Clear Lessons from a Muddy Creek

Growing up, we lived near a creek and I would sometimes spend hours playing there. Frequently, I’d come home with dirty socks or wet pant legs and occasionally a scraped knee thanks to the mossy rocks.

I loved to sit by the creek and watch the way it flowed, skipping over the small rocks, small ripples ever moving. From time to time, “stuff” would threaten the flow of the creek. A tree limb after a storm. Trash after a birthday party. A large rock from the middle school boys. The funny thing about the creek is, it didn’t let this stuff stop it from doing it’s job.

Maybe it slowed down, made a decision to go under, around, or even over the stuff. Maybe it spilled over the banks creating a new path for a short time. Sometimes, the strength inside the creek would actually move the stuff out of the way. A few times, I even helped the creek out by removing those obstacles. But no matter what, it never stopped and it never went back.

What’s your stuff today? What’s my stuff today? Do I go over or around it? Do I create a new path? Do I reach inside and find the strength to move it myself or do I let you help me move it? Let’s decide not to stop or retreat. Let’s keep going forward, no matter our stuff.

Blessing in Your Business

Proverbs 10:22 AMPC, “The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].” And in the NIV translation: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.”

I’ve been meditating on this scripture for days, and the more I do the more receptive I am to the blessing of the Lord on our lives and in our business.

To toil means to work extremely hard or incessantly, to grind away, work one’s fingers to the bone, put one’s nose to the grindstone, work one’s butt off, sweat blood; literally to travail.  An exhausting life of toil, hard work, drudgery, ‘blood, sweat and tears’.

There’s a difference between fulfilling, productive work and an exhausting work-life of drudgery.

Jesus had something to say to the fisherman, Simon Peter, after a long night of fishing and catching nothing.

Luke 5:3-5 NKJV: Then He [Jesus] got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net. And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”

I wonder what Jesus was teaching that day from Simon’s boat? I wonder if it was about a new way of doing business that would bless the believer with success beyond his or her natural ability.

Notice that Simon Peter had toiled all night to make a living and work his business to no avail. But when Jesus told him to try again but this time with the power of trust in his Word it made all the difference for Simon Peter and his business partners. I bet the adrenaline rush of catching a net-breaking, boat-sinking haul quickly replaced the drudgery he felt about going out to fish the next night. I even expect that it forever changed the way he approached his business.

Today, let’s seek to hear what the Lord is saying to us about our business and act with trust, fully confident that the blessing of the Lord makes us truly rich without painful toil.

A Dwelling Place of God

Upon waking this morning I felt cold and closed-off toward my usual practice of thanksgiving and prayer.  Instead of joy and ambition to commune with God, I felt distant from God and hesitant about how to yield my mind.  Frankly, I didn’t feel like God was awaiting me with open arms and honestly, I felt shunned.  Have you ever felt this way?

Sometimes our minds can play tricks on us and cause us to imagine concepts that make us feel things that are simply not true. I believe this is what was happening in my mind early this morning and I desperately desired to change how I felt.  I didn’t want to stay closed.  So, I offered a short, quiet prayer asking the Holy Spirit to help me open my heart, and then I turned to the written Word…the Holy Scriptures. I started with two beautiful prayers in Ephesians 1 and 3, and allowed the alchemy of Spirit-inspired words spoken with my voice to work in my heart and woo me to open myself to God.

As I read and prayed my eyes were drawn to the following passages that absolutely transformed the way I was feeling and freed me to open my heart to communion with God:

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19, 21-22 NKJV.

“For it pleased the Father that in [Christ] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind (italics mine) by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Colossians 1:19-22

After reading these passages it was very clear to me that how I felt was actually contrary to the truth.  You see, THIS is the truth about who we are and how God relates to us and my feelings upon waking were not accurate.  The truth is, we are not shunned by God but we have been reconciled to God.  The truth is, we are not distant from God but we have been brought near to Him.  The truth is, we are not enemies or strangers to God but we are citizens and members of His household.

Notice that Colossians reads that we were “alienated and enemies in our minds…” Isn’t that powerful?  That the feeling of being alienated from God comes from the mind, and once we are reminded of the truth that we are not alienated from God, the mind can change.  And let’s go one step truer, we are actually the dwelling place of God in the Spirit and we can’t get much closer to God than that!

Needless to say my feelings changed, my morning practice was invigorated and I was relieved to receive the truth of these beautiful words in to my heart along with brand new feelings toward God.  Join me?

Meditation for Mind RenewalI am not an enemy, a stranger or a foreigner to God.  I am a friend, a citizen and a member of God’s household in Christ.  I am a friend of God.  I am a child of God and I am without blame in His sight.  I am the dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  God is not mad at me, nor is God shunning me.  I am at peace with God and my mind is being renewed to this transformative truth even now. Thank you Holy Spirit for opening my heart and showing me how close I really am. Amen.

Lowered Wings

Do you see it? The hawk with outstretched wings effortlessly positioned in mid-air upon the ocean breeze?   I took this picture with my phone last month while visiting the pacific coast.  This hawk had my full attention as I watched the breeze lift him, and hold him, and position him in the most beautiful way high above the earth without much struggle on his part.  In fact it seemed that he didn’t struggle to maintain, or strain, at all.

The first chapter of Ezekiel describes a beautiful vision of being in God’s presence.  Verse 25 says, “And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood still with lowered wings.”

What is the significance of these words: “They stood with lowered wings”? People often ask, “How can I hear the voice of The Lord?” This is the secret: these “living creatures” (v.5) heard the voice when “they stood still with lowered wings.” We have all seen a bird flutter its wings while standing in place.  But in this verse, we are told that “there came a voice … as they stood still with lowered wings.”

Lately, I have tried to stand still before The Lord to hear what the Spirit is saying to me, for my life, right now, and yet I feel that my mind is fluttering out of control.  My thoughts flap around me making it nearly impossible to stand still and hear God’s voice.

Oh, how much energy we waste! How much time we lose by refusing to lower the wings of our spirit and become totally still and quiet before Him!  The fluttering of our own attempts to fix things, figure things out, defend or promote ourselves.  Oh the peace we would enjoy if we simply became still before The Lord and allow the wind of His Spirit to lift us high above the problems we face and give us a new vantage point.

Starter prayer to get still: “Holy Spirit, I desire your wind to lift me above my circumstances today, and to give me a fresh perspective of my situation.  Help me to be still, to lower my wings and know your voice today.  I choose not to flutter in your presence but instead to be calm, and trust you in a brand new way. Thank you for your unfailing love and patience with me.  I trust you, and because of Christ Jesus I can pray this way. Amen.”

(Some concepts in this meditation were taken from, “Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings”, L.B. Cowman, June 16th)

“The Grease of God”

While preaching this Sunday a phrase came out of my mouth in a way I had never considered quite like it before. It’s about the grace of God and how it works in our souls, in our situations, and in our relationships similar to how grease does on gears.  Merriam Webster says that grease causes to occur smoothly; to hasten the process or progress of; to smooth the way; facilitate.  High quality gear oil increases stability, load-carrying capacity, rust protection, and prevents premature wear.

This word picture has been growing in my imagination about the grace of God in our lives, or the way it came out of my mouth Sunday, “The grease of God.”

The scriptures are smeared with the concept of the grace of God, especially in the New Testament.  And some of our favorite hymns are about the amazing, great and awesome grace of God.  Also, we know that our sins are forgiven because of the unlimited grace of God.  But to consider the grace of God as grease, or gear oil, that literally works in our daily lives to ease our situations, to cause acceleration in a process, to make the gears of a business deal shift forward with ease; or for that relationship that rubs you the wrong way to function the right way.

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace to help us just when we need it.”

James 4:6, “But God gives us even more grace, as the Scripture says, ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

May all of us accept more grace today by first humbly acknowledging to God that we need it, and then expect that it will begin working just like the scriptures promise.

Prayer for more grace: “Gracious, giving God, your Word says that I can approach you boldly and receive mercy and grace to help in my time of need.  Please grease my life with your wonder-working grace today.  I trust that you hear me when I pray, and I delight with confidence that you are responding to me even now.  Thank you for more grace and for more awareness of you working in my life today.  It’s through Christ Jesus I pray, amen.”

“Maundy Thursday” – A Day of Love and Service

The meaning behind “Maundy Thursday,” also known as “Holy Thursday,” can be acknowledged in your heart, and acted out in your life by doing what Jesus commanded the disciples during the last meal He shared with them before he was betrayed.

The word Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “commandment,” and refers to this beautiful command Jesus gave the disciples: “Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35

This command came on the heels of Jesus humbling himself before each of them, and washing their feet before the meal. He did this as an example for us to serve one another and to love one another.

Two important events are the focus for “Maundy Thursday:” Loving and serving one another. And you can participate wherever you find yourself today; whether you be traveling, working alongside colleagues, reading the news, at dinner with family, or alone with your memories of the past or worries for the future.

Participate by first allowing your heart to receive the love that is being offered by this Christ, allow it to fill your heart, and then let it spill over to the ones you find right in front of you.

May each of us experience the reality of love in action today and always.

What’s It Worth To You?

I’m warning you from the start that this blog is thick with scripture and very little of my own commentary.  I’ve been meditating on the Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians, specifically chapter 3, and I’m greatly challenged by his sharp focus and dogged determination to leave everything behind in order to truly know Christ. I hope this stirs you as much as it does me.  So, without context or an appropriate intro or conclusion, let’s dive in…

“…But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless.” Philippians 3:7 CEV.

The Amplified version of this same scripture, “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake.”

Paul goes on to tell us that everything in which he could put confidence or dependence upon in the flesh: “outward privileges, physical advantages and external appearances, he chose to count as rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that he might gain Christ, the Anointed One.” Phil. 3:8b AMP.

EVERYTHING was counted as loss compared to the “possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him.” Phil. 3:8a AMP.

Paul’s emphasis in this chapter is to recall the confidence we place in our own achievements, and to instead place our confidence only in the pursuit of knowing Christ. He urges us to leave everything behind, count it all as trash, in order that we may know Him, the Christ, the Anointed One.

“And that I may actually be found and known as in Him, not having any self-achieved righteousness that can be called my own, based on my own obedience, but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through FAITH in Christ…”

“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].” Phil. 3:9-11 AMP.

That I may actually be found in Him…That I may know Him…That I may share in his sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness…That I may perceive, recognize and understand the wonder of his Person more strongly and more clearly…wow, wow, wow.

Do you want this? Is it appealing to you to know Christ and the wonder of his Person? In the grand scheme of things, does knowing Christ really matter?

What’s it worth to you?

A Statement About Identity

As a believer in Christ, one must remember that a new identity is held by, and because of, faith in Christ Jesus.  This new identity that is accepted by faith takes the predominant place in the life of the believer; it takes the chief place, the principal place, the leading place, the primary place.  It also means that the new identity applied to the believer by faith in Christ is the foremost identity; it trumps, or outranks, the identity the person holds as male or female, white or black, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, married or single, straight or gay.

Galatians 3:28 describes the new identity in this way, “There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This scripture is speaking to the person who is a believer in Christ and who has put faith in Christ, there is now “no distinction,” there are no borders, limits, or classifications other than Christ.  Christ becomes the brand-new identity for the believer.  And in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Now, and because of this new identity, the things that the believer seeks, wants, pursues, holds dear in this life become different than they were before believing in Christ, because now as Colossians 3:1 puts it, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

The believer now “sets his/her sights on the realities of heaven” and pursues and actively lives life in a brand-new way, with a brand-new focus, with a brand-new purpose.

There is in effect, a new operating system for the believer, or a new modus operandi, e.g., instead of disliking or hating others for differing opinions, or being hurt or bitter toward those who seek to exclude the believer for whatever the reason might be, we can look to the following scriptures for guidance:

1 John 4:7, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God.”

Romans 12:18, “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.”

Colossians 3, “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.”

Romans 14:13-15: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.  I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother or sister is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”

This last scripture is key, Paul makes a remarkable statement: “…there is nothing unclean of itself….but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

Wow.  This is something to consider as each one of us endeavor to live our life in truth, or in the best way, or in the freest way.  The passage goes on to say in essence, if we push our freedom in someone’s face all the time, demanding our rights and trying to persuade someone that our way is “ok” – then we step out of love and into a place of destruction.

We never want to use our freedom to hurt another brother or sister.

Romans 14:22, “You may know that there is nothing wrong with what you do, even from God’s point of view, but keep it to yourself; don’t flaunt your faith in front of others who might be hurt by it. In this situation, happy is the person who does not feel guilty when they do something they judge is right!”

At the end of the day, follow love and pursue peace with everyone.   The identity that the believer holds in Christ trumps all other identities and is the way to love in every situation.

Peace.

Love Extremist

To forgive the same person…for the 34th time.

To trust again when you’re still bleeding from the last infliction.

To give freely without keeping track.

To overlook a suffered wrong.

To make others look good, even though they don’t do it for you.

To hold secrets told to you in confidence.

To protect and cover people who “should know better.”

To be vulnerable with others even though you fear being hurt again.

To show true impression when others succeed before you.

To forgive yourself.

To appear naïve.

To never give up; to never stop believing; to always show up.

LOVE TO THE EXTREME.