Friday, April 28, 2006

The "F" Bomb

The Bible repeatedly gives us instructions like this:

“Be quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you”. Col. 3:13 Msg

Just what is forgiveness anyway? What does it do? Why does God do it? Why does He tell us to do it?

I believe that forgiveness is a powerful release. It is the giving away of energy. God’s grace unleashed upon the human heart. Forgiveness is a “bouncing back and forth” of love and acceptance that brings about transformation and growth for both persons involved.

Like I said yesterday, people in prison can’t pay. They cannot give us what we need or want. Unconsciously, we won’t let them. And when we hold on to the offense and refuse to release the offender, we live in prison, both of us. The one who has hurt us cannot escape the negativity and bitterness coming to them from us in various ways at various times. And we are stuck with the negative energy (that we have chosen to internalize) from the hurt slowly bleeding our life from us, robbing us of joy and health in many of our relationships.

Jesus calls this torture (Matt. 18). It is a trap with only one way out.

In the book of Acts, there is a story of two people. A martyr named Stephen and a murderer named Saul. God loved them both. Saul was breathing threats and anger against followers of Christ. He hated them. He wanted to see them all dead and the movement they represented destroyed. When he encountered Stephen, he was overseeing his execution. But Stephen was different. He had a peculiar inner strength and unquenchable love for God that changed people. Saul was next. Here is what happened:

“They shook their fists in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand. And he told them, "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!" Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."And he fell to his knees, shouting, "Lord, don't charge them with this sin!" And with that, he died.” Acts 7:54-60

Stephen dropped the “F” Bomb! This was the beginning of the end of Saul. He was about to undergo a powerful transformation. Hatred and anger would soon be replaced in his heart by love and acceptance. So extensive would be Saul’s transformation that we would assume a new name-Paul. He became a new person-a better person-a bigger person.

Where did it all start? When he got a glimpse of Jesus. That’s always where it starts, isn’t it? Only He can set human hearts free from their prisons. That’s what He came to do!

When we forgive someone we give them a glimpse of Jesus. As a matter of fact, you are never more like Jesus than when you forgive. It is the most Christ-like thing we can do. I wonder if that is why Jesus stood up at the moment of Stephen’s stoning. He is usually “sitting at the right hand of God” not standing. Could it be that Jesus knew the powerful release of energy (grace) that was about to happen, and He stood in honor of it?

Have you been hurt? Maybe by someone you love? Do you want to experience a powerful release? Do you want to move beyond this for good and expand as a person as well? If so, you must drop the “F” bomb! Those who do transform not only themselves, but influence those around them, especially those who have hurt them. God loves them just as much as he loves you. He can take what the enemy designed for evil and turn it around for good. Forgiveness changes people.

I am not saying that you minimize what happened or how much it hurt. No, you recognize it fully, turn to God for strength and forgive. In this moment, the life of Jesus is released into you and through you toward the one who hurt you. Both persons are given the opportunity to expand as human beings- to become bigger people-to become more like Jesus.

May you remember how much God loves and forgives you.
May you be released from your prison.
May you be healed of your wounds.
May you know the love of Christ in new and profound ways.
May you release this powerful love to all those around you.

And may you drop many “F” bombs during you life!


Life in prison

Have you ever heard of a debtor’s prison? It is actually a stupid concept. It is an ancient method of punishment that still exists in many countries today. Think about this. A guy owes money right? So they take him and his family and throw them behind bars until they can pay. How do you pay while in prison? It’s like that Tyco executive who stole over 100 million from his shareholders and now he is in jail. The shareholders won’t get anything out of him now.

One time in the Bible (Matt 18), one of Jesus’ disciples named Peter asks Him how often he should forgive people who hurt him. Peter thinking nobly asks “7 times?”. Jesus says, “70 times 7” which was a figure of speech for them that represented infinity. He knew that blew their minds so as He often did, He told them a story about debts and prison cells.

He says there was this king who had this guy working for him who owed him an astronomical debt-10,000 talents. It took the average worker 20 years to earn 1 talent! What did this guy do to rack up that much debt? This is an impossible debt.

He could not pay. So, as was custom in that day, the king ordered for he, his wife, and children to be sold into slavery. The man begs and pleads for more time and promises to pay. (He obviously has no concept of what he actually owes.) Then the king does something that no one would ever expect. He is moved with compassion for the guy, releases him, and forgives every penny (talent) of his debt. It would be a gross understatement to say that this forgiveness cost the king a fortune.

You would think the guy would leave that debtors’ prison jumping up and down for joy and experiencing a tremendous sense of release. This was not the case. His behavior was to say the least peculiar. He immediately went out and found someone who owed him a couple of months’ pay. He roughed the guy up, choked him and said, “Pay me what you owe me right now!” The guy begged, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you all of it”.

You would think this guy is going to remember the astronomical debt he was just forgiven, come to his senses and let this guy off, right? Nope! He would not forgive him and threw him into prison until he could pay. Kind of dumb to throw a guy into prison because he can never repay while in jail.

I have a question. Has this guy lost his mind? Did this guy forget his own forgiveness? I don’t think so. I don’t think he believed it. It was too good to be true so it must not be true. The king is probably going to change his mind and recall the debt so he had better get busy collecting every bit of debt owed him.

I bet you know where Jesus is going with this, don’t you?

Those of us who have been wounded, recognize it, and turn to the King receive something very surprising from Him as well. We receive forgiveness and healing from the avalanche of our own sin coming at us from the mountain of debt that we personally owe God. Our heavenly Father has been moved with compassion and absorbed our debt at the expense of His only Son and our King-Jesus.

I believe the reason that some people don’t find forgiveness in their hearts for others is because they don’t have any. You have got to have some to give some. If I truly believe this good news of forgiveness and receive it, I find it so much easier to release others from my little prison cells I have built in my mind for them. In light of the things that I have done throughout the course of my life, that God has truly forgiven (by hurting Jesus), how can I not find it in my heart to forgive others for hurting me?

The only other option is to not forgive. I hold on to the offense. I keep my debtor in prison (my mind). I get to relive it over and over in my mind. Sounds like torture to me. And that is exactly what it is. Listen to Jesus as he finishes His story:

"Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Matt 18: 32-35 NKJ

The reason many find themselves returning to the same place of relational brokeness again and again is because we are doing a life sentence with the torturers. They will be with us for the long haul if we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive from our hearts those who have hurt us.

You might say, “I can’t afford to forgive that”.

That’s right you can’t. But God is “rich in mercy” and will give you all you need and more. Freely you have received, freely give.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006


As Jesus was saying this, the leader of a synagogue came and knelt down before him. "My daughter has just died," he said, "but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand upon her." Matt 9:18

“As Jesus and the disciples were going to the official's home, a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe, for she thought, "If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed." Jesus turned around and said to her, "Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well." And the woman was healed at that moment.” Matt. 9:19-21

"Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said* to Him, "Yes, Lord." 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." Matt. 9:27

“Jesus traveled through all the cities and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And wherever he went, he healed people of every sort of disease and illness. He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help.” Matt. 9:35-36

I love this section of the Bible. It gives me so much hope! In this passage, different people with different situations are mentioned.

1. A man with a dead daughter
2. A woman bleeding for 12 years
3. A couple of blind men

Even though they and their situations were different, they all had a very important combination in common. Hurt mixed with desire mixed with faith. When a person recognizes their pain and becomes desperate for healing and truly believes that God can heal them-watch out!

I know I asked this yesterday, but I ask again, “Do you recognize your wound?” Have you said to God, “Yes it did happen, it did hurt, it still hurts?” Have you named the wound specifically? It was an affair! It was physical abuse! It was controlling! It was a lie! It was betrayal! It was abandonment! Have you been specific? Have you named it? This is important. I must not minimize it. I must recognize it for what it was and is.

Then I must get desperate--Desperate for God to change my situation. Desperate to get to Him at all costs. No matter what anyone else thinks or believes. No matter how foolish I may seem. I will do anything He says and go through any process He lays out. I’m just plain fed up. I can’t take life like this any more. I’m not going to just settle. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. You get my drift-desperate!

Above all, I must believe that God can help me. One of the biggest setbacks to healing is a disbelief that we CAN be really healed. All of us struggle with belief at times. Maybe we should be like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe, I believe, please help my unbelief! I connect with that.

Hurt, Desperation, and Faith a powerful combination!

Ok, I believe he can, but does he want to? This is the coolest part for me. The scripture above says that everywhere he went, he healed. Why? Just because He could? It says He saw the crowds and had compassion for them. He knew they had no where else to go. He knew that He was their only hope. This is one of the things I love most about Jesus. Beyond the fact that he “can” help me is the truth that he “cares” about me. It’s not just for someone else, it’s for me!

He saw what happened. He knows it hurt. I believe He hurts with us and graciously waits for us to turn to Him. He is not going to force this upon us. We must choose this. But we must put our faith only in Him. This means we have to drop our coping mechanisms and trust in Him alone.

Are you becoming more aware of your wound? Are you just about ready? Do you truly believe? If so, get ready for Jesus to do His thing!

Help me! I need you so badly today! I have no where else to go. You are my only hope. If I could only touch you-If you will only touch me, I will be healed and this pain will be over. I pray in Jesus name.

Today I leave you with the words of that great theologian, Don Henley of the Eagles:

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard oneI know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' youCan hurt you somehow

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger,
they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin
'Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences,
open the gate It may be rainin',
but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you
(let sombody love you)
You better let somebody love you
before it's too late

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Wounded Soldier"

The other night I was watching a rerun of “Saving Private Ryan”, and this guy is running across a bridge when he gets shot in the back. He goes into shock. His friend picks him up and says, “You’ve been shot!” The guy replies, “It’s just a nick, I’ll be alright.” Then the guy trying to save him gets shot and killed. Heroically, the wounded soldier tries to stay in the fight, but he slowly bleeds to death.

Can you imagine a person being shot with an arrow and then saying, “It’s not that bad. I’ll be alright.”? He just sort of breaks off the part of the arrow that’s sticking out and moves on. He seeks no medical attention-nothing. That would be crazy, right?

Yet this is exactly what many of us do when we are wounded. We soldier on in life without ever really acknowledging our need for healing. We tend to think we can handle it. All the while, deep inside our chest, is an arrowhead that is eventually going to have to be removed if we’re going to be healthy.

We can’t really move forward in life until these issues are properly addressed. We try but the wound lives on. My past visits my present and negatively impacts my future. Pain from the old wound finds expression in current relationships. Often people find themselves in conflicts that have little to do with what is going on right now and everything to do with something that happened in the past. Are you having problems in your relationships? Could it be that if you were to deal with your hurt from the past you would experience a new quality of relationships in the future?

Do you know what I think happens to us? We become so familiar with our pain that we are numb to it. It is now become part of our normal experience. We have been hurt or angry for so long that we have internalized it.

Last night I watched a show called “Shalom in the Home”. A Jewish Rabbi is invited to help a married couple deal with what they term an “unruly child”. The Rabbi quickly uncovers the source of the child’s anger-marital conflict between two angry, hurting parents. But even underneath that is the source of the Father’s anger-abandonment from his father when he was a little boy. But when he was encouraged to deal with the old wound, he did not want to talk about it. So he just goes on in life experiencing the perpetuation of the wound in his most important relationships. Unconsciously, he decides to live with it. Like the soldier in the movie, he slowly bleeds and slowly dies. The only difference is that he is taking his family down with him. The old saying is true: “Hurting people hurt people”.

One time Jesus was talking to a man who had been sick for years, and He said to him, “Do you want to be made well”? What kind of question is that? Of course he wants to be well, right? Wrong. The man had become accustomed to his illness and desire for healing had all but gone. He had developed excuses and coping mechanisms and did not necessarily want to be whole.

At some point we have to desire more. We have to want to be healthy. We have to want to be fully alive again. We need to admit the fact that we NEED healing from relational hurts.

Have you been wounded? Maybe even by someone you trusted or loved? Have you recognized the need to deal with your wound? Turn to God right now. Show Him your wound. Weep with Him. Allow Him to touch it. This is the first step in the process. Acknowledge your need to your loving Father in heaven.

I pray today for the wounded soldiers. Those who are trying to move forward but find themselves going in circles. I pray that you would grant insight into the source of the pain. I pray for openness to Your healing touch. Give us desire for more. Help us to want what you want for us. Give us courage to face our pain knowing that you are here with us every step of the way. Give us grace to embrace the process of forgiveness and healing. Make us well.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Hello again my friend. I have been asked to speak at a conference in Atlanta on “Healing Relational Wounds” --primarily those from the opposite sex or marital partners. In light of this assignment, I will be writing about this topic for the rest of the week. I hope you find my musings helpful.

The other day I was at the gym working out with my wife. She pointed down to my shin and said, “Look, you’re bleeding”. Sure enough I had wounded myself during an exercise.

Wounds are a part of life. They are going to happen. Scrapes, cuts, and sometimes even breaks. Self inflicted wounds and wounds from others--even from those we love. My 21 month old son is eventually going to be hurt. Will I ever be the one to wound him? Inevitably, I probably will. The truth is that we will all eventually wound and be wounded. It it also true that the deepest wounds in life can come from those we love.

The question is, “Is there hope? Can my wounds ever really heal?”

The answer is a resounding yes! God has designed us with an amazing ability to recover and expand as whole human beings through the process. Yes, our bodies and our hearts were created to heal. My wound from the other day is completely gone. You can’t even tell where it was any more.

But there are some wounds that run deeper than my superficial scrape. There are wounds that cut so deeply that they touch the innermost parts of who I am-my identity. These kinds of hurts are normally not inflicted upon us by strangers, but by those we know and love. People like fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, close friends, even or especially spouses. These kinds of wounds require attention and care. These are wounds that leave scars and they require a healing process. They also involve help from others. Most importantly, they require the healing that comes from a loving God who understands us and cares for us deeply-more deeply that our deepest wounds.

Just yesterday I was reminded of a deep wound that I thought was healed but obviously it is not. This is a deep wound that goes all the way back to my childhood. I am praying about this wound again today. Maybe you could pray for me as well.

Do you have any wounds? Have they healed? Are you doing like so many of us-just soldiering on as if you can handle it. “I’ll be alright” you say, or “That was so long ago, it’s not affecting me now.”

I’ll let you in on a secret that I have learned (am learning) the hard way. The past lives again in the present if it hasn’t been healed. This is an unfortunate fact of life. But there is hope.

Join me this week as we explore “healing wounds”.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
We love mirrors. Our culture is mesmerized by them. Most of us regularly look into a mirror. We really can’t pass by a mirror without at least glancing at it. Some of us do it covertly—kind of a quick look. Others of us are pretty overt about it. We check out our teeth, our hair, our clothing. Some women spend an hour in front of one every morning. I go to a gym where guys flex in front of mirrors for longer than that. We’re into mirrors aren’t we?
Why do we look into mirrors? We look because the mirror tells us what we look like.
Mirrors are very important. A lot of us live our lives without understanding the true essence and the depth of mirrors. We’re made as mirrors. We’re made to reflect. In our original design, God fashioned us in His image. His intension was for us to reflect His glory. We’re mirrors.
Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a perfect mirror. When God looked at them he saw himself reflected in a pristine fashion. Then sin entered in and spread to all of us. Our mirror was marred.
How’s your mirror? What is your mirror like? Is it cracked with anger? Is it fogged up with lust? Is it ornate with materialism? What kind of mirror are you? Who are you reflecting? What are you reflecting?
Think back over the last week. If you could freeze frame every conversation, every exchange, everything you did, would the mirror reflect the fashion of the designer? If God looked into your life, would he see his reflection or something else?
What does it really mean, though, to reflect the glory of God? In one word it means “worship.”
What does it mean to worship? To worship means to have a passion for God’s fashion. What’s God’s fashion? We’ve been talking about that. It’s being clothed in Christ. Jesus Christ has given us this incredible garment. We either clothe ourselves in Christ or not. We look at Him and see a model finally worth adoring or copying. Let’s face it-we are going to model our lives after someone, it might as well be Jesus. This is worship.
“We can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” 2 Cor. 3:18 NLT

How do we know if we’re clothed in Christ? We have got to look into a mirror. The Bible is like a mirror. The Bible is God’s fashion magazine. We look into it and it shows us various images of Jesus and how we can wear His design. But we have to listen to it instruction or we can be self-deceived.

“Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” James 1:22-24 Msg.

Are you looking intently into this mirror or just glancing?

May God show you who you truly were fashioned to be.
May your image never be distorted into something else.
May you display His majesty and His design.

And may you finally emerge as the beautiful human being He had in mind.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Funky, Flaky, Freaky, Feelings"

“The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn't go very deep. It's only another fad, and the moment there's trouble it's gone. And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun. But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there's a harvest.” Luke 8:11-13 Msg.

I am getting started a little late today with my morning blog. I felt like sleeping in this morning. Yes, just grab the covers and pull them over my head for about an hour longer. Another thing I feel like doing today is playing golf. The sun is shining and a slight breeze-a perfect April day in Vegas for golf.

The truth is I have a lot of work to do today. First is keep to my commitment to write. It is a commitment I have made largely to myself. I also need to finish a map of this weekend’s worship experience and get it to others so they can finish their work. Then I have whole other list of tasks to finish so I can keep my commitment to have a day off with family tomorrow.

I don’t feel like doing any of this. I feel like playing golf-today!

Which will I choose today-to live based on the way I feel or based on my commitments? Will I allow the truth (seed) of God’s word to take root in my heart or “flake out” and go with my emotions?

This is a choice that people face each and every day of their lives. I get up almost every day and either choose to go with the dominant emotions that I am experiencing or to ask myself what I really want in life and choose to stay with my more noble commitments.

Stephen Covey says in his classic book on self-leadership, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that you must put first things first, that making and keeping commitments to yourself preceeds the ability to keep commitments to others.

Covey also says that “anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”

My feelings change like the latest fashion-in one day and out another. The latest flavors of contemporary culture are just that-“temporary”. All the money I spend on clothing now must be respent over and over in order to keep up with ever changing funky, freaky, fashion trends.

One day we feel like playing with our kids, the next we don’t.
Today I feel like spending $5000 on something, tomorrow I don’t.
One day we feel like quitting, the next we have energy to go on.

Immature people live lives based on feelings. Mature people make commitments to what they know are the best things and they live by them regardless of how they “feel”. My feelings are funky, flaky, freaky, and always changing like fashion. I cannot trust them.

What drives your decision making process? Emotions or truth? Feelings are like a roller-coaster ride up and down and all around. God says he has truth-clothing for me that never changes or goes out of style.

Tomorrow we talk about a mirror of truth that never lies. My feelings often lie but the mirror never does.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

pants around my ankles

Years ago on the cover of Life magazine, there was an image of a little boy dressed in a grown man’s pair of jeans. The boy appeared awkward in his new threads which fell around his ankles. Then, on the inside of the publication, you saw a changing picture, page after page, the boy grew into manhood. Eighteen years--eighteen images as he matured into the jeans.

Did you know that God is into clothes? Ever since the fall of mankind, God has been weaving this developing theme throughout the scriptures. I believe He is sending a message to those who will hear it.
Genesis 3:21 “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Luke 2:12 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
John 19:2 “The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe.”
John 19:23 “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.”
John 20:6-7 “Then Simon Peter went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.”
Romans 13:14 "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

If we look deep enough, we find out that this life will never make sense until we discover the common thread that holds everything together and reconnect the disconnected fabric of our lives. God designed us in His image-to wear his “label” and reflect his Glory. Yesterday we talked about Adam and Eve being clothed in His glory. What is glory? God’s glory is His nature and character on display. When you reflect upon this, you can envision a world with no clothes. Why would we need them? There would be no sin and no shame and no fear of being naked and exposed.

The problem is that apart from God we have no hope of displaying his glory. I believe the deepest fibers of our being cry out to be reconnected. This is why Jesus is so critical. Only He can take our man-made coverings-our sin tattered garments and give us new glorious clothing that makes us truly pleasing and beautiful to God’s eye.

“God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory.” Col. 1:27 NCV

Coming to the cross of Jesus is dying to the old fashions and trends. The resurrection means finding a whole new wardrobe. My whole image-my identity- my worth is now wrapped up in who He is. He is the secret fiber calling out from the deepest place of our intricate human design. For the rest of my life I will be “catching up” to what it means to be clothed in Him.

“You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.” Col. 3:9-10 Msg.

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even- tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all- purpose garment. Never be without it.” Col. 3:12-14 Msg.

Granted, sometimes I feel like that little boy standing on the front cover of Life magazine with my pants falling around my ankles. But as I keep my eyes on Him, I feel myself growing into them, and I’m really starting to like the way they look on me.


"And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God- fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you." Eph. 4:24 Msg.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Have you ever had the infamous “underwear dream”? You know-the one where you are at school or work and suddenly you realize you only have on your underwear. Yikes! Believe it or not, there are entire web-sites out there dedicated to helping you interpret this terrible nightmare.

I’m sitting here this morning thinking about the “red thread” that I tied around my wrist this weekend. I am about to get dressed for the day. What will I choose? My new DKNY shirt and jeans? My black leather boots? Clothes are a necessary part of life. If we don’t wear them, we are naked. People will see us in all our glory! We can’t have that, can we? I want to be attractive not repulsive, right!

It hasn’t always been this way though. In the beginning, the first humans wore no clothing at all and were very comfortable with it. The Bible says they were “naked and unashamed”. How is that possible? Let me give you my take on this.

In other places in scripture, people who had close encounters with God were impacted by what is called God’s glory. As a matter of fact, His glory would somehow permeate them and would then eminate or shine out from them as well. This happened to Moses when he spent time in God’s presence on the Mountain where he received the Ten Commandments. His face shone so brightly that he had to wear a covering over it. Scripture tells us that “God is light” and that He dwells in “unapproachable light”. (I John 1:5, I Tim. 6:16)

Could it be that Adam and Eve enjoyed such a dynamic relationship with God that they were clothed with His light? They did take daily walks with God himself you know? Were they completely saturated by the light of His presence? So much so that even when He was not present they were still clothed?

This could explain a whole lot for me. You might remember that they disobeyed God and “At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.” Gen. 3:7 They “suddenly” realized they were naked? What happened? Could it be that God’s presence was removed from their lives, and they were immediately exposed? Could it be that in that moment people who before were primarily God-conscious and others- conscious “suddenly” became self-conscious? Were they diverted from basking in the beauty and glory of another only to be consumed in self –absorption?

What happens next is the very natural attempt to cover self. Self is going to be a big focus from now on.

God comes looking for them and asks “Where are you?” He finds them hiding and asks them why. “Because we were afraid and we were naked,” they replied. God then asks “Who told you that you were naked?” He then made coverings for them. Those two questions are fascinating to me. I believe that God wants us to realize that apart from Him we are exposed. “Where are you?” is a question asked for my benefit not God’s. “Who told you that you were naked?” is a compassionate question.

God knows we have an enemy that seeks to expose and condemn us in our failures and weaknesses leaving us ashamed of who we are. Where are you today? Do you feel exposed? Have you made some elaborate covering for yourself? God has a tailor made garment made of “red thread” for each of us that does much more than just cover our physical bodies. When we clothe ourselves in Christ, He replaces our sin-tattered garment and brings us back in line with the Master Designer's original pattern for our lives.

Come close to Him today. Don’t let anything or anyone come between you.

"Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him." 2 Cor. 3

"Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!" Rom. 13:14 msg.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"God's Spirit Beckons"

“But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. 10 But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. 11 It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's! 12 So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. 13 There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14 God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" 16 God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!” Rom. 8:9-17 Msg.

I love the fact that God’s Spirit lives in me! What an honor that He would “take up residence” in my life. He has set me free from obsession with myself and directed my heart upon the ever arriving Kingdom of Jesus Christ. He is showing me the way, the truth, and He is showing me life.

“But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” Gal. 5:22-23 Msg.

A heart that is alive with the life of God. No more of that old dead life. No longer do we have to feel the pressure of performing. He produces a quiet confidence in us. We have a champion on the inside. The old me is going and the new me is dawning. The former Chris has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives. He has been buried and raised to an ever-increasing expression of life the way God intended for it to be-like Jesus.

Yes, I am still dealing with the old magnetic pull of sin like everyone else, but now there is another stronger pull upon my heart. I am choosing to go with it. “God’s Spirit beckons”. I love that! Beckon me God! Call me! Be the dominant voice of my life. Drown out the voices of my dead past.

I am ready to go to new places. God is making this life an adventure-a quest-an obsession with knowing and becoming like His Son Jesus. What will be next? Where will He lead me? His Spirit has touched my deepest places of fear and insecurity. My search for identity is over. I have found myself in Jesus. I now know more fully who I am and I know more of who He is. This is settling me. This new awareness of life is bringing about a completely new creation. God’s life-It is in me!

What’s next Papa?

I leave you with my version of an ancient prayer:

I get down on my knees before our Father, the one who gave you and me and everyone else the air we breathe.

May He strengthen you by his Spirit in the deepest places of your being.

May Jesus receive a wide open invitation from you and fill your heart with mind-blowing love.

May you spend the rest of your life discovering that there is no way to actually measure how massive His love is for you.

May you live amazing lives, full in the fullness of God.

May you live in the possibilities of God—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

May you come to know that the amazing greatness of His power is at work in you!

May God receive maximum Honor from your life!


Monday, April 10, 2006

"The Habit of Winning"

Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is a habit and so is losing.”

Throughout the seventies and eighties the Chicago Bulls had grown accustomed to a bad habit-losing. That all changed when the Bulls drafted Michael Jordan. Michael not only became the game’s best player, he changed the way basketball was played. The rival coach of the Detroit Pistons made up what was called the “Jordan Rules”. The strategy was basically foul Michael every time he goes to shoot the ball. It is said that in response Michael Jordan made a habit of going to a gym by himself to shoot 1000 free-throws. Soon his free-throws became almost automatic-like daggers in the heart of opposing teams. He was practically unstoppable. He developed an insurmountable attitude toward discipline and an unmatched will to win. He now wears six championship rings and continues to be admired by much of the world.

Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT)

What made Michael so unstoppable was a clear vision of becoming the best he could be and winning championships. His vision fueled a life of incredible discipline and focus. He developed the habit of winning.

The way we live our lives is compared to a race that must be run with determination and focus. We are to develop “winning” lives that are to be rewarded by God in eternity.
Do you have a vision of what a win looks like for you? Is the vision clear? Is it a vision that honors God and enriches the lives of those you love? What about your daily choices? Are they leading you toward the prize or away from it?

So let’s talk today about your daily regimen. This is where we develop the habits that cause us to become winners or losers. Let’s look at three habits of a winning life.

Diet, exercise, and focus. These could also be called self-control, self-discipline, vision clarification.
1. Diet or Self-control: Are you watching over the things you allow into your heart? Is your music inspiring and uplifting? What is the general message of what you listen to? What about TV or movies? Is the content healthy or is it junk food with no real nutritional value that makes you feel apathetic and lazy? What you habitually allow in can either propel you forward or hold you back.

2. Exercise/Self-discipline or as Paul puts it “discipline my body”. This moves beyond my “intake” to my “output”. This is the way I expend my energy. The kinds of exercises I do in my marriage, family, friendships, and work. These are the moves I practice over and over in order to live a winning life-my 1000 free-throws if you will.

3. Focus or “keeping your eye on the prize”. Paul says in the scripture above that there are prizes that will not last and prizes that will. I believe that a big habit found in winning lives is vision clarification. This is an area where I am currently meditating. Paul says he runs “straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches”. I find that if I don’t continually remind myself of the compelling win that God has placed before me I can easily get side-tracked. By the way, in order to say “NO” to all of the distractions, I must have a big “YES” that I keep in clear view.

I want to win this race, don’t you? But we must develop the self-control and self-discipline necessary to receive the prize. That is where God’s Holy Spirit comes in. Tomorrow, in our last writing for this series, we will talk about Him one more time.

Holy Spirit, I ask you to help me today. I want to eat well and exercise right. Focus my heart and mind. I want to arrive at the end of this day, put my head on my pillow, look up at you, and feel good about the way I lived it. Help us all. Fill us with you life so we can live a winning life today!

Play like a champion today!

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Road less traveled"

Have you ever heard someone say, “Anyone can float down stream with a bunch of dead fish.” Yet that is what many of us choose-to go with the natural flow of things. The world is in no shortage of under-achievers. Many will arrive at the end of their lives with regret wishing they had traveled a different path and made different choices.

The philosophy of today’s popular culture is to have what we want now. We need make no payments until next year. We can live together first rather than waiting to be married. “Go ahead, you deserve it”or “you can put that off till later”-“eat, drink, and be merry”. Paul writes about this mindset in Philippians:

“Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I've warned you of them many times; sadly, I'm having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ's Cross. 19 But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” Phil. 3:19 The Message

Let’s face it-we have impulses, drives and appetites. The question is whether we will allow these natural desires to be in control of our lives. It is very difficult to live a life of self-control. The world is full of people who are not even trying. Because of this, everything is geared toward gratifying human wants as quickly and conveniently as possible. We have become totally devoted to maximizing comfort and minimizing pain.

Whatever a person looks to for help or satisfaction can become a god. Paul says that many make the fulfillment of desire their god. Who or what is your God? What do you look to for security, wisdom, and guidance? What or who do you worship? What has the most worth in your life? That is your god, and you must look to it for a compelling vision.

Jesus speaks of a difficult road that leads to two entry ways. One road-two directions. Large crowds of people flowing in one direction encouraging each other along the way in a massive cesspool of cultural deception. It is a wide path with popular opinion to give momentum and carry you along. It leads to heartache and death.

“You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.” Matt. 7:13-14

There is another path, a narrow path, going against the current and requiring focus and discipline. According to the Lord, not many go this direction, thus, not many find life.

Life is what this is all about, isn’t it? I believe that many of us have seen the wrong vision. We have believed a lie about what life really is. We are only pursuing what we have been shown by the world. It looks attractive and feels good so we go for it.

Following Christ for me has become about catching a vision of something more. It’s about more than just getting out some junk. It’s seeing who I can become in Christ. It’s about seeing the difference I can make in the lives of those I love. Yes, we need to see the destruction that can happen as a result of an out of control life, but we also need to clearly see a vision of the incredible possibilities of a life lived well. This is the kind of vision that provides motivation to supress impulses, press through barriers and do the right things in life.

Writing these daily writings is difficult. Tonight as I sit down to write I feel tired. The TV looks more appealing to me than this computer. But I have a vision. In my mind I see people reading these words and God using them to help them. I also see in my mind’s eye a developing gift that God may want to use in the future. I think He may even want me to write a book or two someday. So I need to learn how to write well. That is taking some serious discipline. But God’s Spirit is helping me. He is keeping a vision of who I am becoming and the difference I can make before me. It motivates me beyond my impulses to be lazy or go play golf when I know I need to write.

Jesus’ way of self-control is a difficult path for sure. It can seem a lonely path at times. But we are not alone or without help. If you ask for God’s strength, He will give it. And remember, this “road less traveled” is actually going somewhere. I can see God’s vision for my life and it looks good to me-better than what this world is temporarily offering.

Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever. I John 2:15-17

May you see God’s vision of a better life. May it guide you away from pain and into Joy!


Thursday, April 06, 2006

"Inside Man"

There is a movie out right now called “Inside Man”. There are lots of big names and colorful characters in this suspense thriller. The movie keeps you guessing and the plot twists and turns as Denzel Washington tries to thwart a cleverly devised bank hiest. As the title suggests, there is a mysterious inside angle at work that must be solved or the diabolical plot will be successful.
I have seen men throw away marriages because they could not control urges. I have watched children have to move from their apartment because mom “could not help it” and gambled away the rent. I’ve witnessed young singles spoil relationships and lose respect for each other simply because they could not control themselves. I know people who know they will die if they don’t quit smoking but they smoke on anyway. There are people who will starve themselves all day only to go home, binge, purge, and then sit on the bed and cry. There are times when I know I should not spend money I don’t have, but I use my credit card anyway and later regret it. Does anyone connect with this?
Those who do not control themselves are like a city whose walls are broken down. Prov. 25:28

God says our lives become vulnerable and open to destruction when we don’t exercise self-control. Our walls come down and an enemy could easily overtake us and cause us to lose things that are precious to us. The irony is that this is an inside job. Someone once wrote, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. How true this is. If we were all to be honest, we would admit that we can at times be our own worst enemy.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18 I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. 19 I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20 My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21 It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22 I truly delight in God's commands, 23 but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. Rom 7:17-23

Do you know who wrote this? The person who wrote much of the New Testament. Ever have something on the inside of you just “take charge” and you find yourself moving toward a destructive behavior that in your mind you know you don’t want to do? Welcome to Paul’s world (mine too by the way). What is going on and how do I deal with this? Is there hope that my destructive impulses and bad habits can be brought under control? This is what the “Good News” is all about. Paul continues to write:

I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. Rom. 7:24-8:2

God’s life is offered to me in Christ. And His life is in me. He is the ultimate “inside man”. He has the power not only to hold back my desructive impulses, but to go far beyond that and give me new, compelling, and beautifully constructive ones. Instead of tearing down my life with my own hands, He gives me a vision to build a truly great life. He takes me beyond self-control to self-discipline. That is when life get’s exciting.

The Holy Spirit is called the counselor, the guide, the helper or teacher who comes along-side us to show us this new life in Christ.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, Titus 2:11-12

If I am to experience the life that God has for me; If I want not just to be married, but to have a great marriage; if I hope to see my children flourish in life; if I want to make a difference in this world, I will have to allow God’s Spirit to produce ever increasing levels of self-control.

The world belongs to the self-disciplined.

Join me over the next several days as we discuss a deep inward transformation that leads to a truly great life!


But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

the "E" word part 2

Have you ever considered that just telling people that you are a follower of Jesus sets the stage for sharing your faith? Once they know they will watch. You do not have to be able to win arguments or quote theology. Of course, some will look for an opportunity to find inconsistancy in our confession, but I believe that others subconsciously want to see something real-something they can trust in. When you think about it, all I need to do is live my life in Christ before others and they will have questions.

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a “gentle” and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
Explain my faith? Answer questions? You might say, “no way!” But questions are actually what we are waiting for. Yes, some of the questions will be tough. But that is Ok. Why? Because we don’t have to have all the answers. I believe many Christ-followers are intimidated by the “E” word (evangelism) because they have an informational approach in mind. They believe that the key issue is the ability to engage in debate-to be the Bible answer man. They don’t feel articulate enough to field all the intimidating questions that might be thrown their way. I am convinced that we need to transcend this paradigm and discover a simpler approach. Let’s call this the “incarnational Gospel approach”.

“Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.” 2 Cor. 3:2-3 The Message

If Jesus is truly at the center of my life, He will be at work. His Spirit will be teaching lessons, making changes, and providing experiences. All these become “story material” in my life. People are fascinated with stories of God intersecting every-day-life. Authentic moments of trust in Christ from our lives are what we “explain” to onlooking questioners. When they see the difference He is making in our experience they will eventually want more information. That is when we can share the hope we have in Christ.

I said this method is simple. I did not say it was easy. It is often hard to truly live for Christ. It can be even harder to live it out in front of an unbelieving audience. But it is “gentle and respectful”. And gentleness is always influencial. This approach provides real evidence of the life of Christ. It eliminates so many arguments about historical facts or philosophies of religion. It takes the focus off of getting all the facts straight and theology totally correct. It cuts right to the heart of the matter-whether or not my faith is real.

“If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matt. 5:15-16 The Message

I am to be good news. My message is my life. Or I should say, His life, being lived in me. I am to live it out in the open. Not as a glaring spot-light blinding people and causing them to turn away. But as a gentle candle lighting a pathway in a dark world, respectfully showing Jesus as the only real alterative to the empty life that the world offers. I believe this is the wisdom that God has given us concerning the “E” word.

What’s more is if you shine your light now, you will have a special surprise in eternity.

“Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like stars forever.” Dan. 12:3

May your gentle wisdom shine. May it shine and provide warmth and direction for others. May you turn many to Christ. And may God cause you to shine like the stars forever.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

the "E" word part 1

“You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way.”
I Pet. 3:15-16

When you hear the “E” word these days it can bring many negative connotations to mind. Fallen TV evangelists such as Swaggert, Baker, Tilton and others have tinted the views of an entire generation. What is interesting now is the next generation really knows nothing of these men but still resonates with the previous generation’s opinions. It is an ignorant residue.

Bible thumpers, religious freaks or fanatics are among the labels we risk if we openly share our faith in Christ. Yet someone must still “do the work of an evangelist” if the message of hope in Christ is to penetrate the unbelieving walls of popular culture.

Let’s face it. People have questions-intimidating questions. And who is up to answering them? Sometimes the questions come with a passion that sends us reeling. At other times, they call for more intellect than we can marshall in the moment.

Always be ready to explain faith? Are you kidding? How do I talk to someone who has no faith about a God that you can only understand if you have faith? Sometimes we still struggle with our own understanding of faith. How can we help someone else on their journey?

Listen to the words of Jesus:

But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

God’s life in us makes us people who can “bear witness” to others of what he is doing in our lives. A witness simply shares the facts. Who, what, when, where etc. As I walk with Jesus, He does things that I can offer to others. He gives me a story to tell--a story that transcends facts of ancient history and intersects the world you and I live in today.

We don’t need to argue and fight with pre-Christians. We are to simply allow Christ to be who He says He is in our daily lives and He will produce the news to publish. If I am trusting in Him and obeying His word, stories will be the result. And stories are what captivate the human heart. They always have and they always will.

In the past, I have been exposed to tactics and strategies designed to catch pre-Christians in their inconsistencies and expose them for the foolish thinkers that thay certainly must be.

This leads me back to gentleness. We are told that the “E” word must be done with “gentleness and respect”. Gentleness considers the personal history behind the questioner. It understands the different levels of communication. It takes into consideration the emotion behind the questions. And respectfully asks questions of its own to bring about honest dialogue.

Again we see the secret power of the Holy Spirit at work in the surrendered heart of a Christ-follower influencing the life of another. I do not have to be an expert apologist to share my faith. I need only to be under the influence. He alone is able to help me navigate these “touchy” moments. I must be involved in the authentic worship of Christ as Lord. Then He will make things happen and He will set up divine opportunities to do the “E” word.


I want to personally invite you to attend “Discovering My Mission” tonight and tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Pecos location to learn more about how to influence others for Christ in a gentle and respectful way.

You will learn:

Discovering THE “E” WORD
 God’s Purpose In Creating Us
 Jesus’ Mission On Earth
 Why Jesus’ Mission Must Matter To Me

 Part 1: My Story –how I began a relationship with Jesus.
 Part 2 The Good News –Explaining how to accept Christ.
 Communication Tips: How To Share More Effectively

 5 Keys To Spiritual Fishing
 How People Come To Christ
 How to Build A Bridge Of Friendship


Monday, April 03, 2006

"The Velvet Hammer"

There is a drink called the “Velvet Hammer”. It looks harmless enough, but it is loaded with influence. You really might want to think twice before hammering one of these because if you do, you just might get hammered yourself.

By the way, what happens when you drink too much alcohol? You find that your senses are altered. The way you see, feel, understand, and react is influenced by the chemical in your blood stream. Things that you normally would not say or do now become quite possible. Behavior is totally modified. Sometimes people will say, “I need a drink” when facing difficulty or pressure. Why? People often find a false sense of courage or become more outgoing and expressive while under the influence.

Believe it or not, herein lies the secret to experiencing “God’s Life” in us.

Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Eph 5:18 The Message

God’s Spirit desires to be the influence on our hearts. He wants to alter the way we see the world. He wants to give us insight into the hearts of others. He has the ability to change the way we feel and understand. He can produce the opposite of our natural tendencies. He can turn our “natural reactions” into “supernatural responses”.

As we talk about God’s Spirit producing “gentleness” in us, the analogy of alcohol and its influence serves as a teacher. Just as the committed drinker always finds her way to the next drink, so must the committed Christ-follower continually drink of God’s Spirit.

Remember, gentleness is power under control. Gentleness is knowing the right amount in the right way at the right time.

Paul prays an interesting prayer in Ephesians:

“I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead” Eph. 1:19-20

Later in Eph. He prays again:

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.” Eph. 3:16
God wants to give us incredible inner strength but that strength is not for over-powering others or manipulating people to get them to do what we want. It is there to establish our hearts and make them secure so that we can influence the world for Christ. The life of God in me can be mighty but that might is to spread the influence of God upon the hearts of others in need of God’s life.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul refers to the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” as a “weapon of warfare”. He says that this weapon is “mighty for the pulling down of strongholds”. I find this fascinating. I wonder if this is what Jesus meant in Matthew:

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matt. 10:16

God says that he wants us to be wise. Wisdom is knowing what to do, how to do it and when. James the brother of Jesus says there are two kinds of wisdom:

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18

Rather than being harsh or overbearing with people, God’s spirit gives me wisdom and inner strength to say and do the right things in the right way at the right times. He overrides my natural tendency to do the wrong things and replaces it with His wise application of power. As I allow myself to be under His influence, He places in my hand a “velvet hammer”. It looks harmless enough but packs a big punch for God. When I use it, people don’t feel like they’ve been hammered, just changed. Through me,they come under His influence

I encourage you today to pray and ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Allow Him to place you under the influence, and may He use you to influence the world. May things we would “normally” never say or do now become “supernaturally” possible.