Choose Your Influence

There are some weird names in the Old Testament: Eber,
Peleg, Joktan, Hazarmaveth. . . .

But the other day, I found one that really caught my attention:
Evil-Merodach. I thought, Who would name their son Evil? So I did
some research and discovered the word “evil” in his name has
nothing to do with the English word evil. OK, that’s a relief.

His name only appears twice in the Bible. Here’s the one that
caught my attention:

“King Jehoiachin was released from prison on the twenty-
seventh day of the last month of the thirty-seventh year of his
captivity.
“This occurred during the first year of the reign of King
Evil-merodach of Babylon. He treated Jehoiachin kindly and
gave him preferential treatment over all the other kings who
were being held as prisoners in Babylon.
“Jehoiachin was given civilian clothing to replace his
prison garb, and for as long as he lived, he ate regularly at the
king’s table. The king also gave him a daily cash allowance for
the rest of his life” (2 Kings 25:27-30 The Living Bible).

Question: Why did Ecvil-merodach show such kindness to King
Jehoiachin— one of the Babylonian prisoners?
Answer: Because Evil-merodach had been influenced by
Daniel!

Years earlier, Daniel had been taken captive to Babylon from
Jerusalem. Because he lived with such commitment to God and had
a lifestyle that literally screamed integrity, he was quickly promoted to
a position of prominence in King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian
kingdom.

Evil-merodach was the son of King Nebuchadnezzar—the king
who was responsible for throwing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
into the fire. I imagine while Evil-merodach was growing up in his
dad’s heathen palace, he closely watched Daniel’s life. He was there
when Daniel released Jehoiachin from prison. He saw how Daniel
treated others, how he prayed consistently, how he was kind and
generous to those around him.

Years later, Jehoiachin was imprisoned again. But when Evil-
merodach took the throne, he reached out to him and repeated the
kindness Daniel had demonstrated.

Though he had grown up in an ungodly palace, Evil-merodach
made the conscious decision to be influenced by the good (Daniel)
instead of evil (his father, Nebuchadnezzar). We have to choose
DAILY by whom and what we will allow to influence us!
We will not only be influenced; we’ll also be influencers. And we
never know how far our influence will spread.

Because Evil-merodach made the wise choice to allow a godly
man to influence him, his decision affected the lives of many others.
Who are what are you allowing to influence you?

Thoughts?

I’m speaking in Collinsville, Okla. this weekend. It’s only two
hours away, so I’ll be driving. Please pray for our services. I’ve held
two other revivals at this church. Wonderful place.

Come Home!

My two mini-Schnauzers Obie and Amos
(Obie is short for Obadiah—I call them my Old Testament prophets,
Ha!), are precious to me. They make me laugh, help me unwind and
always make me want to come home when I’m away.

A few weeks ago, however, the guy who has been mowing my lawn
for five years, accidentally left my backyard gate open. About 8:30
a.m., my two “prophets” went through their doggie door to the
backyard . . . and as I was working on the computer, didn’t realize
they hadn’t come back inside.

At 10:30 I called them, and they didn’t come running to me. I went to
the backyard and saw the open gate, and my heart sank. They’d
been missing for two hours. They could be anywhere. Because they
had been in the house, they weren’t wearing their collars.

I immediately began praying and texting friends as I got in the car to
search for them. The lawn guy felt terrible. He’d always been
meticulous about shutting the gate. He asked his wife to join the
search. Three neighborhood girls jumped on their bikes and little
scooter to look for the missing prophets.

Friends came over and joined the driving search. My mailman began
looking. The animal welfare office was contacted. People I didn’t even
know stopped me on the street and said, “I’m looking for your dogs,”
and drove off.

I was amazed at how quickly the family of God came together for lost
dogs. After a few hours, I spotted little Amos about a half mile from
my house. I immediately scooped him into the car and we continued
to drive and yell for Obie.

Hours passed. Would I ever see Obie again?
Amos was distraught. Where was his brother?
Would I never again reach out during the night to feel Obie’s soft little

back next to me in bed?

More prayers. More folks joining the search.
My favorite postal worker showed up saying, “It’s my day off.
I’ve come to search for Obie.”
My former real estate agent came to the house saying,
“I have time before my next appointment to drive around
and look for Obie.”

As I continued to pray, I couldn’t help but think of the one lost sheep.
The one prodigal son.
One.
One.
One.
Only one was gone.
But how much attention, focus and energy were poured into that
ONE.

I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what else to do.
I’ve driven for hours. Friends and others have also driven for hours.

Someone may have taken Obie inside. I don’t know what else to do.”
Don’t give up.
I grabbed a quick sandwich and Amos and I continued to drive.
I decided to turn into a neighborhood a mile or more away from my
house. I kept yelling out the window and continued to pray.

Suddenly . . . with immediacy . . . I saw Obie running toward my car!
I looked at my watch.
He had been gone for eight hours!
I scooped him into the car.

Instead of jumping on me with glee, his demeanor seemed to say,
What took you so long? I’m ready for lunch!
Smile.
Celebration.
If I’d had a fattened calf to welcome home the prodigal,
I would’ve used it.

Imagine my gratitude,
joy,

exuberance,
peace of mind,
ecstasy,
(any positive adjective will work here)
at having my two babies in my arms once again.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
How much more—than we can even imagine—
does our heavenly Father
rejoice when we run into His arms.
He loves to show His goodness to us.
Not because we deserve it.
Not because we put money in the offering plate at church.
Not because we were kind to a neighbor.
But because He just loves us!

And nothing I do . . . can make Him love me less.
As well as nothing I do . . .can make Him love me more.
Wow.
He just loves me.

The overriding message of the entire Bible—
is simply COME.
“Come let us reason together,” says the Lord.
“Come, let’s talk about this.”
“Come home.”
Just COME.

I’m wondering if I should change their names to Jonah—
the Old Testament prophet who ran away. . . .

Thoughts?

I’m speaking in Little Rock, AR this weekend.
Will you pray for our services?

The Wrong Questions

A lot is happening in John chapter 6.
Jesus has multiplied bread and fish.
The disciples have climbed into their little boat
to cross the Sea of Galilee
while Jesus remains
to spend time in prayer with Father God.

A violent storm comes out of nowhere causing the
12 to fear for their lives. And just when they’re sure
they’ll never see another sunrise or sunset, they see
Jesus skipping from one storm wave to another.

He calms the sea, climbs inside the boat—
and immediately they’re where they are supposed to be—
at the other side of the lake.

Later, the crowd who experienced the multiplication
of bread and fish notice Jesus with His disciples.
They’re scratching their heads, because they know
He didn’t get in the boat and leave with them after
the fish buffet.

And because there were no other boats left on shore,
they’re naturally wondering how He arrived on this side of the sea.

So they ask Him.
“How’d You get here, Jesus?”
“We know You didn’t leave with Your disciples
last night, because we saw them row away while You
went into the mountains to pray.”
“So how’d You arrive?”

Jesus knew what was going on inside their minds.
Just 12 hours previously, they had experienced a
supernatural event—about 15,000 people had feasted

from five pieces of bread and two small fish.

They were still reeling from the dazzle of the mystery.
They salivated for more . . . more miracles, not fish.

The question underneath their question was,
“Hey, Jesus! How’d You get here? Didja create
some kind of flying boat? Didja zap something?
Show us more razzle dazzle! We want magic.”
Their questions were not about His safety
or His actual mode of travel.
Their questions revealed what was inside their hearts.

Jesus tells them they’re not asking the right questions.
He tells them instead of focusing on
the mystery of the miracle,
they should be focused instead
on doing God’s will.

“So how do we know God’s will?” they ask.

“And how do we live in God’s will?”

Good.
NOW they’re asking the right questions.

But as soon as Jesus starts to give them the answer
to the right questions, they detour and start pounding Him
with the wrong questions again.

“So will You show us another miracle?”
“Will You do something supernatural for us?”
“We want to see something miraculous,
something mysterious,
something magical and mystic.
We want more razzle dazzle.”

Jesus skipped the flash and went straight to the point.
He taught the Truth then claimed that He Himself was the Truth.
He spoke with intensity.
And it was such a strong message that people complained.

“Many of his disciples said, ‘This is very hard to understand.
How can anyone accept it?’ (John 6:60 NLT)

At that point, many of His followers deserted Him.

Here are some things to think about from this incident:
• Are you asking God the right questions?
• Do you sincerely want to grow closer to Him,
or are you simply moved by the mystery?
• Are you happy to be around the spiritual scene
when things are entertaining, dynamic and exciting—
but lose interest when the teaching becomes intense,
convicting and personal?

I just want to be where Jesus is.
Sometimes I’ll get to experience miracles in His presence.
Other times, I’ll simply sit in stillness while seemingly
nothing is happening that can be seen outwardly.
And there are times when His Spirit will convict me

through His Word or through one of His messengers.
Thought it all . . .
I just want to be in His presence . . .
asking the right questions.
And some of the right questions are always:
Jesus, will You show me how to grow closer to You?
Father, will You reveal anything in my life that’s not right?
Lord, will You increase my faith?

Thoughts?

The Right Place

Jesus had just fed 5,000 men
(the total crowd was probably close to 15,000
if women and children had been counted).
He told His disciples to go ahead and cross the sea because He
wanted some time alone with Father God to pray.

At evening, the disciples climbed inside their boat and began the
journey. But you know what happened, don’t you? A violent storm
came out of nowhere and water began filling their boat.
(See the full story in John 6.)

The disciples saw Jesus walking on top of the waves toward them.
He calmed the sea, the waves died down.

“Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they

arrived at their destination!” (John 6:21 NLT)

He climbed inside the boat,
and immediately
they were where they were supposed to be!
Just. Like. That.
Once Jesus is aboard, they’re where they are supposed to be.
They’re at the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

It’s a supernatural event.
Actually, there are LOTS of supernatural events in this chapter:
The multiplying of bread and fish . . .
Ceasing the storm . . .
Water that was sinking a boat, suddenly gone . . .
Immediately being on the other side of the sea
without having to row or paddle to get there . . .

Here’s what I’m learning from this story:
Wherever Jesus is, is where I want to be!
I know I’m safer with Him in the midst of a storm

than I am even in calm water by myself.

Do you ask Jesus to go where you go?
Or are you seeking to be wherever He is?

I want to be in His presence.
Walking with Him.
Sitting with Him.
Even in the midst of a storm with Him.
As long as He’s there, I want to be by His side.

What would happen if we quit asking Jesus
to tag along with us—
and instead began living where He is?

Thoughts?

Liar! (Conclusion of a seven-part series)

In John’s short five-chapter book of 1 John,
he describes six types of liars. We’ve already
looked at five. Let’s take a peek at the last one:

#6: People who deny Jesus is the Christ;
the Messiah;
God Incarnate.

“Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.
Such a person is the antichrist—
denying the Father and the Son”
(1 John 2:22 NIV).

This is the biggest lie of all!
And it’s so prevalent today.
A good example is global religion.
You’ve heard this: “Let’s all believe the same.
We’re all serving the same God, right?
Allah, Buddah, the Light, Jesus.
Don’t all paths go to heaven?
And who goes to heaven?
In the end doesn’t everyone?”

This is false teaching.
It’s a perverted gospel.

There is one way to heaven and one way only:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me
(John 14:6 NIV).

Any other way to heaven actually leads to hell.
And yes, hell actually exists.
Satan doesn’t want you to believe that,
so he has worked overtime to make people think
hell isn’t what the Bible says it is.

We’ve looked at six types of liars the apostle John warns us about.
I don’t want to be a liar.
I don’t think you do, either.
I want to know the Truth, walk in the Truth and live Truth
in every area of my life.

Is that your heart’s desire?
I love this quote: “All the water in the world, no matter how hard
it tries, can never sink a ship unless it gets inside.

All the evil influence of the world, no matter how hard it tries,
can never sink a Christian’s soul unless it gets inside.”

The greatest battle we’ll ever fight is within.
In our mind and in our heart is where the battle is either won or lost:

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”
(Proverbs 23:7 NKJV).

You may have the lies of the world inside you.
Maybe you’re battling the world’s lies in your mind.
Or perhaps your heart has been struggling with lies.

Let’s commit to absolute Truth.
Let’s live—through the power of the Holy Spirit—as Jesus lived.

Would you commit to living a “no-lies” life?
Would you like to renew your heart to His Truth?
Let’s dedicate ourselves being Truthful warriors of God.
Will you join me in living the Truth?

There’s a really old hymn called “I Would Be True” that says this:

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

Thoughts?

I’ll be speaking in Torrance, CA this weekend.
Please pray for God to move in a powerful way.

Liar! (Part 6)

In John’s short five-chapter book of 1 John,
he describes six types of liars. We’ve already
looked at four. Let’s take a peek at the next one:

#5: People who say they love God but really love the world.

“Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you,
for when you love these things you show that you
do not really love God”
(1 John 2:15 LB).

This means: Choose not to love this world—
or even the mindset of the world.
Don’t value what the world values.

It’s easy to watch celebrity shows and read
about their lives in magazines and start to
place value on the things they cherish: homes,
jewelry, affluence.

But God doesn’t want us to value the things
of the world. They’re only temporary.
Instead, He wants our focus on Him.
Let’s value the eternal.

There’s only room for one master in our lives.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one
and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one
and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money”
(Matthew 6:24 NIV).

Let’s ask God to reveal to us anything that has become
more important than it should be. This is how we keep
our priorities in check.

There’s a difference in enjoying our home, our car, and
the things God has blessed us with—and in loving them
to the point that we cherish them more than we should.
If we claim to love God but actually love the things of the world,
the apostle John says we’re lying.

Thoughts?

I’m speaking in Paris, PA this weekend.
Please ask the Holy Spirit to anoint me
in a fresh and powerful way.

Liar! (Part 5)

The apostle John mentions six types of liars in his short five-chapter
book of 1 John.

#1: People who say they’re Christians but actually walk in
darkness.

#2: People who claim they haven’t sinned because they've
redefined sin according to culture’s standards.
 
#3: People who claim to know Jesus but don’t obey Him.

#4: People who claim to walk in light while hating their brothers.

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or
sister is still in the darkness” (1 John 2:9 NIV).

If we can’t love Christians from different backgrounds, denominations,
races and cultures, we don’t know Christ.

If we don’t love those who drive us nuts, those who get on our nerves
and even those who ridicule us, we’re lying when we say we love
Christ.

That’s why Christ says:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God”
(1 John 4:7 NIV).

Pause for a moment and think about that one person you find it most
difficult to love.

Do you realize that your love for God is measured by how much you
love that person?

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a
liar” (1 John 4:20 NIV).

Ask God to bring to your mind any bitterness or unforgiving spirit you
be holding against someone. When he brings that person to your
mind, will you release this to Him?

Be willing to pray, “Father, I’m so sorry I haven’t completely forgiven
so-and- so. But right now, I choose to forgive. And in Your power, help
my feelings to match my words.”

You may not immediately FEEL that you have forgiven the one who
has hurt you. But keep praying, “Father, I choose to forgive. Help my
feelings to match my words. I’m consciously choosing to forgive.”
God is faithful!

And eventually He’ll bring your feelings and your words into
alignment.

Thoughts?

Please pray for me as I speak in Kingfisher, OK this weekend.

In John’s short five-chapter book of 1 John,
he describes six types of liars.

Let’s take a look:

#1: People who say they’re Christians but actually walk in
darkness.

#2: People who claim they haven’t sinned because they've
redefined sin according to culture’s standards.

#3: People who claim to know Jesus but don’t obey Him.
“Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he
commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person”
(1 John 2:4 NIV).

Jesus says love = obedience.

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who
loves me” (John 14:21 NIV).

Are you living in radical obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?
This is a far cry from casual Christianity, isn’t it!

According to the Bible, if we’re not obeying Christ,
we don’t really love Him. Therefore, if we claim to
be a Christian but aren’t living in obedience to Him,
we’re actually lying.

Wow.
What a wake-up call!

Thoughts?

I’m wrapping up the week in Howell, MI, and I’ll fly home tomorrow.
Thank you so much for your prayers!

Liar! (Part 3)

The apostle John mentions six types of liars in his short five-chapter book of 1 John.

#1: People who say they’re Christians but actually walk indarkness.

#2: People who claim they haven’t sinned because they’ve redefined sin according to culture’s standards.

If we claim we have not sinned,
we make him out to be a liar
and his word is not in us”
(1 John 1:10 NIV).

If we say we haven’t sinned, we’re actually calling God a
liar—because He says ALL have sinned.
Let’s just be honest: We HAVE sinned.
But the good news is that God can and wants
to give us victory over sin.

We don’t have to remain in a sinful lifestyle.
When the Holy Spirit empowers us,
He can give us the strength we need
to say no to sin.

We’re still human—
we still may choose to sin—
but when you DO sin, be honest about it
and seek His forgiveness!
Don’t lie about it and rationalize it away.
Or call it a mistake.

Let’s ask the Lord to show us any area
of unconfessed sin in our lives so we
can repent and live in holiness and obedience
to Him.

Thoughts?

I’m speaking at the district family camp in
Howell, MI July 23-28 and would appreciate
Your prayers!

Liar! (Part 2)

The apostle John mentions six types of liars in his short five-chapter book of 1 John.
#1: People who say they’re Christians but actually walk in darkness.
“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth” (1 John 1:6 NIV).
If we say we’re Christians but walk in darkness, we’re lying.
What IS darkness?
It’s the opposite of light.
It’s not being in God’s will.
If I say, “It’s OK to steal if you really need it,”
I’m teaching you something that’s against God’s will.
I’m walking in darkness, and I’m leading you into darkness.
But, wait a second! you may be thinking.
If we’re walking in the light and living in the light,
how do we suddenly start walking in darkness?
Well, it’s usually not suddenly.
It often happens gradually.
We become desensitized to the truth.

Here’s an example: Eskimos in the barren North
often kill wolves by taking a razor-sharp knife
and dipping it in blood.
They allow the blood to freeze to the blade.
Then they bury the handle of the knife
in the snow with the blade exposed.

As the wolf begins to lick the blade,
his tongue becomes numb and desensitized
because of the cold. As he continues,
his tongue begins to bleed,
and he licks even faster—unaware that he’s consuming his own blood and slowly killing himself.
Later, the Eskimos return and bring the dead animal home.
In the same way, satan numbs us through compromise.
Within time, we, like the wolves, don’t realize that we’re dying spiritually. The devil desensitizes us until we’re numb to the things of God.
So we need to ask our heavenly Father
if we’re truly walking in the light—
or if we’re slowly being desensitized to Him.
We want to be men and women of truth—
not liars who say we’re walking in the light
but are actually dwelling in an area of darkness.
Will you ask God to shine His spotlight on every area of your life?
Let Him reveal any area of darkness that you need to confess.
Let’s be truth warriors!
Thoughts?
I’ll be sharing more about the types of liars the apostle John talks about in next week’s blog!
I’m speaking in Fishkill, NY this weekend and would appreciate your prayers.