KLOVE Features December 2018

Facing Your Fears

Until we find our true identity, we won’t be able to face our greatest fears. The patriarch Jacob had been estranged from his brother Esau for decades, ever since Jacob cheated him out of his birthright and blessing. So, the idea of meeting his twin again was terrifying. Knowing he would see Esau the next day, Jacob tossed and turned all night, wrestling with God. Only after Jacob fully submitted to God’s plan for his life could Jacob then face what he feared most. So, too, with each of us. We must see ourselves the way God sees us before we can face our fears. As the psalmist wrote, “…if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive…” (Psalm 124:2-3, ESV)

Do Ends Justify the Means?

Do the ends ever justify the means? Haven’t we all done something bad in order to achieve what we rationalized was an ultimate good? This, one of the great tests in life, is at best fuzzy math. In John 11, Jewish leaders expressed their intention to kill Jesus for the good of the nation. Both their end goal and the means to do it were wrong. They would ultimately kill Jesus thinking they were doing God a favor. How many decisions have I embraced that were birthed in deception, resulting in a wrong that I have since deeply regretted. I now clearly see my willingness to allow an end to justify a deceptive means was a serious error in judgment. May we each discern that the steps we take to achieve something, are as important as what we hope to accomplish.

Your Ceiling is Our Floor

A few years ago, as my twin daughters, Deborah and Havilah, were coming into their own as leaders, they shared these memorable words with me. “Dad, your ceiling is our floor.” At first, it took me back. Could they pull it off? How would I feel if they did? Within a few moments after hearing them say it, I’d done the math. Not only would I be delighted for them to exceed every aspect of my life, I was now further commissioned to help them accomplish just that. Years have gone by, and their amazing lives have taken off. With godly husbands and beautiful children, I am most often referred to as Havilah or Deborah’s Dad. It blesses me beyond words as I realize my wife, Suzie and I have lived long enough to experience the joy of our ceiling truly becoming their floor.

Follow Fruit vs. Gifts

God desires that we manifest the fruit of the Spirit: His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as we minister in the gifts of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Some people want the fruit of the Spirit but shy away from His gifts. Others get enthused about the gifts and manifest little fruit. We need both and should desire both. James’ epistle touches on a similar dichotomy between faith and works, using this argument: “You show me your faith without works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) Here’s a parallel commentary: “You show me your love without gifts, and I’ll show you God’s love with His gifts.” Fruit and gifts aren’t meant to compete with one another; they are meant to be God’s divine compliment. “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts…” (1 Corinthians 14:1, NRSV)

Final Words

We can find out what’s in a person’s heart by examining their final words. Christ’s last sentence was very telling. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NLT) As were Stephen’s, the first Christian martyr, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (Acts 7:60, NLT). Our final words are, likewise, important, not just at the end of our lives, but at the end of every conversation. Do we win the argument, and yet lose a friend? The social mediums are the perfect proving ground for what’s in our heart. Were our final words filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, or judgment, condescension, condemnation and shame? Is our motive to help or to hurt? Whatever’s in my heart will eventually come out of my mouth. May I continue to guard my heart with all diligence for out of it proceeds my life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Old, Tired Voices

There will always be old, tired voices in our head telling us to follow them instead of following God. In Acts chapter 5, the disciples disobeyed the religious leaders in their day and continued to preach the gospel under penalty of death. The High Priest demanded, “Didn’t we tell you never again to preach about this Jesus?” (Acts 5:28, TLB) At some point, we have to be courageous enough to reject the lies of past lifeless traditions, in exchange for the truth of future life-giving obedience. What old, tired voices are in your head, on the airwaves, and around you, saying, “Didn’t we tell you to do it this way, and say what I say?” But don’t listen to them. Let the still, small voice of God’s Word and Spirit be your guiding light. For, in the end, what God thinks is all that matters.

Commas Instead of Periods

Many times in life we put a period at the end of an experience. We’re done! Or, we think God or someone else must be finished with us as well. Once again, all that’s really happened is we’ve given up too soon. I’ve found that God uses far more commas to punctuate my life experience than periods. With each comma, God’s saying, you’re not done yet, keep believing, keep going forward. Likewise, on other occasions, I place a question mark, dripping with unbelief, on what God wants to put an exclamation point, loaded with faith. I’ve believed the debt is too much, the sickness is too great, I’m too old, too young, too poor, too far gone. Whatever! God is bigger! He is greater! Today, add more commas, and watch the God of happy endings turn your question marks into exclamation points.

Prodigal Son or Running Father

One of Christ’s most memorable stories is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It moves each of us deeply when we consider the heart of a father being willing to accept a rebellious son back into the family with unconditional love. But I was stunned and blessed to learn that in some nations this unforgettable story is not called the “Prodigal Son,” but the “Running Father.” WOW! When I heard that, it took the parable to another level. We don’t have to come into the presence of God as “rejected servants,” but as “fully accepted sons & daughters.” Our storyline doesn’t center our feeble attempt to reach out to God, but His abandoned, all-in love to rescue and accept us. “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Returning to Hurt Places

Sometimes, if we are willing to go back to places where we have been hurt, God has surprises waiting for us. Paul the Apostle had been stoned and left for dead in the city of Lystra. But after a while, God put it on his heart to return and see how the believers in Lystra were doing. Because of his willingness to return to a place where people hated him so much that they tried to kill him, it was on this return trip that he met Timothy, a great man of God, who would become a son in the faith to Paul. Are you and I willing to return to places we’ve been hurt, perhaps even to people who have hurt us? If God asks us to, we should go. We may be shocked and blessed to find something or someone special waiting for us there.

Depending Upon God

Do you ever get a little tired of depending upon God? I know I sometimes do. But that’s when I have to reconsider my response to life and remind myself that I will be depending upon God, both now and forever. As the Bible says, “For in Him (in God alone) we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28, KJV) God will never create circumstances where we no longer need Him. This dependency is for our good and is designed to continually draw us into a closer relationship with our Creator. Only then can we become more like Him: which is the very purpose for our existence. As God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so we will be learning to trust in Him and His best for us, for all eternity.

Discovering Who You Are

Our maturity level is determined as much by what attracts us as it does by what distracts us. Only the God of Heaven can reveal our true identity in life. We discover our purpose for God creating us when we worship Him and wash our minds and hearts with His Word. If we don’t find our true self by looking into God’s heart, we will be seduced by the shallow fascinations of this world. Only then will we find that we’ve been chasing after an identity God never intended for us. Today, spend some time worshiping Jesus and let His Spirit and Word wash over your parched soul. You will continue to see who you are really meant to be and find the fulfillment God has always intended for you.

Meeting Perry Como

My twin brother and I were shuffled off to camp for two months every summer from five years old till 14. Our father was immersed in politics. Each night at camp, after lights out, a scratchy phonograph record played the “Our Father” prayer, sung by Perry Como, over loud speakers. It comforted me on hundreds of lonely nights. When I was15, on the verge of becoming an atheist, I was a guest at a private golf course. Walking into a tiny, two-sink restroom, I found Perry Como washing up at the next sink. I was stunned, and so wanted to tell him, “You sang me to sleep 500 nights during my childhood!” But I just couldn’t pull it off. Now, 50 years later, it comforts me to think that God created that special memory in my childhood. Did you see God at work growing up? If not, look again.

 

 

 

 

KLOVE Features December 2017

Priceless

It seems everything on Earth is either increasing or decreasing in value. A watch that once belonged to Paul Newman recently sold for $17 million. While a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci sold for $266 million. What about in Heaven? What is our value to God? Would it surprise you if I said it is impossible for us to become more or less valuable to God? From His vantage point, as our Creator, our value is fixed and unchangeable. We are priceless to Him! And if we could ever actually believe this, it would change our lives. We’d never again give into hopelessness and despair. We’d realize we are so precious to God, He’d do everything possible to forgive and heal our past, establish our present, and preserve our future. That’s why Jesus came!

Meekness

When Jesus said the meek will inherit the Earth, in Matthew 5:5, what did He mean? We are meek toward God when we accept His dealings with us as good, without disputing or resisting them. We are not passive; we are passionately focused and surrendered. In the Old Testament, the meek were those who totally relied on God rather than upon their own strength to defend themselves against injustice. Therefore, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is even using them to purify His followers, and that He will deliver us in His perfect time. Down through the ages, Christian martyrs were neither helpless nor hopeless, but fully trusting in the God who held their lives and future in His trustworthy hands.

Flying on Instruments

A friend of mine who is a pilot said he is required to fly “instruments only” at night or when in the clouds. In those situations, he’s not allowed to fly under “visual flight rules.” This is compulsory because the sensors in the brain will at times disorient pilots from keeping the plane level. One day, while flying in the clouds and looking at his instruments, they indicated his plane was pitched up as if it was ascending, while another instrument showed he was descending at a thousand feet a minute. At that moment, if he had followed his instincts, he would have pulled back, stalled the plane, and probably crashed. Following his instruments saved his life. Following the truth of God’s Word, and not our feelings, will save our lives as well. “For we walk by faith (in God’s Word), not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NKJV)

The End of Your Movie

Have you ever had someone tell you about their favorite movie, and they said, “Oh, you’re going love the end!” And they are a trustworthy person; fully believable, and not prone to exaggeration. Then you watch the movie and you can’t wait for the ending. No matter how difficult certain portions of the movie may be, you can’t wait to see what happens at the end. What if I told you that’s exactly the script God has written for your life. Your movie has the best ending ever! If you’ll just trust Jesus…follow Him…and believe in Him, more than the challenges you face, you’ll see God is the greatest Script Writer of all time, and you are one of the stars in His movie. “Those who are wise…will shine like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3, NIV)

An Honest Assessment from Friends

When I was a young Christian, it took two friends two hours to provide some objectivity as to how I was wired. They were primarily trying to alert me to the fact that I was very, very intense. It wasn’t a negative critique. It was just a helpful assessment of how God made me. Do you know how you are wired: your temperament, personality, giftings, passions, even your vulnerabilities and weaknesses? I’ve looked back on that conversation, now decades later, and realized, with a much fuller appreciation, that my friends were trying to help me, to give me a healthy grid for the rest of my life. Ask some friends who love you, people you trust, to give you an honest assessment of who you are. If you can hear them, it will change your life.

The Worst Commercial Airline Disaster

In the early days of commercial aviation, the captain had the final say, and it was unacceptable to challenge his or her decision-making. This led to many crashes. The worst commercial airline disaster in aviation history occurred in 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger airliners collided on the runway of Tenerife Airport, because dense fog kept the pilots and control tower from seeing one another. At that time, the co-pilot’s inability to challenge the pilot’s decision-making led to 583 fatalities. Commercial airlines now require a pilot and a co-pilot to share responsibilities, with the co-pilot being able to advise the pilot in the event his decision-making is skewed. This speaks to me of accountability. Who in your life would be able to challenge your decision-making and spare you and others much pain and regret?

The Hand You Are Dealt

All of us process life differently. I’m intense; my wife Suzie is relaxed. I had a difficult childhood, lost in an oppressive boarding school. She had a marvelous one, surrounded by her happy family. I’ve forgiven her! HA! Our nature and nurture experiences are completely different, but I’m not going to wince, whine or wobble about the hand I was dealt. Even though I don’t wake up each morning to low-hanging hope, I’ve learned to climb the tree of worship and the Word in order to live an abundant life. None of our foundations disqualify us or establish us. It’s what we do with the hand we are dealt. None of us have been short-changed. We have each been lavishly overpaid. When you accept this fact, you finally arrive at a new level of trust.

My Father

When my father was just eight years old, after the death of his own father, he immigrated from Sicily to New York City. As a young boy, he shined shoes to make money, living in a one-room apartment with his mother, brothers and sister. He’d sit in a corner to study, and went to the top of his class in college and law school, becoming a famous political figure: a U. S. Congressman for five terms, and a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Presidents courted his favor; he was knighted by the Pope, and had his picture on the front page of the New York Times when he died. But when he left home, that final day, he was a frustrated, unfulfilled man. It made an indelible impression on me, that without God, no achievement can ever fulfill us.

Climbing a Goal Post

When I was 19, I went to a football game with my twin brother, Joseph, between Rutgers and Princeton. Since Joseph attended Rutgers, when his team won I was elated. Sadly, though, I was drunk and out of control. Shimmying up a goalpost, I had the top of the 32-foot pole under my stomach as hundreds of people below began to tear it down. Suddenly, the heavy metal pole snapped, stopping just four feet from the ground, and violently shaking me off. Completely dazed, a stranger walked up and said, “You’re an idiot!”  Until then, I didn’t know who I was. Now, at last I had clarity. I was an idiot! HA! How many of us climb the imaginary goalposts of shallow recognition, not realizing we’ll soon fall? My Creator best defines who I am. I will gaze into His eyes to see my true reflection.

The Privilege of God-given Abilities

I have a friend who is a surgeon. He takes his job so seriously, he describes it in this way: “I get the privilege of people trusting me so completely, they allow me to place them unconscious, take a scalpel, and operate on them, believing it is for their benefit. I am so conscientious about the stewardship I’ve been given, that when I walk through the hospital I am continually reminded of the honor God has granted me. Even after doing this for 30 years, I’m still amazed this is what I am privileged to do.” How revealing! Perhaps the reason we are each given unique gifts and graces is because God wants us to see them as a privilege and not a burden. What responsibility has God given you, and are you taking it seriously?

God’s Spared Her Sons Life

A military Mom’s son was stationed in Iraq. She told me with tears how God had protected him. He was the only medic in his unit, when a Suburban filled with explosives wiped out an entire block. Knocked unconscious, when he woke up, having no idea how long he’d been out, he routinely began to administer first aid to those around him. On another occasion, his life was spared. A bomb landed just a few feet from him, shaking the ground, but didn’t explode. Even after all of these near-death experiences, her son has not yet surrendered his life to Jesus, but she is absolutely believing he will. As this year comes to an end, who are you praying for and believing will come to their spiritual senses, allowing Jesus to rescue their lives?

God’s Special Gift for You

I have a quirky doctor friend who has no interest in eating food. He literally says, “I am never hungry!” Going so far as to admit, “If there was a pill I could take that would provide all of the nourishment I would need for any given day, I would take it, and never go through the process of eating food.” One of the unusual aspects of his food connection is that he does have one absolute craving: chocolate, and considers this God’s silver lining, a special blessing from God over his life, allowing him this singular indulgence. He smiles and laughs when he talks about this, and considers it God’s special gift to him. Have you discovered an exceptional gift God the Father has given you? It will make you smile when you do.