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Archive for March, 2013

Spiritual Coolant

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The weather on the West coast is crazy! Even though it is still winter, the temperatures are pushing into the 90’s. It reminds me of the days of summer, where temps really soar around here and our cars run hot. Sometimes I have to add more coolant to some of my older cars when I see the temperature gauge creeping toward the “H.” I’ve learned the hard way what happens when you don’t attend to a hot-running car – it breaks down (and becomes a money pit!)

Likewise, from time to time our emotions get hot and our tempers flare. If we don’t watch it, we end up saying or doing things that we end up regretting. And then we wrestle with guilt because we know that, as Christians, the devil got the best of us – and we hate it when that happens!

Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

When our anger reaches an emotional level, it is almost too late to do anything about it. It is like a radiator that is boiling over. The only thing you can do is pull over, stop the “engine” and wait for it to cool down. However, we can do “preventative maintenance” on our emotional cooling system by adding “spiritual coolant” to our beings. Here are three Biblical tips to help be cool:

1. Be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our spiritual coolant. He is also our spiritual counselor, empowerer, cleanser and encourager. To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to yield to the Holy Spirit. It means placing God in charge of your life. God will not take charge of your life; you must willingly and deliberately give Him control. It means asking the Holy Spirit to fill you each day (see Tuesday’s blog and some of the great comments by fellow readers); perhaps several times a day. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you start bearing His fruit – including gentleness and self-control; which can keep your temper under control.

2. Regularly gauge your temper. If you know that your inner temper is rising, you can take preventative measures to deal with it. Your temper is affected by many different factors. Remember the “HALT” acronym, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired (see the blog for 3/12/13). When I get a little edgy, I check my gauges: maybe I need a little snack or a little nap or a call a good friend. Often when I take care of the HL&T, I will be in better shape to deal with my A(nger).

3. Remind yourself who you are and Who is in control. You are a child of God. You are a follower of Jesus. You are dearly loved by the Lord of the Universe! And you are not in control. The Lord, alone, is in control. And that means your circumstances and situations. Although this is a good tool to use in an emergency – when you are in the “heat” of boiling over, it works best when we apply this as a daily spiritual discipline – in a PROACTIVE way. In your devotional time, remind yourself who you are and Who is in control. During a coffee break or lunch break, pause and pray: “Jesus I belong to You, and You are in control.” The more you do it, the more spiritual coolant will enter your life. And when the devil wants to throw an “angry” your way, it won’t affect you because you are resting on the bottom line: God is in control of your situation.

A little warning: some of you may have deep-seated anger issues, stemming from deep wounds. If you regularly wrestle with angry emotions, if little things tick you off on a regular basis, if the above recommendations do not help your anger, you may need some deep healing from the Lord through a trained spiritual and/or professional mentor.

Whole Life Worshipers stay spiritually cool in the heat of life!

What spiritual principles help you to stay cool in the heat of life?

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Golden-Rule1

Jesus gave us some great gems of teaching in His Sermon on the Mount. One of these well known nuggets is what we know as the Golden Rule. It goes like this:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:12)

This Golden Rule reminds us to give out grace to others. I want to pass on to you a prayer that I received from my friend, Cheryl. It talks about this great application of the Golden Rule.

“Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and was rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19 year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really out to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they will go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts to just to those who are close to us but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judgment and quick to forgiveness and patience and empathy and love.

Help us to live by the Golden Rule and to love with all our hearts (as You have loved us). Amen.”

As the Lord has shown us grace and mercy, let us pass it on to others! Let’s be a funnel of His love to the world. It’s what Whole Life Worship is all about!

What are your thoughts and applications of the Golden Rule?

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What Are You Full Of?

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Have you ever thought about the Early Church in the book of Acts? One of the things that constantly amaze me about the 1st Century Church is the boldness, depth of character and power this early Christian community exemplified. They were willing to sell their possessions to help others in need, they prayed for more boldness to proclaim Jesus in the face of persecution, and they saw the demonstration of God’s power in their midst (healings, miracles, and even  … judgment). In Acts 7 it’s hard not to marvel at the extraordinary boldness, confidence, peace and compassion Stephen had – even as he was being slammed with stones! It’s easy to wonder: why don’t we see this in the American church of the 21st Century? Let’s take it one step further and make it uncomfortably personal: “Why don’t I see this boldness, compassion and power in my life?”

I believe the key difference between the dynamic church of the 1st century and the relatively weak church of our time can be found in the simple phrase that we see many times in Acts: “full of the Holy Spirit.” The apostles, leaders and followers of Jesus in that early community of faith were “full of the Holy Spirit.”

While I believe, theologically, all followers of Christ have the Holy Spirit, I would speculate that not very many are actually full of the Holy Spirit. And that, I believe, is one of the main differences between them and us.

Another obstacle for us is a contemporary misconception of what it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” For some, that phrase conjures up images of people swooning in a worship service or speaking in an unintelligible utterance or feeling that “mountain top experience.” And while I think these describe some of the manifestations of the Spirit in believers, I don’t think this defines what being full of the Holy Spirit is. I think it has more to do with “how we live” than “what we experience.”

“Being full of the Holy Spirit” means that God is given total control of our lives: where we go, what we do, and how we respond to Him. Most of the time, this could feel rather mundane, if not antagonistic – because it goes against the grain of our human nature. Although we can experience tremendous joy and peace as we do the will of God under His control, the focus of being Spirit filled is not on how high our emotional gauge is.

I think the reason we do not see 1st Century power and impact in our time is that, though we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are probably too full of ourselves. We want God’s will and our personal comfort, agenda, prosperity, safety, and selfish desires. One cannot be full of the Holy Spirit and full of ourselves at the same time. And yet, do we expect miracles, power and revival from lives that barely give God a couple hours a week, a few “bless me” prayers, and “what’s in it for me?” worship.

As one who is admittedly probably not 100% of the Spirit” Christian, I have a couple of Biblical concepts that might help us become more full of the Spirit and less full of ourselves:

1. We must die to ourselves. The only way to get more of the Spirit is to start emptying ourselves. Dying to ourselves means surrendering how we do things, letting go of pride and control, releasing our agenda, plans and hopes. Jesus said that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it will never bear the fruit it was meant to have.

2. Seek first God’s Kingdom. If you gave your life to Jesus, that means He is King (and you’re not). We don’t seek our way anymore; we seek to do the will of God. We don’t worry about the little things (provision, safety, fears) because our Jesus will take care of us.

What are some thoughts that you have to help us to become more full of the Spirit? I welcome your input!

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I come from a family of pharmacists. My dad and uncle were pharmacists, as are my brother, sister, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. Back in my HS years, I used to work in my dad’s drug store, mostly receiving the shipments and making sure the shelves were well stocked with merchandise. A large part of our inventory was devoted to what we called “OTC”. These were over-the-counter drugs; medicines people can buy without a prescription. These included cough syrup, aspirin, cold capsules, antacids, eye drops and the like. We sold a lot of OTC products. What is funny is that, as a family of pharmacists, we never kept very much of the OTC stuff in our personal medicine cabinets.

Dad told me the reason for this was that: OTC drugs may take care of the symptoms, but they really don’t take care of the problem. OTC medicines make you feel better, but they don’t make you better. In fact, people who use OTC’s too much run the danger of ignoring the larger issues by focusing on taking care of the symptoms. A person with an ulcer can delay needed treatment because he appeases the symptoms with large doses of Pepto Bismol.

As a pastor I see in many Christians an alarming trend towards “Over The Counter” Christianity. This is characterized by the following:

1. Focusing on the symptoms (what is wrong with life around me?), but ignoring the issues (what is wrong with life within me?)

2. Wanting the quick fix (inspirational worship, Christian seminars, profound sermons) rather than pursuing the cure (personal prayer, Scripture intake and meditation, spiritual mentoring).

3. A “Me-first” mentality (faith to make my life better) versus a “Love Others” mentality (faith to make other people’s lives better).

4. Emotion, instead of Devotion. Obligation, instead of Obedience. Religion, instead of Relationship… (you get the picture)

I don’t have enough space to deal with each of these topics; let’s start with #1 and see if we can get to the others in the future.

When life gets hard we have a tendency to blame the things outside of us (people, situations, demons, etc.) But this is contrary to what Jesus taught. He instructed us to “take the beam out of our own eyes” before attempting splinter removal in others. We need to confess before we blame.

David says: “Search my heart, O God .. See if there is any offensive way in me.” (Ps. 139: 23-24)

James says: “Confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:17)

Confession is one of those lost disciplines in the Christian church, but it is badly needed in today’s OTC world. Confession roots out the cause of poor spiritual health. It requires ruthless honesty and intense humility, in an atmosphere of safety and trust. But Dr. Jesus will use it to set you free.

I encourage you to take time today to allow God to search your heart. Start an accountability group with a trusted Christian friend to get things out in the open. (If you need help with this, feel free to contact me – I have materials and ideas that can help get you started).

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moonlight

I confess. This is not an original thought. I got the gist of this from Joni Earekson Tada’s (@joniandfriends) radio show. But it’s too good not to share it with you!

When the autumn season comes, I encourage you to take some time to look at the moon – particularly a full, harvest moon. It is rather an awesome sight to see this huge orange orb dominate the evening sky. And when you see the moon, praise God that you are just like that moon.

The moon has no light of its own. Left to itself, the moon is a dark, lifeless rock floating in space. But the moon is a good reflector. As long as it is facing the Sun, the moon becomes glorious – the crowning, shining gem in the midst of darkness. And it is interesting to note that the side of the moon that faces the sun is a thousand degrees warmer than the dark side!

Isn’t that like you and me? We have no light of our own. Left to ourselves, we are dark and lifeless – without hope in a cold universe. But the light of the Son shined on us, and as long as we are facing Him we shine. We reflect His glory for others to see. And as we face the Son, we bask in the warmth of His love, mercy and grace.

The only time when the moon does not shine is when the Sun’s rays are blocked by the earth. Isn’t that true for us as well? When the things of the world get between us and Jesus, our light begins to diminish and our glory fades immediately. We fall into dullness and, eventually, darkness because we have been cut off from our source of light.

So the way to stay bright and warm is to keep facing the Son. John 1:4 says: In Him was life and that life was the light of men.

Which is why Personal Worship times with Jesus are so important. We let busy-ness, our amusements and the false importance of the worldly things “eclipse” our times with Jesus. Think about it: what is keeping me from spending 30 minutes each day with Jesus (in personal worship, prayer and Scripture reflection) – who is the source of my light and life?

Which is why living our Everyday Ordinary with Jesus is important. The Bible talks about “walking in the Light”, not just having an occasional encounter Light. Walking with Jesus means bringing Him into our workplace, our schools, our comings and goings (even in freeway traffic!) It means allowing Him to influence our decision making, our speech, our actions.

Which is why spiritual friendships with Jesus-followers are important. An important source of Son-light happens when the “moons” get together and share Jesus with one another. That is why Jesus said wherever two or more are gathered in His name – His presence is there!

One last thought: that there are stars which emit their own light, are more numerous and millions of times larger than the moon in the night darkness. But the moon is more visible and glorious to those on this planet than the stars. Why? It’s because the moon is closer to the earth than the stars. In the same way, we are the closest representation of Jesus to some people in this dark world. People will see Jesus through us, but only if we let our light shine. Too often we let the clouds of fear and embarrassment cover our light. We often hope that some other “star” might come and shine their light into the lives that Jesus has brought us close to. But YOU are the light of the world to these people. Don’t hide it, but ask the Son to shine even more brightly through you!

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Have you noticed how much the Bible talks about the “one another’s”? We are called to love one another unconditionally, to bear one another’s burdens, to encourage one another in following Christ and to teach one another the ways of the Lord. The “one another’s” are not just “ideals” we should think about; they are commands that are central to the Kingdom of God. If we are not living out the “one another’s” (regardless of the reason), we are disobeying the Lord’s desires and wishes.

One of the reasons why our Lord Jesus stresses the “one another’s” is because it is the best way for us to grow spiritually. We can never grow in the faith by being a “Lone Ranger Christian”; we grow only when we are in intimate community with one another. This does not mean that we are intimate with every one in the Body of Christ. This does mean that we should have significant relationships with other Christians that empower our spiritual lives. Unfortunately, most Christians try to find their spiritual empowerment at a distance – by listening to a weekly sermon; one-way communication that is “hit or miss” in its approach to meeting spiritual needs.

I feel that the most effective way to grow spiritually is to have a good Christian mentor. A mentor is someone who is a little more mature in their faith. A mentor is a person who meets with you regularly to help you grow in your faith. A mentor is someone who helps you with life and spiritual issues; someone you can call on when you need some advice.

I attribute most of my spiritual growth to a myriad of mentors who have helped me, trained me, encouraged me, and sponsored me throughout my life as a Christian. I don’t see how I could have survived without them! I am equally amazed at how many Christians I run into who have never had a spiritual mentor!

Mentoring is seen throughout the Scriptures: Elijah and Elisha, Samuel and David, Jesus and Peter, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy, Timothy and Epaphras. Mentoring is the primary way that faith gets passed on. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:2 –

“What you have heard from me, in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who can teach others.

In that verse we see the multiplication of mentoring. Not only are we to be mentored, we need to be mentoring others. Bobby Clinton (no relation to Bill), one of the world’s experts on Christian leadership, says that effective Christians (the ones who finish well) are those who have three types of mentoring relationships:

  1. Upper Mentors – those who are a few steps ahead of me, who help me
  2. Mentorees – those who are a few steps behind me, whom I help
  3. Lateral Mentors – those who are where I am; we mutually encourage each other

Do you have a mentor? Are you mentoring someone? Do you have a lateral mentor? Start with where you are, the people you know, the people who are part of your church community. The best way to get a mentor is simply to … ask. Tap into the power of the “one anothers” and find an “other” in the Body of Christ to partner with you on the journey of Whole Life Worship.

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Purell_Hand_Sanitizer_Dispenser

One of the values we hold dear in Whole Life Worship is the transformation. We believe that Christ not only came to bring us eternal life, but abundant life, as well. This abundant life occurs as we are changed or transformed by the power of Christ through His Spirit who dwells within us. The theological word used to describe this process is “sanctification;” that is, to become holy or Christ-like in character. Sanctification allows the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, etc.)  to be genuinely demonstrated through our lives.

Now, if this were true, why do so many Christians struggle with transformation? Why are these Christ-like character qualities lacking in people who bear His name? Why does it seem that many Christians are just as worldly, just as impatient, just as worrisome as anyone else?

The answer is not easy, but I believe one reason why we don’t see more “fruit of the Spirit” coming from Christians is that many choose the path of “sanitization” over “sanctification.”

Sanitization is fake sanctification; it substitutes true transformation with “image orientation.” Sanitization makes a person look good on the outside (through religious acts and behavioral management) but leaves them still putrid and foul on the inside. Jesus identified “sanitization” in the Pharisees when He called them “white-washed tombs” (Matt. 25:27).

Sanitization is kind of like make-up: it is convenient, hides a multitude of sins and comes off with soap and water (once you are out of the public eye.) With sanitization, you don’t have to hassle with confession or denying yourself or taking responsibility for your own actions or relying on the power of the cross. Sanitization is easy – it’s so much easier to act “nice” than it is to be good. It’s easier to act out “modesty”, than to travel the path of true humility. It’s easier to keep busy with church activities, than it is to meet with Jesus regularly in your quiet place. And it’s far easier to put a WWJD sticker on our car than to actually drive like Jesus would! (ouch!)

But sanitization is not real. It shrivels up under pressure. It is a “house of cards”; a façade. Jesus talked about this in Matt. 7:24-27. The house built on the rock (hearing Jesus’ words and doing them) is the process of sanctification. The house built on sand (hearing Jesus’ words, but not doing them) is sanitization.

How do we choose the path of sanctification over sanitization? That is a topic that would take far more space than I have left. But here are some principles to ponder:

  1. Get rid of our spiritual make-up kit; it didn’t make us look that good anyway!
  2. Understand our faults, our areas of character growth. Ask Jesus to reveal them
  3. See our trials as God’s way of answering point #2!
  4. Ask for God’s grace and then rely upon it.
  5. Obey the leading of the Spirit

Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy. Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin deep within (“Refiner’s Fire” by Brian Doerksen)

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