The Courage Injector

InjectionDo you need a good injection of courage, today?  I’ve got some great news!  The Injector of Courage is ready and waiting. 

Who is this “Injector of Courage?”

I grew up in a conservative religious environment that believed in the Holy Spirit.  He was the third person of the Trinity.  Beyond that, I didn’t know for sure what His role in my life was to be.

More than anything else, I expected that the Holy Spirit was the Divine Police Chief.  It was His primary purpose to bring my attention to all the places I was breaking the rules in hopes that I would repent and do better at pleasing God.  I wouldn’t have said it that way out loud.  But, there’s often a big difference between what we feel inside and what we say with our lips to sound acceptable…correct…on track with what everyone else says is right.

My understanding of the word conviction would have been in a sentence, “To make one to feel like crap for, once again, for being such a slug…a loser…a disappointment to God.”  Sometimes it wasn’t that graphic.  I would have described it more like the Holy Spirit was pointing out where I was getting it wrong in order to “turn over a new leaf” and do better at not doing it wrong.

I always assumed and anticipated that, in one way or another, the Holy Spirit was the One of the Godhead that let me know (like the line from the old movie), “I know what you did last summer.”

Then I began realizing that the Bible describes the Holy Spirit with many encouraging terms.  They were right. there. all. along. hidden. in. plain. sight.

In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I will ask the Father and He will send you another (Comforter, Counselor, Helper,) [Just like me] and He will be with you forever.” 

(Now go back and read that statement … slowly … at least 3 times}

By implication and definition, any comforter, counselor, or helper that is worth their salt brings encouragement to the table.  To Encourage = To re-courage, Inject with fresh courage.

Acts 9:31 says that the increased in numbers as they lived their lives in the fear of the Lord (deep reverence/worship) and the COMFORT of the Holy Spirit. 

It is the will of God and purpose of the Holy Spirit to inject you with fresh courage, today.  He wants to remind you of the accounts Jesus has already settled.  He wants to call to your mind the truths that fill you with courage to face your day.  He’s your, “You Can Do It” with the strength I bring to the table.  Ask me.  Trust me.  I’m there for you!

Welcome the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit into your life, today.  You have nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain.

BTW…filled with courage, we sin less.  Discouraged we sin more.

Thanks for taking a few seconds to comment. 

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

We Will Always Need Training Wheels

Training wheels

I’ve made an important discovery about my spiritual development.  I’ve discovered that I will always need spiritual training wheels.  It’s not a sign of maturity to shed them.  It’s not a sign of growth to be able to “go it alone.”  It’s a sign of immaturity to stop learning.  

It’s a sure indication of maturity to admit that you don’t know it all, make mistakes, and are still learning.  It’s a sign of growth to acknowledge, “I don’t know.”  It’s a good thing to discover and acknowledge that your way is not the only way…or even the best way.

Proverbs 18:15 (The Message), “Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.”

Proverbs 3:7(a), “Do not be wise in your own eyes…”

The man and woman of character will let others recognize the wisdom they think they have…whether that be true or not.

The man and woman of true maturity recognizes they will always need training wheels because they will always be attempting something new.

If life is truly abundant, it will be filled with fresh opportunities to learn and experience one more thing, one more truth, every day.  Don’t fear it.  It’s where the grace is found.

Crossing the “chicken line” means we’re finally growing up!

Gary

 

 

Peace-A-Plenty

PeaceJPG.001To experience “Peace-A-Plenty,” some people will need to take the next exit off of the road they are currently traveling.

To live with peace requires a different mind-set of attitudes and actions.  Many Christians don’t realize that an atmosphere of peace is possible, now.  The reality is…peace-a-plenty may well just be around the corner for you.  Or, maybe you’ve already discovered God’s green pastures of peace and the following will simply help you keep on track.

As you read God’s Word, you discover many verses that describe the potential life of peace.  You also see it demonstrated in the life of Jesus even as He walked through turmoil.  For this posting, we will find nuggets of gold in Isaiah 26:3:

   “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

To Keep

We see that the “keeping” action is performed by the Lord.  The Hebrew word picture, “to keep,” is that of a honey comb being placed deep inside a thorn bush.  This is something the shepherds would do to protect the honey from predators.

Perfect Peace

When this promise was given Israel was in a dark period of her history. It will help us in the church age, when surrounded by gloom, depression, doubt, fear and worry. When all is going well it is easy to read a promise like this in a very superficial way, but when clouds of trial, disappointment, anxiety and alarm blow across our skies and the sun is hidden, these words become very precious to us.

There is not a promise in the Bible that says we will be free from troubles, wars, trials, temptations, tears and sorrows in life. God promises something better. He promises peace in the midst of the storm.  The peace He promises is “perfect” peace.  This isn’t like the world gives.  Superficially dependent on circumstances.  Perfect peace is the quality of God given peace that abides in the soul.

Whose Mind Is Stayed On You

Stayed is a word that gives us the picture of a person leaning so hard against a wall that they are potentially off-balance.  If the wall were taken away, the “stayer” would “face plant.”  That’s how hard they are leaning into the wall for support.

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

Leaning on our own understanding is the thing that robs us of peace.  We normally are not nearly as smart, wise, and logical as we think we are.  Human reasonings have their place, but not the place we normally give them.  The understanding that cushions us with His peace is that which comes from His mouth.

Mediate/Ponder/Deeply Consider/Imagine

Whatever word you’d like to use, the key to peace is found in “mining” God’s Word.  Meditating. Pondering. Deeply Considering.  Imagining.  That’s the heart and mind activity that brings God’s revelation/insight/clarity.  It’s from that place that peace springs forth like a fountain watering the garden of our hearts.

Peace-A-Plenty is available.  Not by begging for it, but by digging for it.  Try some.  It’s sweet.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait is a 4 Letter Word…

Wait.001Truth be told, words like waiting and patience are blessings if understood from God’s point of view.

It’s understandable that those two words would be misunderstood in a culture that is driven by instant gratification.  But “quick feel goods” are usually most like cotton candy.  It tastes good quickly but, truthfully, makes you weaker physically…not stronger.

In God’s process of living, the word patience doesn’t mean “white knuckling it” while all the time waiting for the escape hatch.  It’s a fruit of the spirit.  It is the ability to calmly hold one’s position without panic.  It is a quality that the Holy Spirit is glad to share with anyone who will ask.

Then we have the words of Isaiah 40:31, “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strenth…”  In fact it says that they will “…mount up with wings like eagles.  They shall run and not be weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced a whole lot of fainting going on trying to wait and be patient……understood NOT from God’s perspective, but from man’s natural wisdom.  I would have to say that the word wait was literally a four letter word in those cases.

I am so thankful I am learning God’s true perspective:

My previous error…

Here’s what I used to do.  I used to wait and try to be patient as I sweated out the manifestation of what I thought I wanted or needed.  In other words, I was NOT waiting on the Lord.  I was waiting on the appearance of better days….the escape hatch….the object of my faith [except FAITH it wasn’t].

Now here can be the tricky part…

It’s important to have a goal in mind.  It’s vital not to take a que sera sera (what will be will be) attitude.  Focus on specifics of an answer is a good thing….if it’s held with a gentle mental grip.

Here’s what I am learning to do…

Let’s say I need to pay a bill.  I’ve discovered it’s helpful to an inner release of faith to allow my imagination to “see” the bill being paid.  After all, very often, we “see” the bill not being paid when we allow worry to usurp the “imagination muscle” of our brain.

[Side Note:  It’s a scientific fact that the majority of our thought process takes place in the area we call imagination.  What we call logic is totally dependent on the imagination to function]

But…and this is one of those very important buts…

I don’t become fixated on the specific picture.  I hold my imagined manifestation lightly, but I put the weight on the wait….as the word is actually used in the scriptures.  First, I wait ON THE LORD, not on the manifestation.  My attention is one the truth of His character…and that He cares about me…and that He’s just a touch wiser than me [sarcasm].

Waiting on the Lord taps into His life flow [peace, joy, hope, to name a few].  You and I can’t truly connect to Who He Is and What He Has Done without all that good stuff soaking into us.

Wait is also translated “hope” and “gather”

Hope should be self explanatory so I’m going to focus on a fact that most of my readers may not realize.  There’s something in the science of biblical interpretation called, ‘the law of first mention.’
That basically means that the first time a word in used in the scriptures gives us the root idea of what the word means.

Genesis 1:9, And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place…”  That’s the first occurrence of the word “wait” that we find in Isa. 40:31.  Except in Genesis it’s translated “gathered.”  That gives us a very important clue to understanding the meaning of what it means to “wait on the Lord”

In Genesis, we have the report that God gathered the waters.  Essentially what He did was put the waters within banks to flow.  So…wait for it…drum roll.

When we wait upon the Lord, we gather the “waters” of our thoughts and imaginations within the boundaries of the character of God’s truth.  This is confirmed by 2 Corinthians 10:5,

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

So, to wait upon the Lord is a very specific activity to choose until the manifestation of God comes into view.  All the while, we get stronger…not weaker and more frustrated.

AND on a parallel track…keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing what your hand finds to do right in front of you.  Be an active waiter.

Gary

 

 

 

God’s Got Your Back

Got your backIn this race of life, God’s got my back.  And, He has yours, too.  Not just when we’re “getting it right.” 

He expects you to screw up.  What?!  Yep, we all have a boat load of things we’ve “missed the boat” on.  But, God is the best “cutter of slack” in the business.  That’s a non-christianeze way of saying, “He has mercy in spades.”

About this mercy thing.  As Christians who know at least a couple bible verses, we know that mercy is part of our salvation through Christ.  In other words, we don’t get what we deserve.  Well, you know…that’s not just wishful thinking.  It’s true.  But, what’s truer is the deeper meaning behind the word. 

Mercy is not just pity, or feeling sorry for someone.  The Bible idea of mercy has, at it’s heart. the purpose driven action of the stronger party making things right for the weaker party….even though they don’t deserve it.

I John 1:9 has two realities.  It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

If we “confess” our sins, He is faithful and just to …

  1. Forgive us (cancel the debt)
  2. Cleanse us (clean up the mess)

2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown Himself.”

My Abba Father Has.My.Back.

Easy to say.  Not so easy to believe because of all the religious gar-bahge we’ve had piling up in our souls for so long.

HE.HAS.MY.BACK.  My Father from Heaven has my back (front and sides, too).

And He has yours, as well.  That’s part of the beauty and glory of salvation in Jesus.

Learn to lean on that.  Learn to rest in that.  That’s Good News!

What does that mean to you?  Please comment.

Gary

 

I’m A Christian Feminist – Ie: Jesus Feminist

business-woman-shaking-handsWait. Wait. Wait. What?!

First, you’re a dude, dude.  Besides that, you’re a Christian (at least I thought you were).  Add to that…you’re a pastor!  Have you lost your feakin’ way!?

The most prevalent misconception is that a person cannot be a feminist and a Christian at the same time. Among [some] Christians, the logic is something like this: Feminists are liberal heathens, so if you identify as a feminist your salvation is in question since all “real” Christians are/should be conservative.

For a long time, I combined the following characteristics to those who wore the feminist name tag:

  1. Lesbian (at least lesbian tendencies)
  2. Often angry, bitter, and aggressive personalities
  3. Pro-Abortion
  4. Ant-marriage and motherhood
  5. Male Bashers
  6. Likely atheist

Generally speaking, I – at least passively – joined the camp that most, if not all, of our social ills could be blamed on “the feminists” and their aggressive godless policies.

Genuine Vintage Femanism

What I’ve come to realize is that the principles of “genuine vintage feminism” has been hijacked.  The heart of original feminism is very Christ-like.  Godly at it’s core.

Many women of history knew that the mistreatment and dehumanization of women was not–and never would be–part of God’s plan and purpose for womankind.  They were moved to act for justice in both big and small ways all throughout history.

Unfortunately, as too often happens with the true spirit of something, it begins in spiritual enlightenment and is then pursued with human agenda.  (Sounds like Paul speaking to the Galatians does it?  - Galatians 3:3)

Regrettably, the loudest voices and action advocates that brought feminism of age were secular humanists in ideals and beliefs.  The result was the religion of Secular Feminism.  I use the term “religion of” because secular faminism has a religious-like fervency and force that is on – in my opinion – a spirit level.  In other words, true principles of honor, dignity, and empowerment of women is disconnected from God as it’s One true source and attached to the anti-god flesh machine.

I didn’t question error

As secular feminism came of age – by default – the conservative church began it’s defensive anti-feminist posture.  Teachings and straw man arguments began to flourish.  Scripture examples were stated as Biblical proofs that ultimately took “Eve” from “Adam’s” side, silenced her, and put her under his foot.  Given enough decades of parroted teachings and attitudes, the result is more similar to something that could be labeled Christian Stepford Wives, than Christian women.  And, for a very long time….I didn’t question it.

Just one example:  I Corinthians 14:33-35.  Women keep silent in the church.  Instead of this being used as anti-feminist proof texting, Paul’s purpose (via inspiration of the Holy Spirit) needs to be discovered within the light of that culture and the specific situations he was correcting.  To apply this as a broad brush stroke of doctrinal dogma for all times and cultures regarding the value of women in the church is, to me, absurd.  I, now, believe that idea to be a gross abuse of authentic, intelligent understanding of the Holy Spirit’s counsel.

Guess What?

If you believe that women are to be highly honored with a unique God gifted role to play in society and the church… and, if you believe a respect for that must be rediscovered, then – technically – you are a feminist.

Some in the conservative church would say they have no problem with equality for women in the workplace.  Maybe they don’t [some, I’m sure, don’t].  The problem is the female role in the church.

I have these responses:

  1. Men (especially those considered leaders) need to seriously question and examine everything they’ve been told the scriptures say about the subject.
  2. We need to re-examine the ideas of functionality based on gender rather than gifting. I believe that one of the most seemingly benign ways some in the church rob individuals of their humanity is by reducing them to roles based on sex.
  3. Without a front and center honored presence of women in the church, we have an inferior product. We lose half of the personality of God in our experience and understanding of abundant life.
  4. The full flavor of both male and female qualities are needed or the end product is half baked.  I know I mixed the metaphors there…but you know what I mean.

“The Church must reclaim our historic place in the feminist movement, to become fierce champions for the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women again.” – Sarah Bessey

As a man, why do I call myself a feminist?

In 1848, a group of some 300 men and women met in Seneca Falls, NY to demand freedom and rights for women…This is where the official feminist movement began – with a small group of people trying to apply the same ideas about human freedom that pushed them to fight for the end of slavery to women. Nothing evil or scary, just a plea for basic dignity, freedom, and respect.

In closing for this particular post, let me state what Christian Feminism is NOT:

  1.  Christian feminism is not secular feminism, but it is derived from faith in Jesus who treated the marginalized with dignity, respect, and love.
  2. Christian feminism is not about hating men, but it is about upholding the dignity and worth of every human being — male and female — precisely because they are made in the image of God.
  3. Christian feminism does not think men and women are the same, but it does think that there are not the same differences between all men and all women.
  4. Christian feminism does not think women are superior to men, but it about empowering and amplifying the voices of those rendered voiceless, many of whom are women.
  5. Christian feminism is not just for women, but it is for women and men, all of whom are oppressed by patriarchy — a system of male domination and female subordination.

I suppose I could have made my headline say, “I’m A Supporter of Christian Feminism.”  But, for me, that would have been diluting my point and my personal reality.

I also believe that women need to have men championing the issue with them.  It’s not a woman’s issue.  It’s an issue of the Body of Christ re-discovering her God-given design, community significance, and influence.

As the church “gets it right,” (and we are beginning to do so), Feminism will have a Godly impact on our communities and world.

I’d love to have your input yay or nay.  Please do so in the comments.

Gary

Getting It Right

getting it rightI don’t know anyone who wants to “get it wrong.”  Seriously.  I haven’t met one, yet.  But, the inner pressure of “getting it right” can be a major obstacle to “getting it right” not to mention a major “joy kill” in life.

I know whereof I speak from a bucket full of years of life experience.  If you’ll permit, I’d like to quickly share some helpful things I’ve discovered along the way.

Here are three of the most common phrases that identify the inner critic (or criticizer); Or, as the Bible labels, “the accuser.”  I’ve thought, said, and heard others voice them:

  1. “I may not be right”
  2. “Don’t get me wrong, but”
  3. “I was wrong”

I may not be right…

It my experience, when a statement is prefaced with, “I may not be right…” it demonstrates an emphasis on the fact that the person (including myself) is unsure and overly focused on the possibility of being wrong.

But that sounds like humility, doesn’t it?  It could be, but usually isn’t.  It’s an unnecessary preface.  It also may indicate being overly occupied with what someone thinks of you.  Let me suggest a better alternative.  Preface with, “This is what I’ve been thinking.  What do you think?”

Don’t get me wrong, but…

These words telegraph the fact that there’s something to follow that emphasizes a negative.  If someone starts a statement to you with, “Don’t get me wrong, but…” they’ve given themselves permission to “adjust” you.  It’s really not good form, and I believe I can safely say that the Holy Spirit will never bring you correction by starting with the thought, “Don’t get me wrong, but…”  If or when it happens to you, choose not to be offended.  Just realize the person hasn’t learned effective communication and is probably just as negative on themselves (at least internally).

In my experience, the person that says that tends to be more negatively oriented in their life.  Sometimes they feel it’s their God-given duty to be a “correcter of the brethren.”

Instead of going down a rabbit trail here, suffice it to say that the words, “Don’t get me wrong, but…” needs to be discarded in our conversations.  Starting with your dialogue.

I was wrong…

A friend of mine shared this experience with me.  He said, “One day I had just realized that I had been incorrect in how I had been thinking and acting on a matter.  The Lord had been dealing with me.  I said, “Oh, Lord, I was wrong!”

Sounds like a good confession, right?  The Lord, apparently didn’t think so, because He responded to my friend in a still small voice, “Suffice it to say, I was right.”

Here’s the deal.  I believe it’s a really.big.deal to God.  Since He re-created us Right(eous) in Christ Jesus, His desire is that we emphasis “rightness” in our thinking and speaking.  He was telling my friend that he didn’t need to say, “I was wrong.”  The only thing really necessary was to recognize that the Lord is always right.  So, here’s the best confession:

“Lord, You were right.  You’re always right!”

Since I’ve been putting these words into practice with God and with others, I’ve been increasingly discovering fresh vistas of relationship with God and others.

Btw…when appropriate, words should be added, “You were right, forgive me.

Hope that helps.  If it did, leave a comment of your experience or questions.  You may also want to share this on your Facebook friends list, or tweet.  It may a blessing to them as well.

One last thing:  If you haven’t done so, you may want to subscribe to my blog to automatically receive updates via email or RSS.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

Swords Have A Purpose

Sword

Swords have a purpose.  They are meant to kill stuff.  So, when circumstances arise that contradict the promises of God (invitations to experience His life), then take what God’s word says, and let it loose out of you mouth.  In other words take your supernatural sword and kill the sucker!  (Note:  Ephesians 6:17…”The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God”)

I used the phrase, “Kill the sucker,” on purpose.  If you let the contradictions live, they’ll suck the life right out of you.

Okay then.  Maybe It’s time to go kill some stuff, eh?

Gary

YBH – Yes, But How?

unzip headUnzip your brain.  Let it breathe.  You’ll discover stuff that helps you in your journey of living deeply with God and each other.

Accurate information about anything is important.  It helps set a foundation for a dynamic life.  Those bits of data have the potential to help us develop a thriving life with God and others.

However, the information – no matter how accurate/biblical/scriptural it is – has not completed it’s God intended cycle until it becomes out-formation in a way that brings practical, see-able, touch-able, feel-able, attitude-able Jesus like change in people’s lives.  To be very blunt, without that, our belief’s are so much wood, hay, and stubble.  Valueless.  Like a hamster running on a treadmill.  It thinks it’s going somewhere, but it’s just making a disk spin.

YBH – Yes, But How? 

1.  How can I give birth to this truth in my own life in a way that authentically re-presents Jesus in attitude and action in myself, my family, and the community where I have influence?”

2.  Another way to put it would be, “Are my favorite teachings and opinions” producing fruit that others would say is improving their lives?”

3.  Finally the question, “Can my beliefs be understood and acted upon by someone else?”

Because I’m betting you don’t need any more theory from the pages of Scripture, let me finish this article with a YBH’s of letting the Word of God begin working mightily in you.  And…btw…this is something you can teach others to do:

Take passages of scripture that are familiar to you.  Unzip your brain and let the words breath by re-writing them.  My suggestion is that you take one of Paul’s letters, take a verse or two, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you imaginatively re-write them as if Paul was sitting across the table from you.  Imagine that Paul is your best friend.  He knows your life and circumstances inside and out.  And, he is speaking directly to you.  Write down those words.

Remember…truth is only truth if it looks like Jesus in attitude and action.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anger Train

Anger.001

I know there’s a ton of stuff that sucks…the REALLY.BIG.ROCKS!  Gas is $4 freakin’ dollars a gallon.  Grocery items…(oh, let’s not get started on that one).   And then there’s all the political crap!  AARRRG!!  it makes you angry, d#%n it! 

On top of all that, the images of suffering innocents abound…slammed right in our faces through instant media access.  Our.Emotions.Are.Raw.

So, what are we to do?

We have to get off the anger train! 

It takes good old fashioned (grow a pair) guts to jump off the train.

Many folks have been angry long enough that the anger train has built up momentum.  You can feel the hot air blowing in your hair.  The scenery of life is getting more and more blurred.  The clickety-clack of the next injustice announces its presence at a faster pace.

Don’t get me wrong.  The motivation for the anger is logical and many times feels moral.  You would not have climbed aboard if it weren’t.

Here’s the thing…the anger train that so many are riding (and that I am definitely tempted to board) is not changing one single circumstance. The prices are not coming down at the pump or in the grocery isle.  Politics.  Regardless of the party or arena, the root of politics has been a nemesis to true justice for…well…forever.  Don’t forget.  Politics and government are not the same thing.

Oh, by the way…angry Facebook posts and a “stand for righteousness” is also not the same thing.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” 

Be Angry And Sin Not

“Be angry and sin not.  Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  Ephesians 4:26

That would seem to contradict my whole argument, wouldn’t it?  Depends.  How do we know if the anger we feel is righteous anger?

In a nutshell, righteous anger doesn’t separate us from faith in God.  Righteous anger isn’t a response to fear of loss.  Righteous anger motivates one to seek God as a first priority.  Righteous anger doesn’t make you or I ugly and difficult to be around.  Righteous anger is short lived.  It’s not allowed to have a life of it’s own.

So, let’s circle back around to the beginning.

It’s time to get off the anger train.  It’s time to get aboard the train of trust.  Through communion with God, see how He’s responding to life.  Work at envisioning what it would look like in your life if you could actually trust Him with everything that concerns you.

Here’s a great antidote that will help you jump off the anger train with a soft landing.  Spend time every day listing things you are thankful for.  Ride the Praise Train.  Seriously…

Thankfulness and praise keeps the heart flexible and able to receive necessary wisdom and creativity. 

Gary