Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Suicide Signer

Damascus is believed to be the oldest city in the world. With some archaeologist placing it's birth between 8,000 to 10,000 BC., it remains the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. It has never been abandoned or destroyed. It's longevity is nothing short of astounding, if not a miracle. But according the Bible, Damascus won't be around forever.

This message came to me concerning Damascus: "Look, the city of Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The towns of Aroer will be deserted. Flocks will graze in the streets and lie down undisturbed, with no one to chase them away. The fortified towns of Israels will also be destroyed, and the royal power of Damascus will end. All that remains of Syrias will share the fate of Israel's departed glory," declares the Lord of Heaven's Armies. Isaiah 17:1-3

This particular prophecy of Isaiah has yet to be fulfilled, and for good reason. Verse 14 describes Israel "waiting" in terror at night, but by dawn, it's enemies are all dead. This is the only generation where total annihilation can be accomplished within hours through the use of technology. It took the Japanese days before finally surrendering to the Allies after the nuclear bombing of it's cities. (There is no such thing as a "proportional response" when your goal is to win wars.) Isaiah predicts that Israel will erase Damascus from the globe forever, in a matter of hours. Perhaps there wont be anyone left to surrender.

In the evening Israel waits in terror, but by dawn its enemies are dead. This is the just reward of those who plunder us, a fitting end for those who destroy us. Isaiah 17:14

As a Bible prophecy junkie, I have always wondered what scenario could involve Israel and Syria in a nuclear confrontation. I got my answer this past Friday. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and Syrian Defense Minister Ali Mohammad Habib Mahmoud signed a mutual defense agreement. War between Israel and Iran is pretty much a far gone conclusion, but Syria was a mystery. The destruction of Damascus didn't fit any current scenarios. But there's one now.

Iran has called for the destruction of Israel and has promised to wipe Israel off the map. Israel has no choice but to draw first blood and strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. If Syria responds, (which is what they have agreed to do on Friday) Israel will have no choice but to make this 2 against 1 fight even again. And given the fact that Syria holds chemical and biological weapons, Israel will do it in one blow. Pearl Harbor pushed America to the point of creating TWO parking lots in Japan. Isaiah says Syria will push Israel to do the same thing. God help them if they just signed their lives away.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Good Soldier

A good father would defend his family against dangers that come.
A good soldier will preemptively attack the dangers before they mobilize.

A good father would take a bullet for his family.
A good soldier would give a bullet for yours.

A good father affectionately engages his family.
A good soldier harshly engages the enemy.

A good father stands up to a bully.
A good soldier lays down a bully.

A good father locks the house and tucks his family in at night.
A good soldier loads his weapon and tucks his country in at night.

A good father will cancel anything to attend his child's birth.
A good soldier may have to skip the birth to ensure his child will grow up.

A good father loves ONE woman and his loyalty is without question.
A good soldier loves ONE country and his weapon is pointed accordingly.

A good father leaves an inheritance for his children.
A good soldier leaves an inheritance for a generation.

A good father would die for his family.
A good soldier would die for yours.

Thanks to all of the good soldiers that allow us to be good fathers.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Playing Poker With God

I love watching poker. Poker is a game of chance, wrapped up in probability, and deep fried in psychology. The goal of the game is to get big portions of other people's money using our single greatest asset - Our God given ability to deceive. Deception, or bluffing, is the main weapon in poker. Of course it helps to have a good hand, but great cards only provide a sort of "side arm" in the event your main weapon jams. The cards in your hand are mainly there to provide the "plot" of the story. It's still your job to tell it, and to tell it convincingly.

If you have strong cards, the plot of the story is that you have descent cards and are hoping "lady luck" blows you a kiss. If you are successful in telling your story, this will cause other players with descent or strong cards to throw their money in the "fair" fight in hopes of winning the communal pot. If you have weak cards, the plot of the story is that you have strong cards and everyone better mind their distance. I know there's a lot more to it, but you get the idea.

What makes poker so entertaining to watch is that everyone is pretending to have something they don't, or pretending to want something they already have. All of this is done to get as much as they can from the other players without actually having to reveal their own cards. Like I said, it's really fun to watch. What's not so fun to watch is when mortal man plays it with Almighty God. There are many problems with playing poker with God. First, He already knows what your holding, so your bluff won't work. Second, He's pretty boring at it. He doesn't bet or fold according to what the other players are doing. It's like He's playing by His own rules. In fact, it's more like He's not playing at all. In reality, we deal God a hand whether he's playing or not.

One of the regular and oldest poker games exists between God and the so-called "atheists". I say "so-called" because the very purpose of the match is to convince others that there really is an absence of belief. Since the Bible says there exist no such absence, the atheist has no choice but to deal God a hand and hope He plays. The bluff of the atheist is to act as though his hand contains NO proof that there is a God. The atheist begins to act in such a way to portray that he has the weaker hand. They ignore evidence, and even ignore their own conscience, just to keep the story convincing. In poker, the purpose of appearing weak is to increase the size of the pot.

Have you ever heard an atheist say, "If there's a God, then why does evil exists?" That's a topic in of itself, but the point is that the atheist weakens his hand to bait God into "sweetening" the pot, or giving into the pot as to make it more appealing to the other players. The atheist wants God to remove evil, sickness, global warming, and world hunger. Once the pot is sweetened enough to their evidentiary standards, they will gladly fold their hand without revealing their cards. At least, that's the plan. But it only works when you're opponent can be manipulated.

When God doesn't give us the cure for cancer and cool the earth, the bluffer HAS to keep bluffing. The last thing the atheist wants is to still be playing during the last phase of the poker hand, the showdown. It is in the showdown, you MUST reveal your cards. The showdown is the judgement phase of the hand. The cards don't lie. No one wants to stand before Almighty God holding the wrong cards. And for the atheist, those cards are Romans 1:20, and Romans 1:21

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Romans 1:20-21

Everyone is born with the knowledge of God. It's better to fold early.

Another popular poker game exists between God has His own kids - the Christians. Not to be out done by the atheist, Christians are also notorious for playing down their hand so daddy can bless the pot, in Jesus' Name. Amen. You can spot these professional players from a mile away. You won't hear them talking about how great God is, or how better their life is now with Christ. You'll hear how life is unfair, God is far, or God doesn't care. You'll hear how they believe the relationship "ball" is in God's court, and that they have their doubts that God is gonna play ball. For them, life has asked some pretty hard questions and God has lots of explaining and reaching out to do. To them, God is only as good, faithful, or trustworthy as the last pot he's blessed.

One of my former complaints about God was that He wasn't co-dependent. What good is my bluff if God doesn't need me to agree with Him. Most of us are so insecure about ourselves that we will climb mountains and swim oceans to get approval and acceptance. God is so NOT insecure, you won't find Him running behind everyone shouting, "Can I rephrase that?", or "What can I do to make you love me more?" God is God whether we agree with Him or not. He is good, whether we trust Him or not. He wants our best, whether we believe Him or not. We sometimes get this whole relationship with God backwards. God died once, and for all. He hung once, and He's not doing it again. If our opinion of Him isn't already settled, then there's nothing He can do the the "pot" to change it.

Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him. Job 13:15

If our attitude towards God isn't already trust and faith, then we've missed the point. God isn't moved by need. If that were true, India would be the most blessed country on Earth. There's more poverty and need in India than any place on the planet. It's not NEED that moves God. It's faith. God does NOTHING outside faith. You can't scare, manipulate, or shake Him down. He holds the universe in His hands. The sooner we realize that we're here to serve and give Him pleasure and not the other way around, the sooner we live a blessed and purpose filled life.

In the story of the prodigal son, you'll recall that the father never went after his son. He didn't even talk him out of going. The father knew that his son could navigate back home. When we stray from God, He patiently waits. Reconciliation HAS to come from us. We have to already know that it was better to be in HIS house doing His will than outside doing our own. It makes no sense to go through life playing the weak hand. It is a hard lesson to learn that I need Him, and He doesn't need me. Whining, complaining, and acting like a victim is NOT how you show up on God's radar.

Jesus passed by His enemies. Jesus passed by those wanting to kill Him. Jesus passed by those who didn't want Him. If fact, Jesus went out of his way to OFFEND the ones who had already made up their mind. There are too many people who depend on Him for God to be nervous about our poker faces. Yet we continue to play the weak hand and pack our bags in the event God calls our bluff. Like the prodigal son, we will eventually come around....right after we play a few hands with the pigs.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Gift of Love

One of the most recognized verses in scripture is John 3:16. Even if you don't know what it says, you at least know it's there. The verse has become a part of our pop culture; showing up on signs, business cards, and even tattoos. It has been called the "Gospel in a nutshell" because it summarizes the story of God, in one verse:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

I have a bad habit of using the wrong words to communicate. It is for this reason that my wife knows that I love her AND Popeye's Chicken. ( Isn't she special? ) Of course on most days, I love my wife more than Popeye's Chicken, but it is a perfect example of how weakened our words and ultimately, our relationships have become. Love is one of those words we casually throw around to describe how "good" something makes us feel. Because of my careless use of words, unless my wife "knows" me, she could assume that she is in the same league as fried chicken, Fridays, and Facebook. As American English speaking Christians, John 3:16 doesn't sound so potent anymore. We've watered-down words so much, that we have reduced the Gospel to forgettable and familiar cliches.

The problem with love is that everybody's saying it. Hearing that God loves me isn't that big of a deal to most of us. This is because we've heard it before, and we know how the game is played. Ask any guy why he loves his wife and you'll soon find the problem. He might say something like, "I love her because she treats me like a man", or "I love her because we make a great team" Ask a woman the same question, and you might hear; "I love him because I enjoy his company and he makes me happy."

The love we know is all about "MY" needs and "MY" best interests. We love people and things that make us happy. Therefore, We understand that others love us based on how we make them feel. We learn that as long as we are able to contribute to their well-being, they will add us to the list of people, places, and things, that they love, and who doesn't want to be on that list? Most of our relationships begin and end with US in mind. As long as there's something in it for us, we will continue to love them. Sadly, that is where we tend to lose God in the mix. We don't really have a problem with being loved by God. Our problem is that we don't understand why. I can easily make a list of why I think people love me. But God, well we just don't get it. I can treat God's love the same way I treat a hockey match on television. Because I don't understand it, I just change the channel.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. 1John 4:16-17

In Hebrew (the language of the Bible), there is no word for our definition of "love". The closest word in Hebrew is the word "Ahava", which means "I will give" or "giveness". Ahava is a state in which all I want to do is give. The reason God loves us is because He IS love. To God, Love is NOT an emotional response, it's who He is. To say that God loves us, is like saying the rain waters the ground. That's what rain does. The rain can't come and NOT give water. If there is no water, there is no rain. The rain doesn't make a choice. It doesn't pick and choose where its going to fall. It will fall on those who receive it and those who'll turn it away. It will fall on the garden, and it will fall on the concrete. God's love through Christ fell on the entire world, regardless of soil of your heart. God doesn't choose who He wants to love. There is no such concept in God, but WE do it all the time.

God's love is completely opposite of our view of love. Where we tend to analyze the relationship for "mutual" interests and benefits, Ahava says I will give regardless of what you do. There is no mutual benefit requirement for Ahava. God doesn't look down from Heaven and wait for us to do something cute so He can love us. God already loves us. God didn't create a focus group to find out what percentage of mankind would accept Him, if he came to earth and died. That's what we do. We don't like to waste our affection on folks who don't appreciate or recognize us for it. We don't waste our time, talents, and money on people who don't contribute. Those people don't DESERVE it. That's why God's love is confusing to us. Our definition of love is not even a word in the Hebrew Bible. Our definition makes us ask "why", "what's the catch", or "what's it gonna cost me?" We've been looking at love through the wrong eyes. We need to have God's perspective on love, not what our culture says. If we take the literal meaning of love, we get a better picture.

Because God is a giver, to the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

The dictionary defines marriage as "a formal agreement between two companies or enterprises to combine operations, resources, etc.., for mutual benefit; merger." When analyzing our definition of marriage, I can't believe how America's divorce rate is as low as it is. That's astounding! Since half of all marriages end in divorce, our marriages are doing better than most businesses. Restaurants only have a 20% change of surviving two years. No one starts a marriage (or business) with the intention of failing, but when your definition requires the other entity to do their part, their are no guarantees. I have heard it said that marriage is a two way street. I have also heard it said that marriage is 50/50. It may sound good, but is it true? You wont find that definition in scripture.

In Hebrew, there is also no word for our definition of "marriage". The closest word in Hebrew is Nisuim or Nisuin, which means "to carry". In ancient Jewish weddings, the groom would "carry" the bride off to his tent to consummate the marriage. This is where we get the tradition of "carrying" our bride across the threshold. God didn't create the concept of mutual benefit, or merger. Man, culture, and tradition did. God's view of marriage was that I want to give what I have, BECAUSE YOU NEED IT!. Marriage was always the concept of I love you so much, that I can't help but want to carry you, and and I will carry you no matter how heavy you get. What would our divorce rate be if we adopted THAT concept. In reality, we already do that. We just call it "dating" or "courting". Once we tag em and bag em, its back to loving you as long as you do for me.

But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. Revelation 2:4-5

Could it be that marriages fail because love fails? During courtship, there was no such things as too much time or money. Before marriage, we had friends complaining that they never saw us anymore. Before marriage, we were borrowing money because we spent it all on our date. Before marriage, money, time, and other people's opinion didn't matter. We loved by giving. We KNEW what love was. But now we are "mature", and someone told us love was a two-way street. Someone told us that marriage was 50/50. Someone told us that we needed to tone it down because we were spoiling them. Someone told us that we needed to come to reality. They said it was just a phase. Enjoy the honeymoon, you'll come out of it.

The Bible says that we fall out of love, because we quit giving. We quit doing the things that made us fall in love, in the first place. Marriage teaches me to do my part, and expect you to do yours. It teaches us to compromise. It teaches us to meet in the middle. If I go to work, you raise the kids. If I cook the meal, you cut the grass. If I clean the house, you take out the trash. But Nisuim, teaches me to do everything. Nisuim says I'm gonna make the money, clean the house, cut the grass, and take out the trash. Nisuim says that I decide to give 100%, regardless of what you give. There is no Hebrew word for a mutual parasitic relationship. But we have one in English.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rest Area

A good friend of mine mentioned that my posts were becoming increasingly "preachy" and long. Because I love him so much, I'll give him a break and allow him to catch up. I admit, there was a definite theme with the last 10 or so posts, but that's where I was. That's why it's titled, "My Journey - Witness God lead, drag, and by gun point, take me into his perfect will."

Being a Christian isn't about always appreciating the scenery, or choosing the pitstops. That's what separates Christianity from all the religions of the world. All of them say do this, don't do that, or turn here, and if you're lucky you'll arrive in heaven's parking lot. Christianity is about handing over the car keys. Firstly, because there's only one person who knows how to get there. We are born clueless to our purpose and have no idea how to navigate a weekend, much less navigate into eternity. Secondly, we're too drunk with life's problems to be able to steer. Talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous enough. Most of us go through life talking on multiple cell phones. We have a work phone, a family phone, a church phone, a sick grandmother phone, and a ADD child phone. But we start the car everyday and think we can juggle it all and STILL find out our destiny. I never know where I'll end up, but I'm at peace knowing that when I get there, I'm in HIS will, and I'm on His itinerary.

There's an old Buddhist proverb that says, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." For the past few months, that has truly been the case. It's amazing what can happen in your life, in just a short time, if you quit watching the news. I became so disillusioned with current events and politics, that I decided to stay away from it. Of course, I did feed the beast a little snack every now and then with a few evenly spaced Facebook quips. But for the most part, I've stayed away from what has become to me, a cartoon. By not dwelling on Obama, Middle East drama, and economic trauma, I made myself ready. And when I settled down, God showed up with a fresh supply of peace, tranquility, hope, and joy.

Hand over your keys, all who are too drunk, busy, and ignorant to drive, and I will let you nap in the back. You're gonna need your rest when I wake you up at the next stop. Matthew 11:28 ( New International Truck Drivers Version) (ok it's mine)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Seeker Insensitive

The most recent pit stop, in "my journey" through this Christian life, involves a wound that I've carried for a long time. In fact, It was a wound that I didn't know was there until God removed it. This wound, like most, began as a verbal offense. Most offenses are the result of theft. Theft is defined as "the taking of something without consent" If I "take" an offense, and none was given, then the offense is stolen. Most people don't intend to offend us, but that doesn't stop us from taking it.

Have you ever observed someone irresponsibly lay down their wallet, keys, etc.? Have you ever taken it to teach them a lesson about taking care of their stuff? After a few minutes of anxiety, you finally give it to them, proud that you showed them a lesson. Being offended is similar. We easily justify our theft by convincing ourselves that they should have been more careful with their words. How dare they trample our feelings with their free-speech. They need to learn to pay more attention to their tone and choice of words. We take an offense and we teach them a lesson by becoming offended. We take what was not given to us, and we make it into something it else.

If that wasn't bad enough, sometimes we take it, but don't tell them. That's called teaching them a "valuable" lesson. We take it forever. We hide it, and nurse it. We never tell them that we're offended. The only way they will ever know, is if they figure it out through the many clues we leave behind at family gatherings. Sometimes we leave a big clue and tell someone else. Then we deny it later to really make them sweat it out. It's normal for us to hide what we steal. Hidden offenses thrive in cold dark conditions. If they stay too long, they grow and cause infections. That infection creates a wound that brings pain for as long as the offense is hidden. Have you ever taken an offense that ate you up inside? Did the person you take it from KNOW that you took it?

A few years ago, I stole an offense from one of the leaders of a church I was attending. It turned out to be disastrous and completely changed the course of relationships. For years I harbored resentment towards the way they did ministry and their approach to people. I became disillusioned with the seeker sensitive, purpose driven model that so many churches have adopted. Church became dull and boring. I began to wonder why so many similar churches were making members instead of disciples. The sermons, the music, the activities; all were geared toward bringing the crowd into the church doors. I was all for bringing in the crowd, but what about the core? What about the struggling, hurting, and wounded brothers and sisters, who were no longer apart of the crowd, but now spending every waking minute volunteering and working to bring them in? Who is ministering to them? Who is helping to carry their burdens?

For years, I loathed the term "seeker". I've always felt the seeking was to be done OUTSIDE the doors of the church. I thought seeking was done at schools, workplaces, and laundry mats. When did the church service become an infomercial for people who might happen to walk through the doors that Sunday? If I wanted to go to a higher level, a deeper understanding, or a closer walk with God: who would I follow? Who would be my guide?

It's interesting that the seeker movement came around the same time "formal" living rooms started showing up in house plans. Families needed a room to entertain guests who didn't live there. They needed a place to showcase their cleanliness and how perfect their house was. (Take my word for it. All the rooms look like this. ) Seeker Churches decided they needed the same thing. Over time, Sunday services became like the "formal" living room. It needed to be clean, traditional, and less homely. So if the Sunday service was the formal living room, where did the "real" living take place? Where did the family get to be themselves? Where would they get a chance to take their shoes off, and take off the masks? Well, we created cell groups for that.

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own. – Bill Hybels

Don't be so hard on yourself Bill. You did exactly what God wanted you to do. The quickest path to peace is acceptance, and God has brought me into acceptance with seeker churches. After Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, they came to rest in the desert. God never intended that they stay in the desert. He wanted them to go through the desert and move into the promised land. But most of the Jews didn't want to go. They didn't think it was worth the fight. God brought them out of Egypt. They didn't earn it or work for it. But the promised land was something that had to be fought over. Hybels believes he should have taught the people to become 'self feeders'. That's great, but what if they don't want to be self feeders? Well God has a backup plan.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Look, I'm going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. Exodus 16:4

I have come to accept the reality that there will always be people who receive God's free gift of salvation, and refuse to go any further. Sadly, more people will choose to pitch their tent in the desert, than go fight the enemy. But God in His infinite love and mercy will feed them regardless of their decision to stay where they are. The Apostle Paul understood the tendency to accept Jesus and just wait for Heaven.

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don't need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. Hebrews 6:1

God and He alone, brought them out of Egypt. That made hungry wilderness Jews His responsibility. I believe God not only allows, but blesses, seeker churches because they are STILL feeding people. No longer will I look at them in contempt or in judgment. I regret past comments I've made about other churches, and I realize that ALL churches are needed. God took care of His people even though they didn't want to go any farther, and I believe He still does. There are a lot of people who need Christ. We need all the churches we can build. Because I am a self-feeder, I'll be at peace if God ever wants me to attend a seeker church again. I'll work instead of whine. I'll participate instead of put off. I'll be anything God wants me to be. Souls are at stake, friends. It's time to get the job done, and quit stealing.

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law,s I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9 19-23

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Days of Our Lives

One of the interesting aspects of creation is that God took six days to create everything. The Bible doesn't say that creation took six days. It says, God took six days. There is a huge difference. Creation taking six days, implies that God underestimated the scope of work, and finally finished on the sixth day. God could have done everything in an hour, but He chose to take six days.

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Genesis 2:2

The word 'rested' in Hebrew is "shabath". It literally means "to quit" or "to cease". God didn't quit because He ran out of nails. He didn't get tired, or realize that He had dinner plans. He chose to quit, and He knew exactly when it was going to happen. Most of us never choose when we quit. It is always the result of us running out of money, energy, or time. Most of us never to choose to rest. We work until we have to take a break. Have you ever heard someone say, "I need a vacation?" The problem is that we wait until it's needed.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. - Thomas Jefferson

Why not Mr. Jefferson? What's the hurry? God created birds and fish on Day 5, but "put off" beasts for Day 6. God could have created everything in the first day, but He strategically created the universe in a specific order. God started and stopped for a purpose. He rested for a purpose. Even in creation, God was speaking to us.

Creation tells us that rest is more important than completion. On Day 2, God created our atmosphere. He created our sky and what we call, the ozone. But He didn't create birds until Day 5. You would think that if God had all day to create something, He would have more to show for it than just more empty space. Unlike Us, God doesn't feel the pressure to stay late after work. God didn't feel like His sky was missing something. He didn't think the sky needed birds before He could punch out and call it a day. How often do we keep going because our work just isn't done yet? We do THIS, but it needs THAT. We have a picture in our mind of what it's "supposed" to look like. We spend days, months, and years "tweaking" our life, so that one day we can enjoy it. God didn't call His sky a "work in progress", He called it GOOD.

We will never enjoy our skies today, if we can't wait for our birds tomorrow. So many times, we miss opportunities of rest, because we aren't completely satisfied with our NOW. We can't enjoy our house NOW, because the carpets need to be replaced. We can't enjoy our job NOW, because I'm not in management yet. We can't relax NOW, because we still need to unload the dishwasher. God knew birds were going to be flying in His sky, but He was completely OK with waiting a few days.

The reason that I am in debt NOW, is because I can't wait until tomorrow. The credit card allows me to get my sky AND my birds all in the same day. It allows me to "never pay cash tomorrow what I can charge today". Debt and lusting for everything now, is a major reason most will never enter into financial rest. I know people who won't get a job NOW, because the job they could get today only pays minimum wage. In their mind, it is OK to earn nothing while they "hold out" for something else. If there house was flooded, they would rather let MasterCard, the government, or their parents sustain them on their rooftop until a yacht, and nothing less, is able to rescue them.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Zechariah 4:10

Creation also tells us that our rest is more important than our needs. On Day 3, God created the plants, but He didn't create the Sun until Day 4. How insensitive is God that He would allow His precious plants to be without sunlight for for a whole day. Obviously He doesn't understand how photosynthesis works. Have you ever left for vacation, and forgot to make arrangements for someone to feed your pets? Have you ever felt like God left for vacation, and forgot about YOU and your circumstances? It is easy to get excited, worried, and stressed out when you feel like you are all alone, and now one knows what your going through. We believe God takes care of us, but it sure seems like He's not in as much of a hurry as we are. I learned very quickly, God is NEVER in a hurry. If I think God is taking to long, then its because I don't really trust Him like I say I do.

No matter how good it is, you will never enjoy a meal, that you call your last. Have you ever had trouble going to sleep because you knew what would be sitting in the rocking chair when you woke up? Our rest is often stolen by the cares of tomorrow. God has the benefit of knowing the end AND the beginning. We don't. We may want look at our life NOW and say darkness, coldness, or hopelessness. But from God's perspective, it's still GOOD. The Sun WILL rise in your life. Even if he hasn't created it yet.

Give your burdens to the Lord , and he will take care of you. Psalms 55:22

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

God is in control. He wants us to rest. He wants us to trust Him. Our lives look unfinished for a reason. We're unfinished people. But that isn't a reason to get sweaty and nervous. He's on a schedule, and He's is enjoying every minute of your life. Your sky may be unfinished, but it's only Day 2 and there's a good reason. If he gave you the birds NOW, where would they build their nests? He doesn't create dry ground until Day 3.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Monday, September 14, 2009

Belle of the Ball

One of the arguments against becoming a Christian, is that Christians are no different than the rest of the world. I disagree. They are worse. But this is just my opinion, and I call myself a Christian. That may sound harsh, but let me explain. People expect Christians to be certain way. And when they're not, it is very disappointing. Most of the time, you can find us living in the outskirts of Normalville.

You can easily spot the Cinderella Christians. They dress, act, and talk holy, but are really no different than the rest of us. They don't go to church, they go to the ball. They put on their best smile and manners, and act like they belong there. But Cinderella can't go the distance. Her disguise only lasts until noon, or 30 minutes before kickoff (whichever is sooner). For Cinderella, Christianity is not a philosphy. It is a religion, an escape, a fill-up, or a check box on an ever increasing list of things to do. Cinderella Christians are hourly and need to mind the clock. If they stay out too long, their cover will be blown to pumpkin seeds.

Cinderella wears her Christianity, but Lady Tremaine enforces the dress code. I have been turned off by many wicked Stepmothers of Jesus than I care to name. They believe themselves to be gatekeepers of all that is holy and good. They are experts in Christian living and serve us mortals as heavenly hall monitors. If you prove yourself worthy, they might even invite you over for a Christian video and show you their collection of glass slippers. The stepmothers of Christianity wear their religion on their sleeve, and are easily offended by the Cinderellas for their lack of commitment and loyalty. Nothing ticks them off more than watching Cinderella attend church AND get to go home and be casual. Cinderellas only fool other Christians, but the religious stepmothers have to fool everyone, all the time. That's not fair!
When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:12-13
Peter was a "Cinderella" because he ate with non-Jews ONLY when the Jews weren't looking. When Peter was in the company of Jews, he would turn his back on the Gentiles and morph into the custodian of clean cuisine. Living a balanced life is something I have to choose moment to moment. I often jump between being Cinderella and Jesus' stepmother. It depends on who I am hanging around with. So what causes us to be like Peter? What causes us to flip flop on our beliefs to the confusion of others? What makes us want to put on our costumes one minute, or sleep in our uniforms the next? What makes Christianity so irrelevant to the outside world?

I believe the answer revolves around our understanding of what makes one a Christian. For most folk, Christianity is a religion that needs to be followed. For others, it is an experience that needs to be felt. The truth is, its a position that needs to be accepted. Salvation is not conditional, it is positional.
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6
It is hard to believe that we are seated in heaven when we are sitting in traffic, at the laundry mat, or laid up in a hospital bed. The reason why most Christians become Cinderella or the Stepmothers in Christ is because they believe salvation is conditional. Cinderellas need to act, talk, and be a certain way so as to prove they are saved. Stepmothers think they need to maintain it every 3000 miles or else they void the warranty. THAT is when Christianity becomes a religion. Christianity was never supposed to be a religion. Religion is man's way of reconciling himself to God. Christianity is a philosophy that understands that God already reconciled man to Himself. We had nothing to do with it.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:11
The Bible doesn't say we earn reconciliation. It says we receive it. But who wants something for nothing? Christians are no different than the rest of the world. One of the reasons we act weird is because we have truly received a gift, and we are having a hard time accepting that we didn't deserve it. This isn't an excuse, it's the truth. We go around propping ourselves up, exaggerating our deeds, and sometimes confusing the hell out of everyone else. We can get so crazy that no one wants to follow us into a Wal-Mart much less follow us to heaven. We can't give someone else the love of Christ if we are too busy trying to pay Him back. It is human nature to first say "What's the catch?" and then think of ways to do them favors.

Some try to earn salvation (religion), but others think they deserved it. Just like with anything free, there will always be people who believe they were entitled to it. This is a dangerous place to be as you can easily believe that some DON'T deserve it. Have you ever been around a Christian who looked down at you? Have you ever looked down at someone else, and deduced in your mind why they were "down there" in the first place? Salvation is simple. Christianity is simple. Christians and religion are not.
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
Don't let the simplicity of salvation move you away from Christ. And if you're not a Christian, don't let the religion of others deter you from the love Christ has for you. If you found a counterfeit bill inside of a bag of money, would you throw out the entire bag? No, you would throw out the counterfeit. Don't let a bad experience, marriage, church, etc. keep you from accepting something genuine and beautiful. You can come to God NOW, and just as you are.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins Ephesians 2:1
Salvation is positional, not conditional. Most of us need to shake off our religion and return to true Christianity. Christianity is not a social club of elite Jesus groupies. No one ever found Jesus. He wasn't lost. He found us, and we were as good as dead. He took our dead spirit and reconciled us back to God. What gives us the right to pull people over and give them a sobriety test before we share the love of Jesus with them?

For us Cinderellas, stop dressing up. It hurts to much to walk around in costume looking constipated. Eventually, who you really are will come out. And the fact that you tried to hide it, will end up hurting more people. Evil Stepmothers, chill out! When Christ found you, you didn't even have a pulse. No one wants to feel intimidated, made less than, or unworthy.

You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14

The problem with being the light of the world is that we enjoy shinning it in each others eye. Oh God, heal those whom I have blinded and give me another chance to shine. I promise to tone it down a bit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

War of the Words

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Faultier words have never been spoken. Most of us are not walking around on crutches due to someone breaking our bones. However, we have been crippled at some point, because of the words of other people. The problem with words is that a lot of us don't understand its purpose. Most of us believe words are only used to communicate. We understand verbal and written words are used to share feelings and emotions as well as transfer knowledge and facts. But communication is the secondary purpose of words. Creation is its primary purpose.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:3

God spoke the very first words of our known universe. Notice, he wasn't talking to anyone. He spoke in order to create, not communicate. Words are the seeds of creation. God didn't create light by thinking about it. He didn't meditate on it. He didn't write it down and put it under his pillow or stick it on the bathroom mirror. He spoke it. God used the spoken word as the tool of choice to create and shape this world into existence.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Hebrews 11:3

Words not only have meaning, they have power. Words always create FIRST, and communicate second. When I give someone encouragement, I unknowingly create a feeling and emotion that translates into that person desiring to continue and exceed expectations. Even though my comment was meant to communicate praise or recognition, I ended up creating a positive and fertile environment for more fruit. The opposite happens when I give discouragement. My intention may be to communicate disapproval, but I am in danger of creating a negative environment that demotivates and causes that person to feel personal rejection.

It's not that hard a concept when you think about it. When someone receives a standing ovation or trophy, we don't expect them to stand there like their from Vulcan and acknowledge that they were just doing their job. Everyone takes it personal when they receive praise and recognition. We can't help it. So we shouldn't act surprised when people take it personally when we hit them with criticism or disapproval. We often defend ourselves by saying, "its just business." We say, "don't take it personal, here comes some constructive criticism". Constructive criticism is one of the most brainless terms in the English language. It basically means, I'm going to build up, BY TEARING DOWN! It's disingenuous, and it doesn't translate into the real world. There is no such thing as "constructive criticism" when your wife is trying on a new outfit.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

It's interesting that God said "death" before he said "life". Perhaps it is because He already knows what we are predisposed to. I've never had to excuse myself from a family meal because someone was being too kind. I've never had to turn off the television because the news was just too good. I've never kept what God was telling me, a secret, because I knew my friends would be too supportive. When we make our pros and cons list, we don't need help on the cons side. When we want to go back to school, we have plenty of reasons why we shouldn't, and only a couple of why we should. When couples are separated, they can talk for hours about the reasons they should get a divorce, but rarely do they mention reasons why they shouldn't. We have no problems justifying why we can't do things, and we will gladly help other come to the same conclusion.

You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth. Proverbs 6:2

Thank God it doesn't say, you are snared by the thoughts of your mind. The Bible doesn't say that you are what you think. Most of my thoughts are not pure, honest, and good. But that doesn't mean that I am those things. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God judges our thoughts. It says that God judges our hearts. You can't control what comes into your brain, but you can control what you think and meditate on. And you can certainly control what comes out of your mouth. Your success, prosperity, and fulfillment in life hinges on what you believe about yourself. Do you believe what God says about you, or do you believe what other people say about you?

Words, like guns, are amoral. They can be used for good as well as evil. Words can build up, but they can also tear down. Words don't know motive or intent. Have you ever had to defend yourself because you said something, that you didn't mean? Most of us have had to go back and explain ourselves, because we used the wrong words.
If only words knew our heart and intentions before they decided to fly off our tongues. We've all heard the expression, "think before you speak." We don't get any mulligans when we speak before thinking. The best we can do is get out the ketchup, because it makes the crow easier to swallow. You know, Microsoft Office had some annoyances, but their heart was in the right place.

Positive confession is not the same as positive thinking. Thinking positive causes you to face the right direction, but in reality, it gets you nowhere. Positive thinking is like believing in God. Most people believe in God, but wooptido, so what? Believing in God doesn't change your life, it just means you're not an idiot. Many people have said "I believe in God", but that's not the same as saying, "I agree with God". Our eternity isn't based on believing with our brain that the life we're living isn't an accident. Our eternity is based on confession. It is based on agreeing with God. Our salvation in Jesus is made manifest by us speaking God's light into our existence. It's not a head knowledge. It's a heart knowledge. We are not what we believe in our brains. We are, however, what we believe in our hearts. God existing in our brains doesn't change us, God existing in our heart does.

For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he will be. Proverbs 23:7

There exist among us, a 'war of the words'. Some words come straight from our brains and out of our mouth. Some originate from our hearts. When disciplining my son, I often have him repeat words back to me. I know that when he says them, they are not coming from his heart. My goal is to have him repeat them often enough so that they will eventually BE in his heart. Some of us have heard negative things repeated to us so often, that they are now part of who we believe ourselves to be. Some of us have been called losers so much that we believe in our hearts that we are, and we act accordingly.

The words of our hearts and the words of our mind are in constant battle. This is the same battle that causes a 80 pound woman to look into a mirror and believe she is fat. It doesn't matter that the eyes connected to her brain see bones poking through her skin. Her wounded heart is speaking louder than her brain. We are who we believe in our hearts. Whether or not our heart is telling us the truth, is irrelevant.

So how do we fight this battle? How do we know who to believe? Do we believe what our parents, friends, and teachers say about us? Do we believe "science" and our brains. Do we believe our feelings and our hearts? The answer is simple. We believe God. Everything else changes. Feelings, people, and science are always changing. We need to believe and confess something that never changes. We need to believe what He says about us. We need to confess with our mouth, what He already said.

Most of us are carrying around a lifetime of pain and guilt, created by the words of other people. The only remedy is to create a new life using the words of God. Positive thinking won't make it better, but positive confession will. If the words of other people and your own mind got you where you are today, just think about what the words of the living God will do for your life. Don't just stay positive. Don't just think positive. Speak positive! Words are not magical, they are powerful. So powerful, that heaven requires you to SPEAK them.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Most people won't come over for dinner, unless you invite them first. Jesus is one of those people. He couldn't have made it any easier.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Only As Good As.....

There's an expression in the movie business that goes, 'you're only as good as your last picture'. Some have adopted the phrase and applied it to their own experiences. Athletes have learned, you're only as good as your last game. Models know, you're only as good as your last hairstyle. Writers are only as good as their last piece, and friends are only as good as their last piece of advice.

It is a reality of life. Humans are "now" people. We live moment to moment and poll to poll. We care little about adventure and cling to whats comfortable and popular. We are a society of microwaves, drive-thru windows, and 10 items or less(even if we have 11). We want what we want, and we want it now. It makes no difference if we've been friends since the fourth grade. So what that you helped pay my rent, put gas in my car, and bailed me out of jail 3 times. It doesn't even matter that we have the same momma. How are you helping me now and what are you bringing to my table? If you don't agree, count the friends you have, that are poorer than you. Friends with jet skis, time-shares, swimming pools, and four wheelers are on back order.

I like a good chase movie. It is especially funny to watch the ones involving a boat or plane. Almost always, is there a scene where the bad guy isn't going fast enough. He immediately begins dumping cargo, and sometimes people, to lighten the load. He needs to get somewhere fast, and he doesn't care who or what gets tossed out. Everything but the gold, will be thrown into the ocean, or sky, and he won't feel bad that you left without a parachute.

Have you ever felt so heavy with life, that you "lost" a few folks along the way? Have you ever wanted something so bad, it didn't matter who you had to throw overboard to get it? We have all had times in our life where the pressure of "the moment" has made us do things we wouldn't have normally done. Some of us have relatives we haven't spoken to in YEARS because of something stupid they said at Thanksgiving dinner 12 years ago. To us, it doesn't matter that they are a good person. Maybe they apologized, maybe they didn't. We forgot about their history, or what's really true about them. We made a quick decision and it has affected the course of the relationship. We wanted us to be right, and them to be wrong so bad, that when the opportunity presented itself, it was man overboard! I've already thrown them from the boat. To circle back now, would waste too much time.

I have heard many Christians say, "I'm mad at God." When I first heard those words, I was surprised to see them in church the following Sunday. Not because I wasn't expecting them to show up, but because I wasn't expecting them to be breathing. I thought for sure, God was gonna show them who's boss. I was afraid that IF I saw them, they would be in a hospital gown eating through a straw. I quickly learned that God isn't provoked like I am, nor does he need to prove himself. God does what He does, and says what He says. And He's not gonna get embarrassed because His kids are pitching fits in the toy aisle of the Wal-Mart. God doesn't have to prove he exists. God says that all of creation know and are without excuse. Everyone believes in God, but not everyone acknowledges Him. Early on, I believed I could manipulate my father, just like Michael and Anna can manipulate their father. Much to my chagrin, God isn't co-dependent.

Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! Exodus 14:21-22
When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived. Exodus 14:26-28
When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31

After one month, the Israelites heard Janet Jackson on the radio, and cried out to God, What have you done for me lately?! For you Oh God, are only as good as our last steak dinner, and we can't remember when that was.

If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death. Exodus 16:3

How quickly do we forget the greatness of God. The Israelites had just finished walking across a dry sea bed. Before their very eyes, God creates the worlds first aquarium, and then collapses it, killing the entire Egyptian army. And when they entered the wilderness, they complained that God delivered them just to make them starve in the desert.

For most of us, God is only as good as his last miracle. We are so consumed with our lack and limitation that we forgot that we were as good as dead before he found us in the first place. We never give God the benefit of the doubt. We throw Him and His kids under the bus because of stupid stuff. People have left churches because they thought the music was too loud, their name was misspelled in the bulletin, or because the Pastor didn't visit their mother in the hospital. We assume the worst, and take offenses based solely on our emotions.

Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3

Could it be that our deserts are where God chooses to humble us and purge our whacked-out thinking? The Jews were willing to go BACK to making bricks and being slaves because Pharaoh fed them well. They were willing to suffer the oppression of Egypt and ignore their cuts and callouses, just so they could have the free jumbo shrimp at the casino. God took them out of Egypt, but used the wilderness to take Egypt out of them. You can never go into your promise carrying around your hopelessness. God won't allow you to enter into your new house carrying the curtains from your old. They won't match, so don't bother. You can't go into the level of abundance until you shed the level of just enough. God miraculously provided them food, but what they gathered every morning, only lasted for that day. If they tried to store it for later, it would rot. Sound familiar?

Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. Psalms 37:25

Have you had extra money, just to see it fly away with a car or home repair? I have lived all my life in the promise of God providing for all of my needs. God has always been faithful and provided on time. But that gets old pretty quick, especially when your desire is to have extra to give or invest. Abundance is ONLY a product of the Kingdom. It was God alone that brought the Israelites out of Egypt. It was His fault they were in the desert, and they were His responsibility. God, recognizing that fact, decided to feed them everyday. They didn't have to pray and obey God to get 3 hots and a cot. God was faithful to His kids in spite of their unbelief. God made sure they were warm and fed. God made sure they had just enough to survive the day. There was nothing extra for movie tickets, barbecues, or mission trips. It was in the desert, that the "fundraiser" was born. In the desert, churches "raise" money. In the Kingdom, churches "lower" it.

For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey. There they will become prosperous, eat all the food they want, and become fat. Deuteronomy 31:20

Where the desert was full service, the promised land was self service. It was a land of abundance, but it was also a land that had to be plundered. For a long time, I sat in church and sang along with Janet Jackson - "What has God done for me lately?" I was always looking for God's next trick, miracle, or rescue. But the fact is, I was in the desert. There's no such thing as leftover mana, only enough to make the bills and only enough to get by. How did I bust out of the desert? That answer is too long for this post, but here is the first step. I stopped complaining. I stopped doubting God. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I stopped wishing I would have majored in business after high school. I stopped thinking about what could have been. I stopped making God smaller, because I felt I deserved better. I stopped telling God what I needed, as if He didn't already know. God isn't moved by need. If that were true, India would be the most blessed country in the world. Need doesn't move God, faith does.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Monday, August 24, 2009

Delay of Game

In sports, there are some plays that seem to defy our natural eyes: a 100 yard kickoff return from the goal line, a buzzer beater from downtown, or an out of the park hit with all bases loaded. We love to see them, but we also know their rarity. Neither do we expect blowouts in every game. In fact, the really great games are the ones that have the closest margins. As the saying goes, the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.

Being in relationship with Christ doesn't guarantee an untouched walk into the end zone. We may get them, but those are rare occurrences. Most of our plays end with us buried under a pile of sweaty enemies. Sometimes we gain a few yards, sometimes not. Satan, the opposing coach, and his host of teammates, will never allow you move the ball without a fight. That's the only play in his book. He can't affect the outcome of the game. He already knows he lost. His strategy is to keep you from advancing, and he will defend every inch. He does this mainly by deception and intimidation. He wants you off the field. He doesn't care if your on the bench, on injured reserve, or in the church stands wearing your team colors. Waving our #1 foam hand singing "Shout to the Lord" doesn't make him nervous. But strapping on your "cup" and taking the field will cause all hell to break loose.

I have never seen a linebacker fight his way into the nose bleed section just to steal some one's hotdog. Similarly, the Jews never had to fear that their enemies would come into the desert and take their abundant resources.(sarcasm) Satan isn't after your pew. He's after your potential. His desire is not that you miss church. He wants you to miss life. He wants you out of combat and out of commission. And if he can intimidate you with hi-definition pummels, sideline microphones, and pastors being carried off the field in stretchers, he'll gladly subsidize the peanuts.

I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. Romans 1:13

Have you ever planned on doing something, and it never happened? Maybe you planned on going to college. Perhaps you planned on finally cleaning out that garage or taking that vacation. You may have planned on starting your own business, getting out of debt, or losing a few pounds. We've all felt that great since of expectation and euphoria during the first week of January. But it doesn't take long before we slowly move from the field, to the bench, to the stands, and then before long, we just stay home and watch it on television.

Paul wanted to go to Rome on many occasions. It wasn't because he had a time share. He wanted to go because he wanted to minister to the church. He wasn't going because he heard Bono was touring. He was doing God's work. Have you ever wanted to do something FOR GOD, and it never happened? We're not surprised when our trip to Las Vegas is suddenly ripped from under us. But c'mon God, I was saving for a missions trip to Nicaragua to feed hungry children. You could have at least let me get the time off from work. (God seriously needs to hire a public relations team.) Traveling for God doesn't get you the extra seat in first class. It might not even get you a seat. So what prevented Paul? Was it gas prices? Was it the recession?

Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

If Paul was a member of most churches, he would have been laughed out of the sanctuary and given the book, "A Devil Under Every Rock". God's man! God's pen, that recorded most of the New Testament, is blaming Satan for delaying his ministry. Paul wasn't prevented, because he lacked discipline or time management skills. He wasn't stopped at the border because of an expired passport. He was stopped because of an active enemy. The same enemy that wants to prevent us from being used of God. It would have been nice if Jesus sprayed me with mosquito repellent and put a garlic necklace around my neck. But that's not what happened when He found me. At the moment of salvation, I became a target. Not because of what I've done, but because of what I can do. In Christ I have unlimited potential. My destination is heaven, but my destiny is taking back ground. The game may be over for Satan, but it doesn't mean he has to like it. We'd be a fool to think he's gonna let us skip up and down the field shouting "Na-Na-Na-Boo-Boo You can't catch me".

Very few churches, teach about real spiritual enemies who fight and discourage God's kids. They'll blame Murphy's Law and assume bad luck before blaming a lying stealing devil. They'll recommend a book, before they'll agree with you in prayer. It's as if they're ignorant he exists. In the meantime, there's a battle for souls going on right under our own nose.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

It doesn't say that we sometimes fight. It doesn't even say that we mostly fight. It says we fight. Yes, there are times when we lose out because of our own lazy and defiant self. But we already know it wasn't the devil that lifted the spoon of Blue Bell to our mouth. But there was an unseen salesman over your shoulder selling it to you at the store. It was the same guy that sold you the guilt when you finished it off in 10 minutes. Who is to blame when we lose our job? Is it the economy, the unfair boss, or office politics? When we lose our marriage, do we blame everything but us, including the dog?

Satan can't keep you from heaven, but he can keep you busy at every crime scene of your life dusting for prints. He will make you crazy and suspicious of everybody and everything just to keep you in the cheap seats and as far away from God's will as he possibly can. He knows your going to heaven, but he's asking that you slip in through the back door and don't wake the neighbors. If he can keep you busy nursing offenses with your mother-in-law, he is free to steal everything in your life that isn't nailed down in Christ. Jesus gave us power over the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, but He didn't give us power over each other.

When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Paul is warning us that one of Satan's schemes is to have us too busy fighting each other to be an effective force against evil. If he can get churches, couples, and communities splitting over trivial issues, he need not be concerned with your effectiveness on the battlefield of souls. When we're too busy defending our opinions, we have no energy to advance on our real enemy. The moment we start fighting personalities instead of principalities, we have been outsmarted. We have forfeited our position on the field for box seats and a half-time show.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9