Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Work in progress

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 1 Kings 3:3

In 1 and 2 Kings, we read the accounts of the ancient kings of Israel and Judah. In these men we find the full range of humanity’s capacity for both incredible good and faithfulness to God, as well as unthinkable evil and brokenness. We are reminded of God’s goodness to his people, even in spite of their failures and betrayals. As I recently re-read these stories, I was struck by the persistence of the “high places.”

Solomon, lauded as one of the wisest men to have ever lived, faithfully ruled and continued the legacy of his father, David. And yet, like every human who lived before him and everyone since, Solomon had a divided heart. While genuinely and truly loving the Lord, his heart was at the same time pulled away, leading him to create shrines and centers of idol worship, “high places” dedicated to the pagan gods. Following Solomon’s example, the kings that follow him, even those who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” failed to remove the high places (see 2 Kings 12:2-3).

As our name implies, we believe Wisdom is something to be pursued, cultivated, hunted. This is a journey that demands nothing less than our entire lives, daily submitting to the Lord’s guiding hand. If you can view your life with God through this lens, I believe you will find both encouragement towards continual growth, as well as the peace needed to make it a life long pursuit.

Every breath you take is an invitation to grow. Every day brings with it a fresh opportunity to encounter God’s love and to offer your own life as a gift. And within this invitation, we are asked to examine our hearts and lives, identifying places of alignment and misalignment with God’s very best for us. This is, by design, what it means to be a human made in God’s image! God is infinite in his goodness and love, and we therefore will spend eternity ever more deeply entering into the very life of God.

The death and resurrection of Jesus means we experience a taste of eternity in the present. We as his beloved children even now begin this journey of transformation. And so, we celebrate and rejoice in his grace at work in our lives, yet we must also learn to tend to the “high places” in our lives. Learn from the lives of our forefathers in the faith: it is possible to walk the way of Wisdom in one part of life, while at the same time walk in disobedience in another.

You are a work in progress. Where you have seen progress in your life, give thanks to the Lord for his grace at work in your story. At the same time, pray for the courage to tear down every “high place” that remains, freeing you to offer to the Lord a life of total devotion

Thursday, January 16, 2020

God-sized Vision

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven. Nehemiah 2:4

How God-sized is your vision? Is it doomed to failure unless, by faith, our heavenly Father comes through? Hard times can torment us and drive the passion right out of the big dreams we dreamed with God, but vision can sustain us. Good times can cause us to become lackadaisical, but a compelling vision can challenge us to trust the Lord.

Greater than any American Dream culture will offer us are the God-given dreams He gives to His people. And these great dreams come with vision that can sustain and propel us forward.

Don’t let yourself fall into making earthly excuses for not chasing after God-sized dreams. Rise above excuses, like Nehemiah did. And don’t forget to be bold to ask for provision from unconventional sources. Nehemiah saw God open up for him an opportunity for help from a Persian king, so he took it.

“It pleased the king to send me, so I set a time” (Nehemiah 2:6, NIV).

Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of kings, is waiting to work through earthly authorities on our behalf. Our part is to make a plan, prayerfully show up with that plan, and ask unashamedly and boldly for what it takes to fulfill the vision.

Don’t waste time wondering if it is the right time. Set a time, and by faith trust the Lord that He will come through beyond our expectations. Collaborate with Christ. Get counsel from godly advisors, and then present your case by faith.

You have worked hard, overcome adversity and sacrificed to see the fruition, your dream come true. Big vision may bring out big people and big resources. Pursuing your dream with your own resources and relationships may lead them to dwindle. But with God’s vision and your faith, they will flourish, and new resources and relationships are likely to become available.

A big vision of the Lord brings out the best in you and the best in others. Keep Christ as the central focus of your faith, and be faithful to his compelling call.

Do I confidently cast a compelling vision? Am I trusting the Lord for big things, or am I too bound up by earthly expectations?

Compelling vision is your motivation to move forward by faith and see your Heavenly Father work in ways you can’t imagine.

“The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:19-21, KJV)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Living spiritual

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

The Holy Spirit fuels spiritual living. This is where freedom resides and where fruit bearing takes place. The flesh is pre-conversion to Christ living; it is reliance on self to secure security. The Spirit is post-conversion to Christ living; it is reliance on God to secure earthly and eternal security. The Spirit and the flesh conflict, but the flesh has been put to death by faith and the Spirit has come alive. Spiritual living submits to Christ.

Spiritual living thrives as we daily surrender our soul to Jesus. In the same way we became a Christian—by grace through faith—it’s the same way we continue as a Christian. Yet, the flesh tries to flaunt its old habits as teasers for us to not trust God. But we know better—it’s better to not boast in the flesh, but to be humbled by the Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit we are empowered to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:16-17

The Spirit brings wisdom, when we consider ways that are unwise. The Spirit brings conviction, when we begin to drift from our convictions. The Spirit brings comfort when we struggle with discomfort. The Spirit leads us into God’s will when we are tempted to follow our own will. The Holy Spirit is heaven’s secret to spiritual living. When we walk by the Spirit we are everything, if we ignore the Spirit we are nothing.

Are you looking to love better, rejoice more and be at peace? If so, allow the Spirit to grow love, joy and peace in the soil of your soul. God is your Gardner whose green thumb of grace always grows an abundance of fruit. Forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all seeded by the Holy Spirit to produce the Lord’s luscious fruit that remains. Fertilize with faith and then water with God’s Word.

Invite the Holy Spirit to pull out any weeds of sin from your heart. And like a kudzu plant climbs, coils and covers in a hot and humid climate, the fruit of the Spirit covers your life in Christ-like character. Your part is faith and His part is fruit. Your part is surrender and His part is victory. Your part is prayer and His part is answers. Your part is humility and His part is a harvest of righteousness. Spiritual living lives by the Spirit’s power.

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

God's courier service

David said to Abigail, Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment. I Samuel 25: 32-33


God dispatches His messengers daily. You can expect a regular word from the Lord through others. They may represent His envoy of much-needed encouragement, or they may engage you with a regiment of rebuke. Whether He sends His messengers with a positive or a negative word, it is critical that you concur with their instruction. Your emotions may be driving you in one direction because you have been treated unfairly, even inflicted by a gross indiscretion. But God’s messenger is imploring you to take the more reasonable road of understanding and forgiveness. Just because you have been wronged, does not mean you are to do wrong. Anybody can do that; it takes strength of character to not retaliate.

God is in control. So leave your transgressors in His hand. Let the Lord deal with them in His timing. God’s messenger may be telling you to wait. This opportunity staring you down does not deserve your acceptance. Your pride and ego have nominated you to the task, but you know in your heart it is not the wise thing to do. Listen to God’s messenger and avoid a year of regret. Money and status are not worth jeopardizing your marriage and your health. There will be other opportunities, much better ones that will fit in your next season of life. It is easy to ignore, reject, or argue with God’s messenger, but think twice before you debate with Deity’s representative. They are ambassadors of heaven, reaching out to you on earth. He has things under control and desires His very best for your life.

Many times, God’s messenger comes in the form of a friend who knows you all too well and has seen some of your destructive patterns over the years. He has your best interests in mind. Their desire is for you to learn from your unwise decisions of the past and flourish in the future. They are taking a risk with their friendship because they care. If they were self-serving, they would shut up. So, listen to God speaking through your friend, especially when it is not what you want to hear. He also speaks, frequently, through your spouse. They love you, and yes they may be fearful and insecure, but it is because they don’t want you to miss God’s very best.

Do not allow ego and pride to blind you to their warnings and concerns. They may not understand all of the ins and outs of business, but they do understand the Holy Spirit’s promptings. This is a level of discernment which God has wisely given to them as your gift. Make sure you receive it and use it well.

Lastly, reward God’s messengers. This is behavior that deserves recognition and appreciation. You reward the behavior you want repeated, and you rebuke or ignore the behavior that you want to cease. Do more than say you agree. Instead, make a big deal over their determination to deliver the truth. Instead of blowing off the messenger of good will, invite them into your circle of influence. Promote those who persist in pitching the facts. God’s messengers can be trusted because they bear news from your heavenly Father. Therefore, take seriously their words, and act accordingly. Listen actively to God’s messengers, and in turn, become one.

The Bible says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31).

Friday, December 13, 2019

Do you love?

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17


Post resurrection, our living, loving Lord sought conviction from Peter that his love was genuine and not contingent on circumstances. Hurt by Jesus' clarifying questions (which were not for Jesus' understanding, but a reality check for Peter), Peter affirmed his love. I heard Jesus say to my heart, "My beloved, do you really love Me?" Tears. "Yes Lord, I do."

Love for the Lord qualifies me to serve on behalf of the Lord. In spite of my past denials of God, if I love God in the present, I am qualified to serve people. Jesus knows if He has my affections my right actions will follow. My service without love is sterile and suspect, but my service with love is life giving and authentic. Better for me to be prompted by love without professional training, than to have an office wall adorned with framed theological credentials, but lack love’s motivation in service. If I first of all love Jesus, I am qualified to care for His people.

Jesus probed into the motivation of Peter’s heart. Having publicly denied the Lord three times, the Lord knew Peter needed to hear his own public confession of Christ three times. Our current public confession of love for God covers our past public denials of God. Peter had denied Jesus by his sinful silence, now he exalted Jesus by his loving acknowledgment. Christ knew Peter’s affection was the best indicator of his loyalty. Love for Jesus qualifies us to serve with Jesus.

“Love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 11:13).

If we are not prayerfully intentional in our public confession of Jesus, we can unwittingly distance ourselves from Jesus. Understandably, we don’t want to be labeled as judgmental and insensitive in our reactions to sensitive subjects like abortion and homosexuality. Thus, we pray for opportunities to love and serve those different from us. We first confess our own denial of Christ by our unloving attitudes and then we confess Christ by our loving attitudes. We pray with parents of children who choose alternative lifestyles. Love qualifies us to help souls that are hurting.

Moreover, love for Jesus helps us stay close to Jesus when conflict enters our lives. We deny the Lord when we keep silent: afraid and angry, but we acknowledge the Lord when we can process our fears and frustrations in a civil conversation. Our love for each other compels us to express our love in respectful discussions. Our best decisions come by taking time to love each other through our diverse views. Love is patient to listen to all sides before it decides the best next step. Love qualifies us to grow closer to each other by really knowing each other.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Trust in an uncertain future

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11

I have to confess that in recent days, an insecurity has settled into my spirit about financial provision. I am not sure if it has to do with getting older and peering into an uncertain future, or something else. But deep down I feel it has to do with fear, an ungodly emotion that has taken my heart captive while I was unaware. I am thankful that this morning the Lord showed me the condition of my heart and invited me to trust Him with my tomorrows as I read the next verses in Matthew 6:25-27; 31-32.

“Therefore, [because you can’t serve God and money] I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

It hit me. “Oh, yes. The pagans—or unbelievers—run after these things to try and protect themselves and guarantee a secure future. They run after them in fear. They run after them in pride. They run after them in anxiety—and they are tormented and exhausted. But you have called me, Lord, to life and peace. In You there is no torment. There is no worry. There is just rest.”

Maybe you have been afraid God won’t provide so you have been worrying. Or, maybe you have been driven in an unhealthy way to succeed because you believe more money will guarantee security and peace—and just like a pagan, you are tormented. What’s the only answer? To trust in Christ, because there is no true security or peace apart from Him. But even trusting can seem impossible, right? I mean, how can you trust Him when you don’t trust Him? Thankfully, it’s not all up to us. When your faith feels weak and small, He gives grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). When you don’t feel mighty and filled with strength, He gives might and strength (Isaiah 40:30-31). Your job is to admit your inability to trust Him with your life, ask for forgiveness, tell Him you choose to trust Him and let Him give you the faith that you can’t give yourself.

Will you run after those things the pagans chase and experience torment, or will you choose to trust Him with your life and future?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Look deeper

There is a myth in Christianity that I often hear people say. Maybe you have even said it yourself,  “God will not put more on me than I can bear.” Maybe you’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve even said it.Some people even think it’s in the Bible. But let me help you with that myth right now with a look at the life of Paul. In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction … that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life ….” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
If ever there was a hopeless situation, Paul was in it. Paul hadn’t done anything to cause it. In fact, he had followed God’s leading straight into a place of despair.  If you share similar feelings today, you are in good company. The apostle Paul was a man who served God, knew God and pursued His calling at all costs. That should demonstrate to us that a life of service to our King doesn’t guarantee a life without difficulties, sorrow, or sacrifice. In fact, the opposite is typically true. 
God sometimes allows situations in our life to appear hopeless because He is trying to direct our focus onto Him. We may feel like giving up because we can’t seem to fix the situation that we are in, and no one we know can fix it either. All of our resources have been depleted. But Paul reveals a very key principle in his next statement, “…indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead … He on whom we have set our hope,” (vs. 9-10).
In order to take Paul deeper in faith, God put him in a situation that his resume, abilities, and connections could not change. Why? So that Paul would learn to trust God even more so than he had done thus far. 
Is God being mean in these situations? No. 
I understand that it may feel like that when we’re going through it, but what He’s really doing is trying to take us deeper. It is in these times, these hopeless scenarios where we see no way up, over, or out, and yet God somehow ultimately “raises the dead” for us. God has now become real to us at a level we never knew Him at before. 
Seek Him when life’s situations have you struggling (Isaiah 55:6). Don’t be ashamed of the pain or despair you may feel, Paul himself felt it. Never deny your emotions. Simply turn them Godward and look to the One who knows how to raise the dead. 
See, if we’re not dying or in a situation that is dying, whether it’s relational, financial, emotional, or other, we will never know what it is like to experience a resurrection. If you don’t need one, you won’t see one. 



Thursday, November 14, 2019

A seductive slope

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable. Luke 18:9

Self-righteousness is ugly. It is ugly to God and it is ugly to others. Self-righteousness is a blind spot of the worst kind, as it invites avoidance. Everyone is offended by it except the one exuding its offensive ways. Their goal is to afflict the comfortable. They look for those comfortable in sin, as defined by their self-righteous standards. They strain to apply their petty preferences to everyone else. It is sad and  pathetic, but many of us have been down this harsh and critical road ourselves. Much to our embarrassment, we have been the culprits of caustic and unfair judgment of others.

Conversations inevitably degrade to a tone of “us” versus “them”. It is a slippery and seductive slope that sucks one into a nauseating cycle of one-upsmanship. It becomes a competition between who is the “most spiritual.” It may be measured by tone of voice. The rationale is that the most spiritual-sounding voice must be the most righteous. What is even more “spiritual” is to accent the spiritual tone of voice with churchy words and phrases that only the insiders can interpret. Religious activities become a parade of people hungering and thirsting for the accolades of others. Pleasing and sucking up to people replace passion for God and the things of His kingdom. It is a sad state of affairs when the self-righteous become the influencers of the people of God.

Sincere believers and followers of Christ become confused, and non-Christians are repelled. The heart of Jesus is riled by the self-righteous. It is not acceptable to Him, nor should it be to us. Pride is the driver behind self-righteousness. It hijacks a good discipline like prayer, and turns it into a sideshow of sorts. Ironically, what God meant for good is twisted into evil. A self-righteous person who prays draws attention to himself rather than God. God must shudder when He witnesses the feeble attempt of a self-righteous prayer. It leaves the lips of the self-righteous and falls to the ground, never making it to Christ for His consideration. Pride pulls prayer back down to earth. Prideful praying is ineffective and unacceptable to God.

Can pride really engulf a praying person? Unfortunately, it absolutely can. This is why it is imperative for God to root out pride in our lives on a regular basis. Pride never goes away. Pride lusts after God’s job. Pride is not content in the role of a humble, submitted, and obedient follower of Christ. Pride puts others down to build up its own ego. Humility, in contrast, is quick to build others up and bridge them to God. The humble are quick to confess their sins and shortcomings.

There is a self-awareness and understanding of their blind spots; so avoid self-righteousness like the plague. Root out sin in your own life and watch the righteousness of Christ shine through you. Humility is the remedy for self-righteousness. Humility launches prayers to heaven and attracts the ear of God; so talk to the Lord on behalf of people, not about people. He pours out His grace on the humble. His grace purges self-righteousness; so prayers are heard and answered for Christ’s sake.

The Bible says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Seasonal Fruit

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

Psalm 1 is one of the greatest wisdom texts in the whole of the Scriptures. It speaks of the joy and goodness that comes from walking in the way of wisdom, taking delight in the commands of the Lord. Yet it is also a good example of how we can be quick to hold fast to one portion of Scripture while dismissing or discounting others.

For example, we latch onto language like “in all that he does, he prospers,” hoping and believing this to be an unqualified blanket statement. We like prosperity, especially the idea that everything we touch might “turn to gold.” However, the heart of this promise is the previous statement that the wise man or woman meditates on the law of the Lord day and night. Our prosperity and fulfillment is directly linked to our submission to the law of God and willingness to follow as he leads.

It is especially important that we hold to a long term, even heavenly vision of our prosperity. If we don’t, when life presents its challenges and struggles, we will begin to think that these are certainly linked to our failures and shortcomings. Similarly, we can adopt a formulaic, even magical approach to discipleship, believing that our faithful decisions guarantee an immediate circumstantial change of fortune. While this may from time to time be true, so often our faithfulness to Jesus and his ways is required even in the midst of painful and broken seasons.

Are you able to walk in faithful obedience to God even when your situation does not immediately change or improve? Fruit trees planted in good soil by the water are made to bear fruit and offer shade to those around them, yet this does not happen overnight! Fruit only comes after years of slow, faithful growth and development, and the same is true for you.

You may be in a season of exciting fruit bearing, and for that you can give great thanks. Yet you may also be in a season of establishing healthy roots or pruning back overgrown limbs, and for this you can rejoice. Not every season is the same, and therefore trust that the Lord is at work in your life right where you are today, and that in due time your life will yield great fruit

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Teachable

Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying God is one and there is no other but him.’ … When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God’. Mark 12:32,34 

Teachability is a primary fruit of humility. When we have an open heart to learn, we are in a position to receive wisdom from God and others. Jesus affirms a teachable heart, for He knows it has potential to learn and understand the things of God. A teachable heart is positioned to receive truth, and possesses an attitude consisting of more questions than answers. A teachable heart recognizes truth when it comes knocking. It invites truth in to be examined, understood, and applied. Truth invigorates the teachable heart. There is a rush of spiritual adrenaline when truth intersects with an open mind and heart. Pride plateaus in its learning, but a teachable heart continues to scale the mountain of truth, understanding, and wisdom.

When the Lord discovers someone who is teachable, He calls him wise. Wisdom comes from God; therefore, a teachable heart learns the ways of God. The Holy Spirit facilitates teachability, as truth applied transforms behaviors and attitudes. Change that comes from the inside out makes us like Christ: humble, bold, wise, holy, gracious, encouraging, and faithful. Change doesn’t come easily, even if you understand God has your best interests in mind.

But the transformation shows. Your character and behavior fall more in line with the life of Christ. Your spouse and children notice something different. You lead patiently and prayerfully instead of with fearful and intimidating tactics. Gain a teachable heart by first elevating your honor and worship of Almighty God.

God is one. He is not one of many gods, but one God. He is not a mini-god, but the great and glorious God of the galaxies. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all one God. His oneness is to be worshipped and celebrated. Your love relationship with the one, true God is not to be rivaled by any other gods. Any acceptance of other gods is unacceptable to God.

He is jealous for you. Your love for anyone or anything else will pale in relation to your love for Christ. To love God is to make room for Him in all aspects of your life. You love Him when you love others, when you give sacrificially, when you strive for excellence in your work, and when you pray for and forgive others. Love is reciprocal—therefore, love Him and allow Him to love you.

Let Christ’s expectations mold yours, because what He thinks trumps any other thinking. The Holy Spirit within you has the answers to the questions that consume your conscience. Listen to His internal promptings, not the external clamor. What you learned yesterday will be dwarfed by what you experience tomorrow. Know God, love God, and learn of Him. He affirms a teachable heart as one that fears the Lord. Wisdom in leadership fears God and follows His ways.

The Bible teaches, “Assemble the people—men, women, and children, and the foreigners living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:12).