Some people keep Journals, writing down important happenings in their lives, or epiphanies they have. This is kind of like that for me, and I want to remember it.
First, a little groundwork, or foundation. Do you remember a time when you were really on fire for God? A time when you just couldn’t get enough of reading the Bible, or going to studies, or church several times a week? Do you remember a time when you spent hours with other seekers, discussing the Lord and His ways in your lives? Was there a time when you would rather be with other Christians searching for the big answers about life and the clock didn’t matter, you couldn’t get enough? Did you used to go to Christian camps, Christian movies, Christian conferences, Christian Bible studies, Christian home groups, even Christian restaurants, because you just couldn’t get enough? Do you remember a time when you were immersed in Jesus, almost continually baptized by His Presence? Do you remember a time when a friend would call you, and be so excited about a new book they just read, full of new discoveries of some kind about the life of faith, and you could talk for hours about…..the Lord? Do you remember a time when you were desperate about something and God showed up, just in time, leaving you breathless and amazed? Do you remember a time when someone asked you something about life, revealing how troubled they were and how lost they felt, and somehow, out of somewhere within you, you helped comfort them and leave them in peace, and you wondered “where did THAT come from”? Did you ever “experience God” in a way so real that no voice to the contrary could even approach you?
Did you ever have a time when the bullets of life were flying overhead, ready to hurt you, but you found the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ ?
Four questions may help make this personal instead of theoretical:
- Are you growing in your spiritual life?
- Or, are you treading water?
- Are you excited by and about God, and the life you have?
- Or not?
I got a call from a dear friend I hadn’t seen for some time. Dear friends are the ones that you can “pick up right where you left off,” and time doesn’t seem to matter. He lives in another city but was here for a conference and wanted to get together, so we did, on Wednesday night!
For a couple hours we just chatted away, like dear friends do, each of us ‘remembering’ a time past that we enjoyed together. What sort of overtook us was talking about a book, and then more books, about the Lord and His Ways, and about life and its ways. We experienced that feeling so hard to describe where you get excited about how God works, and you hunger to learn more, and you each remember one time after another or one book after another or one epiphany after another…..each one and all of them Glorifying God and giving Him praise, all the while rejoicing not only in The Lord, but in each other! That was Wednesday night!
Then, on Thursday night, it was time for our weekly Bible study at church, a continuation on the study of Spiritual Warfare. It’s a 12-week video study which we completed in the Spring, but so amazing, for me at least, that I had to have it repeated a 2nd time, and invited any who wished to “come again” and re-visit this so needed study. I’ve told several folks that the study should be re-named “Essential Christianity” because the title “Spiritual Warfare” makes some folks uncomfortable, almost wiggy, and what it really is about is the Power of God in our lives, ie: Christianity!
We may live in terrible times, and certainly terrible things are happening all over the place, but we have an Awesome God, Who is able to do exceedingly above what we can ask or even think! Ephesians 3:20.
These times are really no different than the times of history, except that these times are OUR times, and WE are the ones crying out to God! We have the same questions as the ancients had, and we try the same ways they did to get God to do what we want Him to do! Until, of course, we ‘get it,’ and begin to yield, or surrender, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!
And then something happens: we have an experience; or an awakening; or an epiphany; or a happening. God shows up. Jesus becomes real. The Bible becomes like food we can’t get enough of. Church even seems worth going to!
The lesson this Thursday night was on angels, and it wasn’t goofy or weird in any way. It was Bible. It was reassuring us that God is on the job, all the time, and that He has His messengers and attendants working on our behalf. On our behalf! After the video lesson several folks shared about personal encounters with angels and you could ‘feel’ the tension in the room, as each person tried to relate, even to ‘believe’ that this could happen. I realized that my own personal encounters with God are real to me, for me, but that YOUR encounters with God may seem mighty strange! Instead, we should “rejoice with them that rejoice,” and let God have His way with each of us.
I do pray that each of you can have a dear friend to share your faith with; to search together and to ponder things with; to get excited with and remember the times when God showed up! I also pray that church can become so much a Blessing to you that you hunger for it, and can’t wait for Sunday, because God shows up!
It’s something supernatural. That is, it is something that is natural, in that it is about us, and yet it is so needed that we all crave it, all try to muster it up, and in doing so often repel the very thing sought.
We need divine intervention. We need the natural to be energized by the Lord God, thus ‘supernatural.’ Just the mere thought of the thing makes us pause and exhale in wonder and agreement. We then breathe in again, hoping we get it. It’s sort of a constant prayer we lift to Jesus, albeit more of a hope than a certainty, and yet we know it is part of our faith so we pray anyway, knowing He hears us, knowing He answers us, just not sure of how to ‘discover’ the answer.
Scripture presents this to us in several ways, using several words, and if we’re not careful we make the thing into a ‘work’ somehow, and that sort of defeats the entire concept. God is at work, we know, but we sure love to try to help Him out. We seem to believe that our effort will somehow move the mountain, even if it’s a shovel by shovel attempt.
And along come the super heroes, with their super powers, entertaining us with their ability to do the impossible, defeating all enemies with their strength and grace. Well, sometimes not so graceful. I haven’t seen most of these movies, and not because I object on spiritual grounds, it’s just I don’t like the comics so much. But I do like the idea of super heroes and super powers. We all like to dream of being a hero with incredible power to go out and do good! It’s all about the super power!
And so, all of this, to share with you a saying I saw on the back of a car the other day, sort of like a bumper sticker. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’m not supposed to write a thousand words in a blog, make these words into a picture and ponder the thousand words! Here it is…for you to ponder….to study…to embrace:
CALM IS A SUPER POWER
In church calendar lingo we know that Thursday of Holy Week is called Maundy Thursday; the Last Supper was held, and Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, demonstrating not only Love, but Humility. Much more happened on Thursday…
On Friday….Good Friday of Holy Week….we remember the crucifixion. We remember the suffering, the nails, the crown of thorns, and the Blood, shed for us, so that we could live eternally with the Father. We remember, but do we comprehend. CAN we comprehend? Perhaps we stand at the Cross, along with all the others, in almost disbelief that the one we thought to be Savior somehow perished at the hands of mere men. And yet, we DO remember all the times we spent with Him; all the miracles we witnessed, or even read about! All the Love we received….that unexplainable Love. But He’s dead. They’ve taken Him down, put Him in cloths, and laid Him in a sealed-up tomb. Something’s not right. Something doesn’t make sense. We KNOW in our knower’s that God must be up to something! And it’s only Friday.
Saturday is a hard day for us. It’s still Holy Week, and we are grieving, yes, but we are also troubled and disturbed that the facts right in front of us don’t seem to line up with our hearts, full of hope, are saying. What is going on, on Saturday? The Scriptures tell us that Jesus descended into Hades, and led out of there those held captive, as He and they ascended. Saturday, it turns out, was a busy day. The grip of hell has now been broken, and cannot hold those who choose the Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.
And NOW it is Sunday! Oh Glorious Day!
It’s called Holy Week to make sure we pay attention, but we’d be better off to remember these things all through the year. We celebrate Holy Communion more often, to remember, to keep our hearts current, to keep our hope alive and well. Let’s remember, also, that before Jesus left us He sent His Holy Spirit to us, for us. This HOLY Spirit is available 24/7/365….to lead us…to comfort us….to Resurrect a fallen day.
Happy New Year, 2019! In my ‘walk with God’ one of the things I look forward to is discerning how to approach the new year with the church. It’s good to have a ‘framework’ of some kind, a plan, if you will, of how we can corporately move through this spiritual journey.
Because we are committed to God’s Word we follow a specified reading plan week by week so we can ‘be on the same page’ as a community. It works well for people with busy lives because missing a Sunday or two doesn’t leave anyone behind in the journey.
To help make the reading more applicable to our everyday lives I provide an ‘assignment,’ so that as we read we are ‘looking for something.’ The idea here is to make reading that which one has read before have more purpose this time through, so the mind doesn’t shut down thinking it has ‘been there – done that.’ In 2018, for example, we were looking for ways the Bible reveals not only a Living God, but for how He stirs up in us a Living Faith.
For 2019 the assignment is to intentionally focus on Epiphany, the revelation of Ah Ha moments in our lives. To Discover the Wonder, as God leads us, personally, and as we read the Bible.
Think of it this way: have you noticed that when you read the Bible there are certain verses, statements of some kind, that seem to jump off the page? Do you find that you sometimes underline certain ones as especially impactful? We know that this is how God ‘speaks’ to us, and then we ponder what He really said and what it actually means to us personally. It’s very wonderful.
Wonderful means ‘full of wonder.’ God wants us to be not just exchanging air all day long, but to be engaging with Him and His creation! He wants us to be ‘on mission,’ not just plodding along. He wants us to be ‘dependent upon Him,’ not so self-sufficient that we think we need nothing, until some crisis happens that we know we can’t handle by ourselves! ‘Giving up’ is not God’s desire for us. He wants us to ‘run to Him’ and ‘enjoy His Presence’ in our lives.
All of this (and much more) leads to the Plan for 2019, that as we read we seek to Discover the Wonder that God has for us. Not just reading so many pages a day or week, but actually discovering new things in and about God’s Kingdom, and about God Himself, and about our own Souls!
Eugene Peterson has said that “the Self is the Soul minus God.” Ponder that one for awhile and I promise you will Discover some Wonder!
Jan 6 is the Day of Epiphany, celebrating when the Magi visited the baby Jesus and realized He was, indeed, God come in the flesh. This ‘realization’ is what we now call ‘an epiphany.’ A knowing, given to us by God, thus supernatural.
As we grow we experience numerous epiphanies. Things we didn’t understand become more clear. Like algebra!
I experienced a strong epiphany a few years ago while reading through Ecclesiastes. I didn’t like the Book, and I felt guilty about it. It’s God’s Word, right? Obviously I was in error, but I couldn’t shake how I felt about the word Vanity and how it was used over and over. A newer translation used the word Meaningless, which only made me feel worse. I was having a crisis trying to understand how or why God would speak that way about life.
Finally I decided to do more research and discovered additional ‘meanings’ for the original Hebrew word translated Vanity and Meaningless. First came Vapor, which kind of softened things a bit, understanding the issues of life are like a vapor. But then came the epiphany, the revelation, the ah HA! Another translation of that word can be Temporary. Get it? Is the veil lifting? This life is not vain or meaningless, but temporary. Our hardships are….temporary. Our frustrations, hurts, etc., are temporary.
I won’t take the time here to develop this more, but you should. It’s amazing how the Book of Ecclesiastes will come alive to you with new meaning and understanding when you put ‘temporary’ in all the places it now has ‘vanity’ or ‘meaningless.’ It will absolutely change how you feel about God!
The most recent epiphany has come to me while studying the Book of Daniel, and all the other Bible ‘places’ you will be taken when trying to understand this amazing prophecy. It connects directly to my own personhood, in that I’m now dealing with a diagnosis of cancer.
The subject that comes up for Bible students is the study of the End Times. It’s interesting that so many write so much about what they know so little. We can’t help it. We are so intrigued just pondering the End Times that we put forth all kinds of speculations, all quoting various Scriptures to try to validate what we think is happening. In these current times we have all sorts of Doctrinal explanations of what the Bible speaks about the End Times, albeit guarded by the realization we may not have it correct!
Combine the Bible study with one’s own mortality and the End Times get personal. Do I get three-score and ten, or four-score because I’m ‘strong’? The older we get the closer to our personal End, so the End Times become even more applicable to us, and raise all sorts of questions. Some people don’t want to talk about it at all, and others can’t stop talking about it, but this is a big deal!
I remember getting the Summary from my doctor after my annual physical, and at the end, after all the lab results and comments, was an intriguing ‘mortality index.’ It gave a percentage estimate of years of life left, something like 90% to live 15 yrs., or such. I can remember thinking this was an odd thing to include, and gave it little mind. Now that I have a cancer it becomes more important to me. I’m no longer immortal! What now? Now, you see, my own, personal End Times come into more focus, and more conversation with others. The things ‘we don’t talk about’ start coming up, as do the concerns, as do the fears.
I don’t like fear. I don’t like being fear-based when approaching something. I also don’t like anger, and I’ve learned that anger is a secondary emotion, the primary emotion being fear, although this is often hidden. Thus, what makes you angry has a fear component, such that if you could eliminate or minimize the fear then the anger could resolve before you did something unfortunate.
How can this apply to one’s mortality, much less the Biblical issues with the End Times?
Epiphany! Ah Ha! Here’s the deal! (and any other way you can be enlightened)
When the Bible speaks of the end, what is it saying? End to what? End of whom? What is ending? Times, seasons, ages, periods, etc.
The thing is, truly, what is happening is that something is ending. Over. Done with. And all the wrangling about it doesn’t change the fact. All the anger doesn’t make it different, although whatever was feared is probably done with too!
Because, you see, something comes NEXT. For us Christians, what comes next is wonderful. Amazing. Exciting. Eternal. The so-called ‘end’ is just a segue [seg-wey] to the next! And the next is supernatural. Words can’t really speak about it very well, but ‘after’ the End Times, the Next Time begins, with God Almighty victorious, and with YOU a part of His doings.
Blow the trumpet. Make a joyful noise. Rejoice and be glad, not confused and sorrowful, because Jesus is Lord and He loves you. His ‘what’s next?’ for you is pretty spectacular, and not to be feared, but to be welcomed, because He knows best! The End Times include the end to suffering, to tears, to all sorts of lack. The End Times include the end of the enemy of our souls, by what happens NEXT. Heaven, in fact, is NEXT, which, come on, is pretty cool!
Being ‘insensitive’ is one thing, but being ‘desensitized’ is another thing indeed. Both bring along a host of complications for healthy living, but the latter can be disastrous!
Think for a moment what it means to be desensitized. It includes being ‘not sensitive,’ numb, un-aware, apathetic, dull, paralyzed, and stunned, to name just a few.
Now try to apply some spiritual understanding and recall some Biblical warnings.
There are many more, but you get the idea. God wants us to remain alert and focused on Him! The ‘world,’ we are told, is currently the playground of Satan, and he wants us to reject God and uses Deception as a primary weapon, to desensitize us spiritually!
Why? Because the Devil knows that if we will just focus on ourselves and our own worldly pleasures that he can get us. One of the Devil’s greatest devices to get our focus off of God Almighty is what we think of as ‘wisdom,’ namely, OUR wisdom. You see, if WE think something is right and true, regardless of what God says, then the door is open for every other kind of deception.
As soon as The Bible, God’s Word, is relegated to anything other than absolute TRUTH, we lose our compass! We replace it with our own wisdom and our own idea of truth! Like a fish on a hook we are easily landed into the Devil’s boat! There we lie, flopping around, gasping for air, unable to escape.
How many times have we been numbed to something God would have us pay attention to? How many times have we been paralyzed, unable to respond to His call? How badly has this world dulled our senses … our spiritual senses … to the things God wants for us?
Apathy leads to a slow death. To say “I just don’t care anymore” is really saying “I care about something else more!” The Bible urges us to fan the flames of faith again, and not let the fire of the Holy Spirit die out in our inner man. Once we begin to cool we begin that fall down a slippery slope, with our enemy cheering us on downward!
God’s promises are so much better!
When I was young there was a fascination among some for magic. It was fantastic stuff. Amazing stuff. Church leaders didn’t even teach much against it since most of it was so seemingly harmless. And then the Church came alive to what was happening, and good teaching came out about the evils of the magic arts, the deception therein, and the warnings to leave that stuff alone.
We don’t hear much about magic in these days, but what we do have is a fascination now with Zombies! You see it everywhere. Do you know what a Zombie is, or where it came from?
A zombie (Haitian French: zombi, Haitian Creole: zonbi) is a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Haitian folklore, where a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic.
We now call Zombies “the walking dead”. We make movies about them because we have become desensitized to the whole demonic realm.
The Black Arts have merely re-branded. The Devil just shows up in a different set of clothes, leaving his red suit for this fascination with the un-dead.
Much of what Zombie fascination has to do with, in all the TV and movies and such, is answering the question “How does one become a Zombie?” So, being a bit honest with the viewer, the plot reveals that one doesn’t WANT to become a Zombie, and the way to avoid that … listen carefully … ”conversion”, is to keep running away! As the story unfolds, though, so many become ‘converted’ that they too become Zombies, leading of course to the next episode.
Conversion by association!
1 Cor 15:33 says it so well: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Look at the KJV translation: Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
Deception, you see, is a very crafty game! The enemy doesn’t deceive openly, in the light, but in the dark! When we become dull, apathetic, un-caring, numb, etc., we are being ‘desensitized’ to his ways and weakened to the point of capture! Wake up! Come alive! Rebuke the Devil and focus on your Savior, Jesus Christ! And, for your sake, turn off all that Zombie stuff!
Ok, I realize that’s a bold statement for anyone to make. Suggesting that God actually spoke a thing, directly to a human, may upset some, or at least puzzle them. We can, however, look to the Bible to see if such a ‘word from the Lord’ lines up with Scripture. Knowing that God cannot lie gives us confidence that whatever man has to say about a thing must line up with what God has already said. In those seemingly gray areas that the Bible isn’t clear we can at least discern the Spirit of such a ‘word’.
We are told to ‘test’ such ‘words’, which is exactly the process I spoke above. Is the ‘word’ for me, or just for global society? Does this ‘word’ require anything of me? Is it personal?
So, go ahead, test this ‘word’ using both the Bible and your discernment, but be prepared in case God is speaking! It may be He is speaking to a global audience, but it is also possible, very possible, He is speaking directly to YOU!
During a pretty normal week I was going about my life, living hours of regular stuff, interspersed with moments of sheer wonder! My life is like that. Lots of church stuff, family stuff, some business stuff and too much yard maintenance. I enjoy some daily devotions and prayer, but not enough. I say ‘not enough’ because when I am purposing myself to be ‘spiritual’, God always shows up and blesses me, and then the phone rings or my cell phone beeps at me. These are real ‘wonder killers’. You know what I mean.
Then things began to change. Troubles began to pile up. Not just interruptions, but actual problems began to manifest and demand attention. If busyness happens because I initiate some things, well, that’s kind of ok because I’m thinking I’m in charge. But when things happen outside of my control, messing up my day, causing pain or confusion, well, that’s not ok. After all, I’m a man of education, of experience, of faith! I’m a child of God! I know stuff, and I’m successful, and I don’t like it when things go wrong, or bad, or, especially, painful to me or my loved ones!
So, on this day when my world was being attacked by all sorts of issues, and my ‘normal’ ways of dealing with them were not working very well, meaning that I wasn’t able to stop it all, even by praying a prayer and have it all ‘right’ again, I paused to … ask God for help.
I suppose a lot of our prayers are like this. The history of Israel is certainly proof that when in trouble men call upon God to deliver them from whatever bondage they find themselves in, but when life is good the people quit seeking Him, and, well, stuff happens to draw them back to Him again. Right?
Now, back to that ‘week’ I was having. After a time of verbalizing to God how upset I was, about the stuff upsetting me, I knew it was time to be quiet. (Those of you who know me will no doubt chuckle at that thought, of me being quiet, but it does happen!) I resolved to try, again, to ‘let go and let God’.
The simplicity of this concept is very attractive to me. The best theology I know of is the theology that draws a person to Jesus, so I pondered how to ‘get more of God’. A song goes “More love, more power, more of You in my life…” and certainly speaks to what I was desiring. I know I need more of God’s love, not FOR me but for others FROM me. I definitely want more of God’s power, in my life and in YOUR life! And, of course, I agree with the lyrics and want more of God in my life.
So, that was my simple prayer: “I want more of You, God.”
(Drum roll) Perhaps your prayers are like mine in that they are not immediately answered. But when they are, what then? You see, this is exactly how it happened, and how the Lord spoke this ‘word’ to me, and to this very moment still has me upended, or should I say set aright!
I said: “I want more of You, God.”
And the Lord said to me: “I want more of YOU, Skip.”
That was it. No lecture. No in-depth teaching. Just a simple request BY GOD ALMIGHTY!
I’m sure you can take it from here. You can apply this to your life, or discard it altogether. Either way … God is speaking to you as well, asking each you to respond to His Voice. Why? Because He loves you. Because He listens to you so often asking Him for this or that, and now asks YOU to give to Him!
Go ahead. “Get under the spout where the Glory’s pouring out.” You won’t regret it!