My Need and God’s Provision

We will be leaving as a team from TRC to go trek in the Himalaya with a brother and serve the people in some outlying villages. Public square, living out our command from Jesus to love God and love neighbor, make disciples, heal what’s broken, etc.

We’ve been doing this kind of work since 2002 in some hard places. The Lord has sent TRC people all over the world to engage their domains for King and kingdom. When we go to serve along side of them and shepherd them, I get to go be pastor/domain engager/ambassador. I love it!

However, what most people see as crazy, risk taking, fearless, go anywhere, do anything preacher is not what is happening on the inside. I’m super aware/discerning of spiritual things…warfare. But I’m also super susceptible to it. It’s like Aslan told Jill Pole in “The Silver Chair”, before he sent her from his country to Narnia, that although she heard, understood and remembered clearly up in his country, it would be harder down in Narnia. She would easily get confused, forget and be tempted to stop reciting the signs. When I’m cruising on easy street, following Jesus is easy. When I prepare to go into dark places, I get “bumfuzzled”. I can’t tell my head from my feet (figuratively). Things I’m never afraid of all of a sudden become fears. Darkness settles in over my soul. I’m super emotive. I’m down. I seem to not be able to pray. My bible reading is not landing.

Once, on the way to the airport alone (learned a lesson, Jesus said to go by 2, so I quite disobeying and going alone), it had been a hard departure for the boys…they were begging me to stay for fear I would get killed and not come home…it was raining hard and extremely dark outside…I pulled over on the side of 278 on the way to the ATL, and prayed for help, and almost turned around to go home.

When in this state, I can’t tell Holy Spirit from a dad gum tree.

I used to just pass this kind of stuff off as me being weak. However, on that trip in which I almost turned around, I had the most overt spiritual warfare I’ve ever encountered…audible demonic attack in words that used to be simply thoughts in my head. And this happened almost the entire trip. God in his grace, did what he promised by Holy Spirit reminding me of truth, helping me tak authority over the demonic, and learning that all that darkness and confusion before leaving was the enemy seeking to thwart the work of the kingdom. I realized at that point that I was not weak, I was being assaulted by the Evil One and I was being a victim not a victor in Christ.

I learned that prayer for the Lord to gain the win over that for me actually works. Imagine that! Asking for Jesus’ stuff, and him giving it. Imagine that!

You know what’s sweet? When warfare flares like that prior to trips,  Jesus has got my back. How? Charismatic women! Women who attend Charismatic fellowships. Awesome!

Without fail, the Spirit prompts a few people without me telling them a single thing, and they begin praying for me. Why? Because I’m a goober and will hardly tell anyone I’m struggling. So, the Lord, being gracious to his son, puts it into the hearts of some ladies who walk in the Spirit to pray for me. How do I know? They either find me providentially and tell me when they “happen across my path” or they seek me out and tell me. Then I understand that the Lord had my back, and was doing good to me. I understand what it means for the Lord to pro-vide…he sees the need before, and makes the way to meet the need at just the rigt time. That makes my trust in Jesus soar!

What of this?

  1. I’m thankful for Charismatic women who follow Jesus.
  2. When I’m battling hard and wonder where the Lord is, he’s working for my good while I’m completely unaware.
  3. I want to walk with the Holy Spirit they way these ladies do. I’m growing in that.
  4. What’s wrong with most of my tribe that we don’t get this?
  5. Without prayer, we often are defenseless victims rather than victorious warriors. God has chosen prayer as a means of advancing the rule of Jesus. When we don’t pray, we fail to do the most productive work we can do.
  6. Pray for me and the team. I/We need you to pray. Don’t let us down. Listen to prompting in your soul and obey. That’s Holy Spirit moving you to action.

I hope this encourages some, and moves some to pray and so partner with us deeply.

If you are one of those people who seek me out, I don’t want to ruin your reward from Jesus by outing you. You know who you are, and your obedience to Jesus will be richly rewarded now and in the kingdom. Thank you for caring to obey the Lord, and loving this old southern baptist Silver Creek boy.

Fight Racism Like it Matters

cropped-img_0012.jpg

This picture is quite a few years ago. We were enjoying our worship experience in Athens, GA at the sanctuary called “Sanford” (jest sort of…don’t get fired up).

My boys are late middle/high school now. We’ve seen a lot, heard a lot, and experienced a lot. Much of that experience has been fantastic. Like once when traveling on Marta in downtown Atlanta from a stage production of the Lion King, an African-American  man was looking at us, staring at us actually, for most of the ride. I learned why soon. When we arrived at our stop, he followed us off of the train. He kindly and gently grabbed my arm and said he had a word from the Lord for us. He said that the Lord had told him to tell us that we would be blessed for what we have done (that is adopting a child of color). I’ve never forgotten that moment. The Lord Jesus sent that brother to us to comfort and affirm our willingness to wade into the fight.

Some of it has been hard, and hard to parent through. Like the time a man in a store asked if “that” was mine…referring to my black son. Oooh. Man, it was on like Donkey Kong. Hard stuff.

The curse of the fall, it’s effects in and on image bearers, conflict within over ingrained sin and the truth of God’s word, and its sinister covert/overt attacks make for tough days.

Because these days are getting harder in our nation due to the racial divide, I made a statement before preaching last Sunday that I want to reiterate: All people who want to come after Jesus are welcome at TRC. Anyone opposed to any color or background or sin coming after Jesus because of their color, background or sin may leave now or repent now. Just as there is no room for active adultery or idolatry or any other unrepentant sin, there is no room for racism in our fellowship and the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2, for that matter, the whole of biblical revelation, makes it clear that representatives from all nations will be gathered around the throne of Jesus worshipping him and living in the renewed earth together without sin forever. That truth, that vision of the end must drive our practice now. Even deeper, the bible identifies all humans as image bearers of God, therefore, making all humans supremely valuable…from the unborn to the person with a different color skin…to the person not viewed as “normal”…to the person of a different faith.

Our pro-life must be all-encompassing.

The racial divide is as deep as it’s ever been, and events are just bringing to the surface what has already been there. We need to respond. I hope pastors prophetically spoke to such in every gathering last Sunday…Something tells me they didn’t. That’s likely due to lack of knowing, caring or fear. None of which is acceptable. If they don’t know how to prophetically speak to things, they simply need to read the prophets of the Old Testament or how Paul corrected the sin on Peter’s part in Galatians 2 etc., then speak likewise to sin in our day. Simple. Hard, but simple. Hard because people will treat us like those in that day treated the prophets, but Jesus said that would happen, so we at least know to expect it.

I hope every person following Jesus can apply their biblical worldview appropriately to the race divide clearly manifest in our country, but I’m afraid that’s just not the case. Either sin or ignorance or misplaced loyalties (which is sin too) keeps many from valuing the kingdom over the world. Neither of those is good, and it’s particularly bad among those calling themselves “Christian”.

We have to do better. The Christian subculture is sick, and the source is sin, and the remedy is repentance.

We have to speak out against all sin, and speak for righteousness in all things…all things…

Do I get it right all the time? NO! I’m head sinner. I’m a fool. I fail. I lack faith. I say swear words too much. I want “things” like boats, trucks, guns, sports more than holiness. I lead in sin. I’m good at it! But, I’m grieved over my sin, and I lean on the Spirit making more like  Jesus, and he’s working on me. He’s teaching me and making me to love righteousness more than sin little by little. Repentance gets easier and easier.

So, Christian, be holy as God is holy.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Our justification and our pursuit of holiness are opposite sides of the same coin. We are not justified by works, but we work because we are justified. So, lets pursue racial reconciliation like we pursue freedom from other sin.

 

 

Make Your Bed

Self-discipline, hard work, willingness to risk…these are traits that many in the sub-Christian culture need to grow into. Many so called Christians get offended when challenged. Some falsely use Jesus as reason for being soft, slack and lazy. They’d never call their living “soft”, “slack” or “lazy”, but the lack of pursuit of anything meaningful other than their own up-keep, shows no effort toward anything great.

We demand the Jolly boys make their beds every morning. Today, one did a couple didn’t. We made them go do it. Why? It’s how you start the day successfully.

Self-discipline is something anyone can have, but particularly Christians should dominate in. We have the Spirit fruit of self-control, and that should lead to extreme self-discipline. That self-discipline should lead to hard work in engaging their domains for Jesus’ fame.

You want to change the world for Jesus? Start by making your bed.

Here’s one of my favorite men, William H. McRaven, talking about just that.

“I AM the Bread of Life”

John 6:22-59…I Am the Bread of Life

Our stated goal in the “I AM” series is John’s goal…John 20:31

John 20:31 (ESV) but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 1…Jesus is the eternal Word of God who made all things and in who is life and light. The Word, Jesus, took on flesh and put God’s glory on display as the promised one who will crush the Serpent.

John 2:11…Jesus “manifested his glory” at the wedding in Cana.

John 2:13-22…Jesus cleanses the temple.

John 2:23-25…Many see the signs, hear the teaching and “believed in his name”. But Jesus does not entrust himself to them because he knows what’s in each person and what is driving their “belief”.

This passage really sets the stage for what is to happen in the rest of the historical narrative of John…Jesus reveals his glory (1:14), most people “believe” in that they see Jesus as a means to an end not as their rescue from the curse of the fall.

John 3…Jesus tells Nicodemus what it is to be a disciple…he must be born again.

John 4…Jesus engages in a direct-action ministry appointment to call a hated Samaritan woman with a questionable sexual ethic to faith and turn her into an evangelist.

John 5…Jesus begins to teach about his identity as the one the Scriptures say will bring eternal life, the one Moses wrote about.

John 5:39 (ESV) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

John 5:46 (ESV) For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

John 6:2…Jesus has gained a large following because of his miraculous signs.

John 6:3-14…Jesus feeds the 5,000 men besides women and children from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish as a compassionate act for these many “sheep without a shepherd” on the cusp of the Passover that was about to be celebrated.

John 6:15…Jesus has to remove himself because they want to come and start a revolution to make Jesus king by force…revealing that they don’t get it. They want the immediate need met not the real need. They don’t see!

John 6:16-21…Jesus’ disciples head back across the lake, encounter a storm and he walks to them on the water, they take him on board and they miraculously get to their destination.

John 6:22-58… Jesus is the bread of life!

22-25 The crowd Jesus taught and fed now mobilizes themselves to go find Jesus.

26 Jesus reveals the problem…The people want bread not Jesus who gave them the bread.

This account draws on the account of Israel after the Exodus (Ex. 16): They cross water to follow God, get hungry, question God…Jesus crosses the lake, the people follow, get hungry, question Jesus…

As Israel’s craving for food was greater than their craving for the Lord, the people in John 6 wanted food more than Jesus.

Jesus has just fed a host of humanity with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. You’d think the people would rather have Jesus.

The people of John 6 just got fed, but rather than have the source, they decided they just wanted the bread and fish.

27 Jesus tells the people it’s better to get eternal food rather than food that fills the stomach.

28 The people ask the correct question…What must they do?

29 Jesus tells the people the best news they could ever hear…Believe!

30 The people’s response proves they are spiritually blind in asking Jesus for more miracles.

31 The people illustrate what they’d like to see Jesus do by bringing up the feeding the “fathers” with manna in the wilderness after the Exodus.

32-33 Jesus makes sure they understand it was God who provided that bread, and that God has sent down “true” bread that gives life.

34 The people want this bread!

These guys are thinking about bread like they just ate a few days ago. They are not thinking about nourishment for a deeper longer of the soul.

35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

  • Now, either Jesus is saying that he is the fuel, the way to get life, which makes Jesus the means to some end other than himself.

Or…

  • Jesus is saying that he is himself life.

Jesus is life!

What does this mean?

  • God through Jesus alone is who fixes the dead state of sinners.

It’s clear the masses need to be “born again”.

6:41-44, 48, 51, 53

They grumble.

They question Jesus’ identity.

  • There is more to existence that the mere satisfaction of physical needs.

The curse does this thing where it blinds us to greater needs by the intensifying of lesser needs.

Make no mistake, food, water, clothing are all needs, but lesser ones. Matthew 6:33 tells us this. Seek the kingdom first and then Jesus will take care of the lesser things.

In the curse, we seek the lesser to the neglect of the greater. That’s idolatry.

The essence of idolatry is when we take good things and turn them into God things they become bad things.

  • Life goes deeper than food and drink.

They had the creator of all things, who put that on display by creating bread and fish, and yet they just wanted bread and fish.

  • Jesus is not a means to another end…Jesus is the means and the goal.

How do we obey?

  • Be saved!

 

  • Seek liberation from lesser things by a joyful pursuit of Jesus Christ who is the source of all we actually need.

Read:

Piper, John. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. CO Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2015.

This is Paul’s very aim.

Philippians 3:8-9 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him,

Piper is not making up anything new. He’s just unpacking Paul’s language and the implications of Scripture in coming after Jesus as our great delight.

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” To enjoy God is to glorify God. Anything less is to slander God.

This will be your hardest life pursuit because everything in our leftover sinful self wants to delight in everything but God.

  • Pursue joy in God by doing Romans 8:13.

Romans 8:13 (ESV) For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

  • How do we do Romans 8:13?
  1. Believe we are sons and daughters of God (8:14)
  2. Live as sons and daughters not as slaves (8:15)
  3. Live in the Spirit…how?
    • Practice prayer and fasting as the power of joy in God.
    • Have a disciplined bible reading and study plan as the kindling of joy in God.
    • Be in consistent covenant fellowship
    • Practice solitude and silence.
    • Discern the voice of God and be quick to obey…Being completely the Lord’s instrument all the time (see Hudson Taylor’s spiritual secret).
    • Cultivate Holy Spirit fruit: love (the labor of joy in God), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
    • Suffer well as the sacrifice of joy in God.
    • Cross cultures with the gospel as the battle cry of joy in God.
    • Give generously as the currency of joy in God.
    • Worship as the feast and consummation of joy in God.

“But the most obvious fact about praise…whether of God or anything…strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise…lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game…praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks and misfits and malcontents praised least….

“I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: HarperOne, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017), 93-95.