Pardon Me ~Your Humility is Showing

BraggingArrogance and showmanship – in the form of self-righteousness – annoy God. On the other hand, we who are Christ followers are told to be bold and bright – letting the light within us shine in such a way that it will be seen by everyone.

We’ve all cringed a bit when people seem to boast about the enormous amounts of time they spend on their knees in prayer, and how they’ve worn out their Bible (make that “Bibles”) from constant use. We find ourselves feeling a bit annoyed by this display of piety. Yet haven’t most of us boasted in similar ways?

In the 6th chapter of Matthew, here’s what Jesus teaches: “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And here’s what he teaches us about prayer (also in the 6th chapter of Matthew): “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Yet earlier, in the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

From my perspective, the decision about whether or not to “make my good deeds known” is a matter of the motivation of my heart. Here’s the question I must continually ask myself: “Is what I’m about to say for God’s glory…or for my glory?” I can tell the difference—usually. And I believe the ultimate “test” of my motivation is exposed in the response of other authentic Christians. (I specify other authentic Christians because anytime we open our mouth we are at risk of being misperceived by people who “project” their own self-righteous flaws onto us.)

The Bible does not tell us to avoid practicing our righteousness before others. Rather, we are told to not practice our righteousness—or to pray—to be seen by others. Which brings us back to the motivation of our heart. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 6.1

Praying or reading your Bible in a public place, such as a restaurant, may be a display of self-righteousness. Or, it may be an act of genuine gratitude for God’s Word and his provision. It’s a matter of one’s heart motivation.

I believe we need to be bold in our Lord. I believe we need to be “out there” proclaiming the good news of what he has done – and is doing – in our lives, and what he will do in the lives of others who will humbly receive his gift of Life. And when we boast, we must be reminded to “boast in the Lord.” ~1 Cor 1.31

Let us be continually checking our motives, and asking God to search our hearts, and expose anything within us that distracts others from the glory of our God.

We are his servants, and we are honored to have been invited to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords by serving his people—boldly…and for HIS glory!

Was Adam a Wimp…in the Beginning?

Adam (3)When did Adam become a wimp-of-a-man like us, blaming his wife for his foolish mistakes? Did God create him to be a milk toast kind of guy…a man who was too cowardly to take responsibility for his disobedience? Not likely. God created Adam in his own image.

I picture the newly created Adam as a confident man. It seems to me the moment his lungs were filled with the breath of God, and his eyelids opened, revealing the inexpressible beauty of his surroundings, Adam’s connection with his Creator would have instilled a deep sense of confidence. He had no competition, he had no hero image to live up to, and he had no shoes to fill. It seems that his primary inclination would have been to explore the wonderment of his surroundings—fearlessly. He would have been inclined to walk confidently with God in the stunning beauty of the garden.

Even so, Adam disobeyed God. Intentionally. He betrayed the One who breathed life into his body; the One who had instilled within him the almighty Spirit. Adam was not tricked or deceived; his choice was deliberate. We know we are inclined to disobey God, but we attribute our inclination to our “fallen nature.” Adam did not have a fallen nature. His nature—in the beginning—was pure and virtuous. So what could he possibly have been thinking when he took the bite of the forbidden fruit?

Something changed in an epic way when Adam took the bite. Perhaps at that very moment Adam became aware of his plight. He realized how ill-equipped he was to take responsibility for his rebellious choice, once he stepped out of the intimate fellowship he had enjoyed with his Creator friend. At that moment, Adam became a wimp like us. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have become wimps like him, since he was the first.

What if there was a way to regain the masculine strength Adam had in the beginning?

Actually, I believe there is a way to regain the sense of confident manhood we are intended to possess. But it doesn’t happen the way we think it should happen. It is not the result of our effort, or by pretending to be better than we are. It happens when we surrender our weaknesses to God. Men, it is in the admission of our weakness that we connect with God’s strength. God’s gracious strength flows into our lives through the humility of our spirit.

“God said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” ~2 Corinthians 12.9

…and yet have BELIEVED!

Empty tombWhile Rose and I watched the crucifixion of Jesus during the final episode of the Bible, I felt ashamed for the times I have not been faithful to God’s call. I regretted the times I avoided the “discomfort” of bearing witness to the work of God in my life.

Watching as our Lord was beaten mercilessly—as an innocent man—was almost too much to bear. There were times when I wanted to look away. But I was reminded that since he was willing to be beaten to death as the payment for my sin, how could I look away! How can I ever be a faithful witness to his grace if I cannot even bear to watch as he took my place?

After the beating, and the gruesome death, in three days the morning came. And the resurrection! I thought my heart would burst as I shared in the elation of Mary and the others when they discovered that the tomb was empty. All of my shame melted away as I witnessed Jesus’ kindness toward his disciples, even Peter. Their past failures and disbelief no longer mattered. Jesus died to release them, and us, from the penalty of sin. And he died to release us from the guilt and shame of our past foolishness.

I imagined what it would have been like to have been visited by Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. The look in his eyes supercharged my desire to “risk” being faithful to him, especially when things get a little uncomfortable. One day we will look into his eyes—and he will look into ours—as we give an account of the opportunities, and the gifts, he gave us to serve him.

Jesus commended his disciples for believing in him. And then he said something that reignited my faith: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~John 20.29

Rose and I looked at each other with a renewed awareness: That’s us! We, and all those who believe because of the witness of the disciples who were there to see with their eyes our risen Lord, are those who have not seen. Nevertheless, he has given us eyes of the heart to believe. Jesus tells us we are blessed for believing.

May we each experience a surge of confidence as we go about our day-to-day activities. Our Lord suffered the death that was meant for us, so that we can have everlasting life. How can we do less than bear witness to his amazing grace in our lives!

Runnin’ Naked…and Lovin’ It!

Running Silhouette“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” ~Hebrews 4.12-13

So here’s the question: Knowing the Bible “exposes” our innermost thoughts and desires, do we feel comforted…or condemned? Do we think of the revealing Word of God as a good and beneficial thing, or as a frightening thing?

It seems to me that the answer depends on our level of trust in the goodness of God. The more we trust him, the more safe we feel in our “nakedness” before him. Otherwise, we feel violated by God’s “intrusion” into our secret thoughts and desires.

I’m beginning to welcome the search light of God in my life. Knowing that he is for me and not against me makes all the difference. Although in the past I typically imagined God exposing the “bad” things lurking deep within my soul, it has occurred to me there are a few good things within me that God is exposing. For instance, one of the things he is exposing is my deep and enduring desire to be the man he designed me to be, and to be a husband and father and grandpa that will honor him.

He is exposing my willingness to learn to trust him more fully.  He is revealing my confidence that he is the One who will complete the work he has begun within me. Today, my greatest challenge is to live in humble submission to the things he reveals to me…as I live in his Word.

Sometimes when we’re reading the Bible, we simply quit reading too soon. Immediately after we read about God using his Word as a sword to slice and dice our innermost thoughts and desires, we read this:

“This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4.15-16

May we invite—and welcome—God’s loving revelation that brings healing into our lives and relationships, and peace that boggles our minds.

Flowing with the Tide of Truth

Water TideWe are often reminded that the current of popular opinion about what is important in life flows against the tide of truth. The following is a great illustration.

I will live life according to these beliefs

God does not exist

It is foolish to think

That there is an all-knowing God with a cosmic plan

That an all-knowing God brings purpose to the pain and suffering in the world

Is a comforting thought however


Is only wishful thinking

People can do what they wish without eternal consequences

The idea that

I’m deserving of hell

Because of sin

Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power

“The more you have the happier you will be”

Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose

In a world with no God

There is freedom to be who we want to be

But with God

Life is an endless cycle of guilt and shame

Without God

Everything is fine

It is ridiculous to think

I am lost and in need of saving

Now, lest your heart be swamped in despair, read it again, this time from bottom to top, beginning with, “I am lost and in need of saving…”

by Deo Volente Media

If You Love Her…Put Her in Her Place!

Numero DosWhile I’m not a fan of all the hoopla surrounding the “Love Holiday”…Valentine’s Day, it is a great opportunity for us guys to give some special thought to ways we can express our undying devotion to our chosen bride. Some guys will be inclined to spend a few bucks on a box of chocolate and some perishable flowers, and a card written by a professional writer. A few guys will show off (excuse my jealousy) by spending some big bucks for a piece of jewelry, or maybe a Lexus or a cruise to an exotic island in the South Pacific.

And the ladies will “Oooo” and “Ahhh,” and fling their arms around our neck in giddy gratitude.

It would be rare indeed to meet a woman who does not enjoy things that glitter and sparkle, and things that make her feel like the beautiful princess she is. She is refreshed in her spirit by the heartfelt message proclaimed by our beautifully wrapped gifts, “You are my treasure. I cherish you.” It makes her feel adored, and a woman likes to feel adored, because that’s what she is designed to be…adored.

Yet hidden away in the heart of every woman is a longing for something more…something more enduring than things that glitter and gleam. She longs for something that will withstand the trials of day-to-day life, and pass the test of time. At the core of her being, she needs to know her husband is equipped to lead with strong hands and a devoted heart. She wants to know that his vision for her—and their family—is greater than his own perspective. She wants to know she is safe in his arms, and safe in his heart.

Men, there’s only one way we can accomplish such a grand expectation: Make her Number Two (or in my case Numero Dos) in your life!

In Holy Libido, I mention a revelation Rose made to me during our whirlwind dating experience. She told me about my “place” in her life. Here’s the excerpt: “Before we were married, in the spirit of full disclosure she (Rose) told me I would have to accept second place in her life because the first place was already taken. Her ‘first husband’ is her Papa God.”

I was a little perplexed at first, and then it occurred to me, “How awesome to be second in line to the Creator of the universe—at least in Rose’s world!” Who would be silly enough to want to step in line in front of God in our mate’s life!

Rose’s simple yet direct remark started the wheels in my head spinning. In order to love her the way God intends for me to love her, I must also put her in second place in my life. My first devotion must be to my heavenly Father. I need to surrender my self-centered perspective in exchange for his perspective. I must learn how to lay my life down for my wife. While this sounds cavalier, quite honestly “laying my life down” often requires little more than seeing things through her eyes rather than through my own eyes.

God instructs me to love my wife as his Son Jesus loved the church. Reasonable men will admit that this love requires something far beyond our own capabilities. Guys, when God is truly in first place in our life, and we are allowing his amazing love to purge us and fill us and empower us, our wife will be the recipient of the unadulterated love of God…flowing from him, through us, straight to her precious heart.

So go for it! Buy her a gift. And write something special in the card…something romantic like, “You thrill my heart—will you please be my Number Two?” It’s the highest honor you can possibly present to her this Valentine’s Day—second in line to her PapaGod—ahead of every other “distraction” in your life…sports, your job, and even your ministry work.

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…” ~ Ephesians 5.25

So if you love her–and I know you do–put her in her place…

…her place of sacred honor!

Eternal Insecurity – Am I In…or Am I Out!

securityI’m often reminded I take myself too seriously. I begin to think I “get it”—I get what God wants me to know about him and his design for life. I get what it means to live life the way I’m designed to live it. But then something happens to remind me I don’t get it, at least not in an enduring and “finished” kind of way.

I read a verse in the Bible that makes perfect sense, and I memorize it so I can meditate on it throughout the day. Then I discover another verse that doesn’t fit all that well with the first verse. I think of these as “tension verses.” Frankly, they seem to be contradictory. (I’ve heard people trying to “explain” these verses in a way that makes me think of a Spiritual Twister kind of game.) I hesitate to memorize the second verse that seems to clash with the other verse I memorized because I might get confused.

Respectfully speaking, God could have been a little more specific about some of the things written in his Book. Sometimes I wondered why he didn’t just write the Book himself, without the help of men and women. We know he could have. We remember the time he scratched the Ten Commandments into some stone slabs with his finger, and when Moses shattered the slabs in a fit of rage, God made him a replacement set. So we know he could have literally written the Bible all by himself, without the help of the men and women he inspired to jot his thoughts and instructions on parchment. But he didn’t.

The tension verses that seem to rile Christ followers (and Christ mimickers and other pseudo-Christians) the most are the tension verses regarding our “security” in our relationship with Christ and our “standing” before God. As a kid, I trembled during the alter calls, terrified that I might have unwittingly committed a sin that exceeded the limits of God’s amazing grace. We sang songs like Are You Ready, but how could I possibly know if I was ready? My “readiness” was entirely dependent, it seemed, on my ability to live a sinless life.

I remember hearing the members of our flock talk about “those Christians” who claimed to be eternally secure. “Oh, those people.” The tone was mocking. I heard adults making fun of anyone who believed they could “sin every day in word, thought and deed” and think they were still going to heaven. But secretly, I envied them—the eternally secure people. I didn’t want to be okay sinning everyday—I hated disappointing God. I just didn’t want to be kicked out of the kingdom plan for having the Winston cigarette jingle go through my head.

Today, I believe I have been invited by the Spirit of God to participate in his plan of eternal life. I believe I’m sealed by the same Spirit. And because his Spirit has quickened my spirit, I am consumed by my desire to get out of his way and allow him to accomplish what he wants to accomplish, both in and through me. I’m learning to surrender my way for his way. Frankly, it’s becoming easier to recognize the times when my selfishness or fear—or laziness—gets in the way of me trusting and obeying the promptings of God’s Spirit in my innermost being.

I believe it’s impossible to be made alive by God’s Spirit and still be okay with living in continual disobedience to his will. If I understand—even in a minuscule way—what it cost my Lord to pay the penalty of my sin, I can no longer be okay making a mockery of his sacrifice for me. (On a personal note, I lived a spiritually miserable life for many years because of the disparity between my love for God and my shameful disobedience. By his grace, I never became “okay” with my foolish choices.)

And I think it’s impossible to be connected to Jesus the Vine and not produce the fruit of his will—in the fullness of time.

And I’m learning that the energy that is expended in lively debates about our “security” in Christ could be better invested serving those who desperately need to know that God is for them…and not against them. Could it be that God allowed the “tension verses” in his Word so we would leave the end results up to him! As for me, I’m confident that he is the One who will complete the work he began within us.

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

Super Bowl Sunday….and WAY Beyond!

superfanA battle is scheduled to take place today in New Orleans. The warriors are some of the most powerful men in the world, trained in the art of war…face paint and all. For those who watch from the grandstands, the pulsating energy is almost too much to bear. Many seem to be overcome with the hype and fanfare; some appear to lose all sense and sensibility.

Yet, it’s just a game. In the grand scheme of things, we will be entertained for only a moment. Some will experience the thrill of victory; others, the agony of defeat. But in just a few short hours, all that will be left is the trash in the grandstands. Tomorrow will be life as usual, never mind the throbbing headache and queasy stomach.

There’s another battle raging on, but we’re not in the grandstands. We’re in the arena. And the cloud of witnesses is on its feet! By comparison, the Super Bowl is child’s play…akin to backyard touch football.

The outcome of the battle we’re engaged in has eternal consequences. The victors of this battle will enjoy a celebration with no end (and no hangover), with the One who spun our world into being. Although he is a mighty warrior—radiating with brilliant splendor—he tenderly formed us in our mother’s womb. And he invites us to share with him in the life he has prepared for us…forever.

So as you’re whoopin’ and hollerin’ and munchin’ on snacks, imagine the inexplicable magnitude of the real battle…the battle between good and evil. And consider the part you’re playing in the battle. Suit up! Can you hear the roar in the grandstands of all those who have gone on ahead of us! It’s an electrifying moment…with an eternal prize.

Making Friends with Your Shadow

ShadowWhen we deny our “shadow” in order to maintain the appearance of holiness, we put ourselves at risk of being swept away by the evil we deny.

In his book Make Friends with Your Shadow, Dr. Miller makes a provocative claim:
“Movement towards the achievement of wholeness or completeness (or “perfection” in the sense of Jesus’ use of the Greek word telios) is accomplished not only through the continued infusion of goodness, righteousness, and morality, but also through the “owning” and conscious incorporation of one’s dark and shadowy side into one’s self. I am not a complete person until I incorporate into my conscious self that dark side of my person which is every bit a part of me as is that bright self which I parade before the world.”

This type of activity goes against the grain of our desire to “look good” to the world around us. How much energy do we expend trying to conceal the undesirable part of who we are? We somehow got it in our head that an authentic Christian should appear to be unblemished—should create the illusion of perfection in the sense of appearing to be flawlessness.

Could it be that perfection has more to do with authenticity—being “real”—than it does with pretending to be something we’re not?

There are times when we’re surprised to hear how “one of our own” has been swept away into a sinful scenario. And then we remember we have been swept away too, maybe not in a public way, but swept away just the same. It’s happened to me. Looking back on those times, I can see how I set myself up to fall by allowing my pride to get in the way of being real. I pretended everything was good when it wasn’t. I denied the truth about my shadow.

And we all have a shadow. It’s an area of vulnerability within us. It might be a tendency to twist the truth, or possibly it’s an evil imagination, or a secret prejudice. It could be a secret craving for an illicit pleasure. Or maybe it’s a bitter tongue. Or laziness.

I realize it seems terribly risky, but when we are committed to living life in the flow of God’s Spirit, we must become transparent. We must acknowledge the “dark” side of our thought life, and the ungodliness of our inclinations. It is imperative we embrace the truth of who we are, and be willing to take the risk of letting someone we trust walk with us as we make friends with our shadow.

Satan Goofed

joseph coat of colorsSatan made a mistake. If he had been thinking more clearly, he would have enlisted Judas to protect Jesus so the prospective Savior could live to be a ripe old age. If Satan could have somehow averted the crucifixion, and the subsequent resurrection, there would be no redemption. But the Enemy used Judas to fulfill prophecy, playing into God’s plan to rescue us from the wages of our sinful disobedience. Satan’s diabolical plan to kill Jesus was a necessary part of the plan of salvation—our salvation.*

Satan makes the same mistake every time he tries to trip us up along our journey. Every time he throws something into our path to destroy us – to take us out of the game – he is unwittingly playing into God’s plan. Our trust in God does not increase during the comfortable times in our life. (We do have comfortable times, don’t we) Out trust in God’s sovereignty grows only during the times when we are compelled to cling to him for dear life.

There’s a story in the book of Genesis about a plan to take a guy out, but the plan backfired. Joseph was a bright-eyed youngster who experienced harsh complications in his life as a result of the jealous schemes of his older brothers. (I think there is a special place in heaven for younger brothers who have had to endure the evil plots of elder brothers.) Young Joey was a menace to his brothers, so they sold him to slave traders.

Those who are familiar with the story know that God eventually used Joe to save the lives of the brothers who had tried to kill him. In fact, God used Joe to save an entire nation. Here’s the thing: Joe would not have been in a position to rescue a nation if his brothers had not done what they did.

The more we learn to trust our heavenly Father, the more alert we become in the midst of “bad things.” We become more alert because we have learned that an out-of-the-ordinary thing in our life might very well be the event God will use to accomplish something really good. Sounds strange, but some of us actually get a little excited—in a trembling kind of way—when we realize God is entrusting something to us that is beyond our capacity to handle…on our own. We know he’s about to do something that will ultimately bring him glory. And we are invited to play a part in the plan.

The Enemy wants to entangle us in doubt and fear. Since the beginning, he has always been trying to thwart the plan of God. But every attempt he makes to destroy us is another opportunity in God’s hands to accomplish his plan in our life. Every time.

Possibly something comes to your mind that illustrates this powerful truth in your own life. Perhaps there was a time in your life when you felt as though you were “going under.” But you didn’t go under. Instead, God used the difficult time to accomplish something good. Maybe you will have an opportunity to share your story with someone who needs to be reminded of God’s faithfulness this week. We serve an all-powerful God who always has—and always will—use everything the Enemy throws our way to accomplish his ultimate purpose.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~Genesis 50.20

*The idea that Satan, or anyone for that matter, could have derailed even the slightest detail of the execution of God’s eternal plan of salvation is preposterous. Yea God!

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