Victory

I heard God speak to me this morning.  Well, I didn’t hear an audible voice, though I’m not opposed to the idea.  I just heard Him speak to my heart.

Galatians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine…”

I have often prayed for victory, victory over addiction, victory over depression, victory over anger.

Today, God spoke to me about how low my sites have been set.

See, He said He could do better than I can even imagine.  And not a little better!  He said He could do A LOT better than I can ever ask for.

I think He would like to have me ask big, dream big, live big in victory.  Then He could do more than I ask, more than I dream.  He could make my life more than what I’ve ever hoped for.

For me I think that looks like not praying to lose weight but praying that God uses me to breathe life into those who are insecure, who see themselves as something less than how God sees them.  It looks like not praying for victory over lust but praying for the freedom of all those in bondage, praying that my life and witness would be used to break the chains of any addiction.  It looks like not praying that my family would be safe and loving but that my family would burn with such a passion for Jesus that the gates of Hell would tremble when we walk into the darkness.

I can say that I’m afraid of what prayers like that would bring.

I’m going to pray anyway.

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Why 5?

Numbers have significance in the bible.  Consider particularly 3 (Jesus inner circle), 6 (number of man), 7 (days of creation).

I was reading today about the parable of the ten virgins.  For those of you who don’t know the story, it is a parable that Jesus told about women who were waiting for the bridegroom to come for his wedding.  Others have discussed the significance of the whole story.

I’m different (have we established this already?).

I got stuck on the fact that there were five wise virgins and five foolish.  And I couldn’t get it.  Why five of each?  Why wouldn’t the five wise ones share with the five foolish?  Sure, not their problem but shouldn’t we help each other out?

And why have I waited so long to write anything and this is what I feel compelled to share?

The reality is, I struggle.  I feel inadequate and stupid.  No way could God use someone like me.  And this January, as I start again on a new year and new possibilities, this story is bugging me.

At least from what I can understand from the story, they are all virgins, all have a lamp and all initially have oil in their lamps.  I’m pretty sure that would translate into them all being Christians (story applies to males and females).  This is a story that has been used, since it was first used, to warn us to always be prepared for Jesus return.  Traditionally the oil in the lamps was equated to the good things you’ve done, the character qualities that had been developed over your lifetime.

Bottom line, if you don’t have enough, you get rejected.

I don’t know about you, but as I start this new year, I know I don’t have enough.  Not of one thing.  Not love or holiness or faithfulness.  Not goodness, prayerfulness, passion for God’s word.  Nothing.

But the word of God looks at oil differently.  When you see oil used in the Bible it signifies grace, favor, the Holy Spirit, God’s presence.  The same thing that the number five signifies.

These are things that we can’t accumulate like awards, but things we bathe ourselves in, things that our poured out over us.

So in the end, it is a matter of accepting what a loving Father would lavish on me, not what I can do for myself.

Instead of trying to borrow the joy and relationship with God that others experience.  I just rest in His grace, His favor, His presence.

I think I can live with that.

You Owe Me

I’m sitting in a hospital room right now.  My injured son lying in a bed very close to me.

I have spent many years angry and disappointed because opportunities have been missed, people didn’t see me.  I’ve wanted to do so many things but I just never got the chance.  I’ve been angry at God and frustrated with people.

And here I sit…

Does God owe me the opportunity to demonstrate my greatness?  Ever?

Is God obligated to give me a stage?  Let me perform?  Make people listen?

I’m sitting here and wondering why I ever asked these questions.  

Does God owe me my son’s life?  Is he obligated to spare him pain and suffering?  Everything inside of me screams yes.  But I know those who have suffered much more.  I have read the stories of those who never even had a shot.

I heard a story of a woman held in slavery that got pregnant.  The pimp tightened his watch on the woman, not because he didn’t want to lose the woman.  It was because of the value of the baby to his trade.

What chance is there for this woman, this baby that is not even born yet?

And as my son lies here, bruised and broken, I realize, God doesn’t owe me anything.

My son is alive.  He is my friend.  I am safe and called to risk everything for a Savior that died for me.  I am blessed and admonished to bless others with everything I have.  I am loved and commanded to love others with my whole heart.

God doesn’t owe me a thing.  
I owe Him.

I owe Him.

Jesus Wins

I have felt such heartbreak over things in this world.  Suffering, human trafficking, divorce, pornography, wars, racism…

How long, oh Lord?

I listened to a song yesterday.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  And I needed the reminder.

See, Jesus isn’t shocked by racism, though it breaks his heart too.  He’s not overwhelmed by the cruelty of man, our propensity for violence and our exploitation of those weaker than ourselves.  His voice is not silenced by the tumult of evil.  His light is not dimmed by the darkness on the horizon.

Remember, oh my soul, He wrote the story.  He placed the characters and set the stage.  His death on the cross culminated in His declaration that, “IT IS FINISHED.”  

So do I live from His victory or do I wonder every day whether the darkness will win.  Will satan ever be able to defeat the church of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inside us, His resurrection power?

Not even remotely!

Jesus wins, has already won.  You can bet your life on it.

Trojan Horse

Most people know the story of the Trojan Horse.  The long battle between Greece and the city of Troy that ended when Greece appeared to have abandoned the war and left the gift of a huge wooden horse.  Unknown to the Trojans, the “gift” was filled withe soldiers who, in the middle of the night, came out and destroyed the city.  It is a story of trickery, heroes, love, death.

As I came to work for the church and periodically since then, I saw myself as that horse.  What were they thinking to let someone with so much evil inside him into the building, near women and children, unsuspecting old ladies?  I hear the accuser, see him laughing and pointing.  I catch myself dwelling on the stories of others who have served and damaged so much with their lies and hidden sins.

It’s all true.

But my God!  My God!  He is The Redeemer!  He is the Healer!  He is the Mighty God!  The King of Kings!

And in His will and with His power, I am a Trojan Horse!  

No one would suspect a chubby, old man.  No one would think that a washed up, foolish, grandpa janitor would carry the life and love of Jesus Christ.  No one would think that someone like me can have the Holy Spirit of the Living God flowing through his veins and bringing Him to those that need Him so much!

HA!

But I do.

And in that way, we are all Trojan Horses.  Paul said, “we carry this treasure in earthen vessels.”  As we carry the life and love of Jesus into this broken, hurting world, we are broken and hurting.

But we are being healed.

Satan is counting on our human nature to fail, to hurt others, to be selfish and hateful.  God is counting on us to let Him live in us and through us, to love and heal, to restore and bring hope.

And today, I get to choose.  You get to choose.  What will you carry inside you?  Who will you carry into your world?

And let the enemy of God Almighty beware!

Opposite Attraction

I come to this with some fear and trembling.  So do me and your pastor and your family a favor, if you’re not going to read the whole thing, stop here.

Still with me?

Ok, good, let’s move on.

“He’s a coward,” the lie came whispering.  I was thinking about a pastor, one of my pastors, and that is what I thought.  It felt so real, so true.  I felt myself agreeing, believing it.

Now, maybe he isn’t the bravest man alive, but anybody who knows anything about the pastors at my church know that they are not cowards.  Especially when it comes to the Word of God.

So why did I think and start believing what I knew wasn’t true?  Did it make me look better, feel better about my place in life?  Or was it just from the “father of lies?”

Does it matter?

It was a lie.

What is the advantage or who gains an advantage by my belief a lie?  

We get these thoughts from time to time.  In marriage we can get them a lot.  

“He’s a bum.”

“Why did I ever marry her?”

And to these lies, and the ones like them that surround everyone I meet, I like to apply the principle of opposite attraction.

It works like this.

“That pastor is a coward.”  I pray to the opposite.  “God, I thank you for his boldness in standing for you.  I stand with him as he fearlessly lives for you.”

“Why did I marry her?”  The opposite, “thank you for bringing her into my life.”

Here’s the hard part, sometimes it isn’t actually a full out lie.  But make no mistake, a truth that leads us to hate someone is never a complete truth.

“He’s unfaithful.”

“She hates me.”

Oh precious, broken heart, be drawn to the opposite.

“Raise him up to be faithful.  I believe You are working in him to give his heart completely to You.  You are making him a man of God.”

“She is loving and blessed.  I believe You are softening her heart to love despite the hurts she has endured.  You are creating a woman of God who trusts completely in You.”

And in praying to the opposite our hearts can be drawn to the possibility of the opposite.  Our anger and fear dissipate in the presence of the God who says, “all things are possible.”  Our trust is placed in the only one we should ever completely place it in.  And the noise of all the lies diminishes.

Turmoil is replaced by peace.  Depression is replaced by power.

Hate is replaced by love.  

I Have A Request

i return to Nicaraugua in a couple of weeks.  There are many needs that are weighing on us as we get ready to go.  We are looking to change the nation, not just do a missions trip.  We want others to follow Jesus but we also want to do practical things to make their lives better.

And you can help.

Please go to missions.me/projects and consider how you could join with us to bring joy and life to these hurting people.

Thank you.