Sunday, January 27, 2008

God is not in a hurry..

..but I sure am sometimes.

Two sisters were in a hurry once – and for a good reason, too. Their brother was deathly sick and needed nothing short of a miracle to save his life. The sisters sent word to the man whom they knew could heal their dying brother. Time was of the essence. There wasn't a moment to lose.

"Too late. So sad. Sorry, Sisters. Jesus just arrived into town but we buried your brother four days ago so there goes that idea."

I would have been pissed off if I found myself that day in the sandals of Mary and Martha. Jesus was late! He took his sweet time and showed up four days after Lazarus died. You may know the story. Jesus actually wasn't late at all. He purposely allowed Lazarus to die so that an incredible miracle could take place. Lazarus was raised from the dead after spending four days rotting in his grave. Amazing.

I want you to know something today. God is not in a hurry. He works on a time clock that's a bit different than yours and mine. But sometimes we panic..

"God, where are you? Can't you see what I'm going through?! Lord, hurry! What's the deal?! Don't you see what's happening??"

You feel that same panic at times. Maybe you're wondering why you haven't gotten married yet. Perhaps your current situation is totally different from what you imagined it would be previously. Are you stuck in a job that has nothing to do with your passions? Has a relationship recently turned sour?

I'm glad that Adam waited for God to bring him a wife. If Adam had taken matters into his own hands, he may have married an ape or something. Adam waited though. No eHarmony. No singles cruise. What did Adam do? He took a nap! What a treat to wake up, after resting in total peace, to a lovely woman that was created just for him.

There was another guy called Zacharias. This fella was a priest and a righteous dude. The problem was that his wife Elizabeth couldn't have children. Their prayers had gone unanswered for years and Elizabeth grew into old age without a child. One day, Zacharias was just worshipping God at church and BAM an angel showed up and said that Elizabeth would have a baby. God's timing was very different from Zachariah and Elizabeth's timing BUT it was all good because they raised John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.

Hey, I know it's sometimes hard to wait on the Lord and to trust that He's truly got this whole thing figured out. Check out this verse that has been rockin my day..

"No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." –Psalm 84

Are you walking uprightly? If not, get back on track right this minute.

For those that are walking with God though, you have an incredible promise to hang your hat on today. God will not withhold ANY good thing from your life. What do you think you're missing? A husband or wife? The job you've dreamed about? A lifestyle that you just don't have enough money to live? God is NOT in a hurry. You don't have whatever "it" is today because it's not good for you to have today. Simple as that.

Ok, last verse for today's rant…

"Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ." -Philippians 4

Chill out! Don't be anxious or panicky. GOD IS NEVER LATE. You get to be thankful today and then let God know what you want. Then, DROP IT. Trust that your God will not withhold any good thing from your life as you're abiding in him. You'll discover a peace that doesn't make any sense. Notice that this peace doesn't come FROM understanding but rather SURPASSES understanding. The people around you will marvel that you have an unexplainable peace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Relax. You have nothing to worry about as you abide in Christ today. Let the weight just slide off your shoulders and allow God's peace to saturate your heart. It's all going to work out beautifully. Guaranteed. Don't freak out and marry an ape. Trust the Lord. I promise you that he won't let you down. He'll come through right on time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Beer and lions

I bombed out Friday night. One beer turned into several and I acted like a total moron. I spent the weekend frustrated and defeated. On the way home from the office, I stopped by the bookstore to just sort of lose myself in some books. Perhaps it's my version of cable TV. You've seen those huge coffee table picture books that are always on sale at bookstores, right? Well, I spent an hour in this book about lions. Lions are such beautiful creatures.

God suddenly spoke to me through the pages of lions. This photograph of a lion eating a gazelle started to move. The lion spat the gazelle's liver out of his mouth and then started talking to me right there from page 67. ACID TRIP. Just kidding.

A verse hit me like a sumo man hits the Chinese buffet (err, Japanese buffet. Whatever.) Check it:

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." 1 Peter 5:8-9

Woahhhhh. Isn't God so clever? He knew I was down in the dumps. God used the random book about lions to speak to me. It blew me away.

Satan wants to gobble you up. Me, too. Yes, it's true that I'm going to heaven and Satan can't mess with my salvation. However, he sure can depress, discourage, and tempt me into doing stuff that nullifies my witness and destroys my character. What does Peter tell us to do? BE SOBER! Although Peter is referring to the idea of being careful and watching out, it also applies to my example of drinking too much on Friday night.

Peter doesn't say to run away or freak out. He advises us to RESIST. James agrees: "resist the devil and he will flee from you." How do we resist? Paul talks about spiritual armor. There are spiritual defenses as well as spiritual weapons. The entire body is covered and protected except for the back. Why? Because we aren't meant to freak out and run away.

You've heard the roar. Really, you have. The roar can be absolutely intimidating and deafening.

"Roarrrrr, you suck. Roarrrrr, you're a failure. Roarrrr, you blew it again. Roarrrrr, stop fooling yourself. You're nobody. God can't use you. Give it up…"

Do you hear that roar and get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach because it rings true? Do you get discouraged and start giving in to the temptation? Maybe you just throw the towel in and stop fighting. Simply ignoring the reality of the temptation or trying not to think about it will only lead to defeat. However, if we battle by going directly to the Father in prayer every time there is a roar of intimidation and temptation, we'll be turning the enemy's weapon back on him. What will happen? That roaring lion will realize that his teeth have been kicked out!! According to James, he'll take off with his tail between his legs. How did Jesus fight his temptation? He fired right back with Scripture. So, too, you and I can use the same tactic. It's true that the lions often attack the sick gazelles and zebra that are hanging out on the outskirts. Stay spiritually healthy by eating the Word everyday and living in the center of the pack. Surround yourself regularly with likeminded believers that will encourage you and pray for you. Keep your "sword" sharp by meditating on the Scriptures. Talk to the Father in the heat of the battle which will strengthen your shield of faith. If you're just chillin and doing your own thing alone, the lion will sneak up and devour you – he'll devour your day, chomp on your mood, and rip on your character.

Be sober. Watch out! Be careful. Resist. Fight! Be steadfast in the faith! When you do, when I do, that toothless bully will run away like the old wimp that he is.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's the Year of the Rat. Lucky us.

Here on the rightcoast, it's 75 minutes into the New Year. Don't you love fresh starts? I'm sure we all do.

My 2007 was quite a year and full of many incredible and awesome experiences. Although I dealt with my share of problems and issues, the year drew to a close on a wonderful note of God's faithfulness and mercy.

In the past year, I said many goodbyes. I said goodbye to my best friend of nine years. I said goodbye to the first woman I ever truly loved. I said goodbye to my credit card debt once and for all. I said goodbye to many habits and traits that hindered me from running well in the race. I said goodbye to my dad.

Reflecting on those goodbyes is bittersweet. My heart aches for those I've said goodbye to but the memories are sweet and put a smile on my face. This New Year will be full of rich new experiences and fresh revelations of God's unmerited favor upon my life.

The word "new" appears 173 times in 153 different verses in the Bible (NKJV). Let's check out a few…

"Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy." Ps. 33:3

"He has put a new song in my mouth-- Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord." Ps. 40:3

""Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Jer. 31:31, 33

"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. " Lam. 3:22-23

"Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh," Eze. 11:19

"For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Mat. 26:28

"And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;" Mark 16:17

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." Jhn. 13:34

"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." 1 Cor. 5:7

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Cor. 5:17

"Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Eph 4:24

Far out. You and I both have a New Year sitting in front of us today and that's awesome. I'm thankful to be alive and excited to see what's in store. However, I'm much more excited about the new stuff going on in those verses. I have a new song in my heart. I'm living in the new covenant life! I have a new spirit in me upon which God's laws are written. There are new words of life that I can now speak. I have a new commandment to love others around me. The old crap is being purged out so that a new work can be done. By God's grace, I've become a new creation and a new man.

Perhaps you have a resolution or two for '08. I have plenty. It's healthy to strive for improvement in our lives. The only resolution that I actually kept all year from 1/1/07 was flossing. Go figure. Well, at least my dentist is proud of me.

Here are the only resolutions that really matter though:

a) love God more passionately, authentically, and transparently

b) love other people around us consistently and sacrificially

c) reach out to the lost and bring them to Jesus

2007 is over. You and I can't go back and change it or relive it. However, we have 2008. Resolve with me to make it a great year. Seek the Lord. Love Him passionately. Learn what it means to actually love other people – especially the jerks (like me) that you want to punch in the throat. Homies, bros, chicas, friends, folks, people, LETS GO FOR IT. We've only got one shot at this year and then it's finished. Renew your vows to follow the Lord with all your heart. It's a fresh clean slate today. It's time to be all in or all out. It's nice in coffee but let's not do the half-and-half stuff in our Christian walks anymore. Are you guys with me? Let's follow Jesus for real this year.