Want What You’ve Got

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“Thou shalt not covet.”

For today’s woman, there is plenty to wrestle with when it comes to applying the wisdom of the Tenth Commandment to everyday living. Teacher and retreat leader Brita Hammit invites readers on a 30-day devotional journey toward embracing what we’ve got – which is everything! – in Christ.

Start the adventure – get your copy on Amazon today!

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Low-Hanging Fruit L4L.04

The WORDYoung man harvesting plums

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4 (New Living Translation)

You know the drill – let’s read it again.

“Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: ‘Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.’ Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: ‘It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.’” Matthew 4:1-4 (The Message)

This season of Lent, forty days long (not counting Sundays), is a reflection of the forty days of preparation Jesus spent in the desert prior to being tested by God’s enemy. Before He even began His ministry, Jesus set Himself apart from outside influences, perhaps because He knew that His best shot against Satan would be a steady stream of God’s influence, untainted by the comforts and conveniences of the world.

By resisting the physical need to eat, Jesus was feeding His spiritual hunger at an all-you-can-eat buffet of Scriptural truth at the table of God. Truth that not only came in handy, but won the battle with evil, propelling Jesus into a whirlwind ministry of teaching and preaching that ultimately changed the world.

Jesus was starvingcan you imagine going forty days without eating? – and yet He was able to resist the low-hanging fruit of the tempter when it was offered to Him. It’s no accident that this scene unfolds at the start of His ministry, as it is in perfect parallel to the temptation of God’s first people as they stood, naked, in front of that tree in the Garden.

Low-hanging fruit is always the enemy’s Plan A. And it’s no wonder, since we (like Adam and Eve) are always so eager to take a bite.

The APP

What’s so appealing about the low-hanging fruit of the enemy, and why are we such easy targets?

Low-hanging fruit feeds our physical appetites. Just as Satan tempted Jesus to give in to His hunger, we are tempted every day to settle for the fruit we can easily reach.

Fruit we don’t have to work hard to obtain.

Fruit that is readily available.

Fruit that is temporarily satisfying.

Our appetites will always lead us into temptation, just as Adam and Eve were drawn to the fruit of the one tree in the Garden that wasn’t theirs; but we don’t have to partake.

We’re easy targets because we aren’t prepared. Jesus – Son of God, Messiah, Lord – spent forty days preparing for Satan’s testing. By denying Himself in the physical realm, Jesus was freed up to be strengthened in the spiritual realm and consequently was ready for battle when Satan appeared on the scene.

We fall to temptation again and again because we fail to take seriously our times of preparation. As long as we are satisfied with dabbling in the Word of God, we will never be satisfied with the hard-to-reach fruit of the Spirit.

If, as Jesus said, “It takes more than bread to stay alive,” then you and I must hunger for that steady stream of God’s Word if we are to allow low-hanging fruit to dangle while we stretch and reach and climb to obtain the fruit that will last.

For you, today, this may mean a fast. A day, a week, or perhaps forty days of refusing to give in to the easily-met desires of the flesh. Often we choose to give up something that is tempting to us as a token offered to the season of Lent; this is not what I’m talking about today.

What you and I most desperately need is to set ourselves apart for the purpose of being prepared – not preparing ourselves, mind you, but dedicating ourselves to being open to the preparation God provides us through His Word.

Until we take Jesus’ words to the enemy literally and choose to draw our very sustenance and spiritual nutrition from God’s Word, we cannot walk the path that Jesus walked. We cannot follow Him.

This is how Jesus’ walk began: with preparation, with temptation, with victory.

In that order.

May it be so for us today.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Pray Like This… L4L.29

The WORDMaria_Magdalene_praying

“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (New Living Translation)

Such familiar words deserve yet another hearing…

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.’” (Good News Translation)

This prayer and these words, for some of us, are so routine that we haven’t actually heard them in a very, very long time. Here’s one more opportunity to receive afresh this lesson on prayer from our Lord:

“With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best – as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” (The Message)

Many a prayer formula has been devised using this teaching moment of Jesus. I get the feeling – don’t you? – that formulas weren’t exactly what He was going for as He said this prayer out loud.

The APP

Praise!

Desire for His presence!

Longing for His will to be made known and put on display!

Our physical hunger – quenched.

Our shortcomings and failures – forgiven.

The ability to give grace to others – desperately needed.

Minimize our mistakes (please).

Protection and rescue. Protection and rescue. Protection and rescue!

There it is, Lord. Yes!

Jesus’ most specific teaching on prayer is not only simple, but specific. Nothing fancy. No guesswork here.

To be literal with Jesus’ prayer is something most of us are used to doing – word for word – so the APP for today isn’t necessarily what you might expect…

Instead of rattling off some words that don’t require you to think as you speak, adopt a new and different version of the Lord’s Prayer for Holy Week. Use one of those provided above, or better yet – write your own. There is something soothing and beautiful about familiar words, but there is something powerful and stirring about looking at the familiar from a different point of view.

I would love to hear your version – your personal Holy Week prayer.

Use the comment space below!

Here’s a daily prayer, written by John Eldredge, that utilizes scripture and serves up a powerful opportunity for connecting with our Father. Check it out!

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Street Corner Dance-Off L4L.26

a human directional holding a sign for Cingular

The WORD

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6 (Good News Translation)

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (New Living Translation)

The slightly disturbing cultural phenomenon of human billboards runs rampant in my town. Each day as I make the trek from home to work and school, I pass at least one person on the side of the road, holding up a sign for a local business. The sight is so commonplace that I hardly even notice them anymore, but there was this one day…

I could see him in the distance – the male Statue of Liberty – waving at passing cars and holding up his ‘tax time’ sign. Nothing new – he’s been there since February. I drove past as I normally do, probably grinning at him ever so slightly, feeling badly as he stood there in the not-yet-springtime chill.

Twenty minutes later, on my way back home, I approached the same area and noticed another human billboard on the opposite side of the road. This one was directly across from the torch-bearing guy in the green dress, only he wasn’t exactly costumed. His sign was propped up next to him and he had a Michael Jackson-esque hat on his head, sunglasses on his face, and headphones on his ears. He wasn’t dressed for the weather, but this isn’t what made him stand out. In an effort to attract more attention than his counterpart across the street, this guy was singing at the top of his lungs (I could hear him as I drove by, windows rolled up) and dancing as if to save his life.

I looked over to the Statue as I drove past. No longer was he waving benignly at the disinterested drivers – now HE was dancing his stately heart out and looking directly at the rockstar across the road. It was a competition now – a street corner dance-off!

I laughed out loud all the way home.

The APP

Jesus knew that even in the church, people like to put on a show. You can act surprised, but I know you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen the spiritual version of the street corner dance-off take place in God’s house, drawing attention to the outwardly pious at the risk of bringing glory and praise to people rather than to our Father.

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this text points out that Jesus teaches us to pay attention to at least three things when we think about how we pray:

  • Place
  • Posture
  • Pride

The hypocrites Jesus refers to here have chosen the street corner for their prayer demonstrations. Maximum exposure for maximum recognition. While this may be the best course of action for drumming up business during a slow season, Jesus makes it very clear that God isn’t impressed with human billboards when it comes to prayer. The second glance these showmen get from passers-by is their pay-off. God Himself is going to drive right on by.

Standing is, of course, a legitimate and acceptable posture of prayer – was for Jesus, is for us today. What Jesus notices, though, about these public pray-ers is that their posture conveys a sort of self-importance and ill-placed confidence in themselves rather than the reverent humility which is becoming of a follower of God. Yes – we can stand as we address our Father in prayer. We can also kneel. We can bow. We can even pray with eyes wide open and mouth closed shut while walking down the street.

If the point of prayer is to connect our hearts with God’s, we would do well to be mindful of what our posture communicates to GOD as we address Him through our prayers.

Jesus knows that there are times when what we do for Him and His Kingdom will be visible to the people in the world around us. Is He saying we shouldn’t pray in public? No. But what Jesus is saying is that our public prayers ought to be a reflection of our private life of prayer with God. When our roots of relationship with the Father run deep, there is no need or desire to trivialize the holy by making a spectacle of our words and actions. To pray publicly in the context of Christian community is one thing, but to love doing it is something else altogether.

As Matthew Henry says, ‘they love to pray there. They did not love prayer for its own sake, but they loved it when it gave them an opportunity of making themselves noticed.’ And being noticed for their prayers led to pesky issues of pride in these street corner performers of Jesus’ day.

Think costumed, sign-bearing, dancing roadside billboards…

And run away.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

the big IF L4L.25

SIN EDITAR

SIN EDITAR (Photo credit: angel almanzo grupo 52)

The Word

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” John 5:24 (New Living Translation)

“It’s urgent that you listen carefully  to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.” (The Message)

I sat beside a dear friend today at Bible study and listened as she entertained the big IF.

You know it. You’ve heard it before. You may have even spoken it aloud, like my friend has, more than once. The big IF doesn’t discriminate based on denomination or age or the number of church activities you participate in. It doesn’t take into account how many times you’ve read through the Bible from cover to cover. It doesn’t care how many scripture verses you know by heart.

No, the big IF makes itself available to everyone who has ever doubted that what they’ve said and done can be forgiven by a just and righteous God.

The big IF, despite its many variations, usually sounds something like this:

IF I go to heaven when I die.”

The App

If ever there was a time to take Jesus literally, that time is today and these are those words.

Salvation is not a crap shoot and heaven is no lottery jackpot, yet we continue to play the game (if you were to die tonight – as the age-old evangelism hook goes – would you go to heaven?).

With words as clear and firm as these, spoken by Jesus, why in the world do people still sit in our pews and around the tables in our fellowship halls, allowing for the big IF? Don’t they know that Jesus came, not to condemn them, but to love and save them from their sinful selves? Don’t the spiritual leaders in their midst speak this truth – Jesus’ own words – over them in their shame-filled, doubt-ridden existence?

Whose responsibility is it to point out to those who listen to Jesus’ teachings and believe in the one, true God that eternal life is theirs ALREADY? There really is no excuse, church (shame on us!) for allowing the big IF to infiltrate the ranks of the redeemed. Every day that the great deceiver is allowed to taunt our brothers and sisters by dangling heaven in front of their imperfect lives is a day that the Body of Christ is caught taking a nap on the sofa. It’s time to wake up and crush the enemy, people. It’s time to get literal with the big IF.

If you listen to Jesus’ message,

If you believe in the God Who sent His Son to live among us AS one of us,

YOU WILL NEVER BE CONDEMNED FOR YOUR SINS!

YOU HAVE ALREADY PASSED FROM DEATH INTO LIFE!

There is no IF I go to heaven about it, because your open heart and belief in God have already marked your entrance into eternity.

If we aren’t sure that God is saving a place for us in heaven, the problem isn’t that we haven’t done enough or said enough or jumped through the proper hoops in the prescribed order… the problem is that we aren’t taking Jesus seriously.

If we live our lives in a state of perpetual timidity, tentative and failing to embrace our Kingdom standing, how then can our lives bear the fruit they were designed to produce?

Believe the words of Jesus!

Align yourself with God!

Take a giant step away from the big IF and into the land of the living!

It’s high time we stop tip-toeing around the big IF and instead choose to live boldly into the reality of our eternal life, armed with nothing less than the assurances of Jesus Himself.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

Kingdom Vision

zeke

Image by goto10 via Flickr

The WORD

“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:27 (New International Version)

“I tell you the truth, some people standing here will see the kingdom of God before they die.” (New Century Version)

“Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.” (The Message)

These words of Jesus have proven for many to be a great stumblingblock to belief in God. Our initial response to this definitive statement is that it simply isn’t true.

The window for this to happen closed a long time ago. The disciples in Jesus’ presence on the day these words were spoken did not see the Kingdom come in their lifetime!

At least, not in the way they thought they would.

The APP

We’re winding down our Lenten dig into literal, modern-day applications of Jesus’ words. I’ve personally been struck by just how content I have been to settle for figurative interpretations of Jesus’ teachings over the years. I’m struck (as in, over-the-head-with-a-baseball-bat) by the potential for Jesus Himself to come to life through us, when we take Him at His Word and choose to be doers and not hearers only.

And today I am struck by how apparent this truth about the Kingdom is, now that I’m using my supersonic, laser beam, Spirit-enabled Kingdom Vision.

It began for me today with a crown. A Burger King crown.

A Burger King crown and a conversation between two Kingdom subjects.

You can watch it here, but what you need to know is that you’ll need your Kingdom goggles on in order to see it. In this short announcement by the leaders of Youth Specialties, the Kingdom of God is apparent…

  • In their forthright approach (no ‘spin’).
  • In the way their story is unfolding (not according to their ‘plan’).
  • In their sincere surprise at this turn of events.
  • In the ways that they are being stretched to fit into God’s plans.

Now, you could very easily watch this clip and miss the Kingdom markers in it. You could focus on the great loss to YS when Tic Long decreases his leadership role (because of course he will be missed). You could focus on the fact that YS has had more than its fair share of change in past several years and you could become embittered over yet another transition in this important ministry to youth leaders. You could sit in the skeptic’s seat and wait to see whether Mark Matlock can pull it off to your satisfaction…

You could, but you wouldn’t be using your Kingdom Vision if you did.

For you and me to see the Kingdom of God with our own eyes, we must be changed. The world around us is still the same, but when we look out at it through our Kingdom Vision, we see the King at work!

We see His hand in situations where others miss Him altogether.

We hear His voice come from people who look nothing like Kingdom subjects to the world.

We feel the air move as He passes through a room, even when His presence isn’t felt by anyone else.

We see beauty where others see only pain.

We see light where others are stumbling into walls.

We see hope where others have simply given up.

If we believe that Jesus meant what He said – that the Kingdom of God is visible HERE and NOW – doesn’t our calling become crystal clear? If you have the Spirit-given ability to see through our limited human vision into the things of God as they unfold, you just can’t keep it to yourself!

There are too many others who need your help to see their way through the messes they’ve made and to pull themselves out of the pits they’ve fallen into.

YOU have the eyes to see!

YOU have the ears to hear!

For the Kingdom’s sake, USE THEM!

 

No Vacancy L4L.21

Full House (Painted Ladies)

The WORD

“When an evil spirit comes out of a person, it travels through dry places, looking for a place to rest. But when it finds no place, it says, ‘I will go back to the house I left.’ And when it comes back, it finds that house swept clean and made neat. Then the evil spirit goes out and brings seven other spirits more evil than it is, and they go in and live there. So the person has even more trouble than before.” Luke 11:24-26 (New Century Version)

Are you noticing, as I am, that Jesus really didn’t stick to fluffy, benign topics when He taught? Hear these words again, from The Message paraphrase of the Scriptures:

“When a corrupting spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can be-devil. When it doesn’t find anyone, it says, ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place.”

Jesus did a lot of exorcisms in His day, sending the demons packing who were camped out inside the lives of tortured people. It happened everywhere He went. He was known for it! People would seek Him out for the express purpose of having a demon cast out of a loved one.

There must have been great rejoicing every time one of these spirits of evil left the life of a God-created individual!

The APP

With some notable exceptions, we don’t really talk much in terms of ‘demons’ and ‘possession’ in our day, do we? We just don’t go there very often. In our world of scientific and medical explanations for just about everything, our need for a supernatural perspective is regularly quenched by a preference for ‘Just the FACTS, Ma’am.Only the facts.

Yet, if we look long and hard at our personal issues and struggles, we might find some demons residing within. Demons with names like ‘addiction,’ ‘anger,’ and ‘greed.’ Demons with friends known as ‘materialism,’ ‘lust,’ and ‘pride.’ Demons who are likely to become quite comfortable in their human homes unless we take the work of Jesus seriously and seek His participation in our emancipation from the claims they’ve staked in our territory.

And once we’ve been set free – as many of us have – from the tendrils of sin and death, what’s next?

Our celebrations of healing and recovery last only so long before those same addictions and temptations find their way back to us. And, if what they find when they return home is a neat and tidy EMPTY nest, well, Jesus told us what would happen.

When we do the hard work of cleaning house and making room in our lives for MORE, we must remember that it is absolutely necessary for that space inside to be filled with God-given housewarming gifts. Otherwise, it will be returned to its original squatter (and he won’t be coming back alone).

Some of us are nodding our heads, having seen or experienced this very thing in lives that are close to our own.

We master that addiction.

We get our anger under control.

We overcome our greedy ways.

We shed the harmful habits and behaviors, but we fail to adopt the ongoing healing and restorative process offered by God through faith in Christ.

We gut out the old and decaying interior, but fail to give the Contractor access for the remodel.

Maybe the urgency just isn’t there to do things differently.

Maybe the anticipated cost of renovation is much higher than we originally thought.

Maybe the starkness of a life without the negative influences is enough for now. Why rush out and buy the farm when we can just rent for awhile, right?

Letting down our guard in the aftermath of healing is exactly what the enemy would love to have us do. He knows that we’re tired of fighting. He knows that we’re finally breathing easily and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But what he also knows is that, unless that LIGHT is ushered INTO our lives, the darkness has a foothold and can always slip back in. Possibly undetected. Probably in the company of like-minded companions. Either way, as Jesus tells us, we’re worse off than we ever were before.

The solution? Let Jesus move in!

Let’s pray that the real presence of the Spirit of God would inhabit our lives from this day forward.

Let’s choose to hang a hefty ‘No Vacancy’ sign on the door to our hearts, notifying all prior inhabitants that LOVE HAS COME to reside within us!

Or, as in the immortal words of TobyMac:

“Love is in the house and the house is packed, so much soul I left the back door cracked. Mama always said it’s a matter of fact, when love is in the house, the house is packed.”

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

Listen to Love Is In The House here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMOj2sqnzDs

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Can You Keep a Secret? L4L.16

BEST FRIENDS

Image by JohnGoode via Flickr

The WORD

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-6 (New International Version)

Try reading this text again, this time replacing the word ‘hypocrite’ with ‘pretender.’

This word ‘hypocrite can also be translated as ‘stage player’ or ‘actor.’

It’s almost as if Jesus is grooming a team of covert operatives for the Kingdom! By teaching His followers to give in secret and pray in secret, the appropriate follow-up question from this text appears to be,

“Can YOU keep a secret?”

The APP

There’s a troubling little word that surfaces in religious circles and is often seen as a negative: Piety.

Wikipedia defines piety in these terms:

‘Piety can be either genuine, in that it springs from spiritual piety, or false, in that it is an attempt to exhibit the signs of piety for their own sake, or for some other reason, (such as propitiation or public esteem).’

What Jesus is describing to His listeners in Matthew 6 is the false kind of piety that is staged by someone who seeks public recognition for what ought to be a private expression of faithful commitment between Father and child. When they put themselves and their deeds on display, Jesus tells us that these thespians are rewarded with the attention they seek. What they fail to receive, however, is the reward of a God who is looking for secret-keepers, not exhibitionists, to participate in the work of His Kingdom.

Now, it’s important to note that the secret-keeping Jesus is advocating here is NOT a secret society kind of hush-hush that makes insiders and outsiders in a cliquish sort of way. Rather, it’s as if Jesus is asking whether our personal connection with God Himself is, well… real.

Really real.

Are we doing what we do for God only, or for what we stand to gain from appearing to be connected with Him?

It’s also as if Jesus is asking “Can you keep a secret” – not FROM ME, but WITH ME?

Is there anything quite as intimate as a secret shared? Whether between BFF’s (ask your daughter what that means), lovers or close family friends, a secret shared between us has the power to knit our lives together in ways that nothing else really can.

In this context, what if prayers were like pillow talk? Those quiet, intensely intimate discussions shared in private places, beyond the meddling eyes of the watching world. Maybe this is what Jesus meant by praying behind closed doors.

When we are in love or so connected to another that we find ourselves doing everything in light of that relationship, the most important thing for me to do is to make you happy! When what matters to YOU matters to me SO MUCH that I want nothing more than to see you have your heart’s desire, I’ve figured out what it means to practice secret giving. No one else needs to see what I’m doing. In fact, no one else will probably understand the value of what I’m doing! Only you. I do it all for you.

The question, “Can you keep a secret?” has implications for those of us who seek to live off-stage in a world full of performers. The way we answer this question answers a host of other questions as well; questions like:

Can I trust you?

Is our relationship as valued in your eyes as it is in mine?

Can I show myself to you? Can I reveal more of myself to you?

Do you value what I value?

Do I matter to you?

Quite literally, may our answer to these questions be a resounding “YES” today!

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