Imagine Yourself as an Image: How Does It Reflect on You?

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

You (as in all of you, as in mankind) are different than the animals. While we humanize many animals, and we marvel at their ability to mimic us and their instinct to interact with us socially, there is still one major difference between you and the beasts of the field. YOU are created in God’s image. Animals aren’t. So, what’s the big deal about that?

When you think about it, we humans are very image oriented. Primitive man worshipped images to the extent that God forbade such foolishness in specifically in the Ten Commandments. We spend a lot of thought and effort building or repairing our SELF image. At work they once gave all of us a copy of Marianne Williamson’s well-known quote about how we view ourselves:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Her words nibble around the edges of Genesis 1:27, but in a sense they fall short. They rightly encourage us to believe in ourselves because we are God’s children, but they limit us to the mere human part of our potential.

image reflection

Technically, an image does whatever the original does. It copies the characteristics of the original, and it is an exact reflection, having all of the appearance and likeness of the source. Therefore, as beings created in the image of God, we should reflect His nature, His character, and His characteristics. (Much like a mirror’s image reflects the real thing before it.)

As beings made in the image of God, we possess some evident characteristics that influence our longings and behavior. We have a love for beauty and an appreciation for creativity. We have a hunger for love and relationship. We are emotional, passionate beings who understand morality and aspire to wisdom and completion. We have many facets of God’s character reflected in our own.

But even though mankind was created in the image of the Father, things have changed. Man fell in sin and became captive to sinful impulses in a fallen world. The fallen world in turn distorts and clouds our understanding of God’s holiness and character. It’s sometimes hard to see God’s image in the actions and behavior of those around us (in fact we are selfish ourselves) and we feel distanced and separated from a Holy God. We all know from experience it is certainly possible to live much of your life without ever really reflecting the God-like qualities that reside in you.

So do some quick evaluation. Since this is about being an IMAGE, take a look at yourself in the mirror. You will see yourself looking back at you, and according to the Bible you are looking at someone made in the image of God.
What are some things about you that make you believe it’s true?
What are some things about you that make you think it’s not?
Don’t worry about your self-image. Enjoy being made in His. Reflect on THAT.

Life is not a practice or a scrimmage;
It’s more than building up a fallen image.
It’s not about what we project,
Or some illusion we protect,
Or our respect or disrespect,
But more about who we reflect!
Of all the animal kingdom, man
Alone of all the species, can
Engage in spirituality, and reflect on immortality
While he practices morality as a part of his reality.
Just go look into the mirror;
Look intently, see it clearer,
Reflection of the Trinity that stretches to infinity,
Defined by what the Bible stated
About the way you were created.
Don’t serve the world by playing small,
Or listen to the doubter’s call;
Let passion and His love enthrall,
And reflect the One who made us all.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Maybe the Best Thing About the Past is That It’s Actually a Present

If there is anything to be learned from history, it’s that we should learn from the past. George Santayana famously said, “Men who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So history can be educational, but there is another observation about the past that we should remember: we can’t live there…

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Brethren, I do not count myself yet to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ASV)

Because he followed a worthy goal, Paul left everything behind in pursuit of his new quest. He changed vocation, friends, goals and his future to follow Jesus. An important part of reaching his prize was being able to let go of the past, which creates an interesting question: If you’re a Christian, do you really forget the things you’ve left behind?

past

There are a couple of ways to look at that. We can easily get trapped by looking back in a somewhat unhealthy way, longing for un-spiritual things, and the fulfillment of old, unsavory appetites. Paul talks about that in Romans 7, where he expresses frustration over the fact that he does things that he doesn’t want to do, motivated by his own sinful nature. The pull of temporary, sinful desire can certainly derail us from loftier goals.

Paul challenges us to concentrate on where we are going, not on where we used to be. I think this is what Jesus meant in Luke 9:62, when he said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When you plow a field, you have to stay focused on a point out in front of where you are headed.

past plowing

If you want to plow a straight furrow, you have to focus on what’s ahead; otherwise you will get off-line and your rows will be crooked and useless for cultivation. Jesus knew that it was impossible to be fruitful and productive in the present while gazing back into the past. To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who choose to stay chained to the past will be doomed to repeat it.” Release yourself from old habits and patterns by focusing on new goals and opportunities!

The other mistake we often make about the past is that we fail to allow ourselves to grow beyond it. We repeat unkind messages to ourselves, we refuse to forgive ourselves, and we limit our potential based on feelings of unworthiness. In the Kingdom of God, those limitations are past. Remember that when God introduced Himself to Moses, he was “I AM”, not “I was”, or “I used to be”.

Do you see yourself the way God sees you? He’s not looking at your mistakes or failures, He sees you the way he intended you to be. He sees you complete and perfect, pristine and pure, and He has already forgotten your flaws and imperfection. Psalm 103:11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I can’t think of any better self-motivational message that we could tell ourselves each day.

If that’s not enough assurance, then read Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God removes our transgressions from us and remembers them no more. If HE is willing to forget your mistakes and move on, then So. Should. You.

There are some things from your past– you wish you could delete them,
Mistakes we all should learn from so that we do not repeat them!
Forgetting that which is behind, we strive to run the race
By reaching forth to what’s ahead, empowered now by grace.
We lay aside unneeded weight, and give the race our all,
As we pursue the prize extended by the Savior’s call!
Press on to the mark, and towards the finish set your eyes;
Don’t look back! Your race is forward, running for the prize.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Deliverance: Sometimes You Get It FROM the Stones. Sometimes, Though…

Deliverance apparently has different meanings to different people. Generally it means being rescued from a threatening situation. To some, it might bring the old Burt Reynolds movie to mind (Two thumbs down, by the way). But most of us would be happy to receive deliverance if we were in danger. The Apostle Paul had some notable experiences and he wrote to Timothy about it: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NIV)

As a missionary, Paul was no stranger to persecution and danger. He experienced some incredible trials and hardships on his journeys as recorded in the Book of Acts. He mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11 that he was flogged, imprisoned, and shipwrecked (among other things). He traveled the world on foot and by sailing vessels in conditions that were primitive at best..

While writing here to Timothy, he speaks of being rescued at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra during his First Missionary journey. There’s an interesting detail to note about this: Paul rejoices in his deliverance by the Lord in each place. Sure enough, at Antioch and Iconium, he escaped angry mobs and persecution. They left Antioch and “shook the dust off their feet”. At Iconium, opposition was stirred up, but Acts 14:6-7 says, “…they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country where they continued to preach the gospel”.

At Lystra, the deliverance Luke describes is very different. Acts 14:19 says the mob caught Paul and STONED HIM and left him for dead. Yeah, you read that correctly: they hit Paul with big rocks until they assumed he was dead, and yet Paul includes that in his list of places where the Lord delivered him.

deliverance

Maybe Paul’s definition of being rescued is different than mine, but I would normally classify being pelted with rocks and left for dead as a loss rather than a win. Not so for Paul. What he teaches Timothy is far more profound. He basically says that sometimes God delivers us FROM the stones, and sometimes He delivers us THROUGH the stones. Faith enables us to see that deliverance is not always the absence of hardship or pain, but it’s finding God’s comforting presence in the midst of them.

On your journey through this world, I hope that the Lord may give you a present of pure escape, and that He protects you from calamity or misfortune. But the next time you are being pelted by the stones of life, remember that when you don’t receive His presents, you will definitely receive His Presence. And perhaps like Paul, you will have a broader definition of “deliverance from” and “deliverance through”.

Paul said there were many persecutions he endured,
But every time, he said, the Lord’s protection was assured.
In Antioch he left the presence of an angry crowd;
He shook their dust beneath his feet and walked off strong and proud.
Iconium’s unbelievers turned into an angry mob,
But Paul escaped before they had a chance to do the job.
At Lystra, Paul said God delivered him; but read the text:
You may have missed where Luke described what happened next!
The angry caught up with Paul; the Riot Act was read,
And Paul was taken up and stoned (with ROCKS!) and left for dead.
And yet, Paul says, he was delivered from the persecution,
Including Lystra, where they carried out his execution.
The stones of life will come, Paul said, so here’s what you must do:
Remember God delivers FROM. And He delivers THROUGH.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Wake Up and Live Today! Don’t be One of the Walking Dead

Lazarus had died, and it seemed to everyone that his good friend Jesus had arrived too late to help him live. But like he does on so many occasions, Jesus offered a different perspective: “These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” (John 11:11, NKJV) And of course the rest is history. Lazarus was raised from the dead and was given new life! Have you ever thought about how Lazarus must have felt AFTER Jesus called him out of the tomb? We know how much his sisters loved him, and I can only imagine the joy when their family was reunited in such a dramatic way.

John described Lazarus’ post-resurrected celebrity as well as how the Pharisees felt about him in John 12:9-11: “Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.” Different people had different motives for wanting to get a glimpse of Lazarus. Some wanted to confirm that their friend was newly risen from the dead; some were just plain curious.

The Pharisees had a different motivation. They wanted to kill him. They had been planning to kill Jesus, but they figured they better get rid of Lazarus, too, since he was living proof of the Master’s work. It’s kind of amazing to think that not everybody was happy with Lazarus’ new life. But I bet Lazarus was! Do you think he lived each day with heightened appreciation, with a greater sense of joy and purpose? Surely he did, because he had been brought back from the dead by the Living God. He had new life! He was given a second chance! He went from being one of Jesus’ friends to perhaps his most devoted follower. Of course, that brings up a couple of questions.

1) Have you been given new life by the Son of God? Theologically, that’s the position and experience of everyone who follows Jesus. Paul says in Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin are death, which means we can be spiritually dead even while we are physically alive. However, once we decide to accept God’s grave by faith, Paul says this: “God has made you alive, who were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

We can live a fresh new day of our eternal life TODAY! So, do you live each day with a heightened sense of appreciation, and with greater joy and purpose? One of our daily themes at Eagle Lake Camp was, “I will live today as if it were my last!” Perhaps we can learn from Lazarus, who truly knew what that meant.

Come to think of it, what would life be like if you took the inverse of that and said, “I will live each day as if it were my FIRST!”? What if you looked at life today as if it were brand new? What if you saw the world today as if it was a brand new experience? What if you were experiencing love for the first time? Laughing? Meeting and interacting with people as if was your very first day? Lazarus did, and so can we. If you’ve been the recipient of new life, act like it!

2) Are you a member of the walking dead, or are you awake like Lazarus? Are you living proof of the Master’s work? When Lazarus came forth, do you think he had a new vision and a new set of dreams? Did people around him look at him differently, and did he change his behavior, breaking free from his grave-clothes to walk towards new life and new possibilities? Paul Valery said, “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” It happened for Lazarus. It can happen for us.

live Lazarus

Jesus wept. His good friend Lazarus lay there in the grave,
And everybody mourned the man who Jesus came to save.
They’d all come for a funeral, from the south and from the north;
But Jesus prayed and then he cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!”
And somewhere, from within the grave a rustling sound was heard;
From within the darkened cave a walking man had stirred!
Lazarus, blinking in the light, was walking! People froze,
Astounded at the man who stumbled in his burial clothes.
Lazarus must have paused and wondered how this came to be;
So Jesus said, “He lives. Unloose his bonds, and set him free.”
You might think this miracle was something rare to see,
But I was dead; and Jesus also said those words to me!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Evil Days Demand Wiser Ways. Be Careful out There.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV) Stop for a moment and think about the world around you. Is the world getting better and better? Is mankind evolving upward towards better values? Is our culture more wholesome and encouraging than it was ten years ago?

I used to hear older people talking sadly about how there seemed to be more evil in the world now than there used to be, and they would reminisce about the “good old days”, when neighbors were more neighborly, it was safe for kids to play “down the street”, and you never heard a cuss word or saw nudity on your TV. And that was over 40 years ago! Now I AM one of the older people, and I feel the same way, but even more so.

Look around. Standards have changed. A Jack in the Box commercial on TV just last night was selling their new bowls by using phrases generally applied to male anatomy, making a poor play on words at best, and a comparison that doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy a pair, SMH… (That’s “Shaking My Head” if you’re not up on internet acronyms.) The “poop” emoji is now on billboards as if it has marketing value.

Not only has decency begun to disappear, but so has truth. Journalists and politicians lie so subtly (and so constantly) that you don’t know what to believe anymore. Half-truths and accusations are disseminated so frequently as facts that they are often accepted as true. Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said that if you tell a big enough lie, and tell it often enough, it would become accepted as fact. His words could be applied to the bipolar partisan atmosphere in America today, where people will gladly ignore integrity and truth to get their own point of view across.

evil days

Today’s values and standards are definitely different than they were “back in the day.” Commercials on TV reach out to consumers by saying “Break the rules!” Abortion is considered just another birth control option. High school kids go to movies that promote sex and violence, even as youth groups take a stand against human sex trafficking. Our culture is extending legalization of marijuana, so that better living through chemistry can become even more common. Gambling is available to anyone who wants it.

Our children (and our neighbors) have internet access to virtually anything, and are bombarded with everything from non-stop materialism to hard-core pornography.
Music (which weaves its way into our brains forever—quick! How many songs do you remember from when you were a teenager?) is full of stories about breakups, drugs, sex, and casual relationships. Hip hop and heavy metal are full of anger, abuse and violence. Interpersonal relationships are changing rapidly, falling away from the personal touch of conversation and affection to on-screen interaction, where it is easier to lie, misrepresent, and misunderstand…There were evil days in 60 AD (when Paul wrote this), and they are evil still…

How do we respond wisely to them? James 1:5 says if you want to be wise, go to the source: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” If you would truly like to make the most of every opportunity in this life, then ask the Lord for wisdom. Apply it to your decisions about what you watch, who you listen to, and what you believe.

“Be very careful, then, about how you live.” Put another way, Paul is encouraging you to be full of care, to care deeply about how to live. Avoid evil and choose good wisely. Ask the very source of Wisdom to give you some, and study it in His Book. When calamity strikes or when opportunity knocks, you’ll be ready. Evil days surround you. don’t be unwise.

Be careful how you live, because we live in evil days,
And evil tries to infiltrate our lives in many ways.
There’s no regard for gender, creed, infirmity, or youth;
It challenges our decency, integrity and truth.
Stop and look around your world, and don’t believe the lies.
Be careful how you live, and make an effort to be wise.
Do you want to find some wisdom? Here is where to look:
You’ll find it when you talk to God, and study in His Book.
Allow your heart and mind to join with His in Holy unity;
Be careful, then and make the most of every opportunity.

 

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Four Dimensions, Deeper Love: How God Loves You Back

In Ephesians, Paul mentions the four dimensions of God’s love as if everyone knew about them; so tell me, have YOU ever thought about the four dimensions of Christ’s love? In his book of superlatives, Paul talks about where God’s love is planted, and what it looks like; his description is a revelation!

four dimensions

In this eloquent prayer for his friends in Ephesus, Paul expresses the fervent hope “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18 NIV).

In this passage from Ephesians Paul calls out the four dimensions of God’s love. Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Have you ever truly grasped the width and length and height and depth of the love of God? In this world, our perception of God is limited. We look at Him through a finite lens, and even when we think we see Him as majestic and incomparable, perhaps we are leaving something on the table…First Corinthians 13:12 confirms: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Paul claims that there is more to love than we see, and that it has dimensions that go beyond our perception.

Paul’s definition of love is steeped in the Hebrew Shema, which reminded believers to love God with every means at our disposal: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Jesus quoted that passage in Matthew 22:37 when challenged to give the greatest commandment.). So do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind? Have you grasped the four dimensions of God’s love?

In this life we dabble about with romantic love, we cherish motherly love, we love our friends, and of course we love animals and food and possessions and things. And we talk about God’s love… But Paul’s picture of love suggests that God’s love is infinite and powerful and amazing: perhaps we can broaden our perception.

First, he says that we need to be ROOTED and ESTABLISHED in love. This suggests going deeper, taking nourishment, and transforming like a seed does when it gives life to a new plant. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Paul says that when we connect with love’s transforming power, we will see the dimensions of God’s love. Read a verse you’re familiar with, John 3:16, and think about the four dimensions of God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The verse that everybody knows contains the truth and power about God’s love that everybody should grasp. Look in John 3:16 and ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? How deep? How long? They’re in there. Go deeper.

Paul tells folks in Ephesus (and also tells the rest of us)
That perfect, Godly love will start with Jesus dwelling in my heart.
The love of Christ Paul mentions, he defines with four dimensions,
So awesome they can make you weep: it’s wide, and high, and long and deep!
Investigate what that must mean. Read John, the verse is 3:16,
And make a list right there beside: how long, how high, how deep, how wide?
It’s there, if you go deep enough: the four dimensions of God’s love…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Almost Famous: The Cosmic Guide to Being Known

What is known can either be as asset or a liability. “If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet that he ought to know; but if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3, NIV). For years I have called this my “Life Verse”, because I think it embodies the gap between what we see as important and what God thinks is important. Knowledge is one of our greatest barriers to learning something new. Thinking we know everything is a sure-fire way to keep from getting to know everything. What is known can keep us from finding the unknown…

By celebrating human thought and accomplishment, the world only scratches the surface of what’s important. Think about it: who are these celebrities, and what are the usual requirements for someone to become well-known or TMZ-worthy?

known and famous

As Billy Joel said in “Still Rock and Roll”, “Don’t you know about the new fashion, honey? All it takes are looks and a whole lot of money”. Having money is a great place to start, and projecting a sexy or attractive image certainly helps. Our culture celebrates actors, athletes, fashionistas, law-breakers, skin-flashers, rock stars and self-promoters. You see them on TV. The paparazzi follow them around. The tabloids make up stories about them, and they exhibit their flashy smiles and skimpy bikinis at your grocery checkout stand.

For all of those people, and for all who follow them, hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity: “You know nothing yet that you ought to know”. The tabloids at the check out stands in the Kingdom of heaven will have a whole different set of headlines. What you know is not nearly as important as WHO you know. The world offers its worldly wisdom and fleeting fame. Heaven’s celebrations have a totally different foundation.

Paul says that the person who loves God will be known because THEY LOVE GOD. When people talk about you, what do they say? Do they say “wow, that (Your Name Here) must really love God!” Or do they say something else? What are YOU noteworthy for? If you want to be famous, and if you want to be celebrated, then the Bible’s advice is simple: Love God. It’s a surefire way to accomplish on an eternal scale what so many people hunger for on an earthly one. Love God. Be known.

What things guide us and what things can aim us
At some way to be celebrated? Famous?
Is it looking hot or wearing fashion,
Or chasing things with money and with passion?
Being rich can work, if you have lots and lots of money:
Folks will flock to you just like the bees do to honey!
You’ll get some attention by showing some skin,
And finding some trouble that you can be in,
If it’s drugs, sex or cheating that you like to play with,
Or even the bad boys that you like to stay with,
You probably can’t do it all on your own,
So remember these things if you want to be known...
If the world’s definition seems shallow and lame,
There’s a whole different way to seek fortune and fame:
Stay humble. Love God with your heart and your head,
Disregard worldly things and believe what He said,
And you’ll find you’re inclined to be like Him, instead…
At the end of the day you will find you have grown
Not in fame or the game, but in just being KNOWN.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Independence Day: Remember What Your Freedom REALLY Cost

We value freedom in America, and we exercise it, too. On July 4 we celebrate the freedom that we gained by becoming independent, but there’s far more to that than meets the eye. It is in the personal stories behind the American Revolution that we can, I think, truly come to appreciate what the word Independence means. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not merely making a political statement; they were risking their lives….

independence day

Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island, aged 70, said as he signed, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.” Benjamin Franklin uttered the famous words, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

The wealthy John Hancock was already a wanted man, and the British were offering a 500-pound reward for him. He said he signed in enormous letters so that “John Bull can read my name without spectacles and may now double his reward.”

Benjamin Harrison, a large man, jested with one of his smaller colleagues that he would hang more quickly because of his large girth, while the smaller man would hang much less efficiently…

Each of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence became a wanted man; and each, knowing full well what the cost might be, put his signature beneath this statement:
“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Of the 56 signers, five were captured by the British, and were tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked or burned. Two lost sons in the Revolutionary army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War.

Francis Lewis of New York saw his home plundered and destroyed by British soldiers. His wife was captured and treated with brutality, and though she was finally exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died a few months later.
John Hart of Hopewell, New Jersey risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. After her death, the British hounded Hart, who was forced to live in forests and caves for over a year. His fields and gristmill were laid to waste. When the British were driven from the area and he was able to return home, his wife was dead, his children gone, and his home destroyed. He died a few weeks later, in 1779, of an illness; some say of a broken heart.

Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia, became aware of the fact that the British General Cornwallis had made his headquarters in Nelson’s beautiful home. When the Marquis de Lafayette invited Nelson to direct the artillery fire, he instructed the troops to fire upon his own home, destroying it. Nelson went bankrupt and died 7 years later at the age of 50.

Carter Braxton of Virginia was a wealthy planter and trader. The British navy sank his ships, and he was forced to sell his properties to cover his debts. He died in rags.
Thomas Lynch, Jr., of South Carolina, suffered broken health from deprivation and exposure he endured as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in Europe, and on the voyage there he and a young bride were drowned at sea.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence paid a terrible price so that you and I might have freedom; most of them died without ever knowing if their desperate gamble would pay off.

John Adams, in a letter to his wife, called out to those of us who would come after him:
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent it in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

On July 4 we have Parades, fireworks, shows and games to celebrate our Independence Day, and most of us enjoy the day without even being aware of the individual sacrifices that took place to make it happen…
We value independence in America. We celebrate it. It is part of the fabric of our lives. If you look up the word independence in Webster’s, it says: “free from the authority, control, or influence of others”. As Americans, we treasure this aspect of our political life, we are accustomed to it, we even take it for granted! Most of us will agree that Independence is a good thing.

I’ve got some bad news. In a spiritual sense, independence is a terrible thing. As glorious as our Freedom is, and as much as I gained researching the stories of the sacrifices and noble actions of the Patriots who risked everything for Independence, I realized that there is a different perspective on independence, a Christian perspective. The first letter of Independence is “I”.

Think about it for a minute…Christianity is full of paradoxes, which stand conventional thinking on its ear: you have to acknowledge your sin to be made righteous; to be nothing in order to become something; to die to yourself to live for Christ; act as a servant to be the leader; be last to be first; give to get; lose your life to keep it; and be glorified only through humility.

The Biblical perspective on Independence is clear: it gets us into trouble.
Satan was independent (“I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…”) He fell from God’s glory into a world of dark shadows, disaster, selfishness, and pain.

Eve was independent. (“I know Adam told me God said I shouldn’t eat this fruit, but why shouldn’t I be able to do what I want?) She ate the fruit God said not to eat, and exercised her will over God’s instructions.

Adam was independent. (Why shouldn’t I have the right to know good and evil?) He ate the fruit and introduced death and shame into the world, bringing destruction to all mankind.

Cain was independent. (Why should I have to sacrifice the way God says? I’ll do things my way) He was so consumed by pride and self-will he murdered his brother…

The Israelites gained Independence. They threw a wild party, worshipped a golden calf, and had to wander 40 years in the wilderness so that a whole generation could die before going on to the promised land… Later, in Judges 21:25 it says, “And every man did that which was right in his own eyes… [The story of the nation of Israel gets repetitive: they do what they want, they pay a fearsome price for it, they are humbled by circumstances, they cry out to God for help, and he delivers them from their oppression. Once they are delivered, they get comfortable, and they start doing whatever they want again.] It may be the story of Israel, but it is the story of us all.

I have been independent. And I guarantee you that every big mistake I’ve ever made has been because I decided to do what I wanted to do, regardless of the consequences. I have acted, to recall Webster’s definition, “free from authority or control”…

What about you? The downside of Independence and the freedom it brings is that it also allows selfishness, and the ability to act however we want. So as you celebrate today, remember: Freedom isn’t free. And freedom doesn’t come from doing whatever you want; it comes from doing what is right. In John 8:32 Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In verse 36 he said, “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” As you celebrate independence today, be free. Be free indeed.

Because it’s free, American life and citizenship are sought;
So when you think of freedom, and the good things it has brought,
Remember: freedom isn’t free, for it is dearly bought.
America, don’t do what you want, but please do what you OUGHT.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

What Are You Doing Here on Earth, For Heaven’s Sake?

What are you doing? I mean yes, in the grand scheme of things, what are you doing here on earth? Life is not about feeling, it is about DOING.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 12-16, NIV)

Paul started this “love chapter” by exhorting us to be living sacrifices, and to follow Christ’s selfless example. In verses 9-11 he talks about the need for sincere love. Here in verses 12-16 he says that DOING love is more important than FEELING love…

He acknowledges that love is a great motivator, and I bet your own personal experience would bear that out. (Think about some of the things you have done because of love—whether foolish things to pursue romantic love, or acts of service inspired by unselfish love… We have all found ourselves doing something differently at some point because of love’s motivational pull.)

Here are two very different examples: The summer I was 15, I was on the aquatics staff at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow in Kerrville, Texas. Hoping to meet girls, I put “HI THERE” with adhesive tape on my chest for about a week. When I removed the tape, my tan lines said HI THERE all by themselves for at least a couple of weeks. (True story. Yeah it’s a dumb thing, but I was 15 and it did actually help break the ice with local girls a couple of times. It was, however, a little embarrassing on Parents’ Day at the end of the session, since I was on the aquatics staff and was in the pool working with kids with a chest that said, “HI THERE”…)

doing  (NOT an actual photo)

A few years later, I was on staff at the Navigators’ Eagle Lake Boys’ Camp in Colorado Springs. At the end of the summer, I donated a big portion of my salary to the camp (which, my Dad pointed out, was supposed to be my spending money at college that fall; when he had to replace it, it actually meant that HE had given the money to Eagle Lake. Sorry, Daddy. My heart may have been in the right place, but the net result of my decision fell on you…)

Both of those actions were motivated by love in one form or another—one foolish, and one sublime—but both were done in hopes of having a different outcome than would have been achieved by standing pat. The point is, what are you doing differently today because of love? What outcome are you hoping for?

Paul says here that love will help us overcome adverse circumstances. It enables us to view the world differently: to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I have to say I am ashamed at how often I am NOT patient in affliction or faithful in prayer. How about you?

Love inspires generosity towards others, and it even helps us act differently towards those with whom we disagree. Do you bless those who persecute you, or do you curse them? If we are living sacrifices, Paul says, we will be empathetic and live in harmony with others. Burt Bacharach’s1965 pop song said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”… The Beatles said, “Love is all you need.” How true.

There is too much division in our world and in our culture, and not enough blessing. Paul said a living sacrifice is not stuck up or conceited, but spends time doing loving things, which creates a means for God’s love to reside on earth through us, to us. Be loving today. Make the same decision tomorrow.

Love is not emotion or the giddy way you feel;
Love is more than feelings, (although feelings may be real);
Love is more than romance, or the love songs used for wooing:
Love is found in how you do the things that you are doing.
Do them well, and serve as if you worked for God above,
And fill your life with godliness by doing things with love.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Here Are Two Words You Don’t Use Every Day: Passionate Fervor

In Romans 12 (the “other” love chapter) Paul describes love’s many facets, and he uses familiar words like sincerity, devotion, and honor. He also uses uncommon terms, like fervor, which is not a word that’s much in vogue today… (The dictionary says it means having passion, or intense heat.) When was the last time you talked about having FERVOR? It happens at sporting events, maybe, or rock concerts, but there aren’t many cultural equivalents I can think of. I’ve heard about a religious fervor where people get whipped up into a frenzy, but I’m pretty sure Paul is not talking about that here. When you look at the passage, he describes it as something else:

fervor

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:9-11 NIV) I’ve mentioned that in Romans 12, Paul has been painting a picture of love. It’s slightly different from his eloquent words in 1 Corinthians 13, and it expands and explores the boundaries of our definition.

He started by exhorting us to follow Christ’s example of sacrificial love, and continued by encouraging us to build each other up with whatever tools God has given us. Now he gets specific about love and starts to break it down for us with some detail. Be authentic (as Robin Williams’ Genie told Aladdin, “Beeee yourself!”).

Hate what is evil. Do you? I hate some of the big ugly evils, but I’m still pretty comfortable with some of my “little” secret evils… How about you? Any secret evils you need to hate?

Treat each other with respect and honor. Have you noticed any lack of respect and honor in our society today? When it comes to respect, do you extend it to others, or just expect it for yourself?

And then my favorite, “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor”! Do you have fervor? Are you passionate for Jesus? I know people worry about being pushy or overwhelming, but I don’t think that’s the kind of zeal Paul is talking about. This is the kind that seasons our thoughts and conversations, and encourages us to dream godly things.

What dreams do you have? Are your spiritual fires burning? Are you falling in love with God a little more each day? The natural result of emotional love is passion. So is the spiritual one. “Fervor” means “intense and passionate feeling”. Have some fervor about God. Be ferverous. (No that’s not a word, but I wanted you to think about it all day, ha!) Paul says that the natural result of spiritual fervor is service; as we grow more passionate about the Lord, we’ll be more inclined to serve him. I guess you could say that fervor makes you a server!

So what should we do with Romans 12? Get out there and serve! Be ferverous in your serverous.

 

Paul takes some time to delve deep into love in Romans twelve:
Honor one another. Hate evil, but love your brother.
In all your dealings, make it clear that purest love is quite sincere.
If you live the way you should, you will cling to what is good,
And devoted love will guide you as it stokes the fire inside you.
It seems if you have fervor, you will love to be a server,
And devotion to the Lord will help us act with one accord.
If the gospel makes good sense, let your fervor be intense;
Let the way you truly feel invoke a passion that is real,
And let no others steal your joy or criticize your zeal.
Be passionately ferverous in your walk and in your serverous!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread