Spiritual Drama

Once in a while I hear someone say, “Whoa!”
But I never hear anyone say “Woe!”
It’s a word we don’t use much anymore.

But Isaiah used it—and when we did—it had a powerful
meaning. Let’s take a look:

“Woe to me!” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean
lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have
seen the King, the Lord Almighty’ ” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).

Isaiah got close enough to God, he was able to see Him as He
truly is—exalted and in fathomless glory. Isaiah’s response?
“Woe to me!”
And he cried this exclamation.

The apostle John, when banished on the criminally infested,
rocky, volcanic island of Patmos, also saw God in the exalted Christ.

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. . . .”
(John 1:17 LB).

John’s response? He fainted.
He was out cold. Down for the count.

When God passed by Moses, He told Moses to cover his face.
Moses obeyed, but after God had passed by and Moses joined his
people, they noticed his face was shining in brilliance because he had
been so close to the Lord. (See Exodus 33:19-23)

Ezekiel saw a vision of God:
“And when I saw it, I fell face downward on the ground. . . .”
(Ezekiel 1:28 LB).

He fainted.

Why all the drama? Fainting, crying “Woe,” and out cold?
It’s because when we get close enough to God and see Him
exalted—as He truly is—we are suddenly and keenly aware of our
own sinfulness.

As long as we don’t get that close to God, we can live
comfortably with our own personal holiness. But when He truly
reveals Himself to us in His perfect glory, we become radically
changed.

Instead of being satisfied with where we are spiritually right now
. . . lets become consistently agitated until we are close enough to
God that we become radically changed.

Thoughts?

Please pray for me as I speak in Nacogdoches, Texas this
weekend.

Right Concept, Wrong Idea #7

We’re taking a look at some well-known thoughts that we tend to
misinterpret biblically.

“God heals everyone who has enough faith.”

God’s healing isn’t dependent on your faith.
God can do whatever, whenever and wherever He wants regardless
of you.

Yes, He loves it when you express your faith in Him.
And He loves to increase your faith.
But He also accepts your shallow faith:
(Remember the father whose son was demon-possessed and mute?)
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ESV)

Paul didn’t tell Timothy to have more faith so his stomach would be
healed. Instead, Paul advised him not only to drink water—
but to take a little wine for his stomach problems.

This isn’t telling all of us who have stomach problems to drink wine,
but it does show us that God doesn’t heal all Christians while they’re
on earth. Eventually, all will be healed—in heaven.

Paul spoke about the “thorn in his flesh.”
Many Bible scholars think this had something to do with his eyesight.
Notice in 2 Thessalonians 3:17, he tells us he’s ending the letter with
his own handwriting. This lets us know that he dictated the letter to
someone else, but Paul signed it himself.

Many scholars believe it was because of his poor eyesight that he
needed to use a scribe to write his letters.

And in Galatians 6:11, Paul tells us he’s writing in large letters. Again,
many believe that’s because of his declining eyesight at that time.

Paul prayed many times that God would heal him of the “thorn in his
flesh.” He certainly had faith that God could do this. But whatever the
thorn was, Paul wasn’t healed of it.

He accepted God’s answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, my
power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

I can’t help but think of Joni Eareckson Tada whose diving accident
during her teen years caused her to become a quadriplegic.
She—long with many others—have prayed for her healing. It’s
certainly not because she doesn’t have faith that God hasn’t healed
her.

For reasons we won’t understand until we’re in heaven, God simply
chooses to heal some people on earth and others not until they’re
with Him.

It’s His will that we continue to pray healing for those who need it, but
we shouldn’t lose faith when we don’t see our prayers answered
during our timetable.

Thoughts?

Please pray for me as I speak in Swartz Creek, MI this weekend.

Right Concept, Wrong Idea #6

We’re taking a look at some well-known thoughts that we tend to
misinterpret biblically.

“God will only give me what I can handle.”

We often assume God won’t load our lives with more than we can
bear. Many Christians make this faulty assumption based on the fact
that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle.

Here’s the proof:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to
mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will
also provide a way out so that you can endure it”
(1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV).

Make no mistake.
God will always provide a way out of temptation.

But temptation is a completely different subject than life’s difficulties.
We often have more than we can bear.
And many times God calls us to do something beyond our
strength.

Check out what the apostle Paul experienced in Asia:

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to
endure . . . we felt we had received the sentence of death.
“But this happened that we might not rely on
ourselves but on God, who raises the dead”
(2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV).

Did you catch that?
Paul thought he was dying!

The pressure was so unbearable, the difficulty so horrific,
he thought he’d never see another sunset.
It was definitely MORE than he could handle!

But what happened?
He relied on God!

Let’s read what he wrote later:

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,
         in insult,
                in hardships,
                         in persecutions,
                                  in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong”
(2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV).

Instead of saying that God won’t give us more than we can handle,
let’s try saying this:

God will often give us more than we can handle, but never more
than we can handle when we depend on His strength instead of
our own.

Thoughts?

Right Concept, Wrong Idea #4

We’re taking a look at some well-known thoughts that we tend to
misinterpret biblically.

“God is the only One who can judge.” (Part 1)

Many Christians have become so afraid of being labeled judgmental,
they have misunderstood what Christ said about judging!

Only God can judge for condemnation.
He’s the only One who has the authority to condemn someone.
It’s not our place to condemn.
But He has authorized us to judge in a discerning manner for
identification purposes.

Matthew chapter 7 begins with Christ telling us not to judge for
condemnation. But in verses 15-23, He tells us we are to judge or
discern for identification—and then He instructs us how to do that.

Christians have Christ’s authority to discern between what’s true and
what’s false and to make that known. Of course, this takes the
guiding of the Holy Spirit within us. If we do this on our own, we run
the risk of condemning.

But because we have misunderstood how to judge with Christ’s
discernment, we’ve become paranoid about offending others.

Christ tells us to do everything in love!

“Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us
really love them, and show it by our actions” (1 John 3:18 LB).

But genuine love doesn’t ignore what’s false.
As we depend on the Holy Spirit, let’s stand in boldness for truth and
all that’s right, while we no longer remain silent about sin.

(Catch part 2 of this devotional regarding judging on June 19, 2018.)

Thoughts?

Please pray for me as I speak in Indianapolis this week.

Right Concept, Wrong Idea #3

“It’s not God who sends people to hell; they send
themselves.”

That’s like saying, “Teachers don’t punish students who misbehave;
they punish themselves.”

Allow me to revert back to my third-grade self for a moment. As a
student who was disciplined for talking in class, I can guarantee that I
never punished myself.

My teacher could have said, “Susie, by talking out of turn, you’ve
chosen detention.” But that wouldn’t have been accurate.

If I reject the class rules, I must accept the consequences.
But I didn’t choose the consequences.

My teacher sent me to detention because I rejected the rules.
I like my teacher. She’s a good instructor. By saying, “I sent myself to
detention,” I’m trying to make my teacher look better. Would a good
and loving teacher actually choose to send her student to detention?
You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?

We don’t need to defend God.
He’s big enough to stand on His own.
And a perfect,
just,
loving,
fair God

says He will send those who reject Him to hell.
Yes, man chooses to accept or reject God.
Yes, man has no choice but to face the consequences of his
decision.
But God is the One who actually sends sinners to hell.

“And if anyone’s name was not found recorded in the Book of
Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:15 LB).

“But I’ll tell you whom to fear—fear God who has the power
to kill and then cast into hell” (Luke 12:5 LB).

“Fear only God who can destroy both soul and body
in hell” (Matthew 10:28 LB).

The good news is that He doesn’t want anyone to go to hell!
His desire is that all would choose Him.
But He allows us to make the decision.

I have been saved from hell, not simply because I have confessed,
repented and accepted God’s forgiveness for my sins . . .
but
also
because
I believe HIM.
I believe He is perfect.
I believe what He says is true.
And I believe everything He says.
Because God says He will send people to hell—and isn’t ashamed of
it—then I shouldn’t try to make Him sound better by attempting to
explain away His actions.

He explains Himself through Scripture.

Thoughts?

Please pray for me this week as I speak at the East TN District camp
meeting.

Right Concept, Wrong Idea #2

We’re taking a look at some well-known thoughts that we tend to
misinterpret biblically.

“God is good, and God is love, therefore He
wouldn’t send anyone to hell.”

God doesn’t desire to send anyone to hell. That’s why He sent
Himself—in the human form of His Son, Christ, to die for our sins so
we wouldn’t have to spend eternity in hell.

Someone has to pay for your sins—either you or Christ.
God loves you so much, He offered to pay the death penalty for you
through Christ. But He won’t force you to accept His gift.

True love has boundaries.
A married couple can expect each to be faithful to sacred vows and
not commit adultery. True love is angry enough about evil actions and
reacts. Loving moms and dads protect their children from sexual
exploitation.

God’s love is true love. Therefore, His love also has boundaries.
He’s angry about evil that hurts His disciples.
And He does something about it.

He gives everyone a choice.
He has promised that all who seek Him will find Him:

“You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in
earnest”
(Jeremiah 29:13 LB).

He DESIRES that we all choose Him! In fact, He begs us to choose
Him. Check this out:

“Oh, that you would choose life; that you and your children
might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey him
and to cling to him. . . .” (Deuteronomy 30:20 LB).

He wants every person in the entire world to choose Him.
And, yes, He does make Himself known to everyone.
Need proof of this? Check out Romans 1:20 and Romans 2:12-16.

To NOT choose Christ is to choose hell.
And God will send those who reject Him to hell.

Is this fair?
We can be sure that God is absolutely fair and just. See Isaiah
30:18.

Thoughts?

Please pray for our services this weekend as I speak in Georgetown, TX.

Right Concept, Wrong Idea #1

Let’s take a look at some well-known thoughts that we tend to
misinterpret biblically.

“God loves me like I am.”

God accepts us as we are, and He saves us as we are.
But He loves us far too much to leave us where we are.

We’re born with sin. And while many Christians have a soft view on
sin, God definitely HATES it. Therefore, it’s spiritually dangerous
when we become tolerant of what God hates.

It seems we have forgotten 1 John 2:3-6:

“And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By
looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what he
wants us to?

“Someone may say, ‘I am a Christian; I am on my way to
heaven; I belong to Christ.’ But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells
him to, he is a liar.

“But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to
love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not
you are a Christian.

“Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ
did” (The Living Bible).

We often hear, “God loves me just like I am.”

God loves to SAVE us. But because we’re born with sin, He doesn’t
love us exactly as we are. And neither should we!
His desire is to change us, completely transform us and to bring us
into righteous alignment with Himself—a holy God.

Try memorizing this:
“. . . throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life,
which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit
renew your thoughts and attitudes.   Put on your new nature,
created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians
4:22-24 NLT).

Thoughts?

Please pray for God’s fresh anointing this weekend as I speak in
Sumter, SC.

I Can’t Wait!

It’s easy for me to get excited about spending eternity with Christ in
heaven. But I’m also excited about something that comes before that:
The Millennium. It’s the 1,000 years that we’ll get to live on earth with
Christ in charge.

Scripture tells us it will be a peaceful time.
Christ will set His foot (and establish His headquarters) on the Mount
of Olives in Jerusalem.

When we return with Christ to the earth at this time, we’ll have our
heavenly bodies. Remember after His resurrection when He
appeared to hundreds of people before He ascended? He had a
heavenly body. He wasn’t limited by physical obstacles such as
doors, walls or distances.

He simply appeared to the disciples.
He was suddenly in the room with them.
Then suddenly He wasn’t.
Then He appeared to groups of people.
Then the disciples again.

When we have our heavenly bodies and live with Christ on earth for
1,000 years, we won’t be bound by physical obstacles, either. And we
won’t get sick or tired.

Isaiah 11:6 tells us the animals will be peaceful toward each other.

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the
goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child
will lead them” (NIV).

Scripture goes on to say that cows and bears will graze the same
pasture and the lion will eat straw like an ox.

Animals won’t be fighting each other, because they’ll be vegetarians
during that time. They’ll simply eat off the land. Planet Earth will have
gone through cataclysmic and catastrophic changes during the
Tribulation. God will be creating a NEW earth.

Can you imagine such a new and peaceful earth?

“Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain”
(Isaiah 6:8 The Message).

Isaiah 65:20 tells us that people will still be considered young at 100
years of age. Can you imagine this scenario? Johnny is still living at
home. His parents say, “Don’t you think it’s time you get your own
place”

His response: “Gimme a break. I’m only 100.”

We’re also told in Scripture that infants will play in the snake’s hole
and not be harmed.

What a day!

“The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide”
(Isaiah 6:9 The Message)

And check this out:
“The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be
one LORD, and his name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9 NIV).

It will be glorious.

But even as amazing as that will be, heaven will be even better!
Beyond our imagination.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what
God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).

I can’t wait!

While many Christians disagree on the details of the end times, here
are two things we can ALL agree on:

1. Christ IS coming back.
2. We need to be sure our hearts are ready.

Go ahead and ask Him if there’s anything in your life that’s standing
in the way of your eternity with Him.

Thoughts?

Please pray for me as I speak in El Reno, Okla., this weekend.

Some What Ifs

Imagine this scene:

It’s Sunday morning.
People are gathering and finding a seat in your church.
The music begins as some are still chatting in the aisles.
Everyone joins in the familiar song. Excitement fills the
sanctuary. God’s presence is among His children. Praise is lifted from
the instruments as well as from hearts throughout the church. There’s
a pause in the music as folks turn and greet each other.
Announcements are given.

You sit down and open your wallet to prepare for the morning
offering, but as you glance around the church, you notice the ushers
aren’t moving forward with the offering plates.

The pastor faces the congregation and says, “We’re not taking
an offering this morning.”
Hmmm.

We always take an offering.
What’s going on?
“We’re not taking an offering, because I’m asking you stop
giving,” your pastor says.
“Seriously. Please stop giving. We have more than enough.”

* * *

This actually happened!
We find the story in Exodus 36:6.

“Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout
the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering
for the sanctuary.’ And so the people were restrained from bringing
more, because what they already had was more than enough to do
all the work.’ ” (NIV)

Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t outgive God.”
These people knew firsthand the truth of that statement!

Do we know this truth?

What would it be like to give God so much, that we’re
“restrained” from giving more? Let’s imagine a few what ifs.
What if we made it our goal to try and outgive God? By that, I
mean what if we just gave and gave and gave—and did so joyfully?
What if we gave more than 10 percent in tithes and offerings?
What if we gave our time?
What if we gave our talents, our skills, our gifts?
What if we gave ourselves?
What if we gave to those around us?

What would happen if we actually made these what ifs reality?

Thoughts?

What’s the Big Deal About Easter?

It doesn’t get as much splash as other holidays, but it can hold its
own!

We need to give Easter a little help. Bless its heart. It just
doesn’t measure up to Christmas. Of course, how can you compete
with lighted trees surrounded by brightly wrapped gift packages?

If we surveyed everyone in North America, they’d probably
place Easter behind Halloween. While Easter gives us a few
chocolate bunnies, Halloween gives us entire sack loads of candy.
And for those who choose not to participate in the world’s custom of
trick-or- treating, churches open their parking lots, malls extend their
hours and people can still get all the candy they want without ever
having to mutter “Trick or treat.”

And Valentine’s day captures our hearts. It’s the time for
romance, and the opportunity to share love with friends and family members.
The day is filled with the smell of roses, boxes of chocolate
hearts, candy hearts, exquisite cards—all declaring love.
But Easter?
No tree. No parties. Not many decorations.
What do we get at Easter?
A sermon.
And sometimes even that’s a little flat!

A Little Help, Please

So maybe we should spruce Easter up a bit. If we could get
some really cool celebrities to get behind it, Easter might mean more.
It seems whenever we have a devastating tornado, tsunami or
earthquake that takes out a city, the celebrities rush to get involved
and make a difference.

So maybe we could get the celebrities to promote Easter on
television ads!

That would be a great start, but we’d still need a good
marketing plan. Maybe we bring the fashion industry into this. Put a
few models in some super cool T-shirts that boast “Easter Is Cool,”
“Vote Easter Best Holiday,” “Easter Is #1,” “Easter Rocks!”

Yes. If we can get the celebs, the athletes, the models and a
creative marketing plan, Easter might have a chance!

Wrong Plan

I’m glad it’s not up to us to make Easter popular. Easter was
never created to be popular.
Why?
Because it’s the message of the Cross.
And the Cross is an ugly message.
The Cross means death. And death doesn’t sell well.
You see, even if we could get the celebs to promote Easter . . .
if the celebs haven’t experienced and embraced the Cross the way
Christ did, what good would it do?

The truth is: God doesn’t need any celebs to take on Easter. He
doesn’t need help promoting it. He doesn’t even want help promoting
it. He doesn’t want people embracing Easter for the wrong reasons.
He wants true followers.

The God of color and rhythm and the Grand Canyon and
kangaroos and gravity and Niagara Falls and sound and lightening
and donkeys who talk and hyenas that laugh could have created an
amazing marketing strategy to promote Easter. But He’s not into
marketing. He doesn’t think strategy. He thinks love.

The Truth

The message of the Cross is an invitation to die. “Wanna follow
Me?” Jesus asks. “Then pick up your cross. We’re going over there.
It’s a hill called Golgotha. We’re going to die.”
How do you market this?
How can you make this sound glamorous?
You don’t. You can’t. If you try . . . you’ll miss the meaning.
But the truth behind Easter is dying with Jesus.
Why would anyone do that? They wouldn’t.
Unless—they’ve experienced first-hand the death of Jesus for
their own sins.

You see, once a sinner realizes that Jesus willingly picked up
the Cross and died in her place, she’s overcome with joy and love for
her Father. She wants to live for Him, obey Him, serve Him, follow
Him, die with Him.

A High Price Tag

Jesus told everyone to count the cost before deciding to follow
Him. (See Luke 14:25-30.) He reminds us that a contractor doesn’t
start to build a house without first counting the cost of all the
materials. If he doesn’t do this, he may only build half a house and
run out of money.

What does it cost to follow Jesus?
It costs a lot.
It costs everything.
You see, Jesus isn’t looking for half-hearted followers. He’s not
interested in being the next big fad. He doesn’t recruit with a polished
benefits package. That’s not the way He works. He’d rather have 12
sold-out disciples than an entire world that’s only talk.
So why would anyone want to follow Jesus?
Because of love.
No one loves like He does.
And forgiveness.
No one else has offered to pay for our sins.
And eternal life.
The only way to God (and to live forever in heaven) is through
Jesus (see John 10:10).

And peace. And purpose. And meaning. And joy. And real life!

They Don’t Compare

If you stack Jesus against all the other gods, none of them even
compare with Him! Think about it: In all other religions, you have to
work really hard to reach your god. You have to pray so many times a
day, or sacrifice so much, or travel thus far, or. …

All other religions show man reaching up to their god. ONLY
Christianity shows God reaching down to man! Wow. Read that
again, because it’s mega-powerful. ONLY Christianity shows God
reaching down to man!

Christianity is the only religion that offers free salvation. You
don’t have to earn it. You can’t pay for it. You’ll never be good
enough to deserve it. So God reaches down to YOU by sending His
only Son wrapped in human flesh to die an ugly death on the Cross
for YOUR sins.
That’s love!
And He invited you to participate.

Make This YOUR Easter

Many of you reading this have already accepted Christ as your
Savior. You’ve already asked Him to forgive your sins. (If you haven’t
done this, you can do it right now. You can tell Him you’re sorry for
disobeying Him, ask Him to forgive you and place your faith in Him.)
But many of you reading this right now really want to go deeper in
your relationship with Christ. We call this sanctification.
If you desire to give Christ your all, you can pray this prayer.
No, it’s not a bunch of magic words. You really have to mean it. And
God will know if it’s genuine.
Dear Jesus:
Thank You for forgiving my sins. I’m so grateful that You
died for me. I love being a Christian. But I want to go
deeper. I want to give You everything! So right now, I’m
choosing to die. I’m dying to my will, my dreams, my way,
“me first,” my future. I want You to be LORD of every area
in my life. I’m moving to the back seat; You’re now in the
driver’s seat. You’re in complete control. Please release
the power of Your Holy Spirit within me and enable me to
live a holy life pleasing to You. I love You, Jesus. Amen.

New Plan

If you prayed that prayer and meant it, this Easter will become
something brand-new to you. More than a second-rate holiday, it will
be your love response to a God who’s crazy about you. He doesn’t
need a few celebs; He needs YOU.
You are His marketing plan.
YOU . . . simply loving one person at a time to Him.
You . . . dying to yourself and coming into new life through Him.
You . . . celebrating His resurrection from death.
You . . . living forever with Him.
This is Easter.