Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Who Is My Dictator?" #3

"When we are at our wits' end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can he give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?" Karl Barth

"There's nothing worse than insecurity. So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God. On the flip side, there's nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as his own child. This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us." Francis Chan (Forgotten God)

We all live with questions. For some, those uncertainties define their life and they live on the edge of a scary cliff that appears to be an endless "black hole". Ever been there? You try to look ahead but all  you can see is intense darkness. You strive to give some sort of clarity to the enigmas that pop up out of nowhere or you struggle to understand the indifference of your spouse or teenager. Question, questions, questions!

But, we want answers - NOW!

I'm no philosopher, nor am I anything close to a psychiatrist so I am unqualified to offer anything that even resembles a professional scientific judgment. What I am is a husband, father, grandfather, Bible student and observer of human beings. Goes with the territory of half a century of ministry and personal struggle. The most important element of my education has come from reading, listening, observing, prayer and meditation and of course asking questions. Here's what I've learned and can testify to as true.

"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught us by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
      'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' (Isaiah 40:13'
But, we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 NIV

There is a very logical reason why Jesus referred to what we call the "conversion experience" as being BORN AGAIN. Literally, God wipes out our past, just erases all of it in order to replace all those failures and disappointments with something new and infinitely good, the "mind of Christ". So, we start all over again but this new birth is "from above". What happens, if it is truly the "NEW BIRTH", is we get a new "Dictator".

I said before that this term may sound a bit strange when applied to God's Holy Spirit, but that is what he works hard to be for us, the director, instructor, manager, and sole voice that we learn to hear. And its a lifetime process of asking our questions and patiently trusting that God will gives the answer that is best for us or simply says to us like he did Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you". He may not always give us the answer we had anticipated or wanted. He may give us something more or something different. Or, he may simply say, not yet, deal with it.

Francis Chan is exactly right about God's love and his great pride in his children but that doesn't mean he will always give us everything we want, especially answers to all of our questions. Those answers will come in time and faith in God's fatherly compassion keeps us focused on the future, looking ahead. The Holy Spirit keeps us grounded in that confidence and always leads us away from fear and desperation to absolute peace. Why? Like Paul said, "We have the mind of Christ." HALLELUJAH!


Monday, February 11, 2013

"Who Is My Dictator?" #2

Play with this mental image a bit and see if you can identify with it -

"A frequent flyer boards a afternoon flight in Dallas, Tx to Los Angeles, Ca. As she enters her First Class cabin and settles into her spacious seat she is greeted by a friendly flight attendant who assures her that he is eager to serve any need she might have. Soon the plane begins to back away from the gate and taxis out to the runway for takeoff. Within minutes the plane reaches its assigned cruising altitude and the flight attendant informs the passengers that their flight time to New York City will be 3 hours and 18 minutes. WHAT?!!! Our frequent flyer panics, immediately jumps to her feet and begins to shout at the cabin crew that she is on the wrong flight and they must return to Dallas because her critical business meeting is in Los Angeles NOT New York. The flight attendant's training kicks in and he rushes to the frequent flyer to assure her that everything will be okay, to no avail. By this time the experienced business traveler is hysterical and the captain steps into the cabin to get control of the situation. He calmly informs the frequent flyer that she must relax and just enjoy the flight. He tells the flight attendant to bring her a drink and something special to eat and get her the stereo headphones to listen to some music or watch a movie in HD - no worries!

This is my very inadequate attempt at illustrating how Satan convinces otherwise intelligent people to somehow unintentionally get on the wrong flight, headed in the opposite direction than they wanted to go and puts enough distraction before them that they get the sensation of enjoying the flight to a very wrong destination.

Speaking to a group of people who actually believed in him, Jesus said -
You are of your father the devil and your desire is to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44 ESV

Jesus referred to Satan as "the ruler of this world" (John 14:30), "the evil one" (Matthew 13:19) and various other dictatorial names in John's Revelation. He is called "your adversary (enemy)" (1 Peter 5:8), the "ruler of darkness" (Ephesians 6:12), "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), and "the god of this age" who "blinds the minds of unbelievers". (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But, he's a crafty dictator who knows us much better than we know him. By long experience, he knows just the right ways to appeal to our very human vanity and calm our fears of the obvious. His appeal is made on the basis that we can just relax, have another drink, watch another movie, listen to some soothing music and enjoy the ride. We know this flight will end but if we have enjoyed the ride and had fun on the way, the destination isn't all that big a deal. Jesus pegged him perfectly, "a murder" and "the father of all lies". Satan knows that with the right combination of incentives, he can control how we think and then he can control what we believe, say and do. Its all around us, Every day. But we tend to overlook much of Satan's misdirection. He even has the arrogance to blame God for what he, Satan himself, does in our world.

Here is my plea to all my readers - be on your guard and watch for Satan's footprints and fingerprints in your life. Explore your inner world. Hear the words that come out of your mouth. Learn to filter your thoughts. Always know that "loveless cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community" (Galatians 5:19-21 MSG) are all tools used by Satan to dictate how we humans live out life. If you pay attention, you can hear him, you can see him, you can feel him, you can even smell him. And, it all lies that appear as truth.

Okay, enough of that. Let's turn a corner and get ourselves on the right flight. Next time!

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Who Is My Dictator?" #1

Many years ago one of my primary mentors in the business world told me, "The quality of our life is the result of the quality of our communication". In the years since, I have seen the reality of that truth play out in every way imaginable. Being a natural Type A, choleric personality I have learned some hard lessons from the mistakes I've made in the quality of my communication.

Its easy to assume that what I believe and want to see occur is always right. I suppose it goes all the way back to my early training which centered around the assumption that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to do. And, although that isn't an entirely bad way for a young kid to think, if it isn't balanced in some way, in the long run it can result in more failure than success. I've witnessed the breakdown of some truly good men and women who assumed that everyone should think like them, act and talk like them and achieve like them. The weakness in that assumption is this - regardless of how talented, driven or confident one might be, none of us can achieve success in any venture without the input and contribution of others. So, we come back to the obvious truth, "the quality of my life is the result of the quality of my communication".

At the outset of his earthly ministry Jesus put communication on the table as a spiritual deal breaker  -
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45 NIV
"I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:36-37 NIV

One of the truly priceless gifts God has given to us to train our hearts in the art of communication is his Holy Spirit. But, we must allow the Spirit to interact with our own spirit through both his revelation in the Bible and through his personal presence within us. Paul had much to say about this to the early disciples and to us.
"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
"We have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Rom 8:6,12-14

So, I am either ruled by an evil dictator that is leading me to "death", or a God ordained dictator who is training me for a life of "peace". One of the most obvious ways you and others in your life can determine which dictator is your ruler is by the quality of your communication.

More to come later. Stay with me.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

"In God We Trust.....but....."

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I am not exactly a political "firebrand". I think of myself more in the way of a simple guy trying daily to hear the voice of my Father and align my heart with His words. Politics just isn't my passion. But, I understand the motivation of those who get caught up in the constant debate of one political ideology over another, all under the general assumption we are only trying to do the will of God in some fashion.

I started thinking about this recently after watching Francis Chan's presentation at the Passion Conference in Atlanta earlier last month. He was talking about the trustworthiness of God and how we may sometimes overlook or simply ignore just how faithful our Father is to those who trust Him. I would encourage you to check it out for yourself on YouTube.com and give some serious consideration to his premise.

That train of thought led me to our nation's official motto, "IN GOD WE TRUST". According to the U.S. Treasury website, the official adoption of that motto and its inscription on all of our currency was a rather long and winding road. Our nation's Civil War seemingly generated an outpouring of faith, just like we saw after 9/11. The treasury secretary received "many appeals from devout persons throughout the country" to adopt some form of official recognition of our faith in God on our currency. The first such letter was written by a Pennsylvania clergyman, M..R. Watkinson, dated November 13, 1861. These appeals were heeded by Congress and on March 3, 1865 that bill was passed. But the adoption of our current official motto was not adopted until July 30, 1956 when Congress finally passed the bill adopting "IN GOD WE TRUST" as the official motto of the United States.

I really didn't set out to turn this into a history lesson but I think every American patriot, and I seriously consider myself to be one, should consider this question - can God really be trusted? Is that motto MY OWN? Am I seeing it played daily in the life of my family, my elected officials, my children's teachers, my fellow citizens, my employer, my church?

For me, its kind of like saying, "I don't mean to offend you, but....." Our brains tend to focus on what comes after "but" and that is what we actually hear. Is that what we as a country, are doing with our "Official Motto"? There have been some serious attempts over the years since 1956 to remove God from our collective presence, but so far with little success. I firmly believe that there have always been and always will be a majority of Americans who live simple lives and try every day to listen to more than the latest political argument taking place in Washington. Democracy is a messy proposition. It was when our founding fathers were debating the formation of our Constitution and governmental organization and so it continues today. Politics is probably a necessary risk for democracy.

"IN GOD WE TRUST" is a really a breathtaking ideal, but trust is more than that. Its a commitment. When I truly put my trust in someone or something, I am making a commitment to allow that person or ideal to influence my thinking and my actions. But, simply adopting it as an official statement of faith for someone else will not make it actual. We must make it a personal statement or it isn't a motto at all. Just empty words.

My prayer is that somehow all Americans will come to realize that if we, or I, fail to personally adopt that official motto, where else do we/I put our trust?Answering that question can give you a massive headache.

"In you O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness."
"I trust in you O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love."
"Love the Lord all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all  you who hope in the Lord." Psalm 31:1,14-16,23-24
"Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lords unfailing love surrounds the man who trust in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing all you who are upright in heart." Psalm 32:10-11

So come America - SING your faith to the Father and your neighbors. We all need assurance from one another that our forefathers made a decision that still resonates throughout our land. HALLELUJAH!

debating the formation of our government and adopting our Constitution. That will