing. There is no shortage of fuel for the fire only a shortage of one’s desire to feed the flame. Fire without fuel dies, and likewise, passion without relationship burns out.

Like the flame, a passion for Christ must be protected. If you persist in this pursuit you will be called a fanatic. Many in the church will try to pour water on your flame to quench the heat you are producing or smother it with a blanket of innuendos or accusations. Protect that passion for Christ, for he is the one who has lit the wick that burns so hot within you. Protect it from the legions that are shamed by its exposing light and must flee from its purifying heat. Protect the flame and tend it carefully—don’t throw this precious pearl to the swine, for they will trample it in the mud. Tend this flame and it will burn hotter and grower higher. Ignore its care and it will be extinguished and emptiness will fill your soul.

As oxygen makes a fire burn hotter, so too the Holy Spirit will take the passion of your hungry heart’s flame from blue to white hot. Surrender to his leadership and he will guide you into places you never thought accessible, into glory unimaginable, and into a relationship with Jesus that is inconceivable, yet all very biblical. It is the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God, and in our pursuit of God, he alone will reveal the secrets of relationship with God. Give the fire oxygen and it will consume everything in its path. Live life surrendered to the Holy Spirit and he will carry you into places of intimate relationship with God that are indescribable.

The flame was lit by God when you met Christ, but its care rests with you. Feed it, protect it, and give it the holy oxygen it needs and you will find the heart of God. Ignore it, leave its care to someone else, or starve it from the air it hungers for and all you will have is an empty, religious looking heap of ashes.