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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Stuff Gets In The Way

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit..." - Ephesians 5:18

 

A brother and I were having a conversation the other day and this verse came up.  His thoughtful question (a question that revealed he wanted a relationship with me and wanted to get to know me better - by the way) was:  "what does that mean to you"?   Does it mean don't drink wine?  Does it mean don't get drunk?  Does it mean don't get excessively drunk?  Does it mean your best option is to be filled with the Spirit?  It wasn't really about alcohol or getting drunk at this point.

 

I find myself coming back to Jesus answer to the lawyer in Luke (10:25-27): Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus adds in Matthew's account that all the law and prophets "hangs on" (or depends upon) these commandments (Editorial:  the word "Two" was added to the text... it appears there are three - Love God, Love yourself, and Love your neighbor).    Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:4) that everything created by God is good PROVIDED (important word, or "IF") it is received with thanksgiving.  It is made holy by the word of God and prayer (holy meaning set apart for God's use by God's word and prayer to God).  With this and the passages surrounding the Ephesians 5:18 passage (i.e. chapters 4-6) it dawned on me that what I was being taught wasn't about alcohol. 

 

Too many times stuff gets in the way of my relationship with God.  It can be good stuff.  But any stuff, no matter what it is, that gets between me and God is a problem for God and should be a problem for me.  The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with ALL you are.  Not just most of what you are.  Not the first 10% of what you are.  ALL THAT YOU ARE!  If I hold anything back for myself or anyone else, I am operating outside this most important instruction.  It isn't the "what" as much as the "why" and the "What it means to me".  Service and ministry can be just as bad as being addicted to some substance if it gets between us and God.  Everything we are and all that we do is about, for, and driven by God and God tells us to love him, ourselves, and each other.  Does my decision, my motive, my perspective on anything (ANYTHING!) do this (love God, myself, others)?  If it does, carry on.  If it doesn't, stuff got in the way.

 

My brother and I ended our conversation with a question and I will leave it with you... What aren't you willing to give up if God asked you to?  Don't be too quick to answer.  For Abraham it meant Isaac.  For Jesus it meant his place in the throne room of Heaven and his relationship with his Father.  For the Apostles it meant their lives.  It could mean your reputation, your most cherished relationships, or your comfort.  It could mean what you thought you knew or what you were taught by others.  The point is, don't let anything get between you and God.  Be clear on this.  So clear that when the testing comes (and it will - James 1:2-4), you have processed it mentally, emotionally, spiritually and concluded that you will not allow stuff to get in the way.

11:42 am edt 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Go and Wait

Acts 1:4-5

"While he (Jesus) was in their company he directed them to not leave Jerusalem.  ‘You must wait', he said, ‘for the gift promised by the Father, of which I told you'..."

 

Are you a good "waiter"?  Can you wait for something to happen?

 

I didn't learn to be a good waiter.  What I learned was, that most American of values, to go out and make it happen.  Forget the adage that "good things come to those who wait".  I learned "if it is going to be, it is up to me".

 

God's plan and timing are perfect.  I would have been a terrible Apostle. Had I been given the instruction to wait, I am afraid it would have gone something like this...

 

"OK, let's get ready for the gift.  Jesus told us we are going be the tool through which he changes the world.  He told us that we would be the vehicle through which the church comes to be.  That means we need to work up a communication plan, an assimilation plan, a discipleship plan.  We need to develop a welcome message and packet along with an advertising plan.  We should think through a budget and how we will drive and collect revenue to support it.  Let's each take an area of responsibility and put our plans together.  We can meet again in a week and review them.  We need to be prepared when the gift arrives.  Let's get to work people.  Time is short!"

 

Yep, I am ashamed to say that sounds very familiar to me.  But when I read the Acts of the Apostles, it says: 

1.       They THEN returned to Jerusalem.

2.      ON THEIR ARRIVAL they went to the upstairs room where they were lodging.

3.      ALL...WITH ONE ACCORD were CONSTANTLY at prayer...TOGETHER.

The one time they did not do this, Peter leads them to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot.  Guess what, it wasn't the Apostle Paul.  They elected Matthias (Acts 1:12-26).  Compare that to Acts 9:15-16 where it says... "But the Lord replied, ‘You (Ananias) must go (meet Paul), for this man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to bring my name before the nations and their kings, and before the people of Israel.  I myself will show him all that he must go through for my name's sake.'"

 

I think it is a mistake... no I have proven it is a mistake to not wait on God.  He has a plan.  He has a plan for me.  His timing is perfect.  He will make happen what needs to happen.  I just need to be smart enough to hear and follow direction.   When Moses didn't follow direction, it cost him entry to the Promised Land.  When King Saul didn't follow direction, it cost him his throne and life.  It is the fool... I am the fool... who runs ahead of God.   Waiting on God is contrary to our culture.  It is contrary to our practice and current leading within the institutional church.

 

When God tells you to go and do, go and do.  When God says wait, wait.  When you aren't clear, do what you know to do (based upon scripture) and wait for God to make it clear.  I share this bearing the scars of having done otherwise. 

5:56 pm edt 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

24x7

Ephesians 6:18

"Constantly ask God's help in prayer, and pray always in the power of the Spirit.  To this end keep watch and persevere, always interceding for all God's people."

 

1 Peter 5:8

"Be on the alert! Wake up! Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, prowls around looking for someone to devour."

 

Matthew 25:13

"Keep awake then, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

 

Does the Adversary take a day off?  Is there a time in each day when he says, "I'm going to give them a break for a few moments"?  I don't think so.  I don't read it anywhere in scripture.  And it hasn't been my experience.  Which makes sense why scripture uses the language it uses... the language of urgency.

 

Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, shared that our struggle isn't against "human forces".  What does that mean to you?  Does that mean other people?  Does it mean those forces within your human nature?  Both?  Our struggle is against "cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark age, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavenly realms".  (Ephesians 6:12)

 

We spend so much time in our 4 dimensions (space and time) that we don't think outside of them.  Cosmic powers, superhuman forces in heavenly realms may not be bound by the things that bind us.  In fact, I am pretty certain they aren't.  I don't think they go to bed at night.  I don't think they take days off.  I don't think they wake up and say: "I'm too tired to invest myself in the fight".  I don't think they say:  "Let's skip a day".  But those are all things we do.  And then we wonder why we get smashed by an enemy attack.

 

The battle is real and it is 24x7.  It takes more than vigilance.  It takes hypervigilance.  That is because we are facing superhuman forces.  That is why we must find our strength in the Lord. And in His mighty power.  But wait, there is more...

 

The Ephesians 6 passage goes on to instruct us to "put on the full armor provided by God, SO THAT you may be able to stand firm against the stratagems of the devil".  It tells us to "take up" the armor of God.  Then we will be able to "withstand" on the evil day.  It tells us that AFTER we do our UTMOST and have on the armor of God, we will be able to stand our ground.  This aligns with the parables and teaching in the Gospels about being prepared, being awake, paying attention.  There is a reason.

 

We have to do all we can do.  We have to use the tools God has given us.  We have to understand that it is a full on, 24x7 battle against some bad dudes who are very powerful and are always on... 24x7.  The good news is God is stronger and in the end He wins.  Don't be a casualty.  Don't assume you will get through.  Prepare for battle.  Prepare for war.  Be on the alert.  It is scripture's call.  It is our reality.  It is our responsibility.

7:06 am edt 


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