Be Careful What You’re Chasing
Close friends of ours have grandchildren who were recently chasing an animal around the back yard. Their father went out to investigate and found it was a four-foot long rattlesnake. Needless to say, he yelled for them to get back and then proceeded to kill the snake. It reminded me of the things we pursue, the shiny objects that fascinate us, and frankly, what can kill us if we chase after it without really understanding what it is. The Bible warns us to not be deceived, Paul writes, “…I’m afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s clever lies, your thoughts may be corrupted, and you may lose your single-hearted devotion and pure love for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3, TPT) Don’t spend your life chasing what appears to be enchanting and ends up putting you in chains.
Because of the Way You Treated Us
George and Harriet Walker were missionaries in a remote area of New Guinea for 18 years. It took them three years to learn the language sufficiently in order to tell the people the gospel story of what Jesus had done for them. The tribe had no written language and were so violent that only four men had never killed someone. When they finished the translation and told the tribe the good news, most of the people in the tribe accepted Jesus as Lord. Why? The tribe leaders confided in the missionaries, “Because of the way you treated us, we would have believed any story you told us as the truth.” WOW! Once again, we see the undeniable reality: how we treat others will be the determining factor on whether our lives are believable or not.
As I was praying in a hospital waiting room for a niece battling cancer, a news bulletin came on the TV saying there was a sighting of a mountain lion within our city limits. The report said if attacked by the lion, fight back. Immediately, I thought of the scripture, “Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT) We must fight to live and not allow the enemy of our soul and spirit to destroy us. Though the weapons of our warfare are not natural, they are mighty in the Spirit realm. Therefore, I will follow the Bible’s admonition, “…humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NLT) Remember, when you are attacked, fight back!
We always end up looking like what we believe…for better or worse. So, make sure what you believe has an eternal shelf life and not just the fad of the moment. There will always be someone coming over the hill with the next “new” deception. But if you look closely, it’s just a remake of a tired thought from a past generation. The Bible warns us, “…do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” (1 John 4:1, NLT) Repackaged deception will still kill you. Likewise, genuine truth has no expiration date. Anchor your beliefs on God’s eternal Word and not the flimsy whims of man and you’ll experience the true liberation God always intended.
Healthy Spaces and Safe Places
There has never been an age that continually assaults minds and senses more intensely than this age. Each of us are bombarded with a sensory overload of saturating media stimulation. We are so inundated, we may eventually become indoctrinated and turned into cultural clones. World-lings…conformed to the image of this fallen planet and trapped in the confines of shallow Earth’s dead-end thinking. Unless you and I find healthy spaces and safe places to take mental, emotional and spiritual refuge for ourselves and our families, we may miss God’s original intention: to make us like Him. Will we, and our children, become liberated or held captive to the enemy’s plan to steal, kill and destroy, or God’s desire to heal, fill and restore? Find a safe place to anchor your heart and mind to the God who loves you so very much.
The Secret to Resurrection Life
Want to know the secret to experiencing the resurrection life Jesus promised? The Bible provides a surefire way. Paul the Apostle had so many difficulties, he thought he might die. He wrote, “All of the hardships we passed through crushed us beyond our ability to endure, and we were so completely overwhelmed that we were about to give up entirely…It has taught us to lose all faith in ourselves and to place our trust in the God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8,9, TPT) The only thing that can rescue us from our futile attempts to save ourselves is experiencing so many challenges they pry our fingers from holding on to the false hope of the world’s empty promises. Learn to embrace by faith the eternal truths found in God’s Word alone. Lose your faith in yourself; trust God and truly live.
The God of Fire
We are all aware of the benefits and dangers of fire. It can warm you, feed you, or destroy all you have. Fire can spread so quickly, it brings life or death in a flash. So, throughout the Bible when God showed up with fire, it immediately got people’s attention. With Moses, His presence came with fire in a burning bush. With the Israelites, it was a pillar of fire hovering over the Tabernacle where His presence dwelt. And with the first Christians, God baptized them in the Holy Spirit with tongues of fire. Each of these believers became individual tabernacles, holy temples of Jesus’ body in which His Spirit lived. So, the challenge for those of us who have experienced His fiery presence is to continue to receive the fire of God’s benefits and not His judgment, which will likewise come with…fire.
God’s Miracle Handoffs
Each of us can get discouraged by the direction of the planet. At times, it seems the world is so out of control we wonder if the next generation will be able to handle the pressures they’ll face. That’s when I remind myself about God’s miracle handoffs in the Bible. Just when you think we’re finished, God brings the right person to meet the need. Noah built an ark when all humanity had been corrupted. Moses led the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt. David slew the giant. Samson delivered the Israelites from the oppressive Philistines. Esther courageously interceded before the King for her people. And Paul the Apostle, the former persecutor of Christ-followers, became a model Christian himself. So, while you’re pondering the world’s demise, never forget, “God’s will…will be done, on Earth just as it is in Heaven.”
Learning to Celebrate
In the Bible, when God wanted His people to remember what He’d done for them, He established Feasts. The Feast of Passover celebrated the Israelites rescue from the Death Angel in Egypt. It reminds us of Christ’s crucifixion. The Feast of First Fruits acknowledged a harvest and celebrates Christ’s resurrection. In the past, God’s people made altars and built landmarks to celebrate what He had done for them. It focused on what God “was” doing in their lives, and not what wasn’t happening. Actually, God gives more to those who celebrate what He’s already given them. As Jesus said, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance…” (Matthew 13:12, ESV) We can’t expect more from God if we don’t appreciate what He’s already done. Learn to celebrate with God and your life will become a continual feast.
The Broad and Narrow Gates
When Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many,” (Matthew 7:13, ESV) did He have it backwards? A trending philosophy teaches, “Enter the broad gate. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are few.” “…God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9, NLT) But, as Jesus unapologetically proclaimed, “There is only forgiveness of sins for all who repent.” (Luke 24:47, NLT) As repentance means “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness,” following Jesus means trusting in what He knows is true more than what a lost culture claims are “new and improved truth.”
The “I Quit” Mindset
There were many things I disliked about my childhood. One summer, at 16 years old, I travelled 2 ½ hours, every day, each way, to and from a mindless job on Wall Street because my father wanted me to become a stock broker. I took a 4:17AM smoke-filled bus to go to a job I hated. But something was being worked into me that now seems invaluable. It’s called discipline. I still don’t like the word, but it was one of the greatest developers of character in my life. I’m always amazed at the number of young men, lacking self-discipline, who join the army to get it beat into them. In this “I Quit” generation, where many only embrace what tastes and feels good. God raise up an army of warriors, brave men and women who’ll become the disciplined disciples that will turn this world upside down for You!
Picking Up Pennies
There’s a big difference between being stuck in lifeless traditions and cultivating life-giving habits. When I first became a Christ-follower, many years ago, I made a habit of picking up pennies that had been displaced or discarded. It had two values. Though it might sound silly now, back then even a penny had some value. Secondly, it was a habit that allowed me to appreciate every morsel God provided; to take nothing for granted. Recently, nearly a half century later, I found myself walking by pennies. They seemed worthless. Then God’s Spirit challenged me that it wasn’t a lifeless tradition, but a healthy habit encouraging me to bend down and appreciate all that God had graciously provided for my once bankrupt life. What tradition have you discarded that God wants to reestablish as a living life-giving, God-honoring habit?