KLOVE Features November 2018

Hopelessness is a Lie

When the Bible says to followers of Jesus, “…you will not grieve like people who have no hope,” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NLT) does it mean, that we are a little less hopeless than other people? Absolutely not! In the past, without Jesus, my hope was not just completely absent from my present, it was totally absent from my future. We each have to decide if our hope is just for the “sweet by and by”, or also for the bitter disappointments of today. Hopelessness is a lie that I refuse to allow in my heart. When it shows up, I drive it from my mind. I wash it away with the truth of God’s eternal promises. Because God has never had a hopeless thought about me, I refuse to bow for even one moment to the lie of hopelessness!

Words of Encouragement

A longtime friend of my wife and I was struggling believing that she could be successful in a weight loss program we had found to be incredibly effective. After listening to her struggle to believe that she could actually do it, I finally entreated our friend, “You can do this! You’re going to be successful! You’re going to love it.” Months later, after losing the 50 pounds she had hoped to lose, she shared that those hope-filled words of encouragement were the tipping point for her to have the faith to try, once again, something she had repeatedly failed at. Who in your life needs a word of encouragement to conquer a giant, defeat a foe, and secure a victory? You may find that your words of hope and life will be the difference maker for them as well!

One Night in an Inconvenient Motel

Ever feel overwhelmed by the challenges of Earth? I know I do, and often. So when I saw this quote from Teresa of Avila, it made my day. She wrote, “In light of Heaven, the worst suffering on Earth, a life full of the most tortures on Earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.” Wow! That sums is up. My worst moments on Earth can’t compare to the joys of Heaven. They’ll seem like “…one night in an inconvenient hotel.” The Bible agrees and says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV) Even Jesus had His take on how we should face the worst that life can throw at us, “…lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28, NIV)

Finding Our Identity by Wrestling With God

In the Old Testament, Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his first-born birthright and, consequently, the blessing of his father, Isaac. Because Jacob had gotten the blessing illegitimately, he never believed his life was blessed. Years later, after many dealings with God, Jacob was willing to wrestle with God until he received His blessing, no matter how long it took. Because of Jacob’s humble persistence, God changed his name to “Israel”. Only then did Jacob embrace his true identity. He went from being Jacob, “the swindler and cheat”, to Israel, “prince with God”. Each of us have tried shortcuts to receive the blessing only God can give. But, unless we know how much God really loves us, and then embrace His forgiveness for our sins, we’ll never feel as accepted as we really are.

Religion vs. Relationship

One of the greatest dangers of following religious rituals is that they temporarily soothe our conscience without requiring us to obey God’s Spirit. This was one of the favorite practices of Pharisees during the time of Jesus. After Judas betrayed Jesus and then killed himself, religious leaders decided it was unlawful for them to take the money that Judas had thrown down. They reasoned that because he was a murderer, they couldn’t put the money back into the temple treasury. What could be more absurd than that? They had paid Judas to betray Jesus, the Savior of the world, and now felt it was immoral to put their blood money back into their treasury. How foolish! Yet, what a perfect example of the difference between religious ritual and the reality of a genuine relationship with God.

Does God Really Care?

All of us have felt at times, “God, where are you? I’m dying here!” The disciples of Jesus said exactly that in the middle of a raging storm, shouting at Him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38, NLT) When He quieted the storm, they realized Jesus, of course, did, but in their fear and unbelief they accused Him of indifference. “Don’t you even care” is really the crossroads question that will take us either to faith and courage, or unbelief and discouragement. No one has cared more for each of us than Jesus. And He demonstrated it most clearly by taking the punishment for the sins we committed and dying a horrible death on the Cross. The Bible promises, “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:8, NLT)

Why Great Trees Fall

I’ve often wondered why great trees fall in high winds. Why taller trees are even  most susceptible? More often than not, trees tend to uproot than break off in heavy winds. During my research, I found that many times it’s because the tree’s roots had been cut. A healthy tree will have its roots extend twice as wide as its branches. But, due to urban development, when roots of a healthy tree are severed, it can lead to the decay and premature toppling of a once-thriving tree. Though I have seen this pattern in the lives of spiritual giants, it frankly caused me to consider my own life. Do my roots go deep in the soil of God’s Spirit and Word? Have once-healthy relationships decayed over time? Jesus, help my spiritual and relational roots to remain strong and healthy.

Dismissing What We Don’t Understand

We all tend to dismiss what we don’t understand, even if it is the Word of God. Jesus told the religious leaders in His day, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19, NLT) Not only did the Jewish leaders not understand His words, His disciples didn’t either. Only after Jesus was resurrected did they realize He was prophesying about His physical body being raised from the dead. There are many things I am waiting on God to fully reveal, though He has already placed his seal of authenticity upon them. Don’t dismiss what you don’t understand if it came from the Spirit and Word of God. In the fullness of time, even the most perplexing words God has spoken to you will at last emerge, revealing His original intention.

What God Thinks of You

I’ve often wondered what it was like for great men and women to walk with God. As with each of us, when the patriarch Jacob looked back over his life, he knew he had failed many times. But during one night of struggle, he was willing to fully submit to God’s will and not his own. Jacob wrestled with God all night, and finally accepted that God fully approved of him. How did Jacob walk away from that transforming event? He didn’t come away feeling powerful. Instead, Jacob came away knowing God was powerful, and from then on walked with a limp. Are you ready to meet God? He’s ready to meet you. But remember, the true value of your relationship with God is ultimately caring infinitely more about what He thinks of you than what you think of yourself.

Special Needs” Love

You’d be amazed at how many families are caring for loved ones with special needs. They’re often treated as invisible and under-valued, not realizing the care required can be rigorous and unending. Dear friends of ours have raised a son with special needs for three decades. For years they struggled alone until connecting with “Joni and Friends” where they found fellowship and support. The result: The Dads Band Project, four musical dads who’ve made an incredibly anointed and revealing album called “Waiting Room”, showcasing anointed music and gripping lyrics contrasting their struggles on Earth with their longing for Heaven. It provides a holy glimpse into not just their daily difficulties, but their eternal hope in God’s promises. As I listened, I heard the true miracle and value of God’s divine intention. And . . . it changed me!

Digging Out of Ruts

Each of us have found familiarity to be one of the great comforts in life. But, is it always? Though we all tend to sit in the same seat and repeat the same expressions, doesn’t familiarity, at times, cause us to take those we love for granted? Aren’t there habits that numb us rather than motivate and inspire us? I’ve found, as I get older, one of my greatest needs in life is to experience the unfamiliar, the brand new, especially the unexpected; to wake up thinking new thoughts and uncovering fresh insights. Only then do I rediscover healthy growth. Frankly, changing patterns in my life has helped me blast out of old ruts. Most of all, remembering God never duplicated a moment or a memory inspires me to try and do the same. Today, ask God to show you something new, and He will.

Why Do Christians Fall?

Having been a Christ-follower for nearly a half-century, I’ve seen too many come and go in following Jesus. At times, as I’ve lost even close friends to deception, it’s broken my heart. In retrospect, were there any early indicators of a person’s future spiritual unhealthiness? Over the years, I’ve found the growth patterns in trees to be surprisingly insightful. The eventual destruction of both trees and people can be seen in their early leanings. In a person’s spiritual life, is there a fascination or inclination toward non-biblical ideas? This tendency can reveal a future willingness to separate from biblical truth for the foolish philosophies of this fallen world. I’ve lost many a friend because they naively entertained the wisdom of the world and lost sight of the flawless eternal wisdom of God and His Word.

 

 

 

 

KLOVE Features October 2018

The Least Person in Heaven

Did you ever consider how significant it is to be a Christ-follower? Why are we in the New Testament age blessed beyond anyone in a previous age? The amazing words of Jesus put this extraordinary privilege in perspective. Speaking of the great prophet, John the Baptist, Jesus proclaimed a profound reality that places great responsibility upon each of us. He said, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” Wow! Think of it: the seemingly least significant Christian, weak in faith, struggling with victory, and feeling like they barely made it into Heaven is infinitely more blessed than any spiritual giant who ever walked the Earth prior to Jesus.

Life Takes About Two-Hours God-Time

Ever feel like you’re getting whiplash from the twists and turns in life? Transitions are in store for all of us. But, don’t get too settled on what you think is, or should be, happening. If “…a day is like a thousand years to the Lord…” (2 Peter 3:8, NLT), then our lives take less than two hours of God-time. So, I’ve been pastoring a church for about 20 minutes, God-time, and I may be heading into eternity in a half hour. The point is: Life goes fast! The Bible says, “…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. ” (James 4:14, NKJV) The changes and transitions we experience in life are all tests: proving our character and molding us to become like Jesus.

Anger and Judgment

The other day I heard these words as I listened to the Bible. Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22, NLT) Whoa! What? I had to play it again. Look it up. Examine its meaning and consider the consequence of Christ’s intent. Did Jesus really mean, if I’m angry with my brother or sister I will be subject to judgment? How much anger fills our world today? How angry have I, at times, allowed my heart to become? Who do I need to forgive? What offense continues to simmer in my mind? What brother or sister, friend or foe, neighbor or stranger, have I been angry with, and in some way, still am? Jesus, wipe it from my heart! Let me forgive others that I may know what true forgiveness really is.

The Eye of a Hurricane

I’m fascinated by reports of weather in the eye of hurricanes. It’s an area where there’s little to no rain, the sun shines, and the winds are light. Sounds wonderful! I just want to know how to find it when my life feels like a hurricane. Well, you can’t reach it by going over it. Planes can’t fly that high. You have to go through it . . . the hurricane wall. Sure, it gets dark and cloudy and visual navigation isn’t possible. So, you fly by instruments (sounds like the Word of God to me). The trick is to fly directly into the storm’s wind direction where, surprisingly, there’s little turbulence. That’s when I had a revelation: if I’m willing to flow with and trust God in the middle of my storms, I’ll finally get to a place of extraordinary calm, a place of peace beyond my understanding.

Blessing Others

There is a gift each of us, who know Jesus, have been given that perhaps we rarely open. It’s called the gift of blessing others. Jesus said, “When you enter the home, give it your blessing. If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing.” (Matthew 10:12-13, NLT) This word “blessing” speaks of tranquility, security, safety, prosperity and harmony. It refers to the peace only God can provide. WOW! At times I’ve thought I don’t know if I can bless someone, because I don’t really know them. Yet, Jesus said, bless anyway, and I’ll determine if the blessing should remain. It is a pronouncement of God’s favor and goodness upon others. Today, bless others. It will change both their lives and your own.

Reaching the Unworthy

Don’t be surprised if Jesus is asking you to reach out to someone others would consider unworthy. That’s actually His specialty, because that’s how He personally chose to come to Earth: despised, rejected, hidden, un-esteemed, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) Someone who was comfortable relating to despised tax collectors, notorious sinners, and even serial adulterers. He loved the unlovable and redeemed the unredeemable. Setting a God-like example for each of us to follow. Who, in our own lives, have we been overlooking, walking past, and ignoring, that God is now high-lighting, and reminding us of the penetrating words of Jesus, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!” (Matthew 25:40, NLT)

Why Doesn’t God Stop Us?

Did you ever wonder why God, at times, doesn’t stop us from doing something we really shouldn’t do? Perhaps, it’s to let us see what’s in our heart so we’ll change our behavior voluntarily. In Matthew 26, at the Last Supper, after Jesus told His disciples He would be killed, they asked Him if their two swords would be enough to defend themselves. Jesus said, “Yes.” He didn’t say, “Don’t bring any swords with you at all, because you’re going to over-react and use them.” Jesus wanted to see what was in their hearts, and after Peter chopped off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Jesus told them, “No more of this!” So I wonder, what life lesson does Jesus want to teach us today, after He exposes our misguided efforts to do what we think is best?

What Comes Out of Your Mouth?

My wife was on a flight recently and sat by two men who carried on a conversation where, for two hours, every other word was a curse word. It stunned and grieved her that they could be so callous and unaware of the consequence of the words they spoke. She realized that they had probably sat for hours listening to movies and music and conversations that were saturated with vulgar communication, so that now their minds and mouths were polluted. There are many voices in this world competing for the hearts and minds of men. But, whatever we are hearing will produce good or bad fruit. Be careful what you hear, because those words will go deep into your heart, come out of your mouth, and will eventually bless or curse those around you.

False Friendships

Did you ever notice the strange friendships in the Bible? Only after Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies, mocked and ridiculed Jesus did they finally become friends. To me, it demonstrates that, at times, our motive for a friendship is even more important than the friendship itself. When I was in the world and pleasure seeking, some of my relationships were based upon what someone could do for me, not upon how I might be able to help them. I’m sad as I think of some of the nameless faces I took advantage of for my own self-gratification. It’s true, doing what’s right may even break a friendship. But in the end, as the Bible says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Proverbs 27:6, NASV)

How to Grow in Faith

Do you lack faith? Do you find it difficult to trust God? Without ever having met you, I believe I know exactly why. You either don’t read the eternal Word of God, or don’t believe it when you do. The Bible says, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV) It is therefore impossible to have faith without receiving the eternal words of faith that God desires to feed us, every day. I can’t live the abundant life of faith Jesus promised me without the washing my mind, will, emotions and spirit with His amazing, life-giving words. Today, as you make time to feed, rest and comfort your temporary body, do the same for your everlasting soul and spirit. It won’t just change your day, it will change your life.

Faith That Doesn’t Work

What if I told you that there are really two kinds of faith: faith that works, and faith that doesn’t. There’s a big difference between powerless faith that God exists and power-filled faith in His promises. The Bible says that even the demons believe God exists (James 2:19), and yet that conviction is faithless and powerless. If you and I actually want to experience mountain-moving faith, then we’ll need to be fully persuaded that the promises of God, found in His Word, are our divine assurance that all He has promised will come to pass. If, on the other hand, we merely believe God could do something and not will do all He has pledged to do, then we will spend our lives “…always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7, NIV) that will set us free.

Bad News vs. Good News

Did you ever notice how, at times, it’s easier for us to hear and remember the bad news in life, more than the good news? As Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples that He would die but then rise again after three days. Their response? They were overwhelmed with sadness and denial. All they heard was the bad news: that Jesus was going to die, not the really good news: that He would be resurrected from the dead. They heard the first half of the sentence but not the last. That is each of our tendency: to fixate on our temporary hopelessness, and not God’s everlasting hope. Focus on God’s eternal good news, and not your momentary struggles in life.

 

 

 

KLOVE Features September 2018

Laughing With God

Do you laugh with God? I hope you do. It’s so important to laugh with our close friends, and God wants to be our closest. The other day, I had run upstairs to get something, and came all the way down with something completely different. Going back up laughing, I asked God not to tell my wife, Suzie. I sensed He smiled. So, what keeps us from laughing with God? Do we think He doesn’t have a great sense of humor? Do we really believe He’s not laughing at us and with us? Or do we think He’d rather be angry, disconnected or disappointed with who we are? Is that how our parents treated us? Perhaps? But it certainly isn’t the way He wants to relate to us. Laugh with God! It will make your relationship with Him so much more enjoyable.

Chip On Our Shoulder

Ever feel like you’re getting whiplash from all the twists and turns in your life. Transitions are in store for all of us. Don’t get too settled on what you think is or should be happening. If “…a day is like a thousand years to the Lord…” (2 Peter 3:8, NLT), then our lives take less than two hours of God-time. So, I’ve been pastoring this church for about 20 minutes, God-time, and I’ll be heading into eternity in a half hour, God-time. The point is: Life goes fast! The Bible says, “…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. ” (James 4:14, NKJV) The changes and transitions we experience in life are all tests: proving our character and molding us to become like Jesus.

Kindness to an Old Man

I was on a crowded plane recently when an extraordinary drama occurred during the flight. An elderly man, who looked around 90, was flying alone on what you’d assume would be one of his last flights. An hour in, he needed to use the restroom. Having a window seat, it took exceptional effort for the couple next to him to assist him out and then back into his seat. Others jumped in and eagerly helped. I was a few rows back praying as the scene unfolded and was so touched by the kindness of this team of strangers, each rising to the occasion from the back of the plane to the front. It was breathtaking! With all of the negative news often depicting the worst in humanity, this selfless kindness from strangers was truly unforgettable.

Slippery Expectations

Expectations are a slippery slope. We can go from hoping something happens, to being convinced it’s God’s will, without ever really confirming this with Him. The crowds were happy to applaud Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem a week before His crucifixion because they thought He was coming to be their liberator from the oppression of Rome. A week later, they were, likewise, happy to kill Him and exchange His life for a murderer named Barabbas because their expectations had been dashed. Many people are angry with God and others because they  superimposed an expectation that someone could not fulfill. Let your expectations be in God alone. Allow Him to fulfill all He has promised and intended for your life, and you’ll never be disappointed.

Clinging to Our Past

If we hold on to the past too tightly, we become the greatest enemy of our own future. Being attached to anything but God, will lead us further away from His best for our lives. When Jesus healed Lazarus and raised him from the dead, the Jewish leaders were terrified the Romans would take away their position of power. They foolishly decided they needed to kill Jesus. The High Priest said, “…it’s better…that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” He didn’t know it, but he was prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation of Israel. (John 11:50-51) Our lives will always come to a crossroads: will we cling to our misguided attachment to the past or obey the Spirit’s urging to go forward into God’s fantastic unknown?

The Irony of Getting Healed

We all tend to think that when we are tired or sore from physical activity, the last thing we want to do is move or even work out. Yet, that’s often the very thing we should do: move the sore muscles in order to get blood and oxygen flowing to them. The medical term for this is active rest. I’m not saying you have to exert yourself by lifting heavy weights or running a long distance because that may be the very reason you’re sore in the first place. But I am saying, get up and move, go for a walk, exert those sore muscles in some way. I have also found a spiritual counterpart for this principle. Whenever I don’t feel like praying, worshipping, reading the Word, getting up early to seek God, or going to church, that’s actually the very thing I need to do.

When Giving is Contagious

An employee at a fast food burger restaurant told me about a day when she was really having a hard time at work. Near the end of her shift, someone wanted to pay the bill for the next person in line. This continued for nine people. One person even paid over $40, and when asked if they really wanted to pay that much, said without wavering, “Absolutely!” This blessed the employee so much, it changed her whole day and set off a chain reaction among other shocked employees. Sure, the world can be a pretty creepy place, but it can also be a marvelous place as well. What crazy act of obedience has God planned for you and me today? Can’t wait to see what it is!

Everyone Prays in Hospice

I have a friend who’s worked in Hospice for many years, caring for people at the end of their lives. I was stunned when she said in passing that as a person comes to terms with the fact that they are dying, they invariably pray. A further inquiry determined that though the statement was a bit overstated, it was true in essence. That really got to me. When eternity stares people in the face, at last they acknowledge the obvious: they need to get right with God. What a mixed blessing! Some have this most important of all conversations with their Creator for the first time. For others, it’s a continuation of a marvelous, everlasting romance with Him. Since we all have a choice as to which to choose, I choose conversations throughout the day with the One who loves me most.

Salvaging From a Forest Fire

While our daughter was staying with her husband and kids in the home of friends, with little notice, she was told to immediately evacuate because a forest fire was now within reach. Making a frantic call to the home owners, she asked what she should salvage. The final sentence from the homeowners broke her heart, “Whatever you grab will be all our family has!” Those final words sent our daughter and her husband running through the home, trying to rescue items they thought would be most precious to this family. It made me think about each of our lives and how fragile they are. How, at any moment, we may have to assess what is most important. Only then will we fully realize that in order to choose wisely, we will have had to live wisely.

Getting Caught or Turning Myself In

Perhaps, the most foolish decision I’ll ever make is choosing between turning myself in, if I’m living in sin, or waiting to get caught and exposed. The words of Jesus provide a chilling warning: “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.(Luke 12:2, NLT) Should we dismiss Christ’s words as hyperbole or overstatement or let the raw reality of their warning become the standard for how we should live? How would we live if we realized that every sin we tried to hide on Earth would be exposed during our lifetime? Run to the light, and live safe. “…if we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9, NLT)

God’s on Our Side

Down through the ages, political and military leaders, in an effort to defeat an enemy, win a war, or rally a nation, have often proclaimed with unflinching absoluteness, “We have God on our side!” That’s quite a statement! Now, some were unquestionably heralding righteous causes, but as we often see today, when both sides claim the moral high ground, that God is on their side, we have to go to God’s Word to validate or incriminate whatever they are espousing. So, beware the counterfeit: the loud voices proclaiming without equivocation, not just that they are right, but that they are absolutely certain God is on their side. The irony is, I’ve heard people professing biblically incorrect moral or political positions followed by, “I know God’s on our side!” And I wonder what God thinks about it.

How to Be Perfect

Did you ever read the words of Jesus, “…be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”? (Matthew 5:48, ESV) and think, “I’ve got no shot at that!” I know I have. Trying to achieve the unachievable would at best lead to a life of continual frustration, and at worst, transform us into self-righteous Pharisees. So what did Jesus have in mind when He heralded this highest of all bars? The word “perfect” here means to “be complete.” You could say, “Be complete as your Heavenly Father is complete.” Not that we have reached God-like perfection, but rather we are walking in a level of maturity, a completeness where we are representing Jesus well. Be as mature as you can be at this moment. Look for progress, not perfection. Keep going forward, even if you’ve just taken a few steps backward.

KLOVE Features August 2018

Surprising God

Would you like to surprise God? It sounds like it might be fun, but, sorry — you can’t. He already knows the past, present, and future simultaneously. And frankly, it’s better for us that He does. Though it means our lives have never surprised Him, it also means we’ve never disappointed Him either. God lives with complete understanding of our past, an absolute acceptance of our present, and a captivating hope for our future. Sure, we can’t surprise someone who knows everything, but we can’t disappoint someone who loves unconditionally either. One of the most comforting scriptures of all time says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17) What’s better than surprising God? Trusting Him, no matter what’s happening to you. That might be the most surprising adventure of all.

The Myth of “Justifiable Hatred”

I’m always amazed at how each generation rewrites its own history, inventing a “new” right and wrong. And how deeply they cling to their assumptions, as if the obvious is now, at last, evident for all clear thinking, morally advanced people to embrace. A current myth trending is that you’re allowed to hate; but only if you’re really right, and the wrong you’re hating merits being destroyed. I call it the “Myth of Justifiable Hatred.” We’re not the first generation to buy into its lie.  Demagogues and dictators have peddled the deception since the serpent coined it in the Garden. Funny! Jesus didn’t catch the revelation. He said that we should even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), not hate them. Sure, it’s a lot harder to do, but in the end, it’s what He did for us, and now it’s our turn to pass it on.

Pro-State

I was talking with a teenage girl once who had a wristband on that intrigued me. I asked what it was about, and she said somewhat haltingly, “It’s about supporting the government; you know, pro-state.” Hmm? Asking to see it a little closer, I read the words “Healing Your Prostate.” I didn’t want to embarrass her, but thought it would be kinder to tell her, “I think it’s referring healing prostate cancer.” She was a great sport, and we had a good laugh, but as I reflect on it, it reminds me of the beliefs people walk around with that would be funny, if they weren’t so sad. I don’t want to stand before God and find out I’ve believed something that is patently absurd. Just because something is presented as truth doesn’t mean it is. Check it with the final truth standard, God’s Word, and in the end you’ll never be embarrassed believing it.

“We Want Justice!”

One of the prevailing cries being passionately proclaimed on Earth is, “We want justice!” It covers a long list of grievances: from civil rights to equal rights. Some of the issues being championed are completely valid and demand attention and change, while others are significant departures from God’s best for His creation. But take heart! Even if you can’t get justice on Earth, don’t be discouraged. God promises equity in eternity! There, at last, the scales of justice will be balanced and fair. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham asks God, “Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25, NLT) The answer to the question is beyond comforting. In eternity, we will receive infinitely more than we deserve from a benevolent and generous Creator.

The Lost Fruit

Did you know that there is a lost fruit of the Spirit? Well, not exactly lost…just under-utilized. It’s as important a fruit as the others we talk more about: the love, joy, and peace God so freely gives us. But, this fruit is often hidden and obscure. Primarily, because it runs cross-grain to our American way of life: our over-abundant, over-indulgent, pleasure-seeking culture. It’s the fruit of the Spirit: self-control. Obesity is epidemic; pornography makes billions, and we are entertaining ourselves to death. We cast off restraint left and right, and consequently, our souls and spirits are crying out, frankly, not just for more love, joy and peace, but for the lost fruit: self-control. Perhaps, the only fruit of the Spirit that can rescue us from ourselves. God help us! Give us Your fruit: self-control!

I Am the Project

I’ve worked on many projects for God in my lifetime. Some have been completed, others have not. But once, when I had given myself to a task that wasn’t seeming to work out, I was frustrated and whining to God about why it was so difficult to complete an assignment — the project — He had given me. Out of the blue, the Lord spoke to my heart: “You are the project!” It was a lightning-bolt revelation. I’m fixated on some “thing” I think is really important, and God gives me a reality check and says, “Francis, you are the project. You’ve always been the project. Everything else is just details.” WOW! I think I’m doing something “BIG” for God, and He reminds me of what is “REALLY BIG” to Him. It is always…ALWAYS… US!

Over-reacting and Under-reacting

We live in a world where all-too-often we tend to overreact when something goes wrong and under-react when we need to do something right. We miss the mark by doing more or less than God asks us to. So, how do we dial in and hit the bulls-eye of God’s best for us? It will take caring more about protecting God’s reputation than our own. Refusing to bow to fear or self-preservation is perhaps the only way to responding appropriately to God’s will. To embrace the precise requests He asks of us without modifying them for convenience or scrapping them completely because we think we know better. I am so tired of missing the mark, and so desperate to finish well that I want to do exactly what He asks me to do…no more and no less. I’d make a lousy God!

Offenses

In my nearly-half century of following Jesus, I believe the greatest stumbling block to people serving God is being offended. Jesus even had to encourage John the Baptist to not be offended. So, the issue of offense affects all of us. The Bible says offenses will come. Unresolved offenses are a breeding ground for bitterness. That’s also why the Bible says, “I fear lest a root of bitterness spring up and many will be the defiled.” Learn to forgive those who have offended you by seeing their need, and not fixating on their offense. All of us will be offended, and at times offend others, but if we commit to forgiving and asking forgiveness, we can finish our days with no offense in our heart toward anyone, just as Jesus modeled so beautifully for each of us on the Cross.

Cultural vs. Kingdom Compassion

There’s a funny word that people are doing a lot. It’s called bloviating. It means “to talk at length in an inflated or empty way.” People bloviate about all kinds of things: their accomplishments, their beliefs, and why they are so right about something. But what is most mystifying is when they bloviate about their compassion. There’s an eternal difference between cultural compassion, which is here today and gone tomorrow, ­­­and Kingdom compassion, which is birthed in the heart of God and lasts forever. The Bible says, “When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36, NLT) Jesus is still compassionate about our confusion and helplessness. But the only way He can help us is if we admit we are confused in our thinking and helpless without Him.

Paying-It-Forward at a Drive-Thru

A woman I met cares for a boy who is severely autistic and has dozens of seizures every day, some of them violent. To say the least, her job wears on her a great deal. One day, as she was going to work, she stopped for coffee at a drive-thru. Frankly, she was not looking forward to her job that day. When she reached the window and was told that the person ahead of her had paid $4 forward for her drink, this simple act of kindness changed her whole outlook and even her entire day. She said, “I actually couldn’t believe it. It set me free!” It meant more to her than if she had found a $50 bill on the street. What an amazing life-lesson! What simple act of kindness can you and I do that could actually make someone’s day?

Miraculous Salvations

God can intercept a life in the most miraculous way! One of my wife’s bridesmaids recently recounted to me her salvation. She had walked into our natural food store during the Jesus Movement in 1973 and was encouraged by our pastor to receive Jesus, which she did. A couple of days later as her car was giving her problems while she was driving, she noticed she had no need to take God’s name in vain, because her heart had been changed. Pulling into a country store in the middle of nowhere, she was approached by members of our Christian community who offered her assistance. Once again, God encouraged her commitment to Him. Now, decades later, she is happily married to one of the Christian men she met that first day in the natural food store. Are you still grateful for God rescuing you?

Affirmation-Nation

The other night I was going for a walk with my wife, when we ran into our daughter and her husband who live around the corner. In passing, she mentioned that as she was driving out of her housing complex onto the street that morning, she inadvertently cut a woman off. Though there was no ill will  intended on our daughter’s part, and she pulled over to let the woman by, she was shocked that as the woman drove past she held up the international hand signal of displeasure. It bothered our daughter so much that, now, many hours later, she mentioned it to us. We encouraged her, of course, but were left with the stale taste of feeling degraded. What if we became an affirmation-nation, instead of a degradation-nation? Wouldn’t that make it a wonderful place to live?

 

 

 

 

KLOVE Features July 2018

The Emotional Cost of Framing Pictures  

I went to a store to get an important picture framed. It meant a great deal to me and had a lot of emotion behind it. As a store attendant was assisting me, I commented that just looking at the picture made me want to cry. She shot back, “I cry with half of the people who come and get pictures framed.” The statement turned my head! After confirming that she really meant what she had just said, I asked her if she had realized when taking her job that there would be an emotional cost. She said, “No, but it’s worth it!” After further discussion, which frankly made us both emotional, I affirmed what we each knew. It is a privilege to help people process the most meaningful relationships and moments of their life.

God Sees Who We Are, Not Just What We Do

God is always pleased with who you are, just not with everything you do. Go back to one minute before you gave your life to Jesus. Did God love you then? Was He smiling down on you, or frowning? Did He suddenly have this cosmic epiphany and realize He really was head over heels in love with you? No! God felt the same way about us one minute before we received Jesus, as He did one minute after. He’s the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God can be saddened in what we do, but He’s never disappointed in who we are. God is not disillusioned with you, because He had no illusions about who you are to begin with. Jesus is infinitely bigger than what you and I have seen Him do for us.

The Miracles We Don’t See

The servants at the marriage of Cana did not know a miracle was taking place, that water had turned to wine, when they carried a cup to the bride’s father for him to taste. They did not know what they had, but they were obedient anyway. I often don’t know if my words and actions will be a difference maker in the lives of those around me, but I just try and share, give, and love what God has given me for others. Some of my greatest experiences in life have been realizing that, even though I initially didn’t see it, God had enabled me to be the carrier of a miracle. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)

Attitude is Everything!

In flying, a pilot is trained to rely on his instruments and not his natural instincts. That’s why the principle instrument on an airplane’s dashboard is the artificial horizon, also known as the “attitude indicator”. It provides a picture of the plane in relation to the actual horizon, which you could call “reality.” Are you pointing up, down, or sideways? The artificial horizon is the main instrument alerting the pilot that the airplane’s direction is appropriate or unsafe. So, too, in life, our attitude is everything. And the greatest instrument God has given us to define and refine our attitude is His Word. The Bible says, “…the word of God… judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV) Keep God’s Word as the centerpiece of your spiritual dashboard, and you will have a healthy attitude, living a safe and blessed life.

Wake-Calls While Crop Dusting

Poor choices in life can cost us dearly. My wife Suzie’s first husband was a crop duster who died in a plane crash. It is a dangerous profession, from daybreak to dark, flying 150 miles-an-hour, 12 feet off the ground, missing power lines while applying seeds and pesticides to farmers’ fields. Our niece’s husband has also been a crop duster for 27 years. Recently, after losing a couple of fellow-crop dusters to accidents and having a close call where his poor decision-making almost cost the life of crew members, he told me he had decided to set an end date to retiring. He knew God had given him a wake-up call. It was time! What wake-up call is God giving you and me? And are we listening to His warnings? “Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart.” (Hebrews 3:15)

My Twin Brother and the Illuminated Cross

My twin brother, Joseph, before surrendering his life to Jesus, was living in Delhi, India. One day, as he was meditating in his room, when he opened his eyes, the outside door of his room was illuminated in the form of a cross. Immediately, he thought, “It’s Jesus! Jesus is the way.” A few days later, back in New York City, he discovered his whole family had become Christ-followers. Shortly after, he dedicated his life to Jesus as well. Forty years later, as he was telling someone about his encounter with the illuminated cross, they showed him historic documentation that hundreds of years ago, Christian craftsmen in Europe designed a door that displayed a cross in the hopes that God would use it to touch lives. We never know how God will use our simple acts of obedience to affect others.

Your Skin Gets Thinner With Age

Did you know your skin gets thinner with age? As the number of new cells produced decreases, our bodies make less collagen, the main protein found in skin which keeps it firm. As we age we also lose elastin, an additional protein which keeps our skin flexible. Lastly, as we grow older, we lose some of the fatty layer underneath our skin, making the skin seem even thinner. What’s the spiritual principle here? If we don’t allow Jesus to keep our heart yielded to Him, our thin skin may make us the grumpy old men and women we never wanted to become. Oswald Sanders described it this way, “Maturity is moving from a thin skin and a hard heart to a thick skin and a soft heart.” “Jesus, help us grow old gracefully!”

“I Don’t Know Who You Are!”

Recently, after upgrading my iPhone, out of habit, I asked Siri to call my wife. She shot back, “I don’t know who your wife is. Actually, I don’t know who you are…” Though I immediately laughed out loud, realizing I had not yet set up my new phone, I was also a tad bit hurt that my life was in some way invisible. As I reflected on this peculiarly funny incident, I realized that my feelings of being valued were deeply connected to my self-worth. It reminded me of an intense movie scene between a mother and daughter. The daughter had always felt she never measured up to her mother’s standards. At one highly emotional moment, the mother looked into her daughter’s eyes and tenderly said, “I see you! I see you!” All of us want to know what’s most important: the God of love sees us.

The Funniest Person Who Ever Lived

Would you think it was sacrilegious if I said, “God is the funniest person who ever lived?” I believe I can prove it. Let me start by asking: who’s funnier than the Inventor of laughter? Just Google, “Images of the funniest looking creatures” and you’ll see the genius of the most hilarious Artist who ever lived. So what’s my point? Have you stopped seeing the comedy and irony within your own life? If you never laugh at the crazy script God has written for you, the silly things you do, the bizarre circumstances and adventures you face every day, then you’re probably missing some of what God intended. Sure, God is simultaneously the most serious and complicated Person of all time as well. But, if we can’t laugh at life, we’ll never enjoy it.

What Gifts Have I Not Received?

Jesus said to the Woman at the Well, “If you only knew the gift I have for you.“ (John 4:10) “If you only knew…” It makes me wonder how many gifts Jesus wants to give me that I have yet to receive. I know and truly appreciate many of the gifts God has given me: everlasting life, forgiveness, health, family, friends, ministry. But, at times, I wonder what gifts I’m missing that He longs for me to have. What promises have I yet to believe in? What joys am I not walking in? The Bible tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17, NIV) “Jesus, open my eyes to receive and praise You for the many gifts You have given me that I have yet to receive, and may actually leave this Earth having never opened.”

The Love of Fathers and Mothers

Is there anything more powerful than a parent’s belief in their children? At the marriage of Cana, when they ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother so believed in Him that she asked the attendants to do whatever He asked. She knew the call that was on His life, and I believe Christ’s humanity appreciated her affirmation more than we know. In a similar way, Jesus appreciated His Heavenly Father speaking from Heaven at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.“ (Matthew 3:17, NKJV) Dads and moms, encourage your sons and daughters with your words, actions, and unconditional love. Our belief in them will be a wind at their back, a warmth to their soul, and may most define who they become.

Pop, Pop, Pop!

I once prayed for a woman with scoliosis of the spine, a significant curvature and twisting of her vertebrae. I didn’t know exactly what to pray, so I waited on God. After a while I said, “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop!” That was it! Eight pops. Nothing else. I felt foolish but believed I’d prayed what I’d received. Two years went by. One night, in another city, she walked up to me smiling. Remembering her, I was initially embarrassed, but before I could speak she blurted out, “I went to a doctor after you prayed for me, and he said I have eight vertebrae out. And I believe one day I’ll hear those pops and be healed.” I was stunned. God had once again chosen foolish things to confound the wise. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

KLOVE Features June 2018

Feeling Bad About Yourself

Would you like to have no good reason to feel bad about yourself? Then let Jesus forgive everything you’ve ever done bad. While you’re at it, would you like a good reason to feel good about yourself? Then believe everything God promises to give you if you surrender your life to Him and receive His forgiveness: His love, His joy, and His peace! Because the Pharisees refused to allow Jesus to forgive them, they minimized what they’d done bad and so ultimately felt bad. On the other hand, the notorious sinner who washed His feet with her tears knew how bad she was compared to Jesus, and so was able to receive His complete forgiveness and feel good. And guess what? So, can you! Feel good today! Let Jesus forgive you.

The Worst Mission Experience Ever

Some experiences in life brand us. I was on a mission trip years ago with doctors, nurses and medical supplies to a remote village in Uganda. Hundreds had walked a full day to get eyeglasses and much-needed medicine. By the end of the 2nd day, we were out of everything. Yet, there were still 75 people who had received nothing. All we had left were 50 tiny bottles of shampoo. The final visual that haunts me today was a male nurse with tears running down his cheeks surrounded by a hundred clamoring, outstretched hands mobbing him while grabbing for what they really didn’t need. The scene was heart-wrenching, but through the painful memory, I am reminded of how much we in America have and take for granted. Be grateful for what you have. None of us have been short-changed.

Thermometers vs. Thermostats

Here’s a question I bet you’ve never been asked: are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer is an instrument that measures temperature, whereas a thermostat is a device that regulates temperature. The hero of my childhood, Dr. Martin Luther King, said the church is to be, “…not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” Brilliant, and challenging! What do I believe: a collection of ideas that are popular before flawed humanity, or a clarion call of conviction modeling the timeless life and character of my courageous Creator? What others think is infinitely less important than what the eternal God knows is true. Whatever you do today: be a thermostat, changing the temperature of those around you.

 It’s Not Easy Being You

Would it surprise you if I said it’s easier being someone else than being who God created you to be? It’s easier skiing in someone else’s wake than creating one yourself. Olympic runners, cyclists, and skaters all race behind someone else. It’s called drafting, and it reduces drag by exploiting the lead objects slipstream. But, at some point, if you want to win the race, you’ll have to make your own wake, create your own draft, and cast your own shadow. Only then will you realize, it’s not easy being who God created you to be, and unless you receive the grace and power of God, you’ll let others lead you, never becoming the one-of-a-kind original God imagined. Sure, it’s not easy being you, but in the end, it will all be worth it.

Let God Do the Heavy Lifting

Do you feel weighed down with pressure? At times, we all do. It’s then we have to examine what are we carrying. A recent survey found that millennials (those in their 20’s and early 30’s) are experiencing more stress than boomers (people in their 60’s and early 70’s). So it seems, peace of mind and rest for our souls is getting harder to find. But, we were never meant to carry the weight of the world. Jesus offers us a much better way to live, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30, NLT) We know we’re carrying the weight God intended for us when we let Him do the heavy lifting.

Someone Prayed For You

If you are a follower of Jesus, someone was praying for you whether you knew it or not. God uses prayer (relational connection to Him) to initiate His will on Earth. It may even be more absolute than we realize. The Bible says, “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7, ESV) The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, believed: “God can do nothing unless someone was praying.” You may not have known who was praying for you, but know this for sure — someone was. And this begs the question: who is God putting on my heart today for me to pray for? I may never meet them face to face on Earth, but my prayerful connection to God may be the difference-maker in their lives.

Extraordinary, But Not the Exception

The lives of many people in the Bible and throughout Church History have been extraordinary, but God never intended them to be the exception. At times, the exceptional past of history’s giants inspires and even provokes me, but it was never meant to intimidate me. I can’t run on the fumes of my yesterdays or anyone else’s. The day I let what others do intimidate me, instead of inspiring me, is the day I become a Pharisee. Jesus came to inspire, but some chose to let His character and authority intimidate them. He offered them an exceptional life, but they chose instead to be the exception. The day I believe I’m extraordinary, is the day I see God’s true intention for my life. My life is extraordinary, but God never intended it to be the exception.

Feeling Not Good Enough

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so discouraged, I feel like the song lyric: “There’s always a reason to feel not good enough.” But there’s actually a good reason why we feel not good enough. It’s because we’re not! The Bible says, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away…No one does good, not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NLT) That’s why we need God’s mercy and forgiveness. Jesus added, “…a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47, NLT) When I surrendered my life to Jesus and received His forgiveness, I exchanged my unrighteousness for His sinless robes of righteousness and holiness. I stopped trying to be good enough and embraced His goodness. There is no one purely good, but God.

Bill Shea

My older brother’s wife, Kathy, is the daughter of William Shea, the gifted lawyer for whom New York’s Shea Stadium was named. When I was a brand-new Christian, I was alone with Mr. Shea in my brother’s home. Lacking tact, I quoted the scripture, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:24) I had cornered him, and though he was gracious, he was never alone with me again. It was the epitome of zeal without wisdom. Years later, his 11-year old grandson, Victor Thomas, born with learning disabilities, had the privilege of doing what I did not do: he led his grandfather and grandmother to Jesus. Memorizing an evangelism booklet I had written, Victor Thomas made up for my insensitivity.

The Difficulty of Doing God’s Will

Though God wants us to know His will, I’ve personally found it is at times very difficult to do it. Consequently, I now believe that this incredibly difficult goal is not an accident. Recently, I found an old message I had preached 40 years ago about knowing God’s will. In it, I listed nine times as a young Christian where I was struggling to know God’s will. I never made any massive mistakes, but I got off track a few times and had to repent. During that season, I ate so much humble pie I could have opened a bakery. I’ve come to the conclusion: God makes it hard to know and do His will, so we have to get to know Him in the process. Cultivating a relationship with God is what life is all about.

“I’m Going to Kill You!”

My life was threatened on many occasions when I pastored a Christian community in the late 1970’s. For 52 months, we ministered to dozens of individuals struggling with drugs and alcohol addictions. The first time I asked a man and his family to leave the community, it was because he was sneaking and doing drugs. He got so irate, as I walked away with my pastor, he yelled, “I’m going to kill you!” My pastor immediately whispered, “Don’t take it personally.” Wise advice, though it sounded somewhat ridiculous at the time. I realized I couldn’t take personal attacks personally, and came to the conclusion…either God is able to protect me, or I can’t be protected, believing the verse, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

The Ridiculous Leads to the Miraculous

Would you believe we at times need to do the ridiculous in order to experience the miraculous? Remember the story of Jesus putting mud and spit in a blind man’s eyes? Or, when He ate food in the home of contagious lepers? How about the over 100 years of absurdity when Noah built an ark in preparation for a flood?  Even though it had never even rained before. Or when the insulted Syrian General Naaman, was told he had to dip in the Jordan River seven times in order to be healed of leprosy? And then there is perhaps the most ridiculous act of all, bringing about the greatest miracle of all time: God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on a cross for the sins of the world.