Wednesday, February 26, 2020

withdrawl

I long to drink of you, O God, drinking deeply from the streams of pleasure flowing from your presence. My longings overwhelm me for more of you! My soul thirsts, pants, and longs for the living God. I want to come and see the face of God. Psalm 42:1-2

For most of his adult life, my very athletic friend has maintained a regular regimen of physical exercise. He told me the other day, “If I miss an entire week of exercise my body revolts in ways that create a sick feeling. My body reacts since it is used to experiencing a more significant physical engagement”. Danny ignited my imagination with the thought of my soul’s expectation for spiritual exercise. If I miss too often, does my conditioned soul suffer spiritual withdrawals?

David reminds us of our soul’s thirst for God. If our soul has been acclimated to a regular routine of hydrating on the living water of the Lord, any significant disruption can create a sense of soul sickness or nagging spiritual withdrawals. The presence of God is necessary to acquire peace for our everyday life encounters, so we daily seek the face of God. A soul longs for the Lord’s love.

“I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands” (Psalm 119: 131).

What does it mean to drink of God? I like how Henri Nouwen describes this divine exchange: “My hope is that the description of God's love in my life will give you the freedom and the courage to discover . . . God's love in yours”. The Holy Spirit fills up our cup of love in solitude and silence, so we can be a source of refreshing love as we pour into others. We empty our cup of love, only for Christ to fill us back up again with His infinite, faithful love. This ongoing process of filling and emptying restores our soul—being refreshed in silence, beside quiet, “still waters”.

Have a long term goal to seek the face of God each day as you grow your spiritual exercise routine. Don’t be discouraged if you infrequently stretch your spiritual muscles. Start with 2-3 times a week of stillness and solitude to drink in the love of your Lord Jesus Christ, so you can in turn pour love into another. Create an expectation for your soul to be cared for, so if you experience prolonged prayerlessness, you are reminded by inner groans for God. Spiritual withdrawals are meant to draw you back to the divine in loving communion. Stay thirsty for Jesus!

“On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)” (John 7:37-39, NLT).

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Chosen by God

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him. Psalm 4:3


God chooses His children for Himself. Our relationship with our Lord is all about Him. It is all about His desires, His pleasures, His vision, His goals and His will. When we came to God we came empty handed clinging only to the cross of Christ. So in our surrender to our Savior we emptied ourselves and received Jesus. We went from self-sufficient to God dependent. We went from ungodly to godly. We went from an impersonal relationship with a distant God to an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father. God chose us for Himself.

Furthermore, the Lord wants you to know and follow His heart. He owns your life. You may be struggling with traveling overseas for the sake of His cause. But Jesus commands clearly to go into all the world and make disciples. Or you may be too busy to build a relationship with your neighbors. But your sensitive Savior implores you to love your neighbors. You are at His disposal to carry out His desires.

“Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full” (Psalm 31:23).

Moreover God offers a clear channel of communication for His children. He hears when we call to Him. Prayer is not passive for our Heavenly Father. He is interested in our intense circumstances and our heartfelt fears. He listens to and answers our prayers. It is not always an answer as we think it needs to be answered. He defines His will for us with His answers of ‘no’ and His answers of ‘yes’. We have no need to fear for our Heavenly Father is near.

The more we constantly converse with Christ, surely we will speak all the more boldly to men. Prayer is a purging and a preparation. It is God’s platform to launch us into fields that are ripe for harvest. It is a preparation for engagement in the lives of people. Prayer fills us with love so we can be emptied of love. We are chosen by God. What He chooses He makes holy. Without holiness we cannot see our Savior. Because He was poured out we are sold out. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Peace of mind

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Psalm 3:5-6


Peace of mind comes from Jesus. He is the master at putting our mind at ease with providing us with His eternal perspective. It is trust in Him that gives us peaceful thoughts. Without His peace we worry and fret. A peace-less mind is paralyzed by the thought of everything going awry. What can go wrong will go wrong because the odds are stacked against us. Without the peace of Christ we find ourselves with an overwhelming sense of dread, even despair. In Christ we have peace.

Jesus is not stingy with His peace. He gives it liberally and lovingly. Beware of the fleeting peace the world offers. It is a very cheap substitute. The world’s peace is circumstantial. His peace transcends circumstances. The world’s peace is temporal. His peace is eternal. The world’s peace leads you to escape from God and reality. His peace leads you to engage with both. The world’s peace produces a limited perspective. His peace results in a robust and real view of life. The world’s peace cannot remove fear. His peace overcomes fear with faith.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).

Once you apply the peace of Christ you have peace of mind. Peace of mind gives you a platform for living purposefully. Because you live purposely and peacefully you garner influence with others. People are attracted to the peaceful. They want to learn how to find and apply peace to their life circumstances. Your friends or family may not acknowledge it, but your peace is proof of God’s existence. Peace is a powerful apologetic for the Almighty. Your calmness during crisis can only be explained by Christ. Because you lean on Him others want to lean on you.

Lastly use your peace of mind as a gauge for God’s will. If you have peace, proceed, but heed if you lack peace. God’s peace is a green light to go forward. The absence of His peace is a red light to refrain. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s peaceful prodding to go or stay. Either way you are ok as long as the Lord’s peace is preeminent. Peace gives you a state of mind that is able to think clearly and wisely. Peace positions you for wise thinking.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Joy over resent

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! Luke 15:28-30

Being joyful and being resentful cannot coexist. A friend of mine was recently overlooked for a promotion at work. At first stunned at the initial feeling of rejection, they processed their pain in prayer and was able to not just tolerate, but celebrate with their colleague who was chosen instead of them. Resentment looks for reasons to complain, while joyful gratitude is able to embrace the mature perspective of Christ’s love at work in the bigger scheme of things. Resentment is relationally draining, but joy energizes.

The elder son in Jesus’ famous parable of the prodigal cannot get beyond his feelings of neglect. He is not honored for being a compliant child all his days, but instead his father throws a feast for his wayward brother. His lack of attention from his “insensitive dad” boiled into anger, seeing his lascivious brother enjoy the unconditional love of their father. A motivation of loving and joyful obedience had been replaced by a drivenness of rigid rule-keeping rooted in pride. Where fear of being left out comes true, resentment rushes in to protest and squash everyone’s joy.

“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry” (Jonah 3:10-4:1).

Has resentment robbed your joy? Are you able to celebrate another’s fortune in the face of your misfortune? One way to better understand your heart is to ask others if you are a complainer and blamer or are you grateful? Do you take responsibility for your actions? The immature obsess over the splinter in a colleague’s eye, and seek to deny or dismiss the plank of pride skewing their own perspective. Mature followers of Jesus on the other hand, rejoice when a friend’s foolish choices lead him back home to the Father’s love. Joy celebrates a heart conversion.

My life is an ongoing struggle between being the younger selfish brother, the judgmental older brother and the generous loving father. By God’s grace I am able to resist youthful greed by being grateful for what the Lord has given me, and to look for ways to share with others my abundance of time, money and experience. My quick to judge attitude of those who have yet to travel far on faith’s rough road is tempered by the severe mercy I have enjoyed from Christ’s compassion and from an accepting community. I long to receive and give the Father’s love. Joy, not resentment, is love’s fruit. Spectacular! A surrendered life full of joy is cause for celebration!

“Forgive my failures as a young man, and overlook the sins of my immaturity. Give me grace, Lord! Always look at me through your eyes of love— your forgiving eyes of mercy and compassion. When you think of me, see me as one you love and care for. How good you are to me” (Psalm 25:6-7,

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).