Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Encounter With A 92 Year Old Prophetess

We have a ministry team that goes to a local assisted living home each month to minister to the residents there.  I was asked to accompany them this month and to share the Christmas story.  We had sung several Christmas songs and I was getting ready to do my thing.  Then from out of nowhere another preacher took center stage.  For the next several minutes we all listened as so eloquently this 92 year old lady named Hazel spoke the Word of God. 

I was a bit dumbfounded to say the least.  Just moments earlier, I observed her frantically looking for her husband.  She seemed confused and worried.  She seemed to have zoned out for a moment or two, then with clarity she began to speak the oracles of God.  She didn't skip a beat. She quoted Scripture and this precious lady to whom we had come to minister to became the minister. On this particular day, the Word of the Lord came forth from a 92 year old lady in a nursing home that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.  Hmm...I'm wondering who knows this truth better than a 92 year old woman who has been placed in a nursing home?     

I sat there thinking to myself, "this lady's faith is not a synthetic faith."  It wasn't born from a ritualistic approach to religion. I knew nothing about her, but in just a few moments I could tell beyond the shadow of a doubt that she had been with Jesus.  She wasn't simply spewing vain, religious, jargon, but was speaking the Word of God dripping with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Her's was a faith that was real, not theological positions or doctrinal beliefs void of real life application.  It was clear to see that she knew this Jesus who she spoke about.  Before she finished, she looked at me and declared, "I think you could be called to preach."  She echoed that declaration as she looked at a young man with our team.  I thought am I sitting at the feet of a prophetess? 

I can't help but think how often people like Hazel are put away in homes like these and forgotten about.  Afterall, what does a 92 year old have to offer us any longer, right?  How foolish of us.  How utterly foolish it is to not respect, honor, and value what the elderly sages still bring to the table.  I'm convinced if we would shut-up for a moment or two, we could learn valuable lessons from the Hazels that we encounter in life.

I would go on to share the story of Christ's birth with those gathered round but to be honest, Hazel needed me to add nothing on this day.  I was there to remind them that Jesus, had come.  Hazel was there to testify that yes, indeed He had come but equally important was the truth that He has not left us alone. She knows all too well that He is truly Immanuel, God with us!!! 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me or does it seem like this world has fallen into a pit of absolute and complete insanity? I mean, it seems like everyday I wake up and there is another thing that leaves me scratching my head.  I'm often left thinking what in the world is going on?  This cannot be real!!!  The unfortunate truth is that I have not somehow been swept away into a crazy world of make believe and it is in fact all very, very, real. 

While I would love to stick my head in the sand and pretend its not all happening, somehow that approach seems as crazy as the events I see playing out all around me.  Of course, I could fall into freak-a-zoidal mode (a Tim-ism for the state of being extremely freaked out).  This mode is often characterized by emotional instability, stress, worry, anxiety, utter hopelessness, and rash decisions.  Thinking that isn't the proper approach either.

This freak-a-zoidal approach reminds me a bit of the disciples in the boat in the middle of a storm. I picture in my head guys holding on for dear life, screaming, making deals with God, and saying, "I love you, man," to each other as they prepared to go down with the ship.  In their minds, they've resolved that this is how it all ends.  In the middle of all the madness though someone has the wherewithal to go to Jesus for help.  Go figure.  I don't know how long they were in freak-a-zoidal mode before they approached Jesus, but one would think having witnessed all that this Man had done, approaching Him would have been at the top of the list.  Jesus, of course, comes to the rescue and saves the day.  Imagine that!

After saving the day, Jesus rebukes his disciples a bit for not trusting God.  Jesus asks, “Why are you so afraid? Why do you have no faith?" Jesus was snoring through all of this.  He was "at rest" while all these guys were in freak-a-zoidal mode.  It's as if Jesus didn't need the world around Him to be at peace in order for Him to be at peace.  Yet, aren't we like the disciples most of the time?  We don't really want to be confronted with storms.  God forbid life get just a tad uncomfortable for us.  After all, we're His children and He would never allow anything to come our way to make life a bit uncomfortable, right?  Can I be a bit frank with you?  Those who proclaim that message from the pulpit are feeding us a line of bull.  Jesus promised us that in this world we would have tribulation or trouble.  Those who don't believe that are those who choose to stick their heads in the sand. Life has it's challenges.  Life comes with storms and those storms don't imply God is mad at us or punishing us.  Life just has moments that present us with the opportunity to either trust God or not.  Our ability to trust God is not proven in times of peace but in times when the storms are raging.  If we must have peace surrounding us in order for us to be at peace, then that's a hint that we struggle to truly trust God.  

Is it possible to trust God in the storms?  It sure seems like that was the expectation that Jesus had placed on the disciples.  Rather than calming the storm, Jesus' rebuke seems to imply He would have rather the disciples be at peace in the middle of the storm.  

I don't think its just me.  I think ours is a culture with some winds starting to blow a bit.  Are you at peace?  Can you remain at peace if the winds blow a bit harder?  Whenever the winds start to pick up, we have a choice.  We can go full freak-a-zoidal or we can trust God.  I'm thinking its time for the church to prove it really trusts God by determining to be at peace regardless of how much the boat is getting hammered.  Or, we can go freak-a-zoidal once again communicating to the world around us that we don't really trust in the God we're trying to convince them to trust in. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's Too Exhausting Trying To Be Him

I was on a "Daddy/Son Adventure" with my oldest Benjamin when the phone rang.  On the other end of the phone was my wife Lori who was in panic mode.  "The house is on fire! The house is full of smoke!"  She was at home alone with my youngest, Josiah, who was a toddler at the time.  She had put him down for a nap and as so often is the case, mommy takes every opportunity to sleep when the little one is asleep.  There was a candle burning in the bathroom and somehow it started a small fire.  Lori awakened to a house full of smoke with the fire between her and our baby.  She quickly grabbed him and got out of the house.

Fortunately, our house did not burn down and there was very little damage.  Lori and Josiah were safe.  Still, on the other end of the phone there I sat feeling completely helpless.  The reality was, there was nothing I could do to help.  I wasn't there.  I couldn't be the hero.  I couldn't fix the situation.  And therein lies the real issue.  I wasn't in control.

Oh, how I hated that!  I liked control.  Yep, I was a complete control freak and I struggled when I was not in control.  I struggled to trust that God could take care of my little world.  I knew in my head that He's got this, but in my heart its obvious I struggled to really believe it.  I mean, I wasn't even there with the fire and the smoke and the baby in the other room, but I'm pretty sure if you were able to measure our panic levels, mine would have been astronomically higher than my wife's. I sat there thinking of how if I was there everything would be alright.  The reality was that my Heavenly Father was there and everything was alright.  Lori was awakened.  She grabbed Josiah and got him out of the house.  The fire extinguished itself.  Hmmm.....kind of sounds like everything I thought I was needed for, God took care of Himself.  Imagine that!

That's been several years ago, and although I've grown in my ability to trust God, still I struggle at times.  Perhaps, you've got this thing down and that's great, but I'm still on the journey.  I still struggle to completely trust that He's capable of keeping my world from falling apart.  Yet, day after day, He holds it all together without my help.  Still there I am attempting to carry the weight of my world on my shoulders.  All the while He's calling me to lay it down and allow Him to carry it.  His shoulders were built for this.

The truth is God is able!  God is able to keep all that I have committed to Him (II Tim 1:12).  Everything that I trust Him with, He can take care of it.  He can take care of it all.  He can carry the weight of our little world.  He is capable of holding it all together.  God is able!  I think I'll take this weight off my shoulders and let Him carry it.  It's just way too exhausting trying to be Him.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Exhortation For The Church

On Friday morning, there was no vote in Heaven. Regarding the definition of marriage, God did not stop to ask the opinion of 9 black robed justices. Their opinions, as well as our opinions are irrelevant. All the chatter and all the noise, changes nothing in regards to what God has established. God declares a thing and it is. God says it, that settles it. How arrogant of man to think he could ever redefine what God Himself has already defined. To attempt to do so is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

The Supreme Court stepped into an arena once again that is far above their pay grade. Re-defining marriage? Really? How utterly ludicrous!!! Their ruling regarding gay marriage isn't worth the paper its written on.

Oh, of course it becomes the "law of the land" but don't think for one minute that all of heaven is fretting over having to do a dictionary re-write. Heaven's dictionary doesn't change because the Supreme Court took a vote. Marriage as God defines it is no different today than it was when He established it in the beginning. The Kingdom of Heaven which was, is, and is to come isn't shaking in its boots because some inferior, temporal kingdom set itself in opposition to it. Throughout history, kingdoms have risen and fallen, yet one kingdom still remains.

It remains because its foundation is unchanging and unshakable. Its a Kingdom built upon a Rock. A Rock that doesn’t move or change because of a shift in public approval. It’s foundation is a King above all kings, a Lord above all Lords. We, as believers, would do well to remember that above and beyond anything else, we are citizens of that kingdom. And not just citizens but members of the Royal Family. Sons and daughters of the King. Let us not forget that while we may occupy space here, we are not of this world. We are in it, but not of it. Our loyalty and our allegiance first belongs to the only One truly worthy to be our King. We are not here to pick sides, or to engage in petty debates. We are ambassadors of heaven and our mandate does not change because somebody took a vote. We are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. We will not run, we will not hide, we will not be silenced. We will not relent! Where there is darkness, we will be light! As representatives of His Kingdom, we offer hope to the hopeless, healing to the wounded, sight to the blind, and freedom to the captives. We offer love to the unlovable, acceptance to the rejected, and family to the lonely. We will not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus because it is the power of God unto salvation!

We will not play the victim. We will not be shaken. We will not cower to the spirit of fear or intimidation. We will not retreat inside the four walls of the church. We are marching forward. We will not be overcome with evil, but we will overcome evil with good. It was our King who declared that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. So we march onward with confidence in the promise of the King we serve. We will not shrink in fear of the giants that we face, for we serve a God who is able. A King who has all power and all authority. A King who has overcome. A King who cannot be defeated or overthrown.

Let’s be clear, we do not war against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places. So, let me declare, its game on!!! The battle lines are drawn and we will not be defeated. We, the church, we aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t looking for a place to hide. Like David, we are picking up our rocks.  Spiritual stones for spiritual battle.  Giants will fall. Strongholds will be broken. We are taking back what the enemy has stolen. We are taking territory for the Kingdom, because:

"The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters."

"Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory." (Psalm 24:1-2, 7-10 NKJV) 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Guns??? Really????

Nine people lay dead in a church.  In a church for God's sake.  A place that should be a refuge.  A place of safety.  A place where people go to connect with God, not a place where people go anticipating to literally meet Him face to face.  I have to say, as I read the initial stories coming out of South Carolina, I was a bit numb.  I didn't know what to feel.  How to feel.  I didn't know what to say, or how to say it.  I was just numb.  To be honest, I still am.

Then, before the investigation at the crime scene is even completed, here comes politics into play.  I was outraged by it all, to say the least.  Guns??? Really??? We are going to go there before the blood of 9 martyrs is even dry?  Let's not waste a tragedy, right?  Let's stand on our soap box and declare our political position on gun control before the story becomes yesterday's news.  Pardon me, while I puke.

Let me be clear! I'll not smear the memory of nine of my brothers and sisters in the Lord, with a statement on where I stand on gun control. Today, that point is irrelevant.  This is not the time nor the place to give room for that debate.  In the aftermath of such a tragedy, to take opportunity for political propaganda is disgusting and as Americans we should demand more from every leader regardless of their party affiliation.

A young man, full of hate, walked into a church and killed a group of people that looked different than him. A group of people who had a different skin color.  The why is the real issue, not the how.  Hatred!!! Regardless of how it looks, the driving force is a tainted heart. A heart full of hatred for another.  While the "experts" will analyze this in order to minimize the possibility of it happening again, I can assure you any solution that doesn't address a heart change, will not solve anything. We live in a society that wants social change but wants only to deal with surface issues.  We want to suppress the real answer, while screaming from the mountaintops, man made antidotes that have as much chance at ushering in real change as an aspirin has of curing a brain tumor.

Lock the lunatic away or, put him to death.  Regardless, of the penalty, apart from a heart change, he will go to his grave with a heart full of hate. Take his weapon away and the hate remains.  Let's not pretend here that hatred to the point of killing another needs a specific way to get what it craves.  Cain used a rock, but a stick or a few well placed right hooks would have got the job done as well.  Hatred is ugly and when not dealt with can manifest in ways unimaginable.  Hatred has many more faces too and is not limited to those with different colored skin.  There are those who hate those who think differently; those who vote differently; those who worship differently; those who speak differently; those who dress differently.  There are those who hate others because of their economic status, or educational level. There are those who hate because they've been wounded or abused.  There are those who hate because they've been raised to hate.  Regardless, of the face it wears, the root of hate is always the heart.  Any solution that doesn't begin and end there is a complete waste of time and energy.

Hate is not a political issue, a cultural issue, or a religious issue. It can't be fixed by politicians, political correctness, or some man contrived religion.  Hate is an issue of the heart and as such can only be remedied by the Creator of man's heart.  Jesus came to do just that.  He came to change the heart of man.  He came to create in mankind a clean heart, a heart void of hatred and malice.  He came to empower us to truly love one another.  Ours is a culture that wants no mention of this Jesus, but apart from Him there is no other answer to this problem.  Jesus changes hearts.  Jesus is the only One capable of replacing a heart of hate with one of real love. I don't know what will become of this young man who walked into that church and murdered those 9 believers.  I don't know if he'll carry his hatred to the grave.  But, I'm reminded of a man in Scripture who once sought out believers and persecuted them.  Until one day, he encountered the Heart Changer on the road to Damascus.  On that day everything changed.  His hatred for those who thought different than him was replaced with a heart of love and compassion.  My prayer, for this young man is that he too, would encounter Jesus in the same way as the apostle Paul did so many years ago. Jesus was, and still is, the answer for the world today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Your Fly Is Open!

A couple years ago I was at an all day event where a particular man was going to be speaking to several hundred people over the course of the day.  Prior to him getting up and speaking I saw him walking across the room and I noticed his fly was wide open for all the world to see.  There were well over a hundred people there at the time and I sat there thinking, "am I the only one that notices this?"
Certainly somebody would tell him, right?  I gave it a couple minutes and nobody approached him.  He was about to grab the mic and address the crowd.  I had a choice to make.  To walk up to a guy I didn't know all that well and let him know his fly was open, or do nothing and watch him stand up in front of everyone with his whitey-tighties peaking through his open fly.

I thought to myself, if I were in his position what would I want someone to do?  I don't care who approached me, I would want someone to let me know my fly was open.  So, I approached him and called him aside and let him know his fly was open.  He chuckled, fixed the issue and put his hand on my shoulder and told me thanks.

Was I the only one who saw his fly open?  Perhaps, but it was so blatantly obvious, I find that hard to believe.  Regardless, nobody wants to have to approach someone and say, "hey, your fly is open!"  Especially someone you don't know or don't know that well.  Isn't it much easier to ignore it?  Isn't it much easier to just let them figure it out on their own?

Several years ago, I got home from church and was changing clothes.  As I pulled off my pants I noticed that my Dockers had a gaping hole in the seat.  This was not a little hole.  Oh no, this sucker was at least 2 feet long.  No, I didn't bust the seat out because I was too fat, although that has happened before.  The seam had come completely unraveled.  I stood there in horror thinking how my entire hind side had been exposed to the world.  There was absolutely no way I made it out of that church service without somebody seeing my white Hanes underwear through the 2 foot gap in my navy Dockers.  I was on the stage, I sat on the front row, trust me there was no way in the world somebody didn't see.  Yet, nobody said anything.  Nobody approached me.

Ok, I get it.  Its a little uncomfortable to approach somebody in regards to something like this.  It's like seeing a booger in someone's nose.  Or being at dinner with someone who has some food related substance on their face.  You don't want to embarrass them, right?  So, you elect to stare at the thing hoping that somehow, someway it will fix itself.  But, it doesn't.  It never does.

The truth of the matter is that thing in us that paralyzes us and prevents us from saying anything is more about us and less about them.  We live in a culture that doesn't really like getting uncomfortable.  It doesn't like conversations that stretch us.  We live in a culture that preaches a message of tolerance and political correctness because nobody really wants to stir the waters.  Nobody really wants to go there.  Its a culture that paints a picture of peace as one that just avoids the uncomfortable feeling of confrontation.  It's a culture that has a perverted view of what real love is.  So, we stare at the "open-fly" because to say something would require us to move into a place that is beyond our comfort zone.

The love that Jesus modeled is so very different than what our culture declares is love.  Jesus, didn't avoid addressing the "open-fly" in our lives.  He didn't stare at the things in our lives that were "issues" hoping they fixed themselves.  His love didn't tolerate our messes in order to maintain a sense of comfort.  He is less interested in hurting our feelings and more interested in dealing with what needs to be dealt with. No, his dealing with our sin is not a condemning, judgmental approach.  His love is kind and gentle, while at the same time confrontational.  His love does not ignore our issues, but addresses them.  Our salvation is not the result of Him sweeping our sin under the rug but the result of Him confronting each and every one of them.  

Loving one another the way Jesus did requires a boldness to speak about things that our culture wants to ignore. Tolerance as our world defines it has no place within the body of Christ.  In the same way  judgement that condemns is not love either.  I did not approach this man and tell him his fly was open in a demeaning or belittling way.  I was discreet, kind, and gentle, yet I still approached him.  All I know is when it comes to my sin, that's exactly how Jesus approaches me.  One last thing, if you ever see my fly open, or a booger hanging out of my nose, or the back seat of my pants split open, for the love of God please approach me!!!                          

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Cross Is Not Enough

The cross is not enough!  Now, I don't want to diminish the power of the cross.  For on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin.  It was there, that Jesus died in our place.  The cross was the place where the judgment of God was reconciled with the grace and mercy of God.  It was the place where the unconditional love of God is so clearly seen.  "When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Still, the story of Jesus does not end with the cross.  It does not end with death and Him being placed in a tomb.

This time of year, believers all over the world celebrate a resurrected Jesus!  They celebrate a stone that was rolled away and a tomb that lays empty!  While our culture tries hard to sell us on the concept of a rabbit that apparently has worked out some arrangement with artistic chickens, our focus as believers is on a Savior who was miraculously raised from the dead. It is in this event that all of our hope and faith hinges upon.  Paul said to the Corinthian believers that "if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is in vain."  Without the resurrection, our faith would be much like a house built on quick sand or a screen door on a submarine.  Our faith would be without foundation and our hope would be nothing more than an exercise in futility. Oh, but thank God for the resurrection!!!

On the cross Jesus dealt with our sin, but it was the resurrection that conquered our most powerful enemy.  Those that stood at the foot of the cross and mocked Jesus by telling Him to save Himself, were clueless to the fact that He had come to actually save them.  That salvation, though it included the cross, would have stopped short had He determined to "save Himself," by coming down from that cross.  Oh, He could have pulled off a self preserving miracle, but their salvation, our salvation, depended on something more.  Our salvation required a much bigger miracle.  Our salvation wasn't dependent on Him flexing His muscles and annihilating those who were crucifying Him.  Our salvation hinged on Him annihilating our biggest enemy.  The enemy none of us can defeat, yet all of us face....death!  Our salvation demanded He defeat death!  Our hope for living, truly living, is anchored in a Savior who could stare death in the face and kick its butt.  Like a scorpion that's lost it's stinger, or a viper that's lost its fangs, death was rendered powerless the very moment that stone was rolled away. "O death, where is your sting?  O grave where is your victory?"  It is only because of the resurrection that death no longer has power over us as believers.  Death is no longer reigning in us, but His life now flows through our veins.  We are no longer dead men, dying, but alive men, living.

This day, and every day I celebrate a risen Savior.  I'm thankful for the cross, oh but I'm also thankful that He didn't stop there.  The cross was just an upper-cut and and right hook to the head of the enemy.  The knock out punch came when my Savior and Lord stepped out of the tomb to declare to us all that death has been defeated and life is available to us all.  The resurrection is enough!!!

For more, listen to Tim's Podcast - "The Cross Is Not Enough"

Friday, April 3, 2015

He Was Despised And Rejected

He rode into Jerusalem to throngs of people welcoming Him with open arms.  Unfortunately, there were many who were not quite so welcoming.  There were those who just did not like Him at all.  Jesus, wasn't oblivious to this fact, and it didn't prevent Him from coming to town.  As a matter of fact, one of the reasons He came to town was to offer these who had consistently rejected Him another chance.  Over the course of the next couple of days, Jesus would confront these who rejected Him.  He wasn't there to pick a fight or to stand on a soapbox.  He didn't come to argue or debate.  He didn't come to Jerusalem to condemn them.  He came to reach out to them.  He came to plead with them.  He came to warn them. He desperately wanted to awaken them.  He wanted to open their blind eyes to the truth.

The Pharisees and Sadducees didn't want any part of it though.  They didn't want Him up in their business.  They didn't want Him meddling in their lives.  They liked things just the way they were and viewed Him as a threat to their way of life.  They didn't want to hear what He had to say.  They just wanted Him to shut-up!  So, since He refused to appease their desire for non-confrontation, they determined to take matters into their own hands.  If He wouldn't keep His mouth shut, they would shut it for Him.

Jesus was despised and rejected because He loved enough to speak the truth.  He was rejected because loving humanity was worth that risk.  Jesus risked rejection by choosing to truly love. He could have been comfortable sticking with only those who readily accepted Him, but He chose to continually reach out to those who wanted nothing to do with Him. In reaching out to them, He never changed His message.  He refused to allow their rejection of Him to change His approach.  He wasn't interested in tickling their ears or appeasing their desire to sign off on their lifestyle.  He didn't come to tolerate their intolerable behavior.  He risked rejection by pointing out the corruption in their hearts. He didn't do that to condemn them, but to prevent them from condemning themselves. He did it all because He loved them. That love resulted in a cross.

More than once Jesus challenged His followers to take up their cross and follow Him.  I'm thinking "our cross" must too include being despised and rejected.  However, that rejection never happens until we determine to truly love.  We never truly take up our cross until we are willing to love enough to risk being rejected.  If we truly love, it is a certainty that there will be those who reject us.  Jesus, Himself, told us we could count on it.  On the road to our cross, sure there will be times when people will receive us, but we too must be prepared for those who despise and reject us.  I think its safe to say that if our journey does not include moments of being despised and rejected then perhaps we're not following very close to the One we claim to be following.

For more listen to Tim's Podcast - "The Road To The Resurrection - Part 1" and "The Road To The Resurrection - Part 2"