Hoarders

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8)

The nature of the shameful is to hide from God when we sense He’s moving toward us.

The assumption of the fallen is to assume that the Great Unfallen would not pick us up. [click to continue…]

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A.W. Tozer, in commenting on the difference between a yesterday and a today faith, wrote this:

We habitually stand in our now and look back by faith to see the past filled with God. We look forward and see Him inhabiting our future; but our now is uninhabited except for ourselves. Thus we are guilty of a kind of [temporary] atheism which leaves us alone in the universe while, for the time, God is not. We talk of Him much and loudly, but we secretly think of Him as being absent, and we think of ourselves as inhabiting a parenthetic interval between the God who was and the God who will be. And we are lonely with an ancient and cosmic loneliness.

Your capacity to believe God is the gateway to a life of power, usefulness, and joy. And yet during his earthly ministry, nothing caught Jesus by surprise more than the “people of God” or so-called “believers” not believing – living with that cosmic loneliness that Tozer wrote about.

“Where is your faith?” He would ask. [click to continue…]

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Ram wearing spectacles.

Happy (Traditional) Tax Day!  So… Stick with me on this.

Last week, in news you probably missed, some engineering experts sounded a major alarm to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The subject: Self-driving cars.

The concern:  We’re not ready yet.

The evidence:  Unresolved technical issues, including some accidents.

The request:  Please, Dear Government Agency slow down your aggressive approach to issuing guidance for technology that is not ready for guidance yet.

That seems reasonable. Safe.  Wise for someone whose name has the word “Safety” in it.

That creates some tension for the agency, however. After all, they have a job to do – a service to the American people.  So Mark Rosekind, Director of the NHTSA, commented:

“Everybody asks, ‘When are they (self-driving cars) going to be ready?’ I keep saying they’re not coming; they are here now.”

Then he added this little revealing gem: [click to continue…]

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Empty Tomb of Jesus at Night

For the last 2,000 years people from all over the world have staked their futures around two events that, for them, represent the most transforming experience in history. I’m referring to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One of the most compelling proofs of the power of those two events is in the changed character of Jesus’ followers.  Talk about Jekyll-and-Hyde! This ragtag group of crazies went from cowering wimps to a fearless army of witnesses with a single message:  Jesus lives.

These people didn’t wait until the resurrection to believe in Christ.  But they experienced a profound change in their faith when they encountered a living, victorious Lord.

So will you.

Even today it’s possible to know in your head that Jesus is alive, but live as though it’s still Friday night. In other words to believe in Jesus as though He were dead.  So how can you tell the difference?  Here are five signs you’re living on “Friday night” faith: [click to continue…]

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Geese Fog

The day was cold.

Cold and foggy.

Cold and foggy and damp and dreary and what in God’s name was I doing out in it?

Walking, that’s what.

Walking and praying.

Praying and walking.

And I didn’t care about how cold or foggy it was because on this day I was desperate and yearning for an audience with – and a word from – God.

Anyway, I had a jacket.

It was one of the last times that I walked the 20-acre boundary of the church I had planted. And on this day the cold heaviness of the West Texas air was only exceeded by the cold heaviness in my spirit.

I got about halfway down the fence row, asking the Lord to speak to my heart. I so desperately wanted to hear His voice.

What I heard instead was the honking of the geese overhead.

Listening for God, I could only hear the dissonant, grating sound of geese. Can you relate?

Looking up, there was no way to see them, the fog was so heavy and low-hanging. But I could sure hear them.

I laughed to myself because of a recent conversation I’d had with my wife. She hates the sound of geese.

Eventually I did see them in the mist – surprisingly lower than I had imagined. And they were dealing with the same fog I was dealing with. Nevertheless, they flew in perfect formation, in a straight line.

And that’s how the Lord spoke. [click to continue…]

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delete-ruthlessly

I’m not a hoarder. Really. But I do accumulate. A lot. And that applies to just about every zone of my world.

Quick check:

  • There are currently 15,993 email messages in my inbox. But that’s OK – only 7,108 of them are unread.
  • When my next-door neighbor moved out a couple of months ago, she had a whole bunch of pretty good stuff she was literally giving away – said take anything I wanted. So I did. Now it’s all in my garage, and one day I’ll get around to figuring out what all I got.
  • Right now I’m wearing a t-shirt I got in 2003. It’s still hole-less and relatively stainless, so it stays in the rotation, which now occupies two big drawers because one wouldn’t hold them.
  • Oh, and books. Way back in the day I kept up with exactly how many I had. Suffice it to say, I lost count. Now, counting ebooks, I have three libraries in three locations. And one of my New Year’s resolutions, if I had any (which I don’t) is to actually try to read some of them.
  • I have a to-do list that’s as long as your arm, but if you asked me to do something, I would most likely say yes if it were in my capacity to do it.

I could go on, but I fear that some of you who are really organized or efficient are starting to get hives, and I don’t want to cause you to stumble.

The point to all this is that I have a huge “front door” when it comes to gathering up things to do, be, and have and a naturally disorganized, balls-in-the-air approach to managing all of it.

Until I have to. Last week I had to. [click to continue…]

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Isolation

Some of the most profound lessons in life can only be discovered face down in a proverbial ditch.  And that’s where I found myself about 25 years ago.  My career was crumbling. My family life was devastated. Whatever influence I had was waning quickly.  My dreams were being shattered.  I was a complete failure privately, and was about to be exposed as one publicly.  And for the moment, it was right where God wanted me to be.

There as life was crashing in all around me, I asked the Lord one of the most life-changing questions I could have asked, and He was gracious enough to give me an answer.

How did I wind up here?

The Lord showed me three things – three huge, blinding, colossal choices or habits that set me up for a trip to the ditch.  The first I’ve already covered here – I allowed myself to get discouraged in one area of my life, and soon discouragement spread like spiritual cancer.

Here is the second.  I read it on the 18th of the month – I know this because it was in Proverbs 18. But reading it was like reading a lab report on the condition of my heart.

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment (Proverbs 18:1, NKJ)

At first blush it was obvious what that meant.  I was a pastor.  I was a public figure who made my living with words and relationships and eternal truths.  I was “on” 24/7, or so I thought.  So I gave every effort to play the part.  I smiled pastor smiles. I prayed pastor prayers.  I said pastor things.  And when people asked me how I was doing, I gave pastor replies.  “Good!” I would say, smiling.

I never told anybody otherwise.

I never shared what my biggest, most challenging obstacles were.  I never shared the depths of what my dreams were, either for myself or for the church.  I never told anybody I had gotten discouraged. I never asked for wisdom or help. I was a professional problem solver. I was supposed to be the solution to other people’s problems and the complete solution to my own… all the while presenting a front and leaving an impression that all was well.

The only way to pull all this off was to isolate myself.  I even had a name for it – I called it “transparency to a point.”  I would let people see and hear enough to believe I was being open and honest, but wouldn’t tell them too much.

Why?  Pride, for sure, but that’s the third answer to the question… more on that later.  Why isolate, then?  Because I didn’t want people advising me to do what I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to ask for anybody else’s help to succeed.  And I didn’t want to expose my life and work to somebody else’s opinion, wisdom, or direction.

In short, I isolated myself, and I was an idiot to do so.  I would caution you against the same mistake. [click to continue…]

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Misty november morning at lake

Hey… you on the treadmill or the carousel.

Yes, you.    I have a question for you.

Remember the time you had an idea that would make a difference in your world?  Remember when you aspired to something better?  Something richer?  Something gloriously possible because you imagined it so?

Yeah, so… whatever happened to that idea?  Whatever happened to your dreams?

Remember when you were on a mission – when you had a sense of calling and clarity, and you even gave the G-word as your source?  Remember when you stepped out in confidence because God told you to?

Yeah, so… whatever happened to that calling?  Whatever happened to your dreams?

Remember when you were enflamed with passion or infused with hope because you could see it, taste it, enjoy it even before you experienced it?  Remember when you were so excited you could hardly sleep at night?

Yeah, so… whatever happened to that passion?  Whatever happened to your dreams?

Remember when you were determined to get something done – to solve a problem or meet a need or advance a cause?  Remember when you swore that you were done with idle living and wasted time?

Yeah, so… whatever happened to that determination?  Whatever happened to your dreams?

Remember when you were surrounded by can-do people who spoke into your life with encouragement and faith and offered to help you get where you were going? Remember when they convinced you that you had what it took to get it done?

Yeah, so… whatever happened to that connection? Whatever happened to your dreams? [click to continue…]

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(Or Ministry…  Or Job…  Or Spiritual Gifts…  Or Life Mission… Or…)

Servant Leader

Years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and preaching in two different evangelistic crusades.  One day our hosts took us to a beautiful national park – a very busy place, with lots of booths, a walkway up a small mountain, and a Buddhist temple.

As we were walking down the mountain and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the wide walkway, a young Korean woman approached me and asked if I was from America.

“Could I talk to you as we walk?” she asked.  “I’m learning to speak English and it helps to practice with someone who speaks it.”

She spoke English pretty well, albeit with a beautiful Asian accent.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked.

If you travel overseas or have any experience speaking to an ESL (English as a second language), it’s pretty common to try to simplify your vocabulary in order to be understood.  I was a pastor at the time, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t know what a pastor was. So I chose a different word…

“I am a minister,” I said.

Her whole countenance changed.  Suddenly she was in the presence of someone important!

“Oh!  You are a government official?”

Yes, I know I shouldn’t have… but I literally laughed out loud.  Then I tried to explain to her that in the U.S. we use the English word “minister” in a different way.

I think she was disappointed.  Anyway… [click to continue…]

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Ebola

(Or whatever has us in a panic today)

The headlines are curious today, after weeks of holding us hostage over a disease that Americans steadfastly wish to remain somebody else’s problem.  “COMPASSION URGED IN DALLAS AS EBOLA MONITORING ENDS” says the USA Today headline.

Who is this compassion aimed for?

People who don’t have the disease.

So why do they need compassion?

Because at one time we were afraid they may have it.

But after 21 days of having their lives quarantined while the politicians, media, talk radio and social media had everybody in a frenzy, now the science says, they don’t have it.  Meanwhile, two nurses who were doing their jobs caring for the one person who has died from the disease in the U.S. now are fighting the virus, and we pray for their healing and recovery.

In the meantime, Dallas, please be kind to people you may otherwise want to avoid like the you-know-what.  It’s the American thing to do. [click to continue…]

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