Separation from God

Sometimes God’s children walk through the desert.
The Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years.
Sometimes it’s simply difficult to feel His presence.

Jesus Himself said that we’d experience tribulation.
(See John 16:33)

But there’s a difference is simply walking through a cloudy day
and in experiencing genuine separation from God Himself.

There’s only one thing that can separate us from God:

SIN.

It’s a given.
It’s automatic.
It’s a fact.

Sin will always separate us from God.

Check this out:

“Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you.
And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call!
But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God.
“. . . You lie and grumble and oppose the good.
You cheat and shortchange everyone. . . .
“   It is because of all this evil that you aren’t finding God’s
blessings. No wonder you are in darkness when you expected
light. No wonder you are walking in the gloom”
(Isaiah 59:1-9 The Living Bible).

(I didn’t list the entire passage here.)

When you feel distanced from God, pray Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes
you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (TLB).

After praying the above passage, listen and watch for God to reveal
something to you. When He does, confess that and commit it to Him.

If He doesn’t reveal anything specific to you, ask Him to fill you with
His peace and to deepen your faith to continue trusting Him in the
midst of walking though a temporary desert.

Thoughts?

For those of you who are memorizing Scripture with me this year,
let’s tackle 2 Timothy 1:12 this week. Here it is from the NIV:

“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have
believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have
entrusted to him for that day.”

Obvious

I was watching a Hallmark movie last week.
A lady was driving alone.
She screamed, “I can’t see!”
She was driving at night.
In a snowstorm.
Wearing sunglasses.

Uh . . .

It would be an understatement to point out the obvious, wouldn’t it?
Yet how often do we tend to think . . .
God seems so far.
Why aren’t I growing spiritually?
I need more victory in my life.

May I state the obvious?
If we’re not spending consistent time reading God’s Word . . .
if we’re not talking with Him—
and making time to listen . . .
if we’re not seeking Him with determination . . .
we’re just like the woman behind the wheel of a car
in a snowstorm
at night
wearing sunglasses
and complaining that we can’t see.

If you desire to grow closer to Christ this year,
make the important decision to read His Word.
If you’ll read three chapters of the Bible every day—
and read five chapters every Sunday—
you’ll finish the Bible in one year.

I like to do this each year.
Will you join me?
Yes, it will be tough at times
(when reading through the temple measurements
and a few other statistics) . . .
but determine to keep reading.

And let me know the DIFFERENCE
it has made in your life at the end of this year.
Guaranteed: It will make a difference.
A big one.

And for those of you who have committed
to memorizing Scripture with me this year,
let’s begin with 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.
I’m going to memorize it from The Living Bible.
Let me know if you’re joining me,
and tell me which translation or paraphrase you’re using.

Thoughts?

I’m speaking at Westside Nazarene Church in Olathe, KS
this weekend. This is my first speaking event in 2018.
Please pray for God’s fresh anointing.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us!

Last week we chatted about the spotted water hemlock—the
deadliest plant in North America. One bite of this plant can kill
someone within two hours.

Of course, there are lots of things that seem good at first glance but
end up being toxic. Toadstools sure look like mushrooms.
But once eaten, you know what you consumed is NOT edible!

Everyone would agree that swans are beautiful.
But they, too, can also be deadly.
Many birds will eventually give up if an attacker is too strong to fight
against.
But swans will NOT give in!

They’ll attack by flying full speed at a predator and will begin biting it.
They’re also known to drown the predator by fiercely holding it
underwater until it dies.

Again, there are plenty of things that appear good or beautiful at first
glance but have fatal consequences once we experience them.

The question of the hour is:
How can we know what’s toxic and what isn’t?

Oftentimes we can’t.

This is where dependence on the Holy Spirit comes into play.

One of the job descriptions of the Holy Spirit is to help us know the
truth.

Check this out:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will
not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell
you about the future” (John 16:13) New Living Translation).

It’s essential that we learn to depend on the Holy Spirit!
How do learn to do that?

By totally surrendering to Him.

So I guess the real question of the hour is:
Have you totally surrendered?
Have you yielded to the authority of Jesus Christ?
Are you living in radical obedience to Him?

He has given us His very Spirit to empower us,
guide us, and to bring us into truth as we depend more and more on Him.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my
name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I
have said to you” (John 14:26 NIV).

Thoughts?

But It’s So Pretty!

The spotted water hemlock is labeled the most toxic plant in North
America. People who eat it can die within just two hours. And it’s not
an easy death.

Here’s how Steve Brill (a NY-based foraging expert and tour guide of
plants of the Northeast) describes what happens when someone eats
spotted water hemlock:

“Every single muscle starts firing and contracting, so you have
convulsions, you chew your tongue into ribbons, you vomit but then
you can’t open your mouth because the jaw muscles are contracting
10 or 20 times as hard as they normally do, and you die a horrible
death.”

Pretty gruesome, huh!
It also twists the arms and ankles and turns the head back. They say
it even turns the eyes back.

Again, this is the deadliest plant in North America.
One bite can kill you.
It’s ironic that something so pretty can be deadly.

Be on Guard!
Satan often works the same way, doesn’t he?
He masks the true ugliness of sin and causes it to appear
good,
pretty and even necessary.

As the master of lies, Scripture tells us:
“Satan can change himself to an angel of light”
(2 Corinthians 11:14 The Living Bible).

That’s why Peter encourages us to keep our guard up.
He says, “Be careful.”

Guess what—those are ACTION WORDS.
We can’t “be careful” if our guard is down.

“Be careful—watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy.
He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim
to tear apart” (1 Peter 5:8 TLB).

Though temptation often appears as pretty—
Satan’s attacks can be spiritually toxic.
What should we do when he attacks?

Peter gives us the answer in the next verse:

“Stand firm when he attacks.
Trust the Lord;
And remember that other Christians all around the world are going
through these sufferings too”
(1 Peter 5:9 TLB).

Good to know we’re not alone.
We have each other.
And we also have the Holy Spirit who will empower us.

This next year . . . let’s commit together to keep our guard up.
To watch out.
To be careful.
And not to be taken in by something that simply looks good.
Let’s pray for discernment.

Thoughts?

 

Burgers and Scripture

Like me, you may have memorized key Bible verses during your
childhood. Perhaps it was in a Sunday school class or a summer time
Vacation Bible School. I still have some of those Scriptures etched in
my heart.

But I admit, during my adult years, I’ve slacked off in memorizing
Scripture. I’ve memorized other things: E-mails, phone numbers,
addresses, names and useless trivia. But when it comes to the most
important Words ever, I haven’t memorized as much as I should.

Do you remember the McDonald’s Big Mac song and commercial that
aired in 1974? Because of the frequency of the commercial, I quickly
memorized it and still have it memorized:

“Two all beef patties,
special sauce,
lettuce,
cheese,
pickles,
onions on a sesame seed bun.”

And I can’t even read those words without the jingle exploding in my
mind.

Here’s the deal:
I don’t want to know my burgers better than I know my Scripture.
Hamburgers can’t give me guidance, wisdom or promises.
But God’s Word can . . . and does!

Here’s the challenge:
How about joining me in 2018 to memorize more Scripture?
If you’re in for the challenge, respond to this message and let me
know. I’d love to band together and have us support one another in
this important endeavor.

You in?

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.