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You Shall Know The Truth!

“Truth? What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate

truth

I’m writing a post about truth where we won’t talk about the truth to start with. You might be wondering “why not?” Ok, here’s the deal – our minds are not set up to be able to accept the truth. We think the truth is out there, and we spend our lives trying to find it, but most never do. The truth is out there! And it has nothing to do with aliens and conspiracies. I just really like X-Files and have been dying to use that gif for about 3 years now. Have fun loading it on mobile. (Edit – the gif was just too much – so I switched it out for jpg.)

Ten chapters before Pilate cynically asked Jesus, “what is truth?” in John 8:32, Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” He was talking to Jews at the time, about what should have been something very important to them – freedom. After this statement, Jesus heard their response, “we are descendants of Abraham and have never been the slaves of anyone.”

Really? It seems to me they might have forgotten about what happened in two-thirds of the Old Testament.  It seems that they may be forgetting everything about their entire history, including their state of affairs under Roman rule. But that’s none of my business.

As I reflect on these verses though, I see parallels in my own life. There is truth to be known, there is freedom to be had. But only lately have I known and experienced it. What changed in my life? The truth didn’t change – or else it wouldn’t be true, right?

What changed is how I know things.

I have been involved in the Freedom Ministry at my church for several years, as part of the Freedom Team. I have been going to the classes for five years now. I’ve heard them online, been there in person, listened to Freedom podcasts. I’ve even taught some of the classes to a variety of audiences over the years, and I pray with people every single week who are seeking freedom. But as much as I have experienced it myself, I was always limited in what I could experience because my brain was not set up to know things in the right way.

When Jesus says, “you shall know the truth” he was not saying, “I have three points about truth that all start with the letter ‘M’, and there’s a poem at the end that’s pretty cool, and then here’s a prayer to repeat every day around 4 pm, and some verses from the Old Testament that you should highlight in your scroll.”

A friend of mine named Paul hit the nail on the head today in a teaching on the Kingdom of God. He said, “We didn’t have the internet when I was a kid. We had a pool of knowledge, but we had to jump in a boat and row out to it.” Now, everything we as people know is accessible through a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse. Don’t you think if knowledge could save us, we’d know by now?

Knowledge actually drives us further from the truth! If you remember, in the Garden there were two trees – one full of knowledge, the other full of life.  We chose, and continue to choose, poorly.

Bear with me on this – it gets deep. The Greek word for “know” in John 8:32 is γινώσκω (ginōskō) which we translate “to know”. But this definition barely scratches the surface. Do you remember in the Old Testament, in the genealogies where it says, ” And Suchandso KNEW his wife and she conceived and bore a son and they named him Suchandso jr”?

Just think what would happen if there was a man on his honeymoon who got out a pen and paper and started asking his wife all kinds of things like, “what’s your favorite color? Your favorite food? What’s your favorite Star Wars cuz I like The Empire Strikes Back and I even brought the DVD!”

NO!

Your honeymoon is no more about learning factual data about your spouse than knowing truth is about three points and poem. The knowledge that produces freedom is about a way of knowing that conceives something brand new in our lives!

What is truth? You’ll never know until you experience a renewing of your mind – you’ll never know until you repent.

The word for “repent” in the bible is μετάνοια (metanoia). I have heard for so long that repent means to “change direction.” I have heard so many sermons on repentance where the illustration is “I was going this direction, but I turned and now I’m going that direction.” That sounds a lot like something we could accomplish all on our own, when repentance is God doing a new thing in us.

The literal meaning of “repent” is “to change your mind.” But beyond this, when used in the bible, it means “to have your mind changed by a source outside yourself (God) that you submit your will to.” Our action, then, is to willingly die to ourselves. God’s action is to raise us to walk in a new way, in a brand new life, with a new way of processing in our minds what is real, no longer to be conformed to the pattern of this world.

When Jesus said, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” he was telling us that we have to change our minds, we have to change the way we think and the way we perceive because for those who have eyes to see, the Kingdom is here, it’s at hand, but until something new is birthed in us, we won’t be able to see it or be a part of it.

Do you want to know truth? Or are you like Pilate who believed that truth is relative, subjective, unknowable for certain?

The truth is Jesus is truth and if you know him in a way that results in a rebirth, you will see the kingdom with new eyes, you’ll hear God’s voice with new ears, you’ll be seated in heavenly places with Christ, and everywhere you go, the lives of those around you will change because of what God has done in you!
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When What’s Dead Rears It’s Ugly Head

My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

huge mistake

Have you ever done anything you immediately regretted? Once, about 30 years ago, I decided to ride on the back of a volkswagen owned by a friend named James. I do not know why. I just did. We were in the field house parking area, he was headed for the gate, maybe 80 yards away, and as he drove off I jumped on the back bumper.

He saw me, and really hit the gas. It felt like he was going about 40 MPH at one point, and I got scared – so I jumped off. And I immediately regretted that decision.

My feet hit the ground, then my head, then my feet again, then my left shoulder, then my knees, then my head again. Then I can’t remember anything. Then I was in the locker room with a bunch of people standing over me. I’m pretty sure they thought I was dead.

Another time, I threw a drum stick at our choir director. I saw as I let go if it, that this was not a wise choice. The pointy end hit him in the ribs, he jumped, grabbed the stick and started chasing me. Then I ran into a door frame with my right shoulder and separated it.

I could go on – and if you know me, you know this is true. It’s just funny to me to look back on the things I’ve done, and see that, really, my life in the early years was built on a foundation of bad choices. What makes this so painfully humorous, in a Keystone Kops kinda way, is that if I had my way, nothing would ever have changed.

I know people who make the same lousy choices over and over and over again, and who complain that nothing in their lives ever gets better. Why would it?

Sometimes, as I sit wondering to myself, “why did I do that?” I remember the words of Paul. The guy wrote a lot of the bible. He was a Pharisee, then after being called by God, became an Apostle. He planted churches all over the place, preached the gospel to the Gentiles (you and me basically – unless your reading this and you’re Jewish) was sent to prison and then got his head chopped off – all for following Christ.

You’d think a guy with the kind of resume would have his crap all together, right? Well, listen to this –

I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. (Rom 7:17-24, MSG)

I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds a lot like me! I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong, and bless me, but I do too much of one and not enough of the other. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get it right.

If this sounds familiar to you, there’s still hope! Because when I turn the page in my bible to Romans 8, it says this – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” What? I’ve done all these terrible things, and I don’t have to feel bad about it, or feel guilty, or worry that God is going to punish me?

Yes – that’s what that means. No condemnation means NO CONDEMNATION. And if God doesn’t condemn you, why do you keep condemning yourself?

The catch, though, is this – you have to be operating on all cylinders in the supernatural – “You, therefore, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Rom8:9)

It seems like every day I have to lay down my intentions, my plans, my will, my responses, my guilt, my feelings, the things I think I deserve – because those things come from the flesh. If I focus on those things, I am not being led by the Spirit. But when those feeling rise up – and believe me, they do! – I have to ask the Spirit to help me overcome all those things so that I can act and react as a redeemed person. As the person God created me to be – and more and more, I am getting it right. But when I don’t, there’s still no condemnation because I am in Christ!

So ask yourself this – am I in Christ? Look back over your life, take inventory of what you’ve done and truly examine if you have ever given yourself over to him. If you have, then learn, as I am learning, to recognize that even though I am saved, I have to continually be in a state of surrender to him, or everything falls apart – because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, and apart from his Spirit there is only bondage.

You can do this! But the only way is to give yourself to God, be filled with his Spirit, and seek him every day, every hour, every minute – and let him put to death again what is already dead. Your old self that you gave up when you came to Christ is dead! But it tends to still haunt us, so we have to serve it back up to God. When we do, the foundation of poor choices gives way to a firm foundation that never crumbles, and God will help build a life full of peace and we can rest upon it.
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Houses In The Sand

Therefore, everyone who hears these words
of mine and does them will be like a
wise man who built his house on the rock.

houses in the sand

The story goes that Jesus was traveling with the disciples from Judea to Galilee, a trip of about 70  miles, or around three days of walking. Tired and thirsty, they stopped for a bit by Jacob’s well. Jesus sent the disciples into the nearby town to get some food, while he stayed at the well.

A woman came to draw some water, and Jesus asked her to draw some water for him. Stunned by the fact that he would even acknowledge her existence, she said, “huh? What? Who, me?” (This is, as far as I can tell, a direct translation from the best Greek manuscripts.)

Jesus said, “If you knew who I was, you’d ask me for living water.”

Jesus is making this same statement to me right now. This was what he said to people over and over again in a variety of ways – I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the good shepherd, I am the door, I am the true vine. He’s been saying this to me for years. 35 years actually. And I did not have ears to hear.

Another one that I have consistently missed is this – seek first His Kingdom. I have sought so many things, but missed the Kingdom, missed the joy, missed the rest, missed the contentment – I have missed the relationship altogether.

I know so much! You’d be surprised. I underplay it, but I’m pretty smart. I can do so much! When I open my mouth, my knowledge just naturally pours out, and I know a lot about a lot of things – history, science, theology, biblical languages, philosophy. Seriously. Name something. I  can talk about it all day. I’m not bragging. Too much. God has made me this way – my mind is a sponge that soaks up information and has the ability to distill it down into a form that others can understand. I’ve built my life on these gifts.

I’ve built my life on these gifts and it has resulted in nothing but heartache, hurt, shame, guilt, fear and a loneliness that is beyond description. I have spent my life surrounding myself with people – I am at home in a crowd and have little difficulty becoming the center of attention. I crave it, I demand it. I am the life of the party. I seek to become the most important, the center of everyone’s universe. If you know me well you know all of this to be true.

When I left my last church about 10 years ago now, my world came to an end. I no longer had a crowd to give myself to. I no longer had the attention. I no longer had the platform, all eyes on me, every ear attuned, dying to hear what I had to say.

So what does a guy like me in a situation like that do? Whine, complain, cry, gripe, become cynical and bitter, and start a blog. You are my platform now. Nothing has changed.

This has been my link to the world. My source of output. My attempt to be important, to be somebody. Because without an audience, I am nobody.

These attempts of mine have been likened to (by a very wise man who truly get it) a person trying to power their computer by plugging a data cable into a wall outlet. All you get by doing this is burned.

My source, for so long, has been me, and what I know and what I can do. But I have come to the end of me. I can’t do any more.

This last week – just days ago – I entertained a variety of notions. Suicide was among them. It was not a strong contender, but it was on the table. I was going to withdraw from church, I was going to sell all my books (!), I was going to move away – leave everything behind – and just start over somewhere where nobody knew me and I could be whoever I wanted to be. Running away seemed like the only viable option, but I couldn’t do that either – I have an awesome family, I have a great job! Why can’t I just be happy?

Why? Because for my whole life, I have been trying to lift my own self up out of a pit using nothing but my own belt loops. And when I failed, when I couldn’t, I slipped even further away. Deeper and deeper. And the guy who holds the shovel is me!

It’s time to hand the shovel off to someone who stands above it all, who can start putting the dirt back into the hole, who has the power to lift me out of it once and for all. My house is built on the sand. I need bedrock – I need a firm foundation. I am so thirsty! I just need a cool drink of water, and I need it to not ever stop. There’s only one source for that kind of water.

In the last few days, Jesus has told me all about who I am as far as I’m concerned, and who I can become if I’ll just take a sip. I am (according to no one but myself) an awesome teacher of the Word, a deep thinker, a seeker of knowledge, smart – darn near brilliant. And when I engage in these activities, I feel even more empty. I can’t fill my water bucket myself with anything that will plug this gaping hole inside me. What God wants is for me to seek him – to be his child and nothing else – to let him tell me who I am – to sacrifice my calling and giftedness to him – to let him heal that part of me that seeks acceptance anywhere else but in his presence – to become truly free.

So – I am going to seek him now. I’ve been seeking for so long, and finding the wrong things. Now is the time to find out what God has to say about me, now is the time for me to listen to and for his voice. Now that I have nothing left to lose. It’s all gone, everything has been reduced to rubble in my insides and I need God to build what he wants on the foundation he provides.

I will be gone for a while. Until I get this straight. If you want to check in with me, my facebook account will still be active but I am logging out of all social media. I’m deleting all the apps from my phone. Leave me a note for when I come back or text me – my contact  info is on the “about” page on facebook. And above all – please pray for me and my family! I’m not done, I’m not giving up – I’m giving in, finally, and tuning in to what God has for me – and I’m more excited about this than anything!

“Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what He said. And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world!
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Anticipation

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Life_Without_Rain___Sepia_by_JosCos

Have you ever had to wait a really long time for something? When I was a kid, it took forever between the time we put up the Christmas tree, and when presents were actually opened. It was horrible! I was never a patient kid – not on Christmas or birthdays or any other event when I knew I might be getting something.

JUST GIVE ME MY STUFF NOW DANG IT!

Now, as an adult with kids, I see that same thing in them – an impatience when they know something good is coming.

I still see that same impatience in myself. I need to get over that. The last week has been pretty rough. I have worked on patience, prayed for months on end, sought wise counsel, and I guess I expected everything to change immediately, and when nothing changed, I got all twisted up about it.

I really felt like good things would happen, if I could just make a few changes. Maybe I deluded myself a bit about it. I can see now it’s not about all the things I do in order to manufacture a specific outcome. It’s not about focusing on change or being a better person – it’s about focusing on the Kingdom, which I do for about 12 minutes then something else captures my attention. Then 4 months later I remember.

Waiting is hard. It’s the hardest part. The bible addresses this by saying “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Hope can be a very pleasant thing – something great is coming! There’s a blessing just around the corner – just hang on! Be patient and God will show up and work a miracle in your life!

Hope can also be a beast. It can be torture. Something is coming – something good! But when? What do I do in the meantime? Do I just keep doing what I’m doing and keep hoping? When is this blessing supposed to arrive? Tomorrow at noon? Today would be better, but I can wait a day or two. But not three days.

I have been waiting years. Sometimes I feel like the little kid with presents he can see just sitting there. But my mom is keeping an eye on me so I can’t even get close – I know something is there but I can’t have it, can’t touch it, can’t experience it. But I also know the day is coming. That’s why this comparison falls apart, because December 25th comes on schedule once a year no matter what, but this thing I’m waiting for – I don’t even know what it is, much less when it will come.

Sometimes I turn my back on what I know is there and get all twisted up over it and forget that the giver of these gifts doesn’t actually owe me anything. Sometimes I act like a spoiled brat, demanding my inheritance. Sometimes anticipation is making me wait. As the song says.

A while back I met with a person I had never actually spoken with before. We’re facebook friends, and I consider him a mentor – He’s one of about 5 people that I read everything he writes. His words are full of wisdom and understanding. So I sent him a message on facebook, and we met for coffee early one morning.

He sized me up pretty quickly. I told him pretty much everything. He told me that my heart had grown sick because of anticipation. He told me that my confidence in God had been shaken – that I didn’t trust Him to be who He says He is, and in turn, I can’t be who He created me to be.

All because of a problem with patience.

We hear that good things come to them that wait. But I have become hesitant – I lost sight of how absolutely good God is, how much He really loves me, how He really wants to bless me!

If hope deferred makes the heart sick, how much more will those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength? How much more is a fulfilled desire like a tree of life? How much more will those who wait patiently for the promised blessings mount up with wings like eagles? How much more will I run and not be weary, and walk and not grow faint?

That’s what I’m talking about right there! That’s the life I want! I don’t want to care about specifics – did I get a pack of socks for my birthday or is it that new video game I’ve been dying for? That’s not what it’s all about! It’s about walking with God in the cool of the day, and just knowing that you are His, and He is yours.

My prayer for me and for you – that instead of being impatient children, we will become spiritually mature, seek first his Kingdom and learn to wait upon the Lord!

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If I Knew Then…

“Knowledge without wisdom is like a load of books
on the back of a donkey.” Japanese proverb –

biblioburro

As we get older, sometimes we look back on who we were and what we did in our younger years. Sometimes we are happy about the choices we made, sometimes we wish we could jump in the delorean, go back in time and kick our own rear ends.

I made a lot of foolish choices as a teenager. My parents tried to steer me the right direction, but nothing they did made any difference. I knew exactly what I was doing, I knew exactly where I was going, I knew exactly how to get there. Except for none of that stuff ever really happened. Not the way it was supposed to in my mind anyway.

I was going to graduate from Harrah High, go to Oklahoma Baptist, then Southwestern Seminary, then become the next Dawson McAllister. Except that because of my hard-headedness it took an extra four years after high school for me to get to OBU, then between OBU and Southwestern was another four years. I did eventually graduate from all those institutions though, and I did become a pastor. But I don’t have a radio show or anything, and it’s been nearly 10 years since I was on staff in a church of any kind.

Now though – now that I’m pushing 50 – that’s when I get all teachable. That’s when I decide to really let go of my own will and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Now is when I decide it’s time to trust him with (what’s left of) my life.

I get a little upset at myself for not taking into account as a younger person that our time is limited here. I had no sense of urgency, I had no real plan, I had no idea that it would all go so fast and that I would wake up one day, what oddly enough seems like both 20 seconds and 400 years later, and come to the conclusion that I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.

The transformation was almost instantaneous though. We went to the church we attend for the first time almost five years ago. Within 6 months pretty much everything in our lives had changed for the better – We just “got it” all of a sudden. It was like all of heaven opened up to us and took us in and just made everything that wrong right.

But I still want to go back in time and kick my own butt.

I want to tell myself to stop dipping snuff. I want to tell myself about moderation. I want to tell myself that if I don’t do anything else I tell myself, at the very least, buckle your stinking seat belt when you ditch church and go fishing on April 1st, 1990. Or just don’t ditch church.

I want to tell myself that just because Tina broke up with me doesn’t mean I won’t find the love of my life.

I want to tell myself that I should look around at the friends I have – and they were true friends that I love to this day.

I want to tell myself that I won’t be stuck driving a worn out 1973 Camaro forever. Or a worn out 1964 Ford truck. Or a worn out 1986 Mustang. Or a worn out 1971 Skylark. And I would tell myself, no matter what, to hang on to that Skylark, cuz dang.

But you know what? I wouldn’t listen. If I went back and told myself, in detail, how the future would unfold, what pitfalls to avoid, where to turn left and where to turn right, I would still end up messing it all up. I didn’t listen to my parents, didn’t listen to my pastors, didn’t listen to my teachers, didn’t listen to God. I was who I was, did what I did and that’s that.

Jesus told a story once about a rich man and a poor man who died. The poor man, Lazarus, was taken by the angels into the presence of Abraham, while the rich man was sent to a place of torment. The rich man cried out for Lazarus to dip his finger in water and come ease his suffering, but it was not possible because a wide expanse separated the two. Then the rich man asked that Lazarus be sent to warn his like-minded brothers of his fate so that they could change their ways before it was too late. Abraham answered the rich man, saying “They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.” “I know, Father Abraham,” said the rich man, “but they’re not listening. If someone came back to the from the dead they would change their ways.” Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they are not going to be convinced even by someone who raises from the dead.”

If I wouldn’t listen to anyone else my life, why would I listen to my future self? I wouldn’t. But all is not lost.

I am reminded of something someone once told me – God does God stuff, stuff only he can do, and we have to do people stuff – stuff God won’t do for us. God is the Great Redeemer! But we have to grow in wisdom or all the things we learn over time won’t make any difference. Paul said this in Eph 5:15-16Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”

If we don’t seek wisdom, all the knowledge in the world won’t help a bit. And here’s the thing – we can gain all the knowledge there is all on our own, but wisdom comes from God. And to get wisdom, we have to ask for it. James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Of you’re tired of your past hanging over your head, if you’re done with all that – seek God! Ask him for wisdom! Ask him to do what only he can do, then  do what he will let you do on your own – walk in the wisdom he provides. Make the most of your time – because when it’s gone, well, it’s gone.

My time is not up. I’ve messed a lot of things up. But I have grown in wisdom, and God is redeeming that time I thought was wasted. There is no waste in the kingdom! Everything is for his glory – the question is, will you walk in wisdom or will you walk your own path? You can’t go both ways – so choose, but choose wisely!

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Shalom

Let your Kingdom come!
Let your will be done also in the earth,
just as it is in Heaven –

Peace

Just before his crucifixion, Jesus was in the upper room with his disciples. He had just exposed Judas as a traitor, and was explaining to his followers that he would soon be leaving them. I can only imagine the shock they must have felt, the confusion, the disbelief, the fear. Here was the greatest rabbi, the greatest prophet, the greatest healer, the King of kings and Lord of lords, in their midst. They left everything behind to follow him, and they had just gotten started! And here he was saying his goodbyes.

Jesus understood though. He explained that yes, he was leaving, but one would come in his place, a comforter, the Ruach ha-Kodesh – the Spirit of Holiness. And one other thing he would leave them – shalom. Jesus said, “Shalom I leave you, my shalom I give to you.”

They didn’t know it at the time, but this promise of “shalom” is one of the greatest gifts Jesus gives. We don’t know it either, by the way.

We (and by “we” I mean westerners in general, but pretty much everyone else, too) don’t have any context for this word “shalom.” We may think of it as a Jewish word that simply means “peace” but when we say “peace” we mean the kids are asleep, or there’s no wars going on that we know of. The concept of “shalom” is foreign to us, but as Christians it should not be.

Our world, the western world, is not a world of shalom. We struggle and strive every day. We forsake the Sabbath to get or stay ahead. We have to have the newest, best, shiniest thing and we treasure those things to the extent that the Kingdom is just a nice idea and we hope to get there one day, but right now I have to get through rush hour so I can sit at a desk for 9 hours doing this thing that I don’t really like too much but hey, it keeps the lights on.

This is not how one who understands shalom lives life.

“My shalom I give to you.” Jesus’ parting, everlasting gift. We have no idea. We know what he went through getting to the cross, and as he hung there. We know what it was all about, or we think we do. But that gift of shalom before everything went down – it’s more precious than you know.

I have tried to understand it. Really I have. But my upbringing, my heritage, my history – they have prevented me from truly experiencing what Jesus left for me that day. A part of my inheritance is shalom! Yours too!

“My shalom I give to you.” What does that even mean? I have read, I have researched, I have prayed – for years. And finally, finally I discovered quite recently, after all my reading and praying for answers, that shalom is something that each person just has to experience. And I have experienced it! And it is wondrous and glorious and more than I could have every imagined. It’s that warm blanket on a chilly night. It’s the hug from someone you’ve loved dearly but been away from for a long time. It’s your kids yelling “daddy!” and running up to you when you get home from work. It’s heaven on earth! It is literally heaven on earth.

When Jesus said, “after this manner therefore pray ye” (because he was a Victorian English chap) he was telling his followers, us, to pray that God would reveal himself to us and set things right on the earth – he was telling us to pray that heaven would invade earth and make it the way it was intended to be. A place of shalom.

Earlier today I found this quote, and I am going to get the book it came from, but I share this hoping you get a sense of what shalom is all about – I hope you experience shalom, and I hope that in your life that things will be on earth as they are in heaven –

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight – this is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

Shalom!

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Freedom To Trust Part 4

Distrust is the confident expectation that another individual’s motives, intentions, and behaviors are sinister and harmful to one’s own interests.

trust 4

Have you ever felt like someone was out to get you? Like whatever you did, it was never good enough? That you were never good enough?

Story of my life, And it wasn’t paranoia. It was hurt. It was shame. It was regret. And because I felt those things, because I felt like I was broken beyond repair, I hid from God and I blamed him for every bad thing in my life.

Kinda like Job.

It must have been confusing for him, to be on top of the world, have everything a person could ever need, then in a very short time lose it all. Add to that his “friends” coming against him – oh I’m sorry I meant coming to “comfort” him. Notice the “air quotes,”

When people are hurt, they don’t need to be reminded of all the reasons why something bad could be happening. They need to be reminded that God loves them and is for them, not against them. Even if they are wrong. Even if they did mess up. God can’t love you any more or less than he does right now. No matter what you or I do – God is still love, still unchanging, still waiting for us to trust him.

When life gets tough, sometimes, if you’re like me, you might remember your Sunday School lessons on Job. A righteous guy, a persecuted man, someone who went through tough times and never wavered. But if you read it for yourself, you will see something different. He actually did waver. His faith was tested, and the result was, he stopped trusting God. Don’t believe me? Here are the words right from Job’s own mouth –

Job 9:14-16 – How then can I answer God or choose my arguments against him? Even if I were right, I could not answer. I could only beg my judge for mercy. If I summoned him and he answered me, I do not believe he would pay attention to what I said.

In these verses, you begin to see the seeds of doubt in Job’s words. He is beginning to doubt God’s character because of the things that happened to him.

Job lost trust because of his circumstances – he focused on himself and therefore his thoughts about the nature and character of God were corrupted. He couldn’t see past where he was so he couldn’t see God for who he is.

The things Job said about God, and his attitude toward his friends show that Job was spiraling downward, moving through deeper and deeper stages of distrust. Job went from simple doubts about God’s intentions to suspicions that God’s motives were not exactly pure. He began to see God as an enemy!

16:9 – His anger tears at me, he harasses me, he gnashes his teeth at me, my enemy pierces me with his eyes.

16:12 – I was at ease, but he shattered me, he seized me by the scruff of the neck and smashed me to pieces. He set me up as his target.

Here, Job, in his own mind, had his doubts confirmed and they turned into suspicion – now instead of just doubting who God is, Job is openly suspicious about his motives as well. Suspicion is the opposite of trust – it is distrust without any underlying proof, and if continued leads to anxiety and fear toward God.

We can see Job moving in this direction in the following verses –

17:1 – My spirit is broken. My days are extinguished. A graveyard awaits me.

17:6 – He has made me an object of scorn; I have become a man people spit at!

17:11 – My days have slipped by; my plans are ruined, even things dear to my heart.

17:15 – Where is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job’s deteriorating mental and spiritual condition led to fears and anxiety. You can hear the anxiety and fear in the words he says – he was inconsolable. He was beginning to think that his life was wasted, that all his years amounted to nothing, and that death was at hand.

When anxiety and fear rule our hearts, we then take steps to protect ourselves from further harm.

19:4 – Even if it is true that I have sinned, my mistake concerns only me.

19:6 – It is God who has wronged me!

19:10-11 – He tears me down on every side. He uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me, he regards me as an enemy.

27:6 – I will cling to my righteousness and will never let it go. My conscience will not accuse me as long as I live!

Job closed himself off from the goodness of God. Instead of seeing him as a mighty fortress, a strong tower, a place of shelter and rest, Job saw God as the enemy and he started putting up walls to insulate himself from further harm.

Next time I’ll share a bit of my story, and God’s response to Job. If you know are feeling stuck right now, if you don’t know what’s next or even if there is a next, don’t give up! This is not where the story ends – for Job, for me or for you!

 

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Freedom To Trust Part 3

I have faith in God – I know I’m saved! But my history shows that I have not trusted God enough. I have trusted myself and other things more.

trust 3

Here’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done – When I was in high school, I was on a summer mission trip to Utah. We went to help a small Baptist church survey the town it was in, start bible studies, and do some door to door evangelism. It was really hard, since, you know, Mormons.

One day a few of us were walking along a dusty side road. It was so hot we almost couldn’t stand it. In the distance, we saw two people walking toward us – black slacks, white shirts, ties. Mormon missionaries! As we approached each other, we saw them pointing at us so we stopped and started a conversation.

They asked us what we were doing, and we explained the nature of our mission trip. I remember saying these words – “We are just out telling the good news about Jesus.” One of them laughed and asked why we would want to do that. We tried to explain who Jesus is to us, but they mocked us and told us we were destined to fail. Which made me mad. So, I took matters into my own hands.

I started mocking them – I asked how hard their job was, being in Mormon-land and all. I expressed my belief that they must be the worst missionaries of all time because instead of being sent to a place that really needed them, they stayed where all the Mormons already were. I ventured a guess that it was either that or their parents were wealthy and paid off a church official so they could stay close to home.

All the while, I was stepping a few steps forward, a few steps to the side, positioning them right where I wanted them to be – in a giant mound of fire ants. When they were both standing right in the fire ants, I said, “well, gotta go!” And my friends and I ran off. About 100 yards down the road, we turned back toward them – they were jumping all around, swatting at their legs, kicking their shoes off and yelling and screaming – and my friends and I were laughing at what we did to them!

Why is this one of the worst thing I’ve ever done? Because, I didn’t think “this is someone God loves,” I thought “this is someone that needs to be taught a lesson.” I didn’t think “this is God’s creation with a future and a purpose.” I thought “this person is making fun of my religion.” I didn’t think that they were as important to God as I was so I took matters into my own hands – because I didn’t trust God to be who he is and to be able to do what he says he can do.

How incredibly prideful and arrogant is that? And that is the root of distrust – pride and arrogance. Thinking that my motives are pure, that I am innocent, that I am above blame and reproach and that God is not!

Next time we will see how Job reacted to God while being tormented by Satan. We’ll investigate whether he was able to keep it all together, or whether he became prideful and arrogant – whether he was able to trust God in the mist of his trials, or whether he lost trust in God and started blaming him for everything.

In the meantime – think of a time in your life when you have had struggles – how did you react? Did you think God was punishing you? Or did you trust him to see you through?

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Freedom To Trust Part 2

 

Most of the time we use these words interchangeably, but there is a difference between faith and trust. What follows is my random thoughts on the topic. I created this list over a period of about 3 months. Please feel free to add your thoughts as well in the comment section –
trusting

Faith is assurance of hope and conviction of the unseen – faith makes us certain of realities we cannot see.

Heb 11:1 – Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.

Faith is believing. Trust is acting on belief, regardless of if there’s sufficient evidence to support a belief – trust is acting on belief in spite of evidence.

2 cor 5:7 – We live by believing, not by seeing.

The common denominator in faith and trust is God. In faith, we have assurance of what we believe, in trust we hold to our beliefs regardless of what the world, the flesh, or the enemy throws at us.

2 cor 4:8-9, 18 – We are pushed hard from all sides. But we are not beaten down. We are bewildered. But that doesn’t make us lose hope. Others make us suffer. But God does not desert us. We are knocked down. But we are not knocked out. So we don’t spend all our time looking at what we can see. Instead, we look at what we can’t see. What can be seen lasts only a short time. But what can’t be seen will last forever.

Faith is a noun – it is a thing – something we possess. It is often belief without proof or evidence. It is confidence. Faith is internal. Trust is a verb – it’s something we do. It is the manifestation of faith. It is relational. It says I will act on my beliefs. Trust is commitment based on evidence or experience. Trust is external.

James 2:24 – we please God not just by what we believe but by what we do!

Faith assumes there’s no physical evidence and exists all the same. Trust is based on evidence – which is why it is so fragile.

Jn 20:27-29 – Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed.”

Faith is thinking someone is trustworthy – Trust is the ability to act as if people will do what they said or be who they said.

Faith is something that happens in our spirit, while trust is something that happens in our soul. Faith is spiritual, trust is relational.

There is always risk involved in trust.

Faith is saying this chair will hold all my weight. Trust is jumping up in it and shouting O captain! my captain! Our fearful trip is done!

Imagine a snow cone – faith is the ice, trust is the flavoring poured on top. They belong together – one without the other just doesn’t work.

You can have faith in God and be saved – and no matter what you will always be saved. Even then you can still be bound by negativity, strongholds, fear and rejection. Or you can move into a deep relationship full of blessing, joy and rest by trust – by actively following God’s direction and by surrendering your will to him. Trust gives life to faith.  Trust is what sees you through this (often crappy) thing called life – without trust everything falls apart.

Faith is believing God is able to change an impossible situation. Trust is knowing he will!

Faith is knowing how awesome God is. Trust walks in the power of his presence. Trust advances the kingdom. Trust changes the world. Why? Because trust enables us to live out our faith in the midst of everything the enemy throws our way.

James 1:2-4 – My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy. Your faith will be put to the test. You know that when that happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. The strength to keep going must be allowed to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need.

Trusting people with bits and pieces of your soul is scary if you have been hurt. Trusting God when you are suffering is hard. Your belief tells you one thing, your experience tells you another. But, trust that is born of faith will help you move forward, regardless of what you are currently experiencing.

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Freedom To Trust

 

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

freedom to trust

I want to start by saying this – my pain is not unique to me. I understand that. I know that there are countless others who have been through more and have endured it with more grace than I have. I know that there are those who have dealt with more than just feeling left out in the cold by God – there are those who have faced, are facing, pain and suffering and even death, who still continue to place their trust in God, and not just for healing but for joy, peace and rest in their day to day lives.

What I have been through in life has been hard for me. What you are going through may or may not be as hard or harder for you, and you may or may not be struggling with trusting God to give you the strength to endure.

The fact is, what I have faced in life, I did not face the right way. I took the burden of these things upon myself, and because I (and we) am (are) not equipped to handle these things, I reacted badly at every turn. I blamed God. I thought he turned his back on me, so I turned my back on him. I cursed him, I cursed myself, I cursed my calling. I hated him for what I thought he did to me.

I was not the first to feel this way and to react this way, and I won’t be the last.

Maybe that’s where you are. Maybe you’re just hanging on, right at the tipping point. Maybe you are about to turn your back on the one who can give your life back to you – and he will redeem everything, if you will just take his hand and trust him.

Maybe you have already fallen and don’t know who to trust anymore. Maybe you have no idea how to move past where you are – living moment to moment, day to day, just waiting for something good to happen that will take the pain away.

I lost trust in God. I saw my circumstance as bigger than God and it enveloped me, consumed me and almost killed me, because I let it – because I thought I was a lost cause and because I believed that God himself had given up on me.

What changed? Well, I actually said these words out loud, “God, you have brought me here to die!” And within days, I was reminded (in a sermon at a church I visited for the first time that day – that I almost didn’t go to because I wanted to sleep!) that the Israelites said the same thing, not very long after they had been rescued from Pharaoh’s hand.

They were wandering in the desert, never more than a few miles from the land God had promised, but because they didn’t trust God, their entry was delayed 40 years.  The generation of people that left Egypt were not the ones to inhabit the land – they actually did die in the desert, but God didn’t bring them there to die. They chose that for themselves.

They were supposed to walk from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey and take possession of it, but they didn’t trust God to provide for them. God answered their whining and complaining – by providing for their needs. And when they arrived at their destination, God told them to go in and take the land, but they didn’t trust him – all they saw was people who would crush them.

God’s plan was not for them to have to fight to take possession of the land – all they had to do was trust him, and go in and claim it. But because they couldn’t trust him, that generation lost out on the promise, and the next generation had to fight tooth and nail to have it.

I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to have to wait 40 years and then still have to fight for everything. I want to trust God now – I want to be able to walk into his promise, settle into it like it’s a big squishy bean bag, and watch him do all the heavy lifting. But I’m still not there yet. I’m still struggling with trust issues. But I’m almost through it now – I can feel it! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

I’m still learning that God is worthy of my trust and has no intention of letting me down – and what follows are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Stay tuned – next time I will post some differences between faith and trust – thanks!