5 Things Believers Have Too Much Of

While casually scanning through the list of the many blogs that I follow, one that was titled “5 Things We have Too Many Of” peaked my interest. I was intrigued enough to click on it as I wondered what things I might be guilty of hoarding. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but her list was intensely practical. To her, sheets, towel and blankets are three of the top offending clutter monsters. She also displayed her kitchen cabinets full of random cups, mugs and glasses (OK, she got me on that one!) Her list rounded out with gloves, hats and winter scarves. Knowing that in my house, one would be doing exceptionally well to find two matching gloves when it’s cold enough in Georgia to justify wearing them, I finished skimming the post and made a mental note to perhaps buy an extra pair or two of gloves before winter is over.

Before I closed the blog, I scrolled back to the top and thought about the title again. Since most of these didn’t really apply to me, I started thinking about what I might have included if it were my job to write the list. It didn’t take but a minute to jump from the practical realm to the spiritual one as I quickly made the list my own! However, mine isn’t a nice neat one with crisp pictures of over-stuffed closets.  Instead, it includes serious things that can easily clutter our lives and hinder our ability to impact others with the truth of Christ. So begging your pardon for the grammar, I’ll borrow her title and give my version of “5 Things Believers Have Too Many Of…”

  1. Critical comments – I tell my kids all the time to work on their vocabulary and English skills in school. Not just so they can pass a test, but because people judge us by the words we use. That’s not only the case for students writing term papers, it’s true for anyone. When our words are filled with criticism, complaining, condescension, and ingratitude, people make judgments and determinations about us… and for believers that, in turn, reflects back on the God who’s name we claim! We need to conscientiously rid our language of negativity, and install Ephesians 4:29 as the filter over our words. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 
  1. Unforgiving attitudes – Memories can be wonderful blessings that help us savor the best moments of life, but they can also be detrimental to our well-being when we hang onto the recollection of intentional or unintentional offenses that others commit against us. When we stack our souls full of bitterness and anger, we choke off the flow of God’s love both to and through us.  We need to sort through our unforgiving attitudes with a proper understanding of the enormity of our own personal sin. When we allow the greatness of Christ’s forgiveness to us to be in the forefront of our thinking, we realize that no matter what others have done to us, it pales in comparison to what we ourselves have been forgiven of by God.
  1. regretLingering Regrets – Our lives can sometimes feel like a strange conglomeration of highs and lows. But sometimes we minimize our successes while magnifying our failures too much. Exaggerated remorse over bad decisions, deliberate sin or missed opportunities can easily become a toxic brew that eats away at our productivity, usefulness and joy.  While we can’t scrub away what’s already been done, we can minimize the present and continuing effects by accepting and living in the full pardon extended to us through faith in Jesus Christ.  He’s cancelled our debt so we are in turn released to forgive ourselves!  Paul challenges us to embrace a  forward focus in Philippians 3:13-14.  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
  1. Indifferent Mindsets – Do you know where the country of Mali is located? How about Chad? Does Tunisia ring a bell? There are lots of people (particularly in America) who don’t know where these countries are, and to be honest, many don’t really care. But there are millions of people who live in these countries… millions who need to know Jesus Christ as Savior, and without Him, are destined to die and be separated from God forever. But even that truth doesn’t stir the hearts of some Christians. Neither does the fact that many of the people with whom they work, and live are destined for the same fate. In perhaps the most well-known verse of the Bible, God says that He “so loved the world” that He “gave His one and only Son” so that they wouldn’t “perish” but be gifted with “eternal life.” (John 3:16) God’s heart is for the world… and He has tasked His church with the responsibility of taking His message of redemption and restoration to the teaming masses of people that He loves. But we cannot share in this passion of God’s heart if we don’t share His concern for the people around us. We must unpack our lives of this indifference and callousness before we can see our friends and neighbors through the eyes of our compassionate Lord.
  1. Prideful hearts – There is a subtle attitude God despises above all others that clogs the ability of a Christian to effectively do His work. It’s the attitude that whispers to us that we can from our own resources be strong enough, smart enough, powerful enough, or resourceful enough to successfully live the Christian life. Padding our thinking with our own prideful self-sufficiency stifles our ability to accomplish anything of spiritual significance. (Remember that God opposes the proud – James 4:6). Only after we clear away those lies and replace them with an attitude of humility and dependence upon the Lord will His character begin to shine through our lives. Then… we can draw on true strength that’s found solely in Him.
patterns-of-evidence-the-exodus

Evidence for Change

My family and I went to see the screening of the documentary “Patterns of Evidence” on Monday evening. The film presented fascinating and convincing archaeological evidence supporting the scriptural account of the Israelites in Egypt, their slavery, exodus and eventual occupation of the land of Canaan. It was captivating and exhilarating to see a presentation of one piece of evidence after another that supported the Biblical stories as recorded in the books of Genesis, Exodus and Joshua.

David Rohl, Egyptologist  (lft) Timothy Mahoney, Filmmaker (rt)
David Rohl, Egyptologist (lft)
Timothy Mahoney, Filmmaker (rt)

Most of the many academics who were interviewed discounted the findings and interpretations of the film’s creator, Timothy Mahoney.  However, there was one primary Egyptologist, David Rohl, who’s views departed from convention and helped viewers grasp why, when and how the accounts of Moses and Joshua fit well into known historical evidence. As the support he laid out mounted, it was hard to comprehend how the other scholars, who were all educated and knowledgeable, couldn’t (and didn’t) see the clues as verifying the statements of scripture.

Timothy MahoneyHowever, the curious detail that really stuck with me about this particular man was that, despite all the amazing proofs that he unpacked, Mr. Rohl himself is not a believer in God. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this pleasant, self-proclaimed agnostic had all the facts, but has missed the point. While it’s pivotal to know ancient history and that Joshua, Moses and the Israelites were real, the most important thing to know is that GOD HIMSELF is real!!

And if God is real, then we can trust Him to do what He said He would do and be who He says He is. That knowledge should compel us to give our lives to Him fully and have faith that He has a plan for whatever we encounter.

I wonder how many people sitting in churches today have made the mistake of pursing the things of God, without actually pursuing Him? How many have spent years, even their whole lives, in a congregation, reading God’s Word, listening to sermons and serving in some fashion, but have missed the point of these activities?

God doesn’t just give us facts to learn and things to do. The point for our involvement in any Christian pursuit is always the same… that we would come to know Christ. (Eph. 1:17, Eph. 3:16-19) This faith walk is about knowing Him in a way that changes His disciples from the inside out. When we understand Him as the Living and Active God that He is, we will find ourselves drawn into a relationship that will redefine who we are, and give us satisfaction, contentment and joy!

As we drove home from the movie on Monday, I couldn’t help but be encouraged by what I’d learned from Timothy Mahoney’s work and am grateful for solid evidence that proves the accounts of the Bible. (I encourage you to take a look at the trailer and get it to view and share when it’s released on DVD.)  But more than being grateful for the solid evidence that Joseph, Moses, and all the other biblical figures actually lived, I’m most thankful to know that God lives!!  And that His truth will not remain buried!  We can trust that in His perfect timing, He will bring everything into the light for all to see.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
~Hebrews 4:13

Confused by the Mist? — 6 Ways to Find Your Way

One evening this week, I was sitting at our kitchen table sipping a cup of hot tea, gazing out the back window. As I took a few moments to relax, I noticed the misty damp haze as it drifted across and settled over our backyard. It wasn’t long until the neighbor’s house across the nearby field faded from view. A little while longer, our garden had vanished, and by the time I’d drained the last bit from my tea cup, even the familiar landscaping in our yard was blanketed in mist.

You know, sometimes, walking with God can be kind of like the fog I watched roll in. Often discerning Christ’s leadership and guidance can be as clear and unmistakable as the sun on a cloudless day.  But, crisis, fatigue, anxiety or other traumatic life events can cause even the most familiar scriptural truths of our faith to be shrouded by the uncertainty and fade from sight. In those times, it’s easy to get lost and even stumble in what may seem to be unfamiliar territory. When situations blind us to the reality of what is true, we should reach for and hold fast to some clear markers that will help us be sure of our direction, until the sun returns and God’s will becomes more clear.

  1. The Word of God. – Regardless of how confusing our situation may seem, God’s Word is the number one way to be sure we’re walking on the right path. Consulting its wisdom will help us continue to make good decisions even in the middle of heartache, pain and calamity. Remember, there is no time, no circumstance, and no reason we should ever do anything that’s forbidden by His Word. Likewise, there is no excuse for neglecting God’s instructions about what to do either.
  2. Circumstances – Sometimes God uses the events of our lives to guide us. While that’s not always the case, repeated, providential occurrences can be used to get our attention. We would be wise not to regard these things as simple coincidence. Learn to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading in the subtle things, realizing that unusual events could be the way God moves you toward His will.
  3. Wise counsel – There is immense value in having godly believing friends who know and love you enough to speak the truth. That’s especially true when we find ourselves in a confusing position.  Remember we’re often too close to our own stories and can’t always think correctly or see clearly enough to untangle the details. The insight of a trusted friend is often just what we need to bring clarity to a hazy situation.
  4. Power of the Pause - Logic and reason are generally good barometers to help us cut through the fog and make sound, God-honoring decisions. However, if, after consulting scripture and seeking godly counsel, there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with you, pause. The Holy Spirit may be sending you a warning. Take time to seek God more carefully (and prayerfully) before you move forward.
  5. Urgency - Sometimes the Spirit of God will give you a nudge to step out and take action of some kind. While you must be cautious and always keep in mind that whatever you do must be consistent with God’s Word, there are times when God may impress you to go somewhere you’ve never been, speak to someone you don’t know well, or do something out of the ordinary. It’s then when we need to overcome our hesitancy and act in faith…  remembering that the Lord may be attempting you to use you as a part of His work in someone else’s life.
  6. Peace – Jesus promised to give us His peace.  (John 14:27) So, if you’re anxious and restless about a course of action, continue praying and trust God to give you His inner sense of quietness as an indication that you’re on the right track. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a measure of normal apprehension when stepping out in a new direction (especially when you have a hard time “seeing” where your feet will land). But even when your emotions are running high, God’s peace will give a calm stability that’s rooted in the confident trust that He holds you in His hand.

Through The Front Door

passion2015Last weekend I had the privilege of serving with a fantastic group of volunteers (doorholders, as we are called –  see Psalm 84:10) at Passion 2015 – a gathering of 20,000 college age students who came together for three days to be encouraged in the Lord and to lift up the name of Jesus.

Passion15
Passion 2015 ~ Atlanta

Along with about 20 other people, I was stationed to serve the students in the adjacent CNN Center food court which was outside the actual venue. Since most of the activity, supplies and other 1180 workers were inside the Philips Arena, we needed to make frequent trips back and forth between the two buildings. Unfortunately, we couldn’t just come and go as we pleased. Even with wrist bands, access passes, and shirts that identified us as part of the crew working with the event, we still had to exit the food court building, go around a gate, pass through a baggage check, and enter the Arena through a side door.

Philips Arena (right) CNN Center (left
Philips Arena (right)
CNN Center (left

I realize that it was an effort by the venue staff to keep the premises safe and secure for the kids, but it did make us feel ‘less than special’ to have to walk an unnecessarily long distance every time we needed to retrieve supplies, run errands, get a bottle of water, or even to take a break. As our fatigue grew throughout the weekend, the trek to the rest area seemed longer each time, especially since we could see that only steps away from our station was a row of glass doors that led directly into Philips Arena without ever having to go outside.

But… as I was yet again sloshing toward the arena through the puddles of water from the third day of bad weather to deluge downtown Atlanta, it occurred to me that sometimes believers think that our approach to God has to resemble the way we were required to come into the venue. As we enter the throne room of our holy and righteous God, all too often, shame, self-condemnation, and failure rain on us creating an incorrect sense of unworthiness. In response, we slink around to the side entrance, feebly concealing our disgrace, and hoping that we can get through an imaginary check point without our shortcomings being discovered.

What a tragically twisted view of what it means to be believers in Christ!! Instead of shrinking back in fear and shame, we need the assurance that we never hold a second rate status, nor do our mistakes and failures limit our access to God’s presence. Listen to the words of the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4:  “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (vs 16)

That doesn’t mean that we can approach God in an arrogant or prideful way, or even in a manner that points to any self-effort or merit of our own. The only basis for our confidant attitude to commune with the Father is rooted in the truth found in verse 14 of the same chapter.  “Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”

With Jesus as our perfect ‘doorholder’, His sacrifice has given us confident, and, yes, BOLD access to the Father at any time, and for any reason. So, set aside your feelings of inadequacy. Your acceptability before the Father is found in Christ!

The front door is open!

Come!