Thursday, April 25, 2013

Christian radio, fluff, and depravity

Funny how you can hear people talking and just know that they are church-going folks because of the lingo they choose, the happy-happy chirpy tone of voice you often hear on Christian radio.  I always smile knowing when a believer is behind me in the check-out line at the supermarket, but I often wonder just how deep that faith goes.

I’m not being judgmental, but I say this because I’ve talked to a good number of these sweet-natured chirpy Christians who hold many deep resentments and anger issues and feel uncomfortable speaking to their pastors about it.  That’s why they come to us. We meet them in our Anger Management courses or Marriage Courses, or they just walk in searching for help.  But they are “good Christians,” at least they all say they want to be.  Some have been Sunday-school teachers who like to frequent strip clubs or get high on the weekends.  Some admit to substance abuse to deal with stress, others suffer from debilitating depression.   Some feel so unloved that they have affairs and are eaten up inside with guilt.  They sing in the choir, lead the youth group, are members of the board, and somehow get caught up in online indecency, hateful texting, addictions, blame, guilt, fights, violence, pain.

So when I listen to the local Christian station and hear those slick DJs with their oily voices and forced smiles repeating their scripted clichés… “Sometimes God just wants us to rest on Him.  He cares, and He listens, and that’s all that matters.  Let’s get uplifted now with a great new song by Jeremy Camp…”  I feel a bit nauseated.

All that matters is that He listens and cares?  Aren’t we supposed to expect an answer?  A real change?  No… apparently as long as He listens, that’s the best we can hope for.  So little is offered, and we are encouraged to celebrate the slightest hint of an answer because it’s unreasonable to expect anything more from God.

A lady called in to one of these stations with a “testimony” of how she had been crying on the anniversary of her mother’s death, and praying for God to send her mother a message in heaven that she still loved her.  A few minutes later, her mother’s favorite song came on and she burst into tears, knowing without a doubt that God had sent the message and that her mother was responding through the song.  Now, just how dead people can determine the song line-up of a radio station, I have no idea, but the DJ sure thought it was a great testimony of faith, love and family unity...

No mention that the song plays once an hour anyway.  No one gave a thought to the bizarre concept of communicating with the dead, something on the same level as consulting mediums and doing witchcraft.  No idea that heaven is so awesomely amazing, why would anyone in heaven even want to hear a message from us? (Remember King Saul and Samuel?)  Not to mention that God is not a messenger boy who needs to tell anyone up there that we say, “Hi.”  But as far as the DJ was concerned, it was a story worthy of an oily-voiced, “Praise God for your faith, ma’am, and for the love of family - we know that God still cares, and that’s all that matters,” then she made a slick transition to another hit song.  Gotta keep those listeners pleased.

I know some people who would take offense at me saying that this was no miracle.  Sorry, but I think that God deserves to be glorified for doing the impossible - healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and transforming lives just like He did 2000 years ago.  He can comfort us in small ways, but why not expect more, especially when so much evil is contaminating Christian lives?

People want to find the Almighty God, they want to see miracles and need help desperately.  But they are settling for fluff, for oily voices, for clichés and false comfort.  No wonder believers are falling away like dry leaves when there is so little substance to the message Christians have today.  If we don’t step up and show God’s power as real and tangible, no one else will.  Our God is an awesome God, as the song goes.  Where are the Christians who strive to reflect that in the world?  …  For those of us who claim His name as our own, that really is all that matters.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Beautiful Altar

This morning we're going to be praying with our pastors who have gone to Mt. Hermon in Israel to lift us up to God as they stand at the peak of the same mountain where Jesus was transfigured thousands of years ago.  Mountains were holy places, God-made altars where men came before Him to cry out, to give thanks and to hear what He had to tell them.  The Mount of Olives, Mt. Carmel, Mt. Moriah, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Calvary.  They were a symbol of us reaching up to God, and Him reaching down to us.

I never really thought in terms of altars and holy places as I grew up. Altars to me were just tables to hold decorative church-y things in my mind.  Big bibles on a stand, the offering plates, candlesticks, and once a month, the communion cups and bread.  But that was because I didn't understand the beauty of altars. I didn't know that they were the place where man connected with God.  The place of sacrifice and giving was also the same place of receiving much more beyond what we could give.  It was an exciting place, a place of power and contact with the supernatural.

This hit home for me in Africa when my husband and I were traveling all over the continent practically every week.  I had a one year old, and an 11 year old who both needed a lot of my care and attention.  Our home was like a guest house for traveling pastors from around Africa who came through Johannesburg for supplies and to attend pastors' meetings.  We had little privacy, and little time to ourselves, and the boys, though they loved getting to know other people, really needed the stability of a calm and peaceful home.  As much as I loved the opportunity to travel and see other countries, I hated knowing that my children were being left in the care of others.  The other women who helped me were a wonderful God-send, but they were not my children's mom - I was, and I kept leaving them, feeling guilty as I went to do the work of God by my husband's side.

There were times I asked him to let me stay home and for him to go alone, and he was always understanding, but there were many times that I knew it was important for me to be with him in his travels.  Sometimes it would be for a day, three days, a week or more.  And each time I'd leave with those sad faces of my children in my mind, and my heart would ache.  I'd pray and pray for God to take care of them, but sometimes I'd come home to find out that homework wasn't done right because I wasn't there, and he'd get into trouble in school. or the baby had fallen and hurt himself or would have a fever because he caught a cold... there was always something to make me feel so guilty that I had abandoned my children when they needed me.

I couldn't figure out why God wasn't answering my prayers to take care of them while I was away.  I was doing it for His sake, caring for His people who were suffering in other countries, why didn't He protect my children from harm?

There was a time in church when we were hearing a lot about Abraham and his sacrifice of Isaac.  God revealed to me that I had to learn to sacrifice my children.  I already was, physically speaking, but spiritually and emotionally I was still holding on to them.  I'd leave, and then worry and fear for them, and fill my mind with negative thoughts.  I wasn't surrendering them to God, even though I thought I was.

I began to think of what Abraham had done.  The moment he had relinquished his son to the will of God, to be willing to take his beloved child's life with his own hands, a spiritual power came upon them both.  At the moment that this child was placed on the altar, that act made young Isaac holy.  He was shining in the spiritual world, and Abraham was too.  They were covered in God's protection because they had both become holy.  No evil can touch a sacrifice when it is given with a heart of trust, and no evil can touch the giver of that sacrifice.  It's like God's spiritual force-field surrounds them both.  Since God didn't want evil for Abraham or for Isaac, He didn't allow Abraham to go through with the killing, and told him to take his son back, unharmed.  That was a huge turning point for Abraham, and why God calls us to look to him as the Father of Faith.

So I reasoned that it was time for me to relinquish my children to God, to place them on the altar like Isaac, every time I had to leave them.  I had to believe that God's power was covering them, because this was not my choice, but the life that God had called me to at that time.  I was obeying, so God would have to reach down to make my sacrifice holy, untouchable to the devil.  Just giving them up and feeling pain wasn't a sacrifice - it was the trust that this "altar" in my heart where I placed them both, would be a holy place that God would honor.

The day I began to truly sacrifice my children to God, was when all the sadness and turmoil stopped.  They were fine, they were blessed and happy, and they were not traumatized by the experiences as my fears and convinced me they would.  My faith obligated God to protect them from physical and emotional harm, and that's just what He did.  Eventually those trips slowed down, and when we moved back to the States, i was able to stay with them 24/7, which I loved!  But ever since then, I have offered them to God and I see them on that altar, surrendered to Him.  They are not mine, but His, and because of that they are safer than anywhere else in the world.

Now I don't see altars as just decorations in the church.  They may be a simple table or a little platform where the pastor preaches, but when he stands there and humbly offers himself to God to deliver God's message to His people, the power of God comes upon both the giver, and the recipients of that message.  And when we go to that altar to lay down our offerings and sacrifices, or when we come forward to offer God our lives, those offerings represent our choice to honor Him above all else.  We are covered in His light, and we are able to connect with Him because we are giving - heart, soul, mind and strength.  It's a wonderful thing to know you have become untouchable to the devil because the light that shines in you is unbearable for the devil to approach. No wonder the devil hates the idea of sacrifice!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Misunderstandings and assumptions

It's easy to get an idea in your head about what someone is like.  Overhear a comment, and your imagination assumes even worse than what was told.  Then that assumption spreads to others, and you know how it works... you hate it when it happens to you, but have you ever considered that you might be doing that towards God?

The Word of God is living and active, which means it's deep.  It's constantly speaking ancient truths that are also exactly what we need in each current situation.  But we miss so much of it because we assume that we already know what it says.  But we don't.  No matter how much we dig, there's always more, and often God blows us away with deep things that were staring us in the face all along, and we never realized it.

One person in the Bible that I never thought much of, was the disciple Nathaniel.  Philip, his friend, was excited that Jesus had called him to follow him.  Philip ran up to Nathaniel as he sat under a fig tree and exclaimed that he had found the one that Moses had prophesied about.  When Nathaniel found out it was Jesus of Nazareth, he asked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

So right there, I didn't like the guy very much.  He was just sitting around under a fig tree, and when he was called to follow Jesus, he insulted Jesus' hometown, basically stating that no prophet could come from such a worthless place.  I pictured him as lazy, and rude, but somehow Jesus was merciful enough to call him to be his disciple.  I have also heard it said that he must not have been much of a disciple, because the Bible never mentions him again.  But this living and active Word of God has shed some new light on this little known disciple of Jesus, giving me a whole new view of him.

Fig trees were used as shade, often planted in the gardens of Jews of the Bible, for them to have a place to go and meditate on God.  Nathaniel was most likely there under that tree, praying and seeking God.  He was a good Jew, who earnestly wanted to see the Messiah come to save his people.  We know he is a good Jew, because Nathaniel was already walking up to Jesus with Philip at his side, to meet Him for the first time.  So even though he questioned Nazareth, he didn't just keep sitting under the fig tree, he got up to see if this could possibly be the Messiah.  Nathaniel must have had this thought on the forefront of his mind, otherwise he wouldn't have jumped up and gone with his friend to find Jesus.

When Jesus laid eyes on Nathaniel, he said something that few realize the importance of.  "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit." That's nice, we may think.  Jesus is saying that Nathaniel is a good guy, an honest guy.  But the Bible doesn't quote Jesus haphazardly.  There was a lot more to what He said than that.  The Hebrew word for "deceit," (so I am told) is the same word as the name, "Jacob."  So Jesus basically said, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob."

If you know the story of Jacob, who started out his life as a liar, a swindler and a deceiver, who ran for his life from his murderous brother, and had to learn the hard way how to trust God, you'll remember that one of the most transformative events in Jacob's life was when he wrestled with God.  He fought and demanded a blessing - and pleased God so immensely, that God changed his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (one who fights with God).  So a Jacob was one who tried to force his own way to be blessed by the power of his flesh, while an Israelite, was the one who would wrestle with God to obtain God's blessings by faith, straight from His hands.

This changed all those assumptions.  He was sitting under a fig tree, meditating, praying, and seeking God.  When Jesus saw him approaching, He saw Israel, and not Jacob in him. Nathaniel asked how Jesus knew him, and Jesus told him that he had seen him under the fig tree.  What Jesus meant was He had seen how much Nathaniel had been longing and praying for the Messiah, and Jesus was pleased with how he had been wrestling with God for that day to come.  Nathaniel knew what Jesus meant, and immediately he responded with all of his heart, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God: you are the king of Israel."

None of the other disciples had seen what Nathaniel saw.  No one had proclaimed that right off the bat the way Nathaniel did.  He had been seeking, praying and striving in his spirit to finally find his Lord and Master, and there He was in front of him. Nathaniel didn't miss a beat to recognize his Messiah on the spot.  Though it's true that you don't hear any more of Nathaniel, church historians wrote about his missionary journeys to the east, and who gave his life for the gospel, a hero of faith.

If I'd never come to learn about these underlying aspects of the story, I'd still think of him as one of the 12 that could have done better, but just didn't cut it, the lazy guy who disrespected Jesus' hometown.

How about those odd people you hear about from a distance, those weird ones that don't do what you would, who say unexpected things that startle you.  They may be some of the best people for you to learn from, but more often than not, we prefer to just disregard them as not worth our time.  God Himself could be one of those "odd" people who is unexpected and even seems out of line sometimes.  He says shocking things and unpleasant commands, but if we don't look deeper and search Him and His words, we will easily just give up on Him and walk away.

I love Nathaniel now, (also called Bartholomew) and would love to see myself be a true Israelite, who wrestles with God. Whether or not his name got mentioned more often than others means nothing to God, who sees everything and everyone.  Getting a lot of press can be a good thing, but I'd rather be noticed by Him!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding Proverbs 3:5


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The safety of a real dad

We were talking in the Inner Healing class today about how much fathers mean to us.  For those who grew up without a dad, or in a dysfunctional home, it’s a wonderful dream to imagine what it would have been like to have someone bigger and stronger stand up for you and defend you against bullies and problems and pain.  Many grow up with a roof over their head and plenty to eat, but have never known that sense of security that Daddy will always be there to protect and comfort you in his strong arms.  That ideal of a happy home with emotionally stable and loving parents, is what we were all created to enjoy.  But generations are going by with less and less children experiencing anything like that.

When the Bible talks about God as our Father, we don’t realize what a big deal that is.  When Jesus first started referring to God as His Father, it infuriated the religious leaders, it was so intimate and personal.  God had never been seen in that light before, and it opened the minds of the first century believers to even dare to consider that God wanted to be close to them.  A father?  A loving, caring, protecting father?  That was radical.  Radical to the point that the Pharisees considered it blasphemy.

But now, that phrase of “Our Father, who art in heaven…” sounds so old and stale.  People picture a grumpy old man, and most likely project on God, the dysfunctional father they grew up with.  Jesus’ revolutionary prayer, which connected the intimacy of a father to the immenseness of heaven, is now recited by many as a mere religious ceremony.

But if God really is the most loving and understanding Father, while being perfect and all powerful at the same time, wouldn’t you act differently if you knew you had this Father caring for you all the time?  If He told you not to worry about getting revenge on those who hurt you because He can take care of that problem better than you, wouldn’t you just relax and go about your business forgiving so that He could do His job?  If you really believed in what He told you, you would.  “You want me to forgive them God?  Okay, I’ll do it because you told me to,” and we’d happily know that our Father was taking that burden off our shoulders.  Forgiving our enemies would be such a relief!  (Read Romans 12 for the “Vengeance is mine,” passage.)

What if He told you that if you sacrificed your ego and learned how to serve others, even when they don’t appreciate you, that He would consider it an honor to Him?  Wouldn’t you want to serve as many people as you could because you knew He’d be so pleased that He’d want to bless you more?

Good parents – who are also a dying breed – know that kids who are motivated to do their best because they make their mom and dad so happy, are the ones who are the best behaved.  The kids who are motivated primarily by being criticized for messing up, are the ones who are the hardest to discipline.  They’ll obey out of fear for a time, which they can only sustain for so long, before they snap.  Now if we, who are evil, know how to give good things to our children, how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to us?  Those aren’t my words, they’re right there in Luke 11:13.

If our image of God is dysfunctional, how can we ever get close to Him?  Even if you never had a great dad or a happy home, deep inside of you, you have always longed for one.  You know how to picture the best dad you could have had.  Now multiply him by a million, and you’ll be a little closer to picturing how loving and amazing our Father is towards us.  If that feels strange to imagine, don’t worry about how it feels, just start acting like it’s true, because that’s a truth you can count on.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Perception is Reality?

Everyone has seen those lovely pharmaceutical commercials that advertise anything from decongestants to antidepressants, that have the best looking people in the the most beautiful gardens or walking along a beach, smiling in the sun with the wind blowing through their perfect hair.  The voice they use is soft, kind, friendly and caring.  It's all about this drug that just might be the perfect one for you to finally be happy, just like these people you see and hear on the ad.  And once they tell you how perfect you'll be, they start that familiar sounding list.  "Common side effects may include: fatigue, dizziness, weakness, feeling light-headed; tired or loss of coordination, nose or throat irritation; nausea, constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach; or headache, muscle pain. aggression, suicidal thoughts or depression..."

But all the while, the camera still shows the beautiful scenery, the smiling woman hugging her adorable children, and the music lulls you into a daze as the sweet voice reading off those horrible side effects, just becomes background noise.  Nobody wants to hear the yucky stuff, everybody wants to see the pretty stuff.  And as ridiculous as we know it is, these commercials keep cranking out these same old rosy looking ads and their sales skyrocket.  It's obviously all an illusion, but the ad companies know exactly what they're doing.  They don't mind investing millions in these ads, because they know they'll get billions back.  Human nature likes to be deceived.

There's a saying in the ad industry (so I hear, never been there) that perception is reality.  What people perceive, even if they know logically that it can't be true, they'll act upon it because it felt true at the time.  Coke is for the cool hipster crowd?  I want it.  Pepsi is blasé?  Ewww, get it away from me.  But on a blind taste test they rate equally in flavor.  It's all in the perception, all in the ad campaign.

So you know where I'm going with this... the devil is the best Hollywood producer/director/screenwriter/actor that ever was.  He knows how to create the most convincing perceptions that hit us at the core of our being.

A false perception could be:  Your future looks so bleak, no one seems to care about you and it feels like none of your hard work has been noticed or appreciated by anyone. You want to just walk out and you don't even know where you'd go.  But you don't see that just a few changes in your behavior, a few kind words, a show of support and encouragement could start the process to turn everything around.  Your family can be happy, your children can become loving and affectionate, and its all just waiting under the surface for someone to act by faith.  But the perception of bleakness is so heavy...

Or: You are doing so great. You are the best at your job.  You're so on top of your game, you have no idea how you keep getting better, but you do!  Don't get distracted with church or God right now, you're on a roll and you're too smart to mess up what you've go going.  But meanwhile your wife is drowning her depression in alcohol, and you can't see that your company is about to go bankrupt in the year to come.  But you know you're the man...!

The only perception that matters is God's Word. It's a mirror that reflects back upon who we truly are, and also what we truly can become. Some things we see make us ashamed of how proud and self-centered we are, but other things are so amazingly great and beautiful that we are even afraid to believe they could possibly be true.  If we have no standard for truth, we'll always choose our perceptions as reality, because we won't know better.  The Word of God has to be our foundation, to pull us back and give us the right lens to see the world through.

One of my favorite stories is of Elisha the prophet who was so close to God, he would know the plots and plans of the enemies of Israel before they had a chance to implement them.  He would report their plans to his king, so that the enemies plans were always foiled.  When the king of Aram found out about this prophet, he was furious and wanted to have him killed.  Stupidly he didn't connect the dots - if a prophet is being told my plans of attack by God Himself, what chance to I stand against him?  But he didn't ask that question and just marched out his armies to surround the little hut where Elisha and his servant were living.  The servant looked out the window at this huge army with hoses and chariots and full battle gear, waiting to chop off Elisha's head.  The poor guy was terrified, but Elisha was just fine.  Elisha had a totally different perception of what was going on that day.

Elisha felt sorry for his servant, and asked God to open his eyes.  Immediately the servant saw a sight he had not imagined.  Behind the armies of Aram, was an even greater army.  It was a massive army of angels that covered the hillsides with flaming chariots of fire.  Elisha sauntered out of his house, prayed for God to strike them blind, and the whole army of Aram went blind because of his faith.  He told them to follow him, and they had to stumble along as he led them to Samaria, into the stronghold of the king of Israel.  Now they were captives, and no longer attackers.  "Shall I kill them?" asked the king to his prophet.  Elisha knew that better than killing these men, would be to embarrass them.  So after removing their blindness, he had the king prepare a feast to feed them, filled their stomachs with delicious food, and sent them home like little lost boys.  Their perception of the people of God drastically changed that day. And they never attacked Israel again. THE END.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Don't Wanna Fall Away From You

Lately I've heard a number of people voice this concern: "Things are going so well, God is blessing me so much, but there's something inside of me that worries I might slip up and lose it all.  I don't want to fall away, how do I not fall away?"

This is a good concern to have.  God blessing us with this amazing abundance of love and grace, is like putting a box of diamonds into the hands of a child. We know that it's precious, but we also know what fools we can be when our selfish nature takes over.  When we're close to Him, we never want to let that go, but once the slight drift away from His presence begins, we usually have no idea how far and how fast we can be diverted.  When we realize what we've done, so much damage has already happened, we fear that we can never return.  Those who go through this spiritual roller-coaster have not yet reached the point of truly becoming a new creature. They're on the way, but haven't gotten there yet.

Thankfully, God is tougher than we are.  His mercy is everlasting - those aren't my words, those are His!  True repentance pulls us right back on track.  We don't have to earn His forgiveness, like many medieval monks used to think, who would sleep out in the freezing cold, or whip themselves until they bled to make themselves worthy of God.  The only thing we have to kill is our pride and our rebellious spirit.  If we're ready to return to God, He is more than ready to return to us.

If you grew up in families that held grudges, that gave each other the silent treatment or ignored those that displeased the rest of them, it may be hard to imagine a perfect and powerful God who forgives with open arms.  In fact, none of us have ever met anyone with such a generous heart as God, but that doesn't mean we can't start believing that He welcomes us - all of us who are truly sorry for the many times we've rejected Him, and who truly determine that they never want to fall away again.

There's that tricky verse in Hebrews about how it is impossible for those who have tasted the heavenly gifts to fall away and be restored again.  That terrifies many into believing that they are a lost cause and shouldn't even bother asking God to forgive them.  But most likely, those who keep striving and falling and striving again, are those who have never really made it to true freedom in the first place.  That means there is a level of closeness to God that you can reach where you are transformed and sealed in Him.  The temptation to ever fall away is so diminished, that you would have to willfully choose it over the life of freedom that you enjoy with Him every day.  That would be such foolishness, but apparently there are some who have done just that.

So shoot for that transformed life, that new birth when you can say without a doubt that you are His and His alone. And though you never want to fall away from Him, that fear of being snatched out of God's hand can no longer consume you because you are safe.  

I used to listen to this song over and over in the early 80's when Keith Green was still alive and pounding out radical Christian music on his piano.  Someone put images to the song, and even included this passage from Hebrews at the beginning.  Listen and read through the lyrics.  These words should echo our prayer to never drift away from Him again.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Consider it All Joy

The U. S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself. ~ Benjamin Franklin

There are two extremes when it comes to American Christians.  Those who believe that suffering makes us more holy, and that we should dignify and exalt suffering by embracing it.  These people have a hard time praying for healing or miracles for themselves or others, or being bold in their faith for any request at all. Since they believe that God sees suffering as a path to holiness, it must be selfish to ask to have it removed.

Then we have the “God just wants me to be happy” people, who will bend and twist the Word of God to fit their lifestyle.  “God understands that I need a drink now and then, because He’s love.”  “God knows that when I don’t go to church I still feel one with Him everywhere I go, even when I’ve totally forgotten about Him, He’s always in the back of my mind, and that counts, doesn’t it?” “God knows that I didn’t mean to have that affair, since my spouse has been so mean to me lately… God understands… He just wants me to be happy…”

Funny that you can find these two extremes in the exact same people from time to time!  While chasing after happiness, a person can get sideswiped with a horrible problem, and then be paralyzed with doubt, unsure if this is something that God want’s them just to accept and learn a lesson from.  Fighting in faith is the furthest thing from their mind.

There’s a verse in the book of James that says we are to be happy when we experience various trials and problems.  That is not what we like to hear.  But because evil exists in our lives and in the world around us, there is only one way to rescue us from that evil – to use our faith and live close to Him.  To live close to Him means sacrificing our will, and doing His.  And most of the time it hurts!  And in the middle of the pain we’re supposed to consider it joy?  How?

Like pulling a splinter from the finger of a child, you hate to see them cry and squirm in pain, but they are being freed from a worse pain that could become infected and grow more harmful.  God has to rescue us from ourselves from time to time, through trials - that process of forcing us to reject our selfishness and choose Him.

Jesus says that He came to give us life, and life to the full, and that He became a curse for us.  But to have that life to the full, we have to surrender to Him, and in our usual stupidity, we prefer selfishness over surrender.   So to lovingly push us towards that life to the full, He allows us to go through things that are painful: discipline, misunderstandings, even attacks of the devil.  Yup, God hates the devil and all he does, but even when we become targets of the devil, God can turn it into an instrument for our good.  God doesn’t want suffering, but for us to be freed, we have to rise up against it and exercise our faith.

God hates the suffering of His people
Our hearts are naturally against God and self-centered
For us to choose God, we have to fight against our own selfishness
Fighting against evil in our hearts/lives by faith, sets us free
Fighting keeps us alert to the attacks of the devil
Fighting strengthens our resolve to serve God more
Fighting is a sacrifice of selfishness, and sacrifice creates miracles
Fighters are more blessed than passive believers
Fighters in faith honor God

And because God loves us, because He wants us to have His life to the full:
God allows trials and suffering, so we can learn to fight
Suffering is meant to be overcome

For those who hang their heads without rising up in faith to battle against their problems, they may make it to heaven once they die, but they never find that life to the full that Jesus promised here on earth.  Considering it a joy to face trials, is to enjoy the fight, enjoy the knowledge that victory is on the other side.  Some trials last for days, others for months, and the one greatest trial for each of us lasts a lifetime: perseverance in faith until the end.  But the blessings and miracles and power of God we experience throughout the fight are worth it all.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Never Give Up!

Last November we began a challenge for people who wanted to take the risk of changing their lives in 40 Days.  Amazingly, a good bunch of people showed up and took on that challenge!  We are now beginning the last week of our 21 Day Fast, and refreshing your memories (for those who had joined us) of all we had taught during that time.  It's amazing how much we can learn and enjoy for a moment, and then forget when the routine of life drags us back to our old mindsets. 

So now the question remains, are you still in the fight?

Session 15 of the 40 Day Project

Certain things in life are worth fighting for, whether they take a day, a week, a month, or a year.  We began the 40DP with the purpose of seeing change within 40 days. Some of you have seen big changes already, others feel you’re on a solid path to change, and others can see that your mindset/outlook on life is now one that can produce change.  But one thing we all need to agree on is this: The Project will not end until we see what we set out to accomplish, a concrete, significant change in our lives. This means that we need to keep practicing the ideas that we’ve spoken about and keep insisting on the change that we want.

Right after God had performed the biggest, most spectacular miracle of Elijah’s life, Jezebel, the queen, threatened to have him killed within 24-hours, (1 Kings 19).  At this news Elijah made a days journey into the wilderness, came to a broom tree and sat down under its shade and said: “It’s enough, Lord. Take my life. I am no better than my fathers.”

God’s response was, “Get up and eat.” In other words, “Hey Elijah, it’s not the time to give up! There’s still much more for you to do.”

How could Elijah have fallen so far so fast? He went from the elation of a great victory to depression and total defeat.  He allowed himself to be knocked off balance, not by the Queen’s threats, but by unfulfilled expectations. He had hoped that the entire nation would respond to what he had done and turn back to God.  And when they didn’t, he sulked and became depressed.  Jezebel’s threat was the last straw. Words that he would normally laugh off, he took to heart and almost lost everything.

As with Elijah, our biggest obstacle is ourselves.  We want what we want, when and where we want it, and for it to feel the way we had imagined it would feel once we get it.  We want the victory to be so sweet that we can kick back and bask in the glory for awhile, because we earned it.  When we decide that we’ve done enough, but the results aren’t what we expected, we can emotionally “go on strike”, thinking that we are punishing the powers-that-be by showing them that we are displeased.  But who is punished when we give up?  Who suffers? We do. We rob ourselves of the miracle we need because our emotions speak louder than reason.

This feeling of exasperation comes naturally to all of us, but persistence does not.  Two major questions need to be asked:

1.  Is what you are fighting for worth all the effort and faith that you can put into it?
2.  Would this victory create pride within you, or gratitude towards God?
If you know that what you desire lines up with God’s promises and would honor Him, then your goal should be full steam ahead, no doubts or turning back.

After asking those questions, three major points also need to be established:
1. It’s not up to you to decide when you’ve fought too much or too hard – God decides when you’ve had enough, and sees that your victory comes to fruition. (Remember, He is not a taskmaster, but gives us a light and gentle burden, even if your feelings are complaining that it’s all too hard. Don’t give in to your weakest link.) Matthew 11.30

2. The vast majority of blessings you gain in life, happen during the actual process fighting – LEARN TO LOVE THE PROCESS.  Your faith is refined, your bond with God is strengthened, your mind is enlightened, your discernment about good and evil is sharpened, joy and peace and strength begin to become commonplace.  You not only have your answer in the end, you are now a different person, and can handle much more than before.

3. Fighting will become a joy, a way of life that rejuvenates you, because you learn how to fight and win. This is when you are able to help not only yourself, but many others.

If you knew you were guaranteed to win every fight against evil and wrong, wouldn’t you keep going and never give up?  2 Corinthians 2.14 says that Christ ALWAYS leads us in triumphal procession.  That’s just one of many guarantees that God gives us over and over again in His word, that when we fight the good fight, we win.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:4

I have not failed – I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work.  Thomas Edison

HOMEWORK:  No matter what you have seen happen in these past 40 Days, don’t give up, keep that positive inertia going.  Don’t take any set-backs or bumps in the road personally.  God is not turning His back on you, He is rooting for your victory.  Believe and you will see!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mission Impossible

Enjoy Session 14 of last fall's 40 Day Project:

Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.  C.T. Studd, missionary to China, India and the Belgian Congo in the late 1885

There are three stages in any great work attempted for God: impossible, difficult, done.  Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, 1854

The word impossible carries with it a negative bent – something that cannot be done.  But Jesus is quoted five times as saying that nothing is impossible for God, for those who believe.  That automatically takes the word impossible out of the negative and into the positive.

One of our biggest obstacles to faith is not knowing what it is that God wants us to have or achieve.  It seems like such a hit-and-miss process of praying and hoping and waiting and sometimes getting a lucky break while other times just getting small hints that He still cares, even though He seems to do nothing about our most dire needs.  It’s hard to believe in the impossible when it appears that God has no interest in granting simple requests.

This is often because we are so deeply immersed in the limitations of this world that we can’t see reality for what it is.  Reality is not all that we see and feel around us.  There is a world far more real that is invisible, that manipulates, influences, attacks, torments, blesses, counterattacks and comforts us on a daily basis.  It is the spiritual world of both good and evil, of God and the devil. We live in this world of the invisible, but our minds are often so clouded that we barely recognize how it works and what is going on around us.   All we see is the corrupt and painful world that we were born into.

Those who see the impossible happen, are those who learn to “see through” the façade of our physical world and deal with the reality of God’s Kingdom that is accessible to us any time and anywhere we use our faith.  That means a difficult spouse who is unkind or insensitive, is not all that they appear to be externally.  Within them there is a confusion that is being manipulated by an evil presence.  They are under layers of negativity.  Our job is to bring out the true person that has been buried by the devil’s attacks, to cast out the evil surrounding them, and to help rescue them with love and compassion so their real self can be restored.

But few are able to see beyond the painful words and behavior of a loved one, to know that there is another presence there.  Most react in anger or hurt feelings when attacked.  They sink to the level of that spirit, trying to reason with it, begging it to stop, or trying to punish it in some form or another by punishing the person, oblivious to the demon that is there.  They don’t understand that they are dealing with two entities at the same time.  The real person, and the spirit manipulating them.  Once that evil has been driven away, all the symptoms of its presence will leave as well, allowing the loved one to be who he or she was meant to be.

This also goes for problems on your job, in finding a better job, for healing, for obstacles in projects or family situations – for anything.  There is a spiritual world that surrounds everything physical that we see and touch.  When we start to recognize the presence of God and the presence of evil, and then deal with each situation in accordance with the spirit behind it, the impossible becomes doable.  It may take a struggle and often does, but with persistence, determination, and a stubborn faith, it goes from impossible, to difficult to done.

Look at the example Jesus gave of the poor defenseless widow who had been wronged and was ignored by the law.  She chose to defy the odds and be her own defense lawyer, and badgered an evil judge relentlessly.  She was the refuse of her society, but she conquered what she wanted by sheer determination.  This is the model that Jesus wants us to imitate when we pray.  We, the refuse of society, wronged and ignored, should badger God relentlessly.  Badger Him.  Expect the best of Him. Don’t accept anything less than the impossible.

Our society views believers, by and large, as kind, passive and oppressed.  Today’s Christians do their best to fulfill the moral code of goodness and charity, but have lost the fire of aggressive faith that brings about miracles.  Let’s reignite the fire of Peter, Paul, Silas, John and Philip to become those who defy the odds and do the impossible.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Watch your mouth

Enjoy Session 13 of last fall's 40 Day Project:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and those who love it will eat its fruits.
 ~ Proverbs 18:21

Everything that comes out of our mouth carries with it some sort of spirit.  Either life or death, either good or evil.  James chapter 2 talks about the tongue being able to both praise God and curse ourselves, that it is a spark, a world of evil that can corrupt the whole body with the fires of hell – pretty strong language for such a small appendage!

Most people interpret that to mean that we are to be careful of speaking evil or unkind words to each other, which is true.  We can place gossip, slander, lies, crude language, profanity, hateful and disrespectful talk into that category.

The Bible says that an undeserved curse does not come to rest (Proverbs 26.2).  The only one who truly deserves to be cursed is Satan and his demons.  That means that if you curse or speak evil, you are giving room for evil in your own life by speaking in that manner.  That evil will return to you – so basically if you frequently curse or use profanity, you are only cursing yourself.  You eat the fruit of your tongue.  This goes for being critical, unkind, contemptuous, sarcastic, and all other less obvious forms of negativity.  We say them and then wonder why life is so unkind…

But more than that, God wants us to be aware of the positive power of what we say.  We are created in His image, and we can also create.  He spoke the universe into existence with His Word, and on a smaller scale, has graced us with the ability to speak into existence whatever He has already promised us.  This is not a religious “name-it-and-claim-it” magic formula, but an act of intelligent faith.

Speaking our faith has nothing to do with positive thinking, or trying to delude ourselves into believing that everything is fine when nothing is fine at all.  It is not living in denial of reality, but is an act of faith that sees God’s reality beyond what we see in the physical world.  It is believing so profoundly that what God promised in His Word and what He did in the lives of others, will surely happen to us – despite the fact that our eyes see no evidence of it yet.  Faith is by definition, the “… substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11.1.  Faith is not a feeling – it is a rational decision to believe in what our eyes do not see as if it were already a fact.

When we speak by faith, we sound like fools to the world, because we are sure of something that does not yet exist.  But if we don’t – how can we say we have faith?  And if we don’t have faith, the Bible says that it’s impossible to please God.  And so pleasing God means being ready to speak and behave as if His promises were already coming true, before we see the slightest hint that they will.  It’s being radical.

SIDE NOTE:  There is a form of speech disguised as humility that doesn’t want you to get your hopes up for a miracle.  A pastor can proclaim that you will be healed, your child will be set free, your job will be blessed or your marriage restored with full faith, and have his word of faith slapped down with a response that has the appearance of honesty, but is nothing more than a faith killer: “Well, I hope so…”  Ban that phrase from your language.  Today!

HOMEWORK:  From now on, speak by faith, act by faith.  Don’t allow the devil to use your mouth to create death.  Banish all profanity and all crude language and begin speaking faith and agreeing with faith instead.  Be ready to sound crazy to everyone else.  This is all a part of changing your mental DNA, of being audacious and of sacrificing.  Let your tongue be used to create new life no matter how much your emotions tell you that you are going too far.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Faith = Action

Four lepers had been living outside the city gate of Samaria during a terrible military siege. One day they said to each other:

"What are we doing sitting here at death's door? If we enter the famine-struck city we'll die; if we stay here we'll die. So let's take our chances in the camp of Aram and throw ourselves on their mercy. If they receive us we'll live, if they kill us we'll die. We've got nothing to lose." 2 Kings 7:3

So after sunset the diseased men set out for the enemy camp. When they arrived, to their great surprise, not a single enemy soldier was there. God had caused the enemies to hear the sound of horses and a great army on the march at sunset.  They had panicked and ran for their lives in the dark, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, gold, food and possessions. The four amazed lepers filled their hungry stomachs with food, but then remembered the people of the city and went back to tell them the good news. And so, within the course of a few hours, the fortunes of that city were turned right side up.  The same people that had awakened to starvation and despair, went to sleep with full stomachs and peace.

These four men had no good options, and yet they decided to DO something. They wouldn’t wait around for death. 
At times we think that standing still involves no risk, but we’re wrong.  Every single minute that passes us by, is a missed opportunity.  Standing still involves more risk than anything else, and ensures that we are going to lose. Had the lepers done nothing that day, they would have certainly died, along with the rest of the city of Samaria.

The lepers had the wisdom to stop analyzing their situation. Analyzing is good, but too much paralyzes us. Should we turn left or right?  Go forward or stay where we are?  Should we speak up or wait for a better opportunity? These are all good questions, but at some point we need to do something about our situation.  Never wait for the "perfect" opportunity - it will never come.

They were the most despised inhabitants of that city. Outcasts.  The general consensus was probably that it would be better for them to die.  No one would ever have thought that they would be the heroes of the day, but they were.  We can never make the mistake of thinking that we're not good enough to achieve our dreams, or resolve our problems. May times solutions come from the most unlikely people and places.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Cor 4:7

Life does not always involve nice, clear choices, and yet we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed. We can’t allow fear to rule.  The path to change involves: 1. Acting even when a clear choice is not available, 2. Taking calculated risks with the certainty that God will do what we cannot.  When we act, we show faith.

We can also say: When we act, God acts. Is it a coincidence that God caused the enemies to run for their lives at exactly the same time of day that the lepers set off for their camp? Just after sunset.  Everything is possible for him who believes, but our belief is proven by our actions, not our words.

EXERCISE:  This week we need to act on what we want to change.  Think of things you can do, big and small, and have the certainty that as you act, God will also act.  If your choices are not clear, pray for guidance and then chose what seems to be the best and do it.  Making the wrong choice and acting on it is better than doing nothing. At least you’re showing God the courage and determination to act.  He will be forced to respond.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Weakest Link

Session 11 of the 40 Day Project

FACT: The sun has risen in the east every morning of my life.
CONCLUSION: The sun will also rise in the east tomorrow morning.

This is a pretty easy assumption to make since we’ve seen it happen all our lives. But other conclusions create more of a conflict between reason and emotion.

FACT 1: A woman who had suffered from 12 years of bleeding had faith in Jesus, and was healed (Matthew 9).
FACT 2: I am sick and have the same faith in Jesus.
CONCLUSION: I will be healed too.

Our minds may agree with this reasoning, but our emotions are likely to come up with numerous excuses why this wonderful conclusion cannot come true:  God isn’t the same as He was 2000 years ago.  You don’t really have the same faith as that woman.  Jesus was physically present back then, but not today.  How do you know your healing is God’s will?  At times, reason and emotions clash, and if we’re not careful, faith and hope often become casualties.

Emotions are not always bad, just as reason is not always good. Reason can make us calculating and cold, while emotions can make us moody and insecure.  Reason without God and His Word as its basis is limited and dangerous, and emotions unchecked by reason are capable of leading us to do the unthinkable.

God, among other things, is an emotional being and made us to have, and enjoy emotions. Motivation, for example, consists largely of feelings, and is a crucial aspect of our lives.  And yet most mornings we don’t feel motivated to get out of bed until our mind gives us several good reasons to just do it. Love is a feeling that we all enjoy, and yet it falls apart when we don’t follow reason and give our spouses what they need, no matter how we feel (tired, upset, hurt, etc).

In order to change our lives, we need to be able to read and identify the source of our emotions. Whenever we see that they are creating a negative mood, are discounting what God has promised or leading us down the wrong path, we need to recognize that the source of those feelings is not from God.  We need to use reason to rein them in and force them to get in line with God. One of the most powerful, successful kings in the Bible, an ancestor of Jesus once said:  “Why am I so depressed?  Why this turmoil within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)  Here we see his reason reprimanding his emotions, and to put their hope in God.

We can’t always trust our emotions.  Our flesh is linked to our hearts, while our spirit is linked to our minds. Don’t trust emotions to guide you.  Use your mind more than you use your heart. Our hearts are the weakest link in our lives.

How many people get married because they’re in love, and after a year or even six months are ready to give up? Why? Because their emotions changed.  On the other hand – reason does not change!  What is right today, is still right tomorrow, will be right in ten years, and will still be right a thousand years from now. If your marriage is based on reason and truth, it’s possible to be happily married for the rest of your life.

When our hearts want something, they are liable to hijack our minds. It’s as if our hearts put a loaded gun to our heads, and in effect say, “I want this, so come up with an excuse to do it.” Our minds are continually coming up with excuses for why our heart has to have its own way.

If we want to change our lives in the 40DP, faith is essential, which means our reason needs to take precedence over our feelings.  God loves to give us positive emotions, but they happen when faith and truth in His Word generate them first.  Those positive emotions of love, joy, peace, assurance, courage and more, are long-lasting and completely independent of circumstances around us.  One characteristic of people born of God is their ability to smile, laugh and enjoy themselves no matter what is going on around them.  It’s a defiant joy!

On the other hand, worldly emotions are generated by the input of our five senses - sight, hearing, taste touch and smell - and can be easily manipulated by the devil when then become toxic to our faith.  In those cases, our fives senses sabotage our quest to change our lives. The negative becomes highly exaggerated, yet disguised as reality.  All we can hear is bad news… no one supports us… nobody’s ever gotten free from our kind of problem… God never answers our prayers… God asks too much of us, etc.

This is when faith has to become a sixth sense that does not rely on any of the other senses.  With reason that’s based on what we know God has promised us, we decide that we don’t have to see, hear or feel anything because what God says is enough – He WILL come through for us.  Period.

1) Learn to read and identify the source of your emotions, and correct them whenever they derail your faith.
2) Start using your 6th sense with regard to the change you want before the end of the year.

We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spiritual Suicide

Enjoy Session 10 of last fall's 40 Day Project:

Some people reach a place in their lives where they feel that death is the only way out. Yet as strange as this may seem, the concept of dying to a miserable existence is actually closer to the truth than most people realize.  To find freedom from a life of bondage – death truly does have to happen.

Who would like to pull the plug on your life, if you knew that you could start all over again, gain a new heart and a new mind, get rid of all the negatives, and do it right this time?
 Who would like to “reboot” your life and get rid of all the bugs in your system?  It’s not just possible - it’s essential.

People who attempt suicide have an inkling of the right idea.  They reason that if life is going to be more of the same, they’d rather not live any more.  Most only reach that point after struggling to find a better life for an unbearably long time.  They never did want death, but life – a better life.  But when change seemed impossible, they chose death over suffering. They take the first step by reasoning that life as it is isn’t worth living. But sadly, they never take the second step - the one that leads them to a new life.

One of the most basic messages of God to us is this: “You guys have messed up your lives so bad, there’s no way I can fix them.  You have to start all over from scratch.”

There was a time an important religious leader (Nicodemus) came to Jesus and asked for help, and Jesus told him flat-out that his knowledge and position meant nothing.  If Nicodemus was serious about getting help, he’d have to start all over again.  Real change is not just a label we slap on ourselves... lots of people like to claim that they’re “born-again” but if they take a good, honest look at their lives, there’s nothing new about them at all.

Like a car that’s been in a bad wreck, there comes a point when your mechanic will say, “Your car’s totaled. It’s a write-off. It’s not worth trying to fix this car, you have to get a new one.” 
Look at the world today, we are so badly messed up that patching no longer works... A patch only does so much; it doesn’t make the clothes new again. We need much more than a patch, a quick fix. We need to throw away what we have, get rid of all that’s negative, let God create something new inside of us and start over again. The new “us” – with God’s mind, with new desires and new behavior – is guaranteed to overcome all our old problems, because the old “us” has died.

Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” True. If something that we’ve done repeatedly doesn’t work, at some point we need to realize that it’s never going to work, and we need to do something else. This requires humility and courage. Doing something we’ve never done before is confusing and scary, but if it works, it could be the best thing we’ve ever done.

But how can we reboot our lives? We can’t. Only God can, but He needs our permission.  The 1st step is to tell God something like this: 
“God I’ve made a mess of my life. I want to die to myself and let you make me someone new.  I’ve heard You can do this for me, so I’m asking You to help me right now.  Take away the old me and make me new.”

The 2nd step is to reject any fear about this new life, and start living it.  Develop a hatred for the old ways of thinking and acting that never helped you.  Die to them.  The prayer you made is a good start, but God wants to see that you’re serious.  Don’t resurrect your old life. Then get ready for the directions that God will give you about this new life, and the ideas and urges that you yourself will have. Follow this new direction with faith that it’s going to work.

Even when you don’t do it perfectly, but are doing your best with faith, God will even turn mistakes into correct decisions that will end up changing your life for the better. Some of us have felt for years that our talents and abilities have been blocked or ignored by everyone around us.  We need to decide that this is going to change from now on.

Here is a list of things that you might need to “kill”:
- Harsh self-criticism, or self-hatred
- Selfishness, defensiveness
- Negativity, pessimism
- Doubt, fear, anxiety
- Passivity or laziness to stay in faith
- Feeling undeserving of God’s help, or of a good life
- Feeling sorry for yourself, and believing you are a powerless victim
- Anger (the bad type, keep the good type)
- Being passive, accepting negative things too easily
- The feeling that you’re caught in a cycle you’ll never get out of
- Love of bad habits (drugs, alcohol, cursing, gambling, porn, etc.)
- Feeling you’re too old or too young to change

a) Decide that you are ready to die to your old self right now.  Refuse to continue living the same way so that God can have room to change you. 
b) Pray purposefully every day this week, telling God that you need a totally new life, not
a patched up one. Insist with Him. Let Him know that you’re serious. 
c) Don’t be afraid of this new life, and don’t resist the new patterns that will start to develop in you. If God is a part of it, it will be a million times better than your old life.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Monday, April 1, 2013

God is Enough

Session 9 of last fall's 40 Day Project:

If we’re going to believe in God, we should agree on a couple basic principles. 1) God is not passive - He is active and loves to help anyone who calls out to Him in faith. 2) God does not only help us to be good people – He empowers us to correct wrongs and to fight evil. 3) God is not religious, nor is He a set of moral dos and don’ts - He is a being who wants to be our partner in life, with all that that entails.

One day Philip (one of the twelve) asked, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us,” John 14:8.  Jesus’ answer was, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?”

At first Philip and the other disciples must have felt disappointed. They were probably eager and excited at the thought of Jesus waving His hands and commanding the heavens to open up for the Father to appear in the best special effects display ever. They were about to see the Father…  Jesus’ reply must have been a big let down at first, because He basically said…Philip, there’s nothing else. I’m it. I’m the “enough” you’re looking for.

Approximately a thousand years before that, Jacob had run away from his father’s house because his lies and deception had finally caught up to him, and his brother was planning to murder him. He decided to change his life and move to the land his father had come from, and stopped in Bethel on the first night of his journey and laid his head on a rock as he slept. That night God appeared to him in a dream, at the top of a stairway that extended from Jacob into heaven. Angels were going up and down this stairway and God promised to bless and protect Jacob on his journey.

When Jacob woke up he was amazed at what had just happened, and said, “God is in this place and I did not realize it.” Gen 28:16  He had been going through the worst moment of his life, running from his murderous brother, so poor he had only a rock for a pillow and all alone in the middle of nowhere… but what he had not realized was that God was there, knew all about his situation, and was determined to help him.

What does this passage mean for us in the 40DP?  It means this: If God is here and He is enough, we can’t just wait for things to get better, we should go ahead and do what we need to with the absolute certainty that He is here, and will help us.  God, in all His power, is with us in the most ordinary, common moments of our lives.

Too many times we assume that certain things are out of our reach and so we don’t bother to fight for them. You may have grown up in a family with constant fighting and no peace. When you get married, you find yourself repeating the same misery that your parents had. The potential to have a much better marriage is always there, but as long as you assume that what your parents had is all you can hope for, that potential is never realized. Whenever we do this, we are like Jacob… God is in this place and I did not realize it, or make use of His power.

So many nice Christians grow up in church and are taught that they’re born again and filled with God’s Spirit, and so they believe that they are experiencing everything that God has to offer, yet they’re miserable and broken. When they compare their lives to what they need, or to God’s promises and examples of others in His Word, there is a huge gap. When we admit that this is a contradiction and boldly agree that God truly is in this place and is ready to take us to another level, we begin the process of bridging that gap so that the promises of God that we long to see do come true.  If we don’t, then we remain in that twilight zone of unfulfilled dreams… even though God has the power to do so much more.

We can’t put God on a shelf.  It’s common among many who claim to believe in God to say, “God only helps those who help themselves,” and proudly do everything by themselves, take the credit for anything good they accomplish, and feel angry with God when things don’t go their way.  They are proud of their own resourcefulness, but they’ve shut God out of their lives.  God helps those who use their faith, who rely only on Him, and who understand that He is enough.

Don’t make the mistake of expecting fireworks or drama every time God is near. Even in the most ordinary, mundane day, God is with us and is ready to reveal His power in anything, big or small. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that God is far away because everything feels so normal. Too many people equate God and faith with feelings of elation. What God taught Jacob was that He was there even in the most lonely, desolate and difficult time.

HOMEWORK: Remind yourself that God is by your side even during average and mundane moments. Stop putting God on the shelf by assuming He’s too big and important to get involved in your life.  You are in His amazing and awesome presence always, get used to it!