Maintaining Our Celestial Orbit!

One of the truly great and simple pleasures in life is laying back in a dark meadow on a warm summer night and staring into the heavens. For me gazing at the stars has always filled me with a tremendous sense of awe. Still to this day when I stare into the celestial heavens, I smile in wonderment.  In these special moments, I am instantly drawn closer to God through faith.

In fact, celestial bodies and faith have a great deal in common. With each the vast and endless possibilities often lay beyond our understanding and realm. Yet, both celestial bodies and faith exist in our universe, both have an undeniable gravitational force and you can tell a great deal about both by the orbits and behaviors of what is around them.

Recently, for example, astronomers have postulated that a 9th planet exists in our solar system. (You may recall that poor Pluto has been downgraded in status. Ironically by these same astronomers.) While the suspect planet, Planet X, is large, it’s distance away from earth is so great and the amount of territory to be searched is so vast that it cannot yet be seen with current technology. It’s existence has been theorized not through direct observation of the planet itself, but by observing the behavior of what is around it. Astronomers have noted that the gravitational movements of bodies around Planet X indicate not only that the planet exists, but that it is uncommonly large.

Our faith, much like the existence of Planet X, is often demonstrated by the behaviors of other bodies in our orbit. Often times the truest testament of the existence of our faith is manifested in the actions of those in our circle or orbit. Remember that faith, like celestial bodies, has its own gravitational force. That is to say that our faith has a power of attraction–the bigger the faith, the more powerful the attraction.

As importantly, the power of our faith is often determined in large part by the size of the faith in those around us. When it comes to space, Newton’s law states the gravitational force between two objects is “directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.” Similarly, the size and pull of our faith is directly related to the mass of the faith in the people around us and the distance between us and them.

It is little wonder, then, that in Romans 1 Paul tells us that each of us is to be encouraged by the other’s faith and that the righteousness of God is revealed faith to faith. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul reminds us that we each have a variety of gifts of the same spirit. As a result, the various talents in our orbit collectively help maintain our faith.

In the end, all of us will have moments in time where our faith wanes or when we question God’s purpose in our lives. This is why it’s vitally important to surround ourselves with men and women of faith. Their collective faith will draw us back closer to God and ensure we maintain our celestial orbit!

 

 

 

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Misstepping Into Our Destiny

If you are like me, you have often wondered about God’s plan for your life. The Holy Scriptures tell us our steps are ordered, but at times it is difficult to assess whether we are on any path at all much less the right path according to God. At other times we are obviously on the wrong path and we wonder if we left God or God abandoned us. These missteps and doubts are more common than you think and are a natural part of living our faith. In fact, doubting and misstepping your way into your destiny may even be necessary to achieving your full God-given potential.

God has designed a unique and magnificent destiny for each of us. However, whether or not we will achieve the fullness of that destiny has not been pre-determined. In other words, we are handed Godly inspired and Godly given potential, but our choices will play a large part in determining whether we will live up to that potential.

As we make our way in life, there will inevitably be missteps, setbacks and poor choices. We may begin to question whether God indeed has a plan for us.  The combination of our missteps and doubt may even temporarily or periodically turn us away from God.  Yet, it is important to remember without missteps and doubt there is not an opportunity for God to work in our lives.

We are children of the high most God–a God of restoration and rebirth. Without missteps there is no renewal, without failure no triumph and without sin no salvation. Thanks to grace we never lose our ability to achieve our full destiny regardless of our prior missteps. These missteps help us unlock our character and release our destiny. While we may doubt our choices, we should never doubt our destiny.

The achievement of our potential comes when we decide to push past the missteps in our lives, when we overcome the doubt that comes with life’s uncertainties and turn our lives toward God. In life, we may not always make the right choices or know the reasons why certain things happen, but we must never lose sight of the fact that our full potential in God awaits us even as we misstep into our destiny!

 

(Editors note: This post was originally titled “Stepping Into Your Destiny” and focused more on the questions surrounding predestination. However, I kept coming back to it because I felt it missed the central aim of this site which is to focus on the questions surrounding our daily  walk on the wayward path to God. I hope this version better honors that commitment.)

 

 

The Power of a Blessing!

Today, most likely when we think of a blessing, we think of someone giving us permission to do something–a father’s blessing to marry his daughter comes to mind–or we ask someone to “bless” the food before we eat. Recently, an experience with a small Nigerian boy gave me cause to reflect upon the traditional meaning and role of blessings and as usual with things of God, there is much more than meets the eye.

In biblical times, patriarchs often on their deathbeds would pronounce blessings upon their children. These powerful edicts did not just convey a father’s wish, but more importantly commanded the favor of God. It’s important when reading the Old Testament, not to confuse blessings with birthright. A person’s birthright was their physical inheritance–the land, sheep, cattle, etc. that they would inherit upon the death of their fathers. Their blessing on the other hand, was their spiritual inheritance. The blessing conveyed God’s spiritual wishes and favor upon them.

For this reason, blessings once given could not be reversed. Esau, for example, begged his father Isaac to reverse his blessing on Jacob because Jacob was deceitful, but alas he could not because Isaac was only the conduit for the blessing. The blessing came from God.

As John reminds us the blessing was the Word of God–the same word that made the heavens (Psalms 33:6). As Matthew puts it, it is not us who speaks the Word but the Spirit of the Father. Thus, a blessing in the name of God had real, irreversible power and conveyed spiritual inheritance.

A blessing in this sense is far more than a request for favor. For the person who is to be blessed, the mere asking for a blessing is a tremendous act of faith. It is an acknowledgement of the power in the Word of God and in the person’s ability to serve as a conduit for God. Moreover, a blessing is a request for restoration–an overt request to receive your spiritual inheritance. In short, a blessing in this sense is spiritual dynamite. In the right hands, a blessing has real explosive power, not just to grant permission or convey grace on food but to change lives.

This point was driven home recently by a little boy. Not long ago a friend of mine and tremendous man of God, was invited to preach in London and I was fortunate to accompany him.  The trip was a spiritual and preaching success with my friend preaching three different services on the same day–each with more people and a more raucous reception. I’m sure Britian has not seen a revolution like that since 1776.  As amazing as the spiritual reception was though, it paled in comparison to the experience we had on a London street corner late one night.

Dressed in very casual clothes, we decided to take a late night stroll through a shopping district. On our walk, we happened upon a street musician which we had seen intermittenly during our stay and my friend stopped to talk with the singer. As they were getting acquainted a young boy, whom we would later learn was just 6 years old and from Nigeria, approached me and asked who was the man talking with the musician. I remarked that was my friend from America, but the boy persisted. “But who is he,” he said referring to my friend. I replied that it was my friend, a bishop, that was in London to preach. Immediately, the boy looked up and spread his arms wide and said, “Would he bless me?” I was so floored at the force and faith in the boys request that all I could get out was: “Excuse me?” Undeterred, this 6 year old boy emphatically repeated, “Would he bless me?” My friend came over and not only blessed the boy but one by one, by their request, the entire family. In fact, strangers on the street gathered around because they too wanted blessed.

Three church services and seven hours of fabulous preaching paled in comparison to the spiritual reward in this single act of faith. This boy understood that the simple act of asking a man (or woman) of God to declare favor over his life would in fact not only bring God’s goodness upon him, but would also restore him so that he could receive his spiritual inheritance. This is true the power of a blessing indeed!

 

 

 

Become A Rat Rod For God!

Recently, I went to a classic car show with hundreds of cool cars on display. Evaluating these cars can be tricky because you never know the full history behind the restoration.  Over the years, I have found myself drawn to some neat looking classic car with loads of shiny paint and chrome only to find that upon closer inspection they had tired, worn out engines and transmissions and enough body putty underneath the gloss to make them look good from ten feet away but not any closer. As I walked down the rows of classic autos taking a closer look, I couldn’t help but think how similar our lives are to this experience.

If you are like me, you have found yourself attracted to more than a few shiny things only to find that upon closer examination they weren’t as first presented. This actually shouldn’t be all that surprising given that we are often guilty of this ourselves. How many times do we dress and prop ourselves up so those around us won’t know how much we really need restored.  I can’t help but think how much better off we would be if we dropped the pretense, quit glossing over the flaws and blemishes and let people see us as we truly are.

In the classic car world, this is precisely where rat rods fit in. A rat rod restoration flips the process entirely. Rat rods often don’t look like much at first glance. These classics generally have a rusty, unrestored body. The dents, scrapes and dings of life are there on full display. Yet, while the exterior is rough, generally the stuff that matters–the guts–the engine, transmission, brakes and steering are all reworked and updated.

I love rat rods precisely for this reason. I don’t know about you, but I have been in a few wrecks in my life. I have been in the ditch, across the median and over the shoulder. I have been hit by my share of deer (and dears) in life and have come out with some well deserved dents and scrapes. Yes, I am most definitely a rat rod.

Like classics cars, most of us have been some miles on the highways and byways of life and those miles have left their impact.  That is why people, like cars, need restoration. This is where God comes in–God alone has the ability to restore us mind, body and soul. This process doesn’t happen with the wave of a magic wand, but rather by establishing an on going relationship with God. Over time, our relationship with God allows us to be restored, updated and renewed.

God sees us as we were, as we are and as we will be. There is no reason to hide the blemishes or patch the dents. God works not with shiny paint and chrome, but with the restoration of the Holy Spirit. I am most definitely a rat rod, but thanks to grace, I am a rat rod for God!

Let Your Godly Lumen Shine Through!

I have always been fascinated by light. In fact, my earliest memory is as a toddler pulling myself up the iron bed frame early one morning trying to touch the light coming in the window. Still today, there is something magical about a light.  Shining a spotlight into the night sky, watching the flickering light of a camp fire or leaning my head out the car window to catch the sun always bring a smile to my face.

Perhaps I smile at light not just because of its beauty or warmth, but because I have always associated light with God. The Scriptures certainly bear this association out. In the Old Testament we often see light represented as the power and majesty of God. The third verse of the first book of the Bible makes it clear God created the light and it was good and only after the light came living things. There are numerous passages throughout the Old Testament linking the miracles, magesty and presence of God to light. Stories of Moses and Joshua immediately come to mind.

In the New Testament, we see the light of Jesus associated with the uplifting and redemptive quality of God. Paul asks us as believers in Romans to “put on the armor of light” and in Ephesians to “walk as children of the light.” In the book of John, Jesus says ” I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Scientifically we measure light or luminousity in units called lumen, the Latin word for light. A lumen is the “total amount of visible light emitted by a source,” such as a lightbulb. But, as it turns out, the term lumen also has another meaning. In the biological world, a lumen is the open space in the center of a tubelike structure. The central cavity or hole of a vein, artery or intestine is a lumen.

To me, the lumen is splendid metaphor for the light of God in our lives.  The empty space in our souls is meant to be filled with the light of God. When we begin to allow God into our lives, we are accepting light into our soul. As our relationship with God through Jesus develops, the light intensifies pushing darkness out of our lives. As importantly, we in turn begin to re-emit this Godly or Christian light, shining its positive warmth on those around us. We may not be able to scientifically measure our spiritual luminosity but we can tell the light of God is working through us when we see those around us smile when our Godly lumen hits their faces.

Be God’s Greatest General!

There is a story often attributed to Mark Twain about a man fascinated with military history. When the man dies, he goes to heaven and is excited that now he can fulfill his lifelong curiosity. He asks Saint Peter who was the greatest military general of all time and Peter points to a guy. The man looks at Peter confused and remarks that Peter must be mistaken because he knew the person identified on earth and that guy was a blacksmith. Peter answered that it was true but had he been a general, he would have been the greatest.

Many of us can vividly detail our childhood dreams of the life and career we wanted to live when we grew up. For me it was a life in politics. For others, it was a dream of big house in the country with lots of kids, to start a business, to travel the world or to paint.  For some, our current lives and career paths have come close to or matched our childhood visions, but for others those dreams have long faded away as life has unfolded.

While we frequently can recall our young dreams, when it comes to identifying what God intended for our lives we draw a blank. Like the blacksmith in Twain’s story, in addition to our own aspirations, we each have an innate, God-given potential that we are to fulfill. Sometimes our God-given potential coincides with our childhood dreams and sometimes not. The blacksmith may have been a perfectly competent smith but had he been in tune to God, he would have been the greatest general in history.

The Scriptures are replete with examples where God saw the dormant potential of leaders, followers and entire nations when those same leaders, followers and nations failed to recognize or believe their true calling. God knew before Moses was even born that he had been provided the capacity to be a great leader. From Moses’s perspective, growing up a prince of Egypt, it might have looked like he had achieved his life potential, but God had bigger ideas.  The same can also be said for Peter or the Jewish people for that matter. Peter was a fisherman like his contemporaries but God had other plans. Israel was in bondage for over 400 years, but God had a vision. How different history would be if Moses, Peter or Israel had failed to live up to their God-given potential.

As importantly, Moses, Peter and the tribes of Israel each at times doubted or turned away from God’s vision for their future. Moses hesitated even after the unmistakable signal of God speaking through a burning bush. Peter was both a doubter lacking faith (i.e. walking on the water in Matthew) and the chief denier of Jesus. Yet, Peter overcame each of these divergences from God to be the “rock” upon which Christ’s church was built. The people of Israel turned to false gods and openly rebelled, yet the land was promised and delivered because God had a vision. Likewise, we often turn away from our potential even after we recognize God is moving us in another direction.

There are many reasons why we turn away from God’s vision. Perhaps we fail to recognize the signs or we are afraid of how following God’s path will change our lives. More pointedly, we may have difficulty even comprehending the fact that God has pre-ordained our potential. Yet, the Scriptures are clear on this point. In Psalms 139 speaking of God it is written “your eyes have seen my unformed substance and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 states “that which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.”

In other words, God seeks, accounts for and places value in that which occurs in our lives. In each of us lies a God-given capacity and it’s up to us whether we achieve the ultimate manifestation of that capacity. Like Moses and Peter, like ancient Israel, our potential and glory simultaneously unfold as we put our faith in and turn toward God. Only then, can we unlock God’s vision for our lives and truly be all we can be.

When there is dissonance in our lives, stumbles along our career paths or when our lives are just not living up to our hopes, it may be time to let go of who we thought we would be and grab on to who God knew we could become. After all, you might be a good blacksmith, but God made you the greatest general!

Let God’s Vessel Awaken In You!

One of the most popularly retold stories in the Gospels is Jesus’s calming of the storm on the sea. Undoubtedly, it is a story of vessels, troubled waters and faith. What has always puzzled me about the story is why the Disciples were so scared when Jesus was in the boat. The answer is in the Scriptures which contain important clues to God’s use of vessels and what vessels mean to our own understanding of faith and salvation.

Unlike the Phoenicians and the Egyptians, the ancient Jews were not seafarers. To the people of Israel great bodies of water were thus barriers and,as such, were frequently inextricable with fear, destruction and confinement. The Bible is full of accounts were God’s chosen people prayed for direct intervention to overcome these barriers and God’s answer was most often to provide some vessel for safe passage. In fact, on several occasions God gives very precise instructions on what type of vessel is required for the test ahead.

We see this clearly with Noah and the Great Flood. God is planning to erase the wickedness of man from the earth, but gives Noah an opportunity to construct a vessel that will save Noah’s family and thus mankind. (Notice how specific Noah’s instructions are from God: the ark is to be exactly 300x50x30 cubits and contain 3 distinct levels.) It takes Noah 120 years to complete the ark, but his faithfulness and determination provide the vehicle for mankind to persevere.

Fast forward and once again we see that a vessel, albeit of reeds, is used to save baby Moses. Upon a cursory reading this point may seem trivial, yet as always there is much to it. As we know, Moses becomes the prophet that leads the Israelites out of Egypt and toward the promised lands. (Coincidently perhaps, Moses life and leadership unfolds on three levels or distinct periods of forty years each.) Moses in turn is given instructions by God to have an ark constructed. The Ark of the Covenant literally is designed to carry the word and works of God. Again precise measurements are given for this sacred vessel which would serve as the vehicle for the atonement of sin. It’s not surprising then that the Hebrew word for ark also means coffin–a coffin for sin. Once again God provides the vessel for salvation.

This brings us full circle back to the story of the Disciples. Why were the Disciples were so scared of the storm? After all, Jesus was in the boat and the Disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform miracles and wonders. Their fear, I believe, was rooted in their misplaced trust in the vessel. In choppy seas, the Disciples obviously lost confidence in the vessel, that is the boat, and its ability to carry them through the storm and thus felt trapped and afraid.

More importantly, however, the Disciples had yet come to the critical realization  Jesus was at that time and ever after THE vessel. That is to say Jesus was the new, living ark, the permanent coffin of sin, and the key to their and our salvation. The Disciples didn’t need to awaken Jesus in the vessel–they needed Jesus–the vessel of God–to awaken in them!

Need A Stronger Connection? Start With The Cable!

Recently, I had trouble getting my old truck started. I checked all the usual suspects like being out of gas, having no spark, dead battery, bad starter, etc., but to no avail. After hours of frustration, I did what I usually do in these cases and called someone smarter. Together we ran down the usual checklist again only to discover I had overlooked the most basic component: the battery cables–the first place I should have checked.

Battery cables are essential because they carry the current that is needed to make our cars go. Over time cables can get corroded especially around the terminal, but this is usually easy to spot. In my case, I’d already cleaned the visible corrosion and reattached the existing cables.  What I hadn’t done was to inspect the cable itself. Battery cables consist of many strands of copper wire. Those individual strands become brittle with time and begin to break.  Corrosion can creep down the cable to areas that are not readily visible or are covered by the protective sleeve.

In this instance, the cables were brittle, broken and corroded under the rubber sheath. (There is another analogy here.)  When this occurs, the cables can’t carry the current and overheat causing the car not to start. Moreover, the original cables were undersized meaning the cables only had the bare minimum number of strands necessary to carry the current. Thus any breakage or loss in conductivity created a problem. The solution was quite simple: install a new, larger uncorroded cable with more strands and bigger wire to carry the current.

As it turns out, our relationship with God works like the battery cables. Our relationship once established can grow brittle if not renewed. Over time, life can wear on the wires that tie us to God causing them to corrode and break. When this occurs, we often find ourselves crying out to God for more revelation and power and we get frustrated and overheat when it doesn’t come. As you can imagine, the power of God comes with lots of current. It takes a healthy cable with many strands to carry the power. If God sent all the power we needed at once it wouldn’t be received because our cables or connection wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it.

Much like a battery, we can increase our connection to God by increasing the size of our cable and adding strands. In the spiritual realm we do this by increasing our communion with God.  Communion according to one definition is “the sharing or exchange of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” Prayer, reflection, church attendance, acts of Christ are all examples of communion with God. As we increase the quality and frequency with which we connect to God, we in turn increase the capacity to receive God’s power and revelation.

Need more Godly power in your life? Replace worn and broken cables and you’ll have a fresh new start!

Let Go Of The Reins!

There is a dramatic opening scene in the academy award winning movie “Dances With Wolves” that has always left an indelible impression on me. The main character played by Kevin Costner has lost his will to fight during a bloody civil war battle. He mounts his horse and rides across the battlefield directly in front of the Confederate lines, daring them to take his life. In doing so, amidst the hail of shots, in full gallop he drops the bridle reigns (purposeful switch), tilts his head back and opens his arms to the heavens as if to say, “This is it. I have no control and I am ready!.”

If you have ever ridden a horse, you know it takes a great deal of confidence or a complete lack of regard for your life to drop the reins in a wide open environment and let the horse go wherever it wants at a full gallop. Most riders stay in firm control of the reins at all times because that’s the instrument whereby you guide the movement of the horse.  It takes years of practice to learn how to effectively control a horse with reins to get the result you want and once you have it, you certainly don’t want to let go!

This incredible scene has stayed with me because I see the parallels to my own life in terms of control. If you are like me, you have spent years trying to corral the reins of your life–countless amounts of energy spent trying to get a grasp on all the little variables and details of life so we might exercise some control over the direction. Over time, we convince ourselves that we have taken ahold of the reins in such a way that we are in firm control. Then, when life takes a sudden unexpected turn, we find ourselves violently thrown to the ground, lying there covered in dirt wondering how could we get thrown so badly when we were in control.

If this sounds familiar, then it’s important to remember the only way to truly get in control of our lives is to drop the reins and ride with God. Psalms 46:10 tells us to “cease striving and know that I am God.” In other words, we have to give up control over the reins in our life and accept God’s will. We do this not in futility, but in full acceptance and faith that God’s control over our lives will guide us farther and better than that which we can do on our own. Proverbs tell us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge God, and God will make your paths straight.”

If you have seen the movie you know that the main character’s surrender of control is the key to his salvation. The same is true for us. All things are possible when we let go of the reins and accept God’s reign!

Are You Drinking From The Cistern Or The Eternal Spring?

When I was a kid one of my least favorite jobs was cleaning out the cistern. For those of you too young to remember what a cistern was like, it is a hole in the ground, lined in concrete that catches the rainwater off the roof. The water is then pumped into the house for drinking water.

Once a year my grandfather and dad would lower me into the cistern with a porcelain bucket and a ladle on a board fixed to a rope. I’d scoop up anything that had fallen or was washed into the cistern over the previous year: leaves, sticks, bugs, frogs, lizards and the occasional dead bird. It was creepy enough to be lowered several feet down in the cold, dimly lit pit of water but that unsettling feeling compounded as soon as the realization sunk in that all this debris was in the water we had been drinking!

For my grandparents, a cistern was an improvement over the old days of a dirt well or creek water on which their parents relied. Until they finally got a well in the early 1980’s they didn’t know how much better the water could get. I was recently reminded of this memory, one I likely purged, when re-reading the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.

You will recall that Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink which was in and of itself unusual because Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans for a variety of reasons including the fact the Samaritans built a temple to rival Jerusalem’s claim as the true house of God. The puzzled woman began questioning Jesus as he remarked that she should instead be asking for living water. The Samaritan woman reminds Jesus the well was dug by none other than “our father Jacob” who “drank of it himself.” Jesus replies that the water from the well of her ancestors will not quench her thirst but the water He offers brings eternal life.

Like the cistern of my grandparents, the waters were good enough for the Samaritan’s ancestors and thus sufficed for her. I wonder how many of us are or have been like the Samaritan woman, getting by drinking only from the debris-filled cisterns of the lives we know. How many of us keep returning to the same generational wells of our parents and grandparents? Are you still drinking from the well of poverty, abuse, divorce, poor decisions and bad habits? It’s a place I have known well over the years.

The Samaritan woman, like many of us, didn’t realize Jesus was offering her something new and refreshing to not only satisfy her thirst but to rejuvenate her soul. The well of which Jesus speaks is not tied to place (and thus setting aside ancient differences) but to Spirit. Therefore, we don’t have to return to the well of our parents or our past. We don’t have to drink water filtered with the debris of our life up till now.  Let’s cap the cisterns once and for all and drink freely from the eternal spring!