Archive for July, 2012

The beginning of Faith is when we believe that the adventures in the Bible are true and really happened.

The culmination of Faith is when the adventures in the Bible become our own adventures and really happen to us.

Like Peter, Jesus is calling us out of the “boat” of head knowledge and onto the waves of experience.

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Astrophysics is a trip.  One of the very interesting things I have discovered is the concept of entropy.  Entropy is the measure of chaos and decay that is evident in any physical system that does not experience new infusions of energy.  For instance, let us consider the universe:  the great majority of scientists agree that this system (the universe as a whole) is slowing down and cooling, as its original energy (from the big bang) dissipates through the vastness of space, over time.  This leads to more and more random, and less ordered systems — and if left to itself, will one day result in the death of the universe.

And as is so often true in creation, the created order is a sort of metaphor or parable pointing to greater realities in the spiritual realm.  It is clear to me that the human race as a whole (and the Church specifically) is constantly struggling against the encroachment of spiritual entropy.  If you look at the history of the Church, you will see a number of explosions or infusions of God’s Glory, Power and Love that have seemed, at least for a season, to jump-start and re-invigorate a very anemic (and increasingly entropic) Church.

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost might (metaphorically) be compared to the big bang.  It was this power-infusion and explosion that made the third member of the Trinity available to humanity as a whole (BOOM!).  And from this explosion, the Church was birthed.  And since that time, there have been many seasons of increasing entropy, interrupted and transformed by glorious infusions of God’s Presence — and these infusions we call revivals.  A few of the great ones are the Reformation, the Great Awakenings, the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street Revival.

And one of the things that I believe the Holy Spirit pointed out to me regarding this process of entropy and revival, is that one of the reasons the Church in America is so lifeless, is that it has relied more on entropy-management than seeking to be revived.  I see it all the time:  church-growth seminars,  problem-solving seminars, pain-management programs, etc.  Don’t get me wrong — in some ways, for a good number of people, these things have been helpful and effective.  The problem is that such things will never be enough to reverse the relentless march of spiritual entropy in the Church as a whole.  As we continue to meet and strategize, church membership continues to dwindle.  As we continue to meet in 12-step programs and divorce-recovery gatherings, addiction and family brokenness become more and more pandemic.

I am not saying that we should stop all such gatherings and attempts.  What I am saying is that such attempts at entropy management will never be enough.  They were never meant to be enough!  And I believe that God is waiting for enough people to come to an end of themselves and their own abilities and management schemes and entropy-control attempts, and cry out in true desperation for the one and only thing that can turn things around — true, God-inspired, Jesus-centered, Holy Spirit-infused revival.

Once upon a time, there was a very poor man who’s sole means of survival was to beg along a road in his little village.  Every day, this man would set out his little mat by the side of the road, with two bowls on it – one for the alms that people would give him, and one that held the rice that he would purchase with the alms.

But one day, the entire village was filled with excitement by a rumor that the generous, rich King of the entire realm would be passing through their little town.  And it was known that this King would sometimes give away great sums of gold to those whom he would chance to meet.  So the man, along with the entire village, was hugging the side of the road in breathless anticipation. And sure enough, at about mid-day, the King’s impressive entourage was seen approaching the village.  And the poor man knew this was his chance. As the King passed by, he went ballistic, shouting and jumping and calling on the King to have mercy on him.  “ALMS FOR THE POOR! ALMS FOR THE POOR! HAVE MERCY OF A POOR, UNFORTUNATE BEGGAR!!!”

And to the surprise of the entire village, the King stopped and walked over to the beggar. And what was even more surprising was what the King said. He said, “Has your life been one of only misery, and no joy? Surely you have something you can give me to bless my day.” And he looked down at the beggar’s bowl with rice in it and said “How about giving me some rice? I’ve traveled far today and I’m pretty hungry right now.”

This was not how the beggar had anticipated things going. And inside himself, he thought “Give you my rice?! GIVE YOU MY RICE??!! I’m a poor beggar! You’re the rich guy – you should be giving ME something!” But his next thought was this: “This guy’s the King. What he’s asking from me is wrong, but if I don’t give him a little something, he might have me killed!”

So the beggar hesitatingly reached down and took five grains of rice and put them into the King’s hand.  And the King looked down at his hand…then into the beggar’s eyes…and said “Alright then!”  Then he returned to his entourage and off they went, with a very puzzled beggar watching them fade into the sunset, along with his dreams for wealth and happiness.  And he yelled at the King (after he knew he was out of earshot), “MISER!! TYRANT!!”

But then he happened to glance down — and to his great surprise, there in his alms bowl were five gold coins… one for every grain of rice he had just given the King.  And then he looked over at the bowl of rice, which had THOUSANDS of grains of rice in it — and the horrible realization finally dawned on him: If he had been generous with his rice, he would now have a fortune.  But because of his own miserlyness, he had very little.

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And how often do we treat Jesus the very same way?  We keep back many important areas of our lives, instead of entrusting them to His care – and then we wonder why our lives are so lacking in abundance, power and healing.

But the good news is that, unlike the king in the story above, our King does not leave town, never to return. And because of this, my friends, NOW is the time to repent for our self-centeredness, unbelief and spiritual miserlyness, by placing our lives once again on the altar of God. And when we really do this, we can expect His blessings to once again begin to flow in our lives.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

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There is our own voice — and then there is the Voice of the Spirit.  If we take regular time to listen, we will begin to hear the Voice of the Spirit — and this Voice desires to speak through His Church to the World.  A Voice of Love — a Voice of Hope — and also a Voice of bold declaration of the Holiness and Glory of God.

And if we go too long and ignore this Voice — and if we refuse to allow this Voice to express Himself through us — then we are in danger of losing this Voice — the one true Voice that the World so desperately needs to hear.

OK…an interesting, improvisational Holy Ghost experience!…

I minister to the homeless population in Atlanta.  One day, I was at a shelter, waiting for a friend of mine to show up.  As I waited, I was poking around in my bible, looking for a topic for a bible study that I would be teaching at a different shelter later that night.  I did the old tried-and-true random bible opening and my eyes fell upon Jeremiah 17:7-8“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD.  For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

This was how my thoughts flowed:  “That’s a powerful verse.  I think God wants me to teach on it tonight.  That will make a good message.”

I don’t usually think of my teaching topics as “messages”, but that word was clearly the one that came to my mind.  Then I suddenly remembered that I had had a dream earlier that week that was very similar to this scripture.  In the dream, I was looking at a bone-dry riverbed.  I noticed that there was a tree in the middle of the riverbed and it was green and healthy, and had beautiful leaves.  And as the wind blew, the leaves turned from green to blue and then back again to green.

I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that God was speaking to me.  As I waited for my friend, I pondered what the significance of this  “message” and dream were.  After a few more minutes, I decided to go over to another shelter to see if my friend might be hanging out there.  I walked out onto the street, and in a minute, a nicely-dressed business man (whom I had never met or seen before) came up to me and got right in my face and startled me by saying “WHAT IS THE MESSAGE?!”  Dude, this def took me by surprise!  I sort of stammered “Wha?…uh…”  Then he said, even more adamantly: “Your dream!  You had a dream!  What is the message?!”

OK – I’m a little thick-headed, but even I finally realized that this was a God moment.  So I opened my mouth and began to tell this business man from India about a drought (economic and spiritual) that was coming to America, and that his only hope was to get to know Jesus and abide in Him, just like a thirsty tree abides in hidden, underground streams in a time of severe dryness.  And that if he did this, then he would not only survive, but flourish.

Then God began to speak more to me about this revelation.  I asked Him why the leaves in the dream went back and forth from green to blue, as the wind blew.  He said that the Wind represented the Holy Spirit and that the color blue (in this dream) represented intimacy through revelation.  He said that a very dry time was coming to America, and that the Church needed to learn to abide more regularly in His Presence, and to set seeking intimacy with Him and revelation from Him as priorities.

And the clincher happened when I got home later that night and my wife told me that she had just come from a bible study where they studied Psalm 1, which says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

In light of all this, I strongly encourage you to do some rearranging of your schedule and set intimacy with God as a priority.  Because a time is coming soon when we will need to be “abiding in the Vine” and “hidden under the shadow of His wings.”  And as we learn to abide in the Secret Place of intimacy with Him, we will not only survive, but we will actually have peace and joy, and will fruitfully flourish in all good ways!

So…what do you think about all this?  And what are you going to do?

Spiritual erosion is our great enemy.  Today’s small compromise can easily, painlessly evolve into tomorrow’s character flaw.  And one day, we wake up with a dangerous hardness of heart, and we seem to have no idea how we drifted so far from our Beloved.

Oh God, grant us diligent, passionate hearts that refuse to compromise.  And please reveal to us the compromises and hardness of heart that already exists in us.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
(2 Peter 1:5-9)

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“When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.'”(Mark 3:21)Sin is, in a sense, spiritual insanity.  And because the entire human race was compromised by sin when Jesus arrived on the planet, it was sort of like He was the only truly sane person in a VERY large insane asylum.  But because the “norm” of the culture in this asylum was insanity, the only truly sane One appeared insane to many of those trapped in the insanity of sin.  And so, compared to the lost, Jesus was stark raving sane…

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)