Changing Tears to Joy


If you’re familiar with the ‘valley of tears’ (Valley of Baka) then you’re a pilgrim on the human journey.  Psalm 84 (to follow) opens some refreshing and reinvigorating insights.  We are equipped to ‘pass through’ this valley rather than set up camp there.

Psalm 84:

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King, and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12 LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Some insights to help your journey:
Vs. 1-2  Where we ‘dwell’ is critical!  All of our senses know they are only at home in the place God has beautifully created for us to dwell with Him.  Even our natural, rational selves grow weary and faint from walking in the chaotic, stress-filled external world around us.  What we perceive as frustration is very often a yearning to reconnect with God’s life within.
Scientific discovering of Quantum Physics has discovered that where we ‘dwell’ (focus the attention of our thoughts, imagination, and emotions) literally impacts our external lives and experiences.
V. 3 
God’s dwelling place is one with the inner world of our hearts.  It is a holy and exalted sacred space.  However, it is also inviting and loving enough where the ‘sparrows’ of ourselves are warmly welcome.  I believe the writers of the Psalm are expressing themselves in more than poetic form.  They are describing what they literally have observed.  Although this verse can be easily glossed over, it is important to ponder the homey reality, and allow it to shed light on the reality of God’s heart and desire for a dwelling relationship with us.
Vs. 4-5
Blessed:  The Hebrew word was often used as an excited exclamation that includes many ideas.  The ‘blessed’ person is being proclaimed as one whose life experiences are advancing and transforming in quality.  How Happy is also an accurate way to translate it.  It is also always in plural form and is more accurately expressed as ‘What a life of happinesses!’  -or- ‘How Blessed is!’
The life of happiness is a result of intentionally focusing one’s energy on resting their thoughts, imaginations, and emotions on what God says is yours in Him.  Several years ago, I had been praying (and fretting) over something.  He asked me what it would look like if my prayer happened.  I then chose to see and feel that in my heart.  I was actually shocked at how fast it happened.  Sometimes it takes time because of issues involved, but very often where we ‘dwell’ manifests quickly.  Actually, it’s happening all of the time, anyway.  Unfortunately, we are contributing more than we realize to the negative things that manifest around us.
‘Whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.’  It is important to desire positive movement with God.  To experience more of the desire God already has in His heart for us, it is important to always have an attitude of advancement in His life and ways.  Keep on asking, seeking, and knocking on the ‘doors’ that open into greater truth.
I didn’t say, “learning more religious doctrines.”  I said greater truth as it reveals God’s desire for discovering His abundant life.
V. 6
We are meant to ‘pass through’ Baka (tears), not set up camp.  We also have the power through Jesus and the way God designed His sons and daughters, to transform the sorrowful places into pools of refreshment.  We have a higher calling and ability than to allow the sorrow to be swept under the rug as we vamos’ out of there.  Sleeping dogs have a way of waking up at the most inconvenient times.  Our calling is to allow inner healing and transformation to be a part of the power of dwelling with Him.
Vs. 7
As we ‘dwell’, the design is to become a habit rather than a hobby.  We intentional work (even 5 minutes a day) at dwelling in our inner ‘secret place of the most high’ where we refashion, according to God’s purpose and desire, the life we live in externally.
Another way to put it would be in the words, “Delight yourself in the Lord (Dwell) and the things you desire will take shape in your life.” (Psalm 37:4)
It’s a process of transformational development that we must be intentional about.  By accident, it’s already happening for many people in the negative.  Just intentionally change your place of ‘dwelling’ to experience the states of happiness that God desires for our lives.
It’s the Inner Way of life.
Take the rest of the verse thoughts and allow them to unfold in your own heart.
Dwell = Being intentional regarding what and where you allow your thoughts to process.  It also includes intentionally adding the God-given ability ‘to see’ the answer with your imagination and feel it accomplished with your emotions.
Remember this is often a re-learning process.  As you put energy into practicing Godlike ‘dwelling’ as a new skill set, you will increasingly get better at it.
What do you want out of life?  What do you believe God wants out of your life (big and little picture)?  Have you actually ever put any energy into thinking, seeing, and feeling that?
The choice is yours.  Keep making it.  The potential of experiencing the abundant life (as it is important to you), and that Jesus already gave to you (but may be lying dormant) is in your court.  Nobody else can do it for us.
Gardens don’t plant themselves with beautiful flowers, and gardens don’t weed themselves.  That’s our responsibility.  It is what God originally told Adam about ‘taking dominion.’
Gary

Conflicting Belief That Hinders Faith


According to one count, the Bible records 3, 573 promises of God that cover the major categories of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of mankind.  Therefore, it would be correct to believe the thought, “God’s got my back!”  This being true, it would be accurate to assume that we should all expect, as the song lyrics go, “sunshine on a cloudy day.”  Right?

There was a time…

There was a time in my life that I believed that all I needed to do was learn, declare, and decree the Bible promises that covered the needs that I would experience; at least some of the main ones from each category.

But to be honest…

However, that approach ‘preached good’ but came up short in actual experience.  Too much of the time, I was ‘standing’ in a kind of faith that was misplaced.  You see, I discovered that the life of the promise was not in my ability to do the work properly.  At first, I reasoned that I merely needed patience when in reality my practice was flawed.

The bedrock of faith…

What I’ve discovered is that the very foundation that supports and activates faith is not in knowing and claiming the promises, but instead becoming confident in His Character.

“Confidence In His Character Is The Beginning and End of Faith”

I can be familiar with all 3,573 Bible promises, and shout them at the moon until (as my dad used to say) “the cows come home” and have to resort to the excuse, “I’m standing and believing.”

It’s not that I don’t value patience…

I do know – and do not discount – as Hebrews 6:12 states patience is an essential part of the faith that inherits the promises.  Of course, a vital ingredient in faith that receives God’s promises is refusing to falter when circumstances try to discourage and tempt you to abandon your expectation.

But, I’m discovering that…

Faith is the result of trusting His Character first and foremost.  Instead of trusting in my ability to get the ‘faith process’ right, I’m learning to rest in the quality of His Character.

Here’s what hindered my confidence and therefore my faith…

I believed that unconditional love was the highest form of love and that it was our goal to demonstrate that to others.  However…

I believed that experiencing the promises of His love was based on my correct performance.  I would never have admitted it in so many words, but the facts were that I was counting on my ability to perform correctly rather than the quality of character of His heart for me.

Two scripture lessons that brought this home to me…

Galatians 3:5, “So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”

The ‘works of the law’ as applied today would be likened to ‘formulas of self-effort’ to produce the desired results.  The promises are always the quality of His heart.  They are not tools to twist God’s arm or manipulate Him to do what His heart already desires.

Note:  Do you feed your children because of your heart for them, or because they constantly told you that they remembered your promises to take care of them (as if you needed reminding).

Luke 12:24, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

These words of Jesus were not excusing laziness.  However, they were making a critical point that points to God’s heart for all of His creation…not to mention His very sons and daughters.  Jesus specifically pointed to the Raven.  Interestingly, that was the very class of bird that was fowl (pun intended) to the Jews…and the disciples knew it.   The Raven had no work ethic, whatsoever.  It did nothing to earn God’s favor.  Many of the Rabbis considered it blasphemy even to mention, or write the name, Raven.  Jesus was employing a form of hyperbole to drive home a point.  He was saying, “Don’t count on your performance for your heavenly Father to care for the things you need in life.”

Relax.  He’s got your back.  He will never leave you.  He will never forsake you.  His love for you is not based on your correct or sufficient performance.

We must start there as our foundation for faith.  Otherwise, or attempts at faith are nothing more than self-effort.  His heart overflows with gifts you don’t have to earn.

Is your faith practice actually works of a contemporary religious ‘law’?  Do you believe you are at least as valuable to God as a Raven?

Know and be absolutely assured of this:  2 Timothy 2:13, “When we are faithless, He remains faithful…” (To the character of His heart)

Gary

 

 

 

Finding Stillness Surrounded By Chaos


The conditions of life that we often ache for, we already have.  Above everything else, inner peace is what we crave.  We wish for moments of tranquility that will serve as a breath of fresh air before we’re launched back into the unfolding chaos around us.

What if we dare think that ‘moments’ of peace could become consistent inner peace as our reality of life?

Transformed Thinking Is The Way

As the Apostle Paul stated it, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
(Romans 12:2)

The solution is transformation.  The hub of the wheel is a renewed way of thinking.  Our minds have lost their way.

Computer Jargon

What if we come to realize, in contemporary computer jargon, that we already own, through Christ, a superior Operating System that will never need any upgrades?  It’s the Infinite Kingdom Operating System.  In fact, our OS comes pre-bundled with love, joy, peace, patience, endurance, etc.  (Galatians 5:22-23).  Being bundled with the IKOS, these ‘programs’ are more advanced in capability than their natural counterparts.

Activating Our ‘Programs’

Activating the programs of our Infinite Kingdom Operating System doesn’t require years of special spiritual training.  It doesn’t depend on theological degrees, or the ability to remember and understand doctrinal foundations.

(Now that we’ve established computerese as a plausible way of understanding our intangible self, we’ll move on with more common vocabulary.)

Logic Is God’s Gift For A Purpose

The human ability to think logically and diagnostically is a gift from God.  It’s necessary for navigating our way through the material world.  Systematic building blocks of thought are essential for functioning in the physical world.  We need these abilities for building bridges, wiring generators, baking cakes, finding cures for diseases, and material progress in general.  Rationality is a vital element of life; but, it’s not the source of life wisdom, itself.

Slow Your Thoughts

Finding consistent peace doesn’t require the activity of more naturally rational thinking.  The necessary condition for realizing the quality of God’s peace is learning how to slow your thoughts down so that your mental process returns to its God-designed purpose:  Servanthood.  It helps us to communicate with a natural world, the eternal ‘Mind of Christ’.  (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Detached from the mind of Christ, the logical reasoning process isn’t smart enough, or wise enough to successfully navigate life in a broken world.  The abundance of life that Jesus freely gives us (John 10:10) is so awesome and yet practical for daily life that searching its depths with natural reasoning power is like attempting to explore the depths of the Milky Way with a $5 pair of binoculars.

Drunken Monkeys

It’s an established reality of psychology that the number of thoughts that bombards the average person in Western society is 35-48 fragments per minute.  When we consider the subconscious ramifications of those fragments the amount of information our minds are processing at any given moment is exponentially higher and inundating in volume.

As someone put it, “Our Western minds are like cages of drunken monkeys on crack!”

Peace is not “out there” in the world around us.  The peace that thrives in a place beyond rational understanding is “in here” (point to your chest).

The drunken monkeys of the mind have to be tamed.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

The Mind Returning To Its Original Design And Purpose

Retraining and returning our mental process to its original design is not complicated.  Complication infers lots of mental activity.  The average mind loves that.  It’s become well trained over generations and is, naturally, very comfortable with chasing tornadoes of speculation.  The natural process of rational thinking, like a drug addiction, craves the next fix…the next high.

Our natural minds have long forgotten that ‘being high on (real) life’ far exceeds, in quality, the temporary counterfeit thrill that needs frequent feeding lest it tumbles into the pit of despair and depression.

Seems Too Simple

The Western mind has learned to thrive on, and honor, complexity.  Therefore, ‘simple’ has seemingly less value, and the simplicity of the process to quiet the natural mind becomes a stumbling block.  A barrier.  God’s Kingdom within His children, however, is so simple a child can do it.

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Be Still

The Psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).  That verse can also be read, “Cease striving (to) know (experience) the I AM God.”   Most of the striving that we experience is not physical activity, but instead the striving of our minds.

Taming Not Emptying

Don’t be mislead by any self-proclaimed guru.  It is not possible to cease thinking. Just wondering if I’ve emptied my mind of thoughts is, in itself, a thought.  The goal is to tame one’s thoughts.  Train them to slow down as they line up, as a servant, behind the Presence of God.

Lining Up One’s Thoughts

Remember… this is going to be simple.  I didn’t say easy.  It has to be a re-learned behavior that’s not easy.  The mind is used to being in control.  It doesn’t submit easily.  It will ‘balk’ in all sorts of creative ways.  It will appeal to your pride to be rational.  However, if you’re willing to learn to be ‘simple’, like a cranky child, your mental process will discover that the real and eternal you has decided to be boss and it will begin getting in line.

How To Begin

Begin realizing you are learning to experience something you already possess.    Next, relax without pressuring yourself to experience something.  When you pressure yourself to experience, your mind is actively engaged as a ‘searchlight’.  It’s doing what it likes best…analyzing.  That is counterproductive to calming and taming the mind.  The process of refocusing on His Presence will produce whatever He knows is good for that moment. Just believe that the most important thing to accomplish is gently refocusing your attention to God’s Presence.

A Practical Tool

To begin, practice taming and refocusing your thoughts at a time and space where you won’t be distracted for at least 15-20 minutes.  You’ll be confident you are in a space where you can relax without interruption.  For some in our busy world, and with young families, that may sound nearly impossible.  But, the time can be found.

Now, slowly breathe paying attention to your breath.  As you do so, allow your heart to worship with a simple word.  I personally use the name, Abba.  That’s the intimate Hebrew form of Father.

It may interest you to note that the most authentic way Yahweh (LORD) was heard was the simple sound of breath inhaled and exhaled.  It was more of an entonation than a pronunciation.  I sometimes listen to myself inhale and exhale knowing that I’m worship His name.

When Thoughts Arise

Be still allowing your attention to rest on your worship word, or listening to your breath ‘say’ Yahweh.  After a few minutes and you more fully relax, you’ll sense I AM with you as part of you.  It will be the kind of ‘sensing’ that is very hard to explain with words.  You know…but you can’t really explain it.

At first, the amounts of time will be briefer because your mind will be battling you, not wanting to get in line behind the interior Mind of Christ.  But, as you apply this simple exercise as a habit rather than a hobby, you’ll find your way of thinking is transforming.  When daily disturbances intrude, you’ll begin realizing you are automatically ‘looking’ to your Christ mind.

Transformation of What You Think To How You Think

Your natural mind will increasingly become your servant, helping you to sense the wisdom of God in what confronts you.  The tempo of your life will still be full of your normal activities, but they will ride on the waters of peace instead of feeling like you’re riding the swells of a storm-raged ocean.

You’ll enjoy increasing times with the Prince of Peace being your faithful companion.

Your presence wrapped with and generating His Presence will embrace your ‘neighbor’ representing the quality and nature of God’s Kingdom.

You’ll find that you’ve always had the peace, love, joy, wisdom, and power that supernaturally calms the chaos that surrounds us.   Now, you know the simplicity of living in it as a habit of life.

Last Word

Stillness is a learned habit, not a temporary (I’ll give it a try) hobby.  It will take the consistency of time to enrich the experience.  But, transform?  It will!

Don’t strive while you’re learning.  There not one ‘right way’.  Your intention for stillness is the most important.  I’ve explained the simplicity that truly works for me.  (So, give it a good chance? 🙂 ) But, also, experiment to find the best path for you to more fully know the powerful, supernatural peace and wisdom that’s found in the mind of Christ.

Gary

How Love Finds Us


I can promise you that Love will find you.  In fact, Love has probably already found you!

In fact, I could change the word Love to Peace, Joy, or whatever else it is you think you lack.

Love found me.  So did Peace, Joy, and some other life qualities.  In fact, these qualities all found me long before I realized that they had accomplished their task.

Christ Wasn’t Lost.  I Was.

Another way that I could state the above is by saying that Christ found me.  He had actually been ‘in residence’ with me for quite a long time.  The reason I hadn’t experienced His plan to know a much greater degree of love, peace, and joy, etc. was because I had these qualities of life buried underneath layers of ‘Christian” denominational doctrines (dogmas).

Christ Life Doesn’t Live In Doctrines.

I had been lead to believe, for decades, by the voices of teaching, and preaching (including mine) that there were doctrines of essential theological truth to be ‘believed’ in order to land on the good side of God…and those of my tribe’s persuasion.   We also secluded each other inside chain link fences of ‘fear boundaries’.

Important note:  I’m not against doctrine, per se.  Establishing patterns of belief in an understandable and transferable way can be very helpful.  My objection is to living doctrines that become rigid dogmas that end conversations rather than starting them.

Jesus told the religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures because it is in them that you think you have eternal life.  However, their purpose is to lead to Me” (John 5:39)

I believe in searching the Scriptures.  I believe as Paul told pastor Timothy, that they are profitable. (2 Timothy 3:16).  I believe that God’s breath of inspiration was intended to guide me on my journey to a living relationship with Jesus as my Way, Truth, Life…Love, Joy, Peace, etc.

There’s no life in the doctrine, itself.  The doctrine is a mental framework that funnels us toward the Life (Love, Joy, Peace, etc.) that is already in residence and one with me.  When I say ‘One with me,’ I mean so interwoven with every spiritual cell of by Being that the sharpest laser couldn’t distinguish between Christ-Life and Spirit-Me Life.

You Can Stop Looking.

There’s a place for “Seek, and you shall find…”  But, that is a search that doesn’t really apply to the point of this article.  Most people have an assumed perception of what love, peace, and joy will look like when they think they’ve found it.  They’ve designed the version they think they desire.  They don’t realize the real source is abundantly better.

What I Found

I know how you feel in that vain pursuit.  I’ve felt the same way myself.  However, I found that my determined perception kept me dulled or blinded to the real deal.

So…I gave up.  I didn’t resign in defeat.  Instead, I quit trying so hard to get a feeling (my version) of love, joy, or peace to magically appear somehow.

I Started and Ended Each Day “Letting Go” and “Letting Be”

I know that sounds weird.  It’s honestly hard to explain.  I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to enter into this 10-minute ‘process’.  The heart of the matter is in the INTENTION.

Humbly intend to quiet the impulses of thought that keep you in the position of being your own Project Manager.  Allow the God you are One with to be the Project Manager.  Intentially release yourself to that thought and feeling.  Be still and gently allow the quality of His life to begin emerging into your consciousness.  Don’t pre-determine how it should feel.  Let it rise.

Wasting Time

Your rational, western trained mind will cynically voice that you are wasting time in a silly mystical pursuit.  Please let me encourage you that this ‘foolishness’ is what will make you wise in life.

Closing Thought

YHWH (Yahweh) is the primary and considered to be God’s highest name.  The most accurate way to pronounce it is in not ‘saying’ it at all, but instead hear it as you inhale and exhale.

As you practice gently ‘centering’ yourself for several minutes at the beginning and end of the day (and in the middle too….or whenever), focus on the breathing of His name.  As you do so, listen and realize His Presence.

You’ve already been found by what you feel you need the most!  Begin allowing what you already have to manifest within you.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

Respecting and Reaching Agnostics


You may be saying to yourself, “I want to be a good Christian witness, but my friend says she’s agnostic.  I don’t know what to say.”  (Or, some variation of that thought).

I think I can help.

Good News With Skin On

The first thing that is essential to realize in being a “good witness” is to be an example of what good news ‘looks like’. In other words BE good news with skin on.

Unfortunately, many Christians have developed the idea that being a good witness is having the ability to academically or intellectually ‘defend’ their belief in the existence of God.

The Good Witness

The Greek word for ‘witness’ is martyr.  A good witness was one who was put to death rather than deny his or her faith.

The chances are slim that you will be put in the position of giving up your physical life to be a good witness…especially with one of your friends.  However…

…let me make a very practical application of being a good martyr that will go a long ways toward giving your friend new life.

In the case of respecting and reaching your agnostic friend, I suggest you die to your own right to be right.

If there’s anything that motivates us as self protecting, opinionated humans, we are good at digging in our heels to defend our right to be right.  We are so automatically accomplished at playing defense, that we can ‘feel’ each other bristle when ‘our facts’ are challenged.   Add ‘God beliefs’ to the mix, and we have a potentially toxic formula.

Before You Misunderstand Me

Being right in your belief in God is not at issue here.  It’s the I’m right attitude that shuts down a respectful, and potentially productive conversation.  Did you know that we can ‘smell’ and ‘feel’ each other’s heart attitudes?  It’s a super power that everyone has.

Incarnate Yourself

To incarnate means to take on human form.  God did that as Jesus.  We, too, are called to incarnate.  In other words, to ‘enter their world’.  We do so by listening with our hearts and minds wide open so that we can hear someone else, besides ourselves, talk.

[I don’t know if you realize it or not, but instead of listening while our friends are talking, we often continue to listen to ourselves talk as we form the next defensive argument]

If we depend upon the Holy Spirit’s help, He will guide our impressions for living, loving response, as we listen.

Keep The Conversation Going

When we are defending our beliefs, the actual goal is to stop the conversation.  We feel if we can do that, we’ve won.  (Or, we don’t have to worry about being ‘bested’ and feeling like a looser…and poor witness).  However, the truth is that we usually haven’t won at all.  We’ve simply stopped the conversation.  That is NOT a victory.  We want to keep the conversation going.

The truth that so many sincere Christians miss is that God is love and therefore drawing a person to the reality of God starts with simple (yet profound) demonstrations of authentic love.  The love of God, fully demonstated and empowered by the Holy Spirit has the ability to cast a bright inner light on Jesus.

Your academic doctrine of salvation doesn’t have the power to convert anyone.  But, demonstrated love does.

Did You Know?

The Holy Spirit doesn’t need your academic intelligence to win!  He needs you to demonstrate God’s love in your attitude and respect.

The longer you can keep the conversation going – either at the moment or through leaving the door open for the future – the greater amount of time to saturate your neighbor with the penetrating power of God’s love.

The demonstration of loving respect has a power unequaled by academic, doctrinal arguments.  The greatest witness is the supernatural energy of God’s grace through your skin.  You can be God’s love extended.

God is love, not an argument of theological defense.  The witness starts with God, Himself (as Love).  It’s a mystical truth.  His love demonstrated through a humble vessel is like a flame to the wax of a candle.  It melts every argument and kindles a living light that illumines one’s heart.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

How God Inspires Normal People

It is my desire and goal that God’s breath continually fills the sails of my routine, everyday life.  Not just on Sundays, or only when I’m praying and reading my Bible; but, every day…all day.

An inspired life.  An inspiring life.  Jesus called it ‘the abundant life.’ (John 10:10)

So, can I tell you what that ‘looked like’ for me today?

I officiate non-denominational wedding ceremonies.  For a while now, I’ve wanted a new pair of slacks as well as a different tie to spruce up my wedding officiant’s outfit.

My wife suggested I look at Kohls.  That’s a store where, in the past, we’ve found some pretty good deals on clothing.

While driving to the store, I said, “Lord, please help me find a pair of charcoal grey slacks at a good deal…and maybe a tie, too.”

At the Men’s Department, I began searching the aisles and kiosks of slacks.  I found a pair of pants in my size that looked like they would work well.  Price:  $60.  Umm…maybe.  More than I wanted to spend, but…if I have to…I suppose.  I’d like better-looking slacks.  Not that the ones I have aren’t okay.  However, I would like an upgrade.

I kept looking (while carrying the first pair).  Oh, over there on that kiosk.   There’s a pair that looks even better and in my size.  Price:  $75.  (Ay!) Too much money.  Probably fair for the quality but…not an amount I wanted to pay.  (Oh, well…)

Finally, I head for the Fitting Room with both pairs.  I didn’t want to buy either.  But, these are what seems to be available in my size and color.  At the same time, I’m also trying to decide which of the two pair I would be the most satisfied.

[I stop in my tracks.  Something niggles inside me to keep looking.  So, I turn around and keep scouring the isles to see if I’ve missed something.]

Long story short.  I kept nosing through the same aisles and kiosks hoping for a better deal in the right color, and my size would, somehow, ‘magically’ appear.

After several more minutes, the ‘magic’ happened.  I saw a small clearance table I had not previously noticed.

{Stick with me.  There is a moral and happy lesson to this rambling story.}

As I scanned the table, I saw my waist size on one of the pairs.  But, when I picked it up, the length was 4 inches too long.

“Yep…that’s why it’s on a clearance table, I thought.  It’s odd sizes that didn’t sell.”

For some reason, I felt ‘compelled’ to keep looking.  It wasn’t logical to keep trying the clearance table for slacks that would fit me.  The size I wear is one of the most common and sell quickly.  What’s more, the urge to keep looking wasn’t like a Charlton Heston voice in my gut that indicated my persistence was a direction from God.  It felt more like undying tenacity…or possibly illogical stubbornness.

As I was about to give up, though, and spend more money than I wanted to part with, I caught a glimpse of a label nearly buried in a stack I’d already been through (I thought more than once).  I looked more closely retrieving it from the stack. No way!  My size!

“What, I thought, is a popular size doing on a clearance table?”  Hmmm 🙂

I grabbed them up and headed for the fitting room.  They fit.  Perfectly.  The color was what I wanted. And, the clearance sticker read $16.

Then, as I was about to leave my cubicle, I heard the man in the space next to mine telling his wife that he had just found a great tie on a clearance rack.  Yep, I wanted a new tie, too.  I clutched my sale slacks with a giddy smile in my heart and headed out to find the ties.

Dejavu!  The only ties I could find were beautiful…but $35 each.   But, I’m not going to lengthen this article even further.  Let’s just say it was a repeat performance similar to my slacks escapade.  Result:  I finally found, nearly hidden,  a small clearance rack for ties. On it was a great one that would blend my ‘wedding officiant’s outfit’ together very nicely.  Retail: $35.  Sticker over sticker over sticker:  $3.10

But, that’s not all!

I get to the checkout counter.  The smiling, friendly cashier rings up my slacks, and tie, and then says, “And, I have a coupon for 20% off I’ll apply for you.”

I paid $17.10 and saved over $76 off retail.  I had asked the Lord to guide me.

Do you think He did?

Here’s the lesson:

Many people believe that if God were leading me (inspiring me), I would have gone right to the sale slacks and sale ties.  Otherwise, they say, “It’s just human effort.  That wasn’t supernatural.”

I beg to differ.  That belief is one of the biggest reasons that so many sincere Christ-Followers miss out on the abundant, inspired, and inspiring life that God desires for us.  They feel that God’s direction supersedes human effort and persistence.

To the contrary, the majority of the time, God’s inspiration fills the sails of one’s daily life influencing the direction of the daily journey.  The ‘nudges’ of the wind often seem to mimic the natural process of decision making.

Oh, yes, there are times (when truly needed) that a more ‘spectacular miracle’ arrives on the scene.  However, as a course of normal life on this side of eternity, the Holy Spirit trains the intentional soul to become increasingly sensitive to the ‘still small voice’ within as God’s sons and daughters learn the joy of abundant partnership with Him.

Be a son or daughter of God who is intentional about an increasingly sensitive companionship with Him as your daily journey unfolds before you.  Be inspired, and be inspiring.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Faith Grows: The Seed-Bed


Faith has a seed-bed.  It grows in the atmosphere of communication and community.  Communication and community with God and others.

The ‘others’ are not just those who agree with our position.

(Notice how I gave that sentence a space of its own?  In my opinion, it’s that important).

When we only have conversations about our beliefs with only those who agree with our positions, it isn’t an honest conversation.  Don’t get me wrong.  We need fellowship with fellow believers that encourages, and strengthens us.  However, we also need to cut the eye-teeth of our beliefs in the arena where iron sharpens iron.

Sadly, a great deal of the time, Christians use the Bible as a source that, in reality, shuts down conversation rather than encourages it.

Maybe we’ve all sloganed, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”  As a statement of faith, it sounds good (on the surface).  Problem is…it’s more often than not a conversation stopper.

When I say, ‘a conversation stopper,’  I’m not only referring to communication with others, but also God.

Isaiah 1:18, “Come now and let us reason together…”

The context of this charge is regarding sin.  However, in principle, it is appropriate to apply to matters of faith.  Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word that is used for ‘reason’ in this statement infers a challenging discourse.  It is often used in the context of arguing a case or pleading a cause.

The phrase ‘come now’ is in the imperative mood which means the whole process of conversation/debate/arguing your case with God is exceedingly important.

If we are not expressing our hearts and minds to God, how are we going to hear His response.  Btw….in my experience, His response is always full of genuine understanding, acceptance, and heart touching revelation.

Here’s my first bottom line for this article:

He says ‘come boldly’ to His throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:13)  It’s the throne of grace, not the throne of judgment.  So, make it a habit of communicating with the Lord about your faith issues.  He welcomes you.  Your concerns, doubts, and crises of faith are important to Him!

When you come to Him, He will not ‘throw scripture verses’ back in your face.  He will not chide you for not believing His Word as you should.  If He does speak the Scripture to you as His response, it will come with a fresh, liberating, enlightening revelation to your heart and mind that increases your strength, and your sense of freedom.

His objective will always be to build you up, stir you up, or comfort you.  He obeys His own purposes of prophecy.

Don’t run in and run out.  Keep the conversation in front of Him until peace settles over you.  Jesus said, “Come to me, and I will give you rest” (literally, ‘rest you’.)  –  Matthew 11:28-30   It may take a while, but waiting will be worth it!

Here’s my second bottom line:

Growing in communication with ‘your neighbor’ is also vital to growth in faith.  Honest discussion.  Hearing each other out.  NOT taking disagreement with your position as a personal attack on your faith.

It’s probably not God’s purpose for you to ‘set them straight.’

There may be more than one right thought on matters of faith in the human arena.  If we don’t listen to each other, how will we grow?

Some of my most valuable lessons and convictions were birthed from open (and sometimes very hard) debates with atheists.  Why?  Because the sincere ones made some very credible observations and exposed weak spots in some places, I felt secure, at the time.

These conversations forced me to communicate continuously with the Holy Spirit.  They also helped me develop a deeper humility of attitude than when I entered the communications.  In the end, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in my faith.  It has become more genuine and authentic than ever.

This principle also holds true with brothers and sisters in Christ that are on a different page than you!

So, we end where we began:

“Faith has a seed-bed.  It grows in the atmosphere of communication and community.  Communication and community with God and others.”

If you have any questions, or observations, communicate with me.  I’m safe 🙂

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blessings of God: Problems


It’s human nature to resist, recoil from, and resent problems on the journey of life.

But, what if I told you that resistance can be a blessing from God.   Every roadblock or tough situation is not always the devil or a result of sin in your life.

The fact is that smooth roads don’t typically encourage problem-solving.  In fact, in my experience, it’s been the “push-backs” on my path that have led to some of the most important revelations in my ever-increasing relationship with the Lord.

I’ve had plenty of times, over the years, that I’ve known smooth roads and mountain tops in my walk of faith.  My walk with the Lord, however, has prospered more at times that I’ve had to stop walking (or running).

Sometimes in desperation and not a little bit of murmuring, I’ve been forced to stop, look, and listen for the inner voice of the Lord.

It’s not the feeling of frustration and “why me” murmuring that is the problem.  It’s whether or not you put a (.) period, or a (,) at the end of your sentences.  Paul was honest like that.  At times he cried out in frustration, but he also finished the thought with (, But God…)

One of the most recent revealings of the Lord came with the words on a construction road sign.  It said, “Expect Delays.”

It had just been ‘dawning on me’ (another way of saying ‘receiving a revelation’) that this earth-life is an essential but tiny piece in the eternity puzzle.  Our lives on this side are like a classroom for spiritual growth.

Class rooms are places where we learn things, but an important part of the process of learning is making mistakes.  Seriously.  Most, if not all people, would not develop excellence without the errors.

If a person is passive about mistakes, then there are probably deeper issues.  I’ve never heard of anyone who aspired to win second place.

But, mistakes…not doing it perfect the first, second, or third time is an integral part of the learning process.  Giving up in self-criticism is not a healthy option.  Pushing forward, inquiring of the Lord for wisdom, is a very important part of the journey….(unless mediocrity is cool with you.)

The next step of the revelation were the words I read on the road sign, “Expect Delays.”  I felt it in my heart.  Those two words were encouragement from the Lord.  Delays are a part of the process.  God knows that and therefore is NOT criticising you.  You are the one slamming yourself.

One of the devil’s most effective weapons is the voice of self-accusation.  The Spirit of Jesus whispers words of courage in our hearts and minds.  He builds us up.  He doesn’t tear us down.  He comforts us.  He doesn’t criticise us.

Are you experiencing a “delay.”  Expect it.  It’s part of God’s excellent process where we are given the blessing of fresh revelation.

Time to stop, look, and listen.  Ask. Seek. Knock.

Gary

 

 

 

 

Faith’s Untold Story


Following Jesus means we learn to walk by faith and not by our natural senses.  But, I’m sure you already know that.

You’ve been practicing the “faith walk” for a while now, probably.

We all face needs and circumstances in life that require a faith connection with God that brings supernatural results.

“I Had Faith.  I Stood My Ground.  I Declared & Decreed The Promises.  I Waited.  Nothing Changed.”

Have you been there?  Are you there now?

I have some good news, so keep reading…

What’s Often Missing?

Faith’s untold story…

Often the need is not for more faith, but the wisdom that is needed to know how to use our faith.

When I say wisdom, I don’t mean a mixture of faith and natural (so-called) common sense.

Faith’s untold story…

Faith is the result of an active relationship.

I John 5:14 -15 says, “This is the confidence that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us and if we know He hears us, we know that we have that which we have desired of Him.”

These verses are not about the sterile, academic mechanics of ‘working’ scripture promises to get the desired results.  The confidence spoken of here is that which comes from close, active, heart relationship with Jesus (the Living Word).

The Written Word takes on vitality as a result of personal fellowship with the Living Word.  The Written Word without the Living Word is lifeless law.  Instead of belief, we focus on “faith behavior.”

We need more than attempting to believe promises.  We need wisdom that reveals how to apply those promises.  That wisdom comes as a result of a personal, close relationship with Jesus.

If we need more results from our faith, we need the wisdom that comes from an active, personal, close and growing relationship with the Lord.  And that personal relationship is what God wants with you more than anything else.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
(Psalm 37:4)

Gary

 

Still A Sinner (Really?)

I recently was in a conversation with a man who’d been a Believer for a very long time.  He said this to me,  “Sometimes God will let us know when we’re going to die, but most of the time He doesn’t.  If we knew we were going to die tomorrow, we’d really sin in the meantime.  That’s why He won’t usually tell us.”

I responded, “Not me.  Not because I’m holier than thou but because it’s not in my new nature to do so.  And, it’s not in yours either.”

He hesitated and said, “Explain.”

I answered him, “Because I am a new creation in Christ by new nature.  I am not an old sinner saved by grace…but still an old sinner.”

I continued, “If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I’d be doing my best to set things, which I could, in order.  With that, I’d be praising God, loving Him, and anticipating, joyfully, what was coming.”

I admitted, “Yes, I still fall short.  I sin.  But, not because I’m a sinner by nature.  I commit sinful acts out of habit to the flesh that is still at war with my new man.  If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I definitely would not spend my last hours on this earth trying to make up for ‘sinful, lost time.’

The statement my friend made revealed what a great many Christians believe.  They are very sin focused.  The religious church leadership has taught them to see themselves that way.  Supposedly that’s being humble.

However, it is not Christian humility to degrade yourself and the efficacy of the Cross of Jesus.

True Christian humility bows in deep reverence and awe at the wonders of God and what He has accomplished through Christ.

True Christian humility bows in love and honor and the wonders of the new birth that was granted by grace.

True Christian humility recognized sonship and partnership which isn’t deserved but freely given.

True Christian humility sees with the eyes of the new man and doesn’t allow the voice of the flesh to degrade and belittle oneself.

The temptations of the flesh are just that.  Temptations…not your nature.

We give in, by learned habit, to self-supply or own desires.  We fall short, in many different practical ways.  But focusing on one’s failures to walk, only adds strength to the lie…that you are a sinner by nature.

The hope to overcome the sins of the flesh (not your nature) is to focus on the fact that you are, by nature, a born anew son or daughter of God with the power of the Holy Spirit bubbling on the inside of your heart.

“Open the eyes of my heart Lord…I want to see You, and who you’ve made me, in truth!”

Truth sets us free.  (Jesus said that.}

Gary