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Archive for February, 2014

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There’s a internal radio station that the world seems to be dialed into: WIIFM, which stands for “What’s In It For Me?” It’s the whole attitude that we don’t do anything except that which benefits ourselves. Unfortunately, that mindset has thoroughly infiltrated the Christian community. People worship in order to get spiritually moved. People pray in order to receive answers. People go to church in order to get “fed.” People turn to God to get blessed.  For many, Christianity is a spiritual “WalMart”; spiritual consumers looking to get their needs met (at the best possible price – in terms of money, time and commitment!).

While it is entirely true that we look to God to meet all our needs, the Lord wants us to move on from being just spiritual consumers. There’s so much more to the abundant life than just “getting.” There is the blessing of “being”, of “becoming” and of “bestowing.”

BEING is the aspect of enjoying who we are in Christ. It is also enjoying the Supreme BEING – God, Himself. There are three aspects of being: understanding, thanksgiving and praising. We understand who we are in Christ through the Word. We remember to thank God for what He has done for us. We reflect and praise God for who He is. It sounds so simple, but are we really taking the time to DO these things? Or are we so worried about “getting mine” that all we have time for are “gimme prayers?” When you come to church or small group, do you come to “get” or to “give”? I guarantee that the Spirit will really flow in our gatherings if we come with the mindset to give a sacrifice of praise and worship to the Lord!

BECOMING is allowing God’s will to be done in our lives. It is allowing Jesus to have the final word in our decision making; even if it goes against our own desires. It is dying to ourselves and living for Christ. Too often we call Jesus “Lord”, but we do not do what He tells us! An indication that you are on the road to BECOMING (instead of getting) is that you are choosing to do God’s will over your own. When was the last time you made a decision based on God’s Word over your own desires? If it was more than a week or two ago, you are probably more dialed into WIIFM than you realize.

BESTOWING is being a blessing to others. It is an attitude that says, “I am God’s vessel; who can I bless today?” It is not seeking to do good to others in order to be recognized (Jesus speaks out against this type of spiritual manipulation in Matthew 7); rather, it is one of those things we do simply because we love God. In fact, the best type of bestowing is done anonymously.

We need to tune into the right station. Move the dial from WIIFM and sing the song of WCIDFY (What can I do for You?)

In what ways do you see “consumerism” and “narcissism” in the Christian church today?

What helps you to get beyond what’s in it for you to “what can I do for you”?

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I had just finished doing my elliptical workout in record time (don’t ask me how slow it was!) As I lay on the ab bench, staring at the gym rafters, I was laboring to find my wind again! How thankful I was for God’s gift of air!! It was then I had one of those “aha” moments about life. “What will I be ‘breathing’ in heaven?” came to my mind. Then the next obvious questions came into being: what will I drink in heaven, what will I eat in heaven? Followed by the logical application question: how can I start exercising eternal life while still in my mortal body?

Here are three simple concepts of how we eat, drink, and breathe eternal life now:

The “air” we breathe in the Kingdom of God is prayer – communication with God. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to “pray without ceasing.” Physically, we breathe without ceasing; the spiritual parallel to breathing is prayer.

The “water” we drink in God’s Kingdom is worship – our praise and thanksgiving to God. Worship allows us to drink of the living waters of Christ. His love and power come to us as we draw near in worship Him.

The “food” we eat in God’s Kingdom is the intaking and following the Word of God. Jesus told Satan, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus also says in John 4, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” Getting the Word of God into our lives is so important, and doing the Word of God is equally as important. Jesus never separates “hearing” and “doing” when it comes to God’s Word.

Prayer, worship, taking in and obeying the Word of God – these are the elements that help nurture our eternal life, NOW. So how are we doing in nurturing eternal life now?

Are we “suffocating”? Dying of “thirst”? “Starving” to death? Or are we spiritually fruitful because we are breathing prayer, drinking through worship, and feasting on God’s Word and God’s will? Hear are a couple of ideas we can get ourselves back to the fundamentals of spiritual living:

Prayer – put the penny in the shoe (every time you feel the penny, you pray). If you eat alone, say a quick prayer in between the bites of your food.

Worship – do you remember the old teen movie, “The Ten Things I Hate About You”? Well, in the opposite spirit write out “The Ten Things I Love About God!’ Listen and sing with a worship CD or mp3.

Word – before you eat breakfast, read a paragraph of Scripture. Write out a favorite verse on an index card and put it on the dash of your car. Memorize it. As you read God’s Word, ask yourself, “How can I apply this to my life?” and then do it.

One day our mortal bodies will cease breathing air, drinking water (or Diet Coke), and eating food. How well will we adjust to the important things that we will be eating, drinking and breathing for eternity? I say, let’s start exercising for eternity NOW. For eternal life does not begin when we die, but it begins when we live for God.

What difference does it make to you knowing eternal life starts now and not when we die physically?

What helps you to exercise eternal life now?

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God’s Buffet

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I love food. Perhaps too much so. And without going too far into the pathology of why I love food so much, I really enjoy a good buffet most of all.

In order to be a “good” buffet, it has to meet three criteria: 1. Have food I love, 2. Have food that’s well prepared, and 3. Have a lot of it – abundance!

That’s why I love going on a cruise: it is basically an ongoing buffet on a boat. Yeah, the entertainment is okay and the scenery is nice; but it’s the food that makes a cruise a cruise for me.

The problem with buffets is that they’re not good for my health. So I rarely ever go to a buffet anymore (sniff!)

But I understand that Heaven will have a buffet! Actually, it’s called a banquet (Songs 2:4) or a feast (Rev 19:9). It’s one of the perks of being in Heaven. My friends and I argue what kind of food will be served in Heaven, like “will there be Tommy Burgers?” (I hope so. For those of you outside of So Cal, Tommy’s makes the best chili burgers in the world.) Or “will Heaven’s buffet be basically a salad bar, because no animals should be killed?” (As much as I can empathize with animals, a “vegan” heaven doesn’t sound like heaven to me – just saying)

One of my whole life worship friends has a different view of God’s buffet. He believes that God’s banquet table is not one of “physical food,” but a buffet of what we really need for fueling “Kingdom life”:

Warming pans piled high with “faith.” Large bowls filled with “truth and grace.” Mounds and mounds of “mercy.” Fountains flowing with “God’s presence.” Carving boards filled with roasts of “spiritual power.” Endless dispensers of “joy.” And, the piece de resistance: a never-ending abundance of “unconditional love.”

Great food, prepared well, and a lot of it!

This is the food that enables us to fulfill the most fulfilling acts we can ever do – the will of God. Jesus gave us a foretaste (no pun intended) of this paradigm in John 4:34 when He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

There have been times (and many of you can relate to this) where I am so caught up in doing what God has called me to do, that actually I forget to eat (and that’s something that rarely happens to me, just ask my wife and close friends). When I am fueled by the Spirit with supernatural love, grace, joy, truth, and the like, a prime rib or cheesecake really isn’t that appealing anymore. Nothings satisfies than the true food from Heaven.

I also like this view of God’s banquet table because it reminds us that such an abundance of spiritual food is available to us now. While Heaven is a reality that will be complete in the future, it is also a reality that is breaking through in the present. And those who worship God with their whole lives are the ones who experience Heaven’s banquet today. We’ve tasted and seen the goodness of Heavenly food.

So as we live our lives for God, do we avail ourselves to the buffet He provides for us? When we need more empowerment, grace, unconditional love, or faith to sustain us in the Christ-led walk, where do we go? Do we simply try to muster up more of our own strength and ingenuity or do we approach God in humility, surrender and dependency?

“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)

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The Real Valentine

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I just got back from the Hallmark Store and was amazed at the variety and sizes of Valentine’s Day cards, gifts and knick-knacks one could purchase for their “loved one.” I began wondering if this whole Valentine’s Day was just another racket that the greeting card industry invented to drum up some business (yeah, they got my $30, too!)

But I remembered that Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with hearts, cupids and little candies that say “Would you be mine?” Valentine (or “Valentinus” as he was known in the 3rd century A.D.) was a real, flesh and blood person. He was a follower of Jesus who lived during the tyrannical reign of Claudius II, emperor of Rome. This emperor hated Christians and made it mandatory for all Roman citizens to worship the twelve Roman gods. He also made it a capital punishment (penalty of death) not only to be a Christian, but to even associate with a Christian.

However, Valentinus’ love for Christ was greater than an emperor’s wrath. He proclaimed Christ freely and boldly. As a result, he was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death.

While he was awaiting his sentencing, Valentinus’ jailer came to him and asked him if he would tutor his daughter, Julia, who was blind since birth. Being a learned man and filled with the love of Christ, Valentinus was happy to help his captor’s daughter. Julia was a quick learner and discovered the world through Valentinus’ eyes – which was the world through Jesus’ eyes.

Inspired by his faith, Julia asked Valentinus, “Does God really hear our prayers?” Valentinus answered, “Of course. He hears every one.” She went on to explain how she asked God every morning to give her sight, so she could see this wonderful world Valentinus told her about. Valentinus told her, “God does what is best for us if we only believe.” She exclaimed intensely, “Oh, I believe!”

At that moment, a brilliant light flooded the prison cell. Julia shouted, “I can see! I can see!” And Valentinus cried, “Praise God!” and worshipped Christ.

On the eve of his execution, Valentinus wrote a letter to Julia, urging her to stay close to Jesus. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” He was then executed on Feb. 14, 270 A.D. Julia planted an pink blossomed almond tree near his grave and carried on the message of Christ’s transforming love to others.

That is what Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s not about getting “twiterpated” or having a romantic evening with your significant other. It’s about love; true love. It’s about love that emboldens a man to not deny truth in the face of death. It’s about love that turns enemies (captors) into friends. It’s about love that heals the blind and transforms the marginalized. No human love has this capability or power. Valentine’s Day is about no other love than God’s love.

So celebrate this day in the spirit of Valentinus and Jesus: forgive your enemy, do a random act of kindness, pray for a hurting person. This is the type of love our world so desperately needs.

What are some ideas you have on showing God’s love to people, beyond our loved ones?

How has someone showed God’s love to you recently?

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No Comparisons

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Back in the late 90’s was this movie called “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.” (Alert: this movie was rated R – primarily for language).  It’s about these two gals who want to impress their peers at their ten-year HS reunion. Apparently, they categorized themselves as part of the “B” group and they felt inadequate to the girls in the “A” group (popular cheerleader types). However, they unknowingly made girls in the “C” group (the nerdy outcast types) feel just as jealous and inadequate as they were of the cheerleaders. Poetic justice comes to this story when the star of the reunion is not the prom queen or the football hero, but a former “C” groupie – a braniac nerd who became a suave multi-millionaire. (BTW – If the Nerd thought resonates with you – as it does with me, let me recommend an outstanding Nerd and spirituality blog is thechristiannerd.com written by my friend and colleague, @scotthiga)

There’s a little of Romy and Michelle in all of us: we get preoccupied with how well we measure up to the standards of this world. Too much time, energy and money are spent in trying to be people we’re not, in order to impress people we don’t like. In turn, we are also guilty of looking down on those who don’t measure up to us; often in ways that make them feel inferior or inadequate.

The key to overcoming the “comparison trap” is knowing who we are in Christ. When we grasp how God looks at us, we don’t need to worry about what other people think. When I realize that God loves me for who I am, that He sees the Christ’s righteousness when He looks at me, and that He has redeemed me to become like Jesus – it really doesn’t matter what others think.

Of course, this understanding is easier said than done. Any of us can say, “God loves me for who I am; and I don’t care what anyone else thinks!” But it is another thing to actually live that out. We exist in a world where, like it or not, we are constantly compared with others and our ability to measure up to human standards of adequacy (whether that be productivity, appearance, wealth, or status). The “comparison game” is insidious; it pops up when we least expect it and before we know it we are sucked into its traps of envy, bitterness, gossip, and self-preoccupation.

I wrestle with this issue more than I would like to admit, but I have found the following to be very helpful to keep me out of this “game” and into the Lord’s business:

1. Focus on what God thinks of you. I do this often as part of my personal worship time. I set God apart as my Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:16). I tell Him (and myself) that my Righteousness comes from Jesus and His shed blood for me; not from my accomplishments or good deeds, not from what others think about me. Letty reads aloud Scripture that talk about her identity in Christ (from Neil Anderson’s Steps To Freedom). Whatever your method, it is important to center on “God’s perspective of you” as a part of your daily routine.

2. When discouraged, get encouraged. I have a file of notes and letters that people have written to me when God used me to bless them. When I feel the “comparison game” coming on, I will read one of those notes to remind me of God’s work through me. Mentoring is also a good way to get honest encouragement. Share your struggles with comparing yourself with others to a trusted mentor or accountability partner. They will help you to get perspective and encouragement.

3. Depopulate your “C” group. There are those we look down upon; not just groups of people, but individuals as well. They are the ones we gossip about or avoid or patronize. We need to see them as God does: people He created, formed and made for His glory – just like you and me. As we lower the population of our “C” group, the desire or need to compare ourselves with the “A” group becomes increasingly less.

Why compare? You are unique and special to the Lord. To Him, you are beyond comparison. Whole Life Worshipers revel in God’s love for them … and to become all that He created us to be!

What things have helped you overcome the comparison trap?

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No Comparisons

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Back in the late 90’s was this movie called “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.” (Alert: this movie was rated R – primarily for language).  It’s about these two gals who want to impress their peers at their ten-year HS reunion. Apparently, they categorized themselves as part of the “B” group and they felt inadequate to the girls in the “A” group (popular cheerleader types). However, they unknowingly made girls in the “C” group (the nerdy outcast types) feel just as jealous and inadequate as they were of the cheerleaders. Poetic justice comes to this story when the star of the reunion is not the prom queen or the football hero, but a former “C” groupie – a braniac nerd who became a suave multi-millionaire. (BTW – If the Nerd thought resonates with you – as it does with me, let me recommend an outstanding Nerd and spirituality blog is thechristiannerd.com written by my friend and colleague, @scotthiga)

There’s a little of Romy and Michelle in all of us: we get preoccupied with how well we measure up to the standards of this world. Too much time, energy and money are spent in trying to be people we’re not, in order to impress people we don’t like. In turn, we are also guilty of looking down on those who don’t measure up to us; often in ways that make them feel inferior or inadequate.

The key to overcoming the “comparison trap” is knowing who we are in Christ. When we grasp how God looks at us, we don’t need to worry about what other people think. When I realize that God loves me for who I am, that He sees the Christ’s righteousness when He looks at me, and that He has redeemed me to become like Jesus – it really doesn’t matter what others think.

Of course, this understanding is easier said than done. Any of us can say, “God loves me for who I am; and I don’t care what anyone else thinks!” But it is another thing to actually live that out. We exist in a world where, like it or not, we are constantly compared with others and our ability to measure up to human standards of adequacy (whether that be productivity, appearance, wealth, or status). The “comparison game” is insidious; it pops up when we least expect it and before we know it we are sucked into its traps of envy, bitterness, gossip, and self-preoccupation.

I wrestle with this issue more than I would like to admit, but I have found the following to be very helpful to keep me out of this “game” and into the Lord’s business:

1. Focus on what God thinks of you. I do this often as part of my personal worship time. I set God apart as my Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:16). I tell Him (and myself) that my Righteousness comes from Jesus and His shed blood for me; not from my accomplishments or good deeds, not from what others think about me. Letty reads aloud Scripture that talk about her identity in Christ (from Neil Anderson’s Steps To Freedom). Whatever your method, it is important to center on “God’s perspective of you” as a part of your daily routine.

2. When discouraged, get encouraged. I have a file of notes and letters that people have written to me when God used me to bless them. When I feel the “comparison game” coming on, I will read one of those notes to remind me of God’s work through me. Mentoring is also a good way to get honest encouragement. Share your struggles with comparing yourself with others to a trusted mentor or accountability partner. They will help you to get perspective and encouragement.

3. Depopulate your “C” group. There are those we look down upon; not just groups of people, but individuals as well. They are the ones we gossip about or avoid or patronize. We need to see them as God does: people He created, formed and made for His glory – just like you and me. As we lower the population of our “C” group, the desire or need to compare ourselves with the “A” group becomes increasingly less.

Why compare? You are unique and special to the Lord. To Him, you are beyond comparison. Whole Life Worshipers revel in God’s love for them … and to become all that He created us to be!

What things have helped you overcome the comparison trap?

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Spiritual Cold Sores

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I have an annoying cold sore. It’s located between the inside and outside part of my nose (I know, too much information).  I feel it when I sleep, bathe, and especially when I blow (or try to blow) my nose. It hurts more than I like to be hurt. It certainly is not excruciating pain, but it’s more than a nuisance.

There are all sorts of analogies I could draw from this experience. I think about the “least members” in the Body of Christ and how, when they aren’t functioning well we all feel it. I think about small, innocuous sins (like a sin can be small or innocuous!) that, when not dealt with, can cause great pain in our lives.

But what came to mind are “spiritual cold sores.” These are those small maladies of the soul that we barely notice at first. Sometimes we don’t even see or feel them. It starts off maybe as a little dullness, going through the motions in spiritual practices, or settling into “the ways of the world.” There might have been a little “irritation” in a relationship, maybe something that didn’t settle well with you. Or it could be a sense of tiredness or fatigue that is not related to some physical symptom.

If these go undetected or “glossed over,” our soul may protest. Like my cold sore, the soul has a way of getting our attention when it is ignored – and sometimes it’s not pretty, like an unprovoked outburst or a dipping depression for no apparent reason or a paralysis that keeps you from getting anything done. Sometimes it leads to a sense of restlessness or a secret sin or an addictive pattern.

Thankfully, there are good remedies to spiritual cold sores. One is to sit with them in the Lord’s presence. As the Psalmist asked, “Why so downcast, O my soul?” (Ps. 42), so we, in the presence of God, ask the question, “What’s going on here?” I often bring things that seem to irritate me to God in Silent Prayer. I don’t judge it or myself (as I used to do), but just leave it before the Lord. More often than not, He resolves the tension within me and leads me down His righteous path.

Another good remedy is spiritual friendship. These are brothers and sisters who walk with us on the journey of Whole Life Worship.  These are mature Christ-followers who don’t try to fix me or judge what I am saying. The listen, they relate, and they ask good questions. Sometimes in the process of getting things out in the open, I find resolution and direction. I am so thankful for my wife and a few really good friends who serve as this for me on a regular basis.

After complaining for a few days about my cold sore on/in my nose (oh, the lamenting that went on – just ask Letty!), I finally put some Neosporin on it. Funny, by morning it was much better and it doesn’t bother me as much.

It’s amazing what can happen when we attend to the little things.

What are some “spiritual cold sores” you have endured?

What has helped you in dealing with them?

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