Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Know Who You Are

I know who you are

well, most of you, anyway.

Not all of your specifics, of course, but in broad strokes, I knew who you were before I asked you to complete the reader survey

but now, I have your own testimony to back up my hunches.

I thought I’d write a brief post to let YOU know who you are 

because my sense is that many of you feel alone 

and I want you to know that when you pop over here, you’re among friends.

It’s easy to get to feeling alone, isn’t it? Especially in the thick of life’s battles.

Elijah once thought he was the only one left who followed the Lord but God let him know there 7000 more like him.

Elisha was in a tight spot once and his servant, being in the same tight spot but with less faith than Elisha, panicked.

“When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”

So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:15-17

My prayer is that all our eyes are open to the provision and protection of the Lord when we face the specter of the enemy.

So, anyway, back to you, fellow adventurers.

I call you that because that is who you are. We walk this narrow road side by side, sometimes taking turns leading one after the other.

I never really tell you anything you don't already know, mostly what I write reminds you of lessons you've learned and truths you are trying to put into practice.

You click to this sight from around the globe, entering doorways on almost every continent.

The majority of you love the Lord, deeply, passionately, with zeal.

You're the weird one where you are. The one who believes it all. The Peters. The Johns. The Mary's and Pauls. You want to live what you've read between the pages of God's word.

And you’ve put feet to your faith.

You pray. You know God’s word and you apply it to your life. You worship. You give. You serve others. You’re parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, Bible study leaders, writers, communicators, caregivers, missionaries, and more.

You’ve been following Jesus for a long time. The overwhelming majority of you, like me, have followed Him for over thirty-five years. (A good lot of us over fifty years!)

You’ve suffered. Struggled something fierce. You’ve persevered through some horrendous trials or you love people who have.

You care deeply about communicating the truth of Christ to others, about passing on the rich faith you enjoy, about leaving it all here on the mat until you drop or Jesus returns – whichever comes first.

You care deeply about getting it right – this whole living for Jesus thing.
You’re not afraid of many things but you don’t want to disappoint God.

Most of us here are over forty (okay, way over forty).

A few of you are younger and I suspect you show up for the posts I write about superheroes, Star Trek, Klingons, Hobbits, and the issues of the day. I love that you’re here. Don’t ever leave.

The point of pain for most of us at Deeper is that smoke alarm sense of urgency, the ticking clock on the end of the age, and the gnawing restlessness that we are meant to play a greater role
than we’re playing

and we’re leaping to the stage, not because we want the spotlight but because we’re passionate about capturing the audience for Christ,

and we know we’re competing with an expert fiddler whose tunes set their toes to tapping as he shoves them through a trapdoor beneath his steel-toed boots.

We all want more of Jesus.
But we’re not Jesus.

So, sometimes it appeals to us to drift, to settle, to retire early.

We’re older brothers in the household of God so we’re tempted to pout, to judge, to curdle a bit, curmudgeon up, grow brittle, leathery, hard.

And we like our hobbit holes.

We used to run out like children when Gandalf appeared in the village but now we’re just as likely to groan, to stare at one another over our tea cups and hope that he’s knocking on someone else’s door –
until we hit the trail

and then there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.

We care about the culture wars, we’re engaged, but we we’re tired of the same old, same old back and forth.

We want effective action.

And we’re on our knees for the persecuted church, feeling helpless, wanting to do more, striving to understand prayer as action.

We want everyone we know to love Jesus and to love His word. We’re often clumsy about communicating that but we’re going to keep trying until we get it right or we’re home.

And whatever trial we’re suffering, what gets us through is knowing that one day, suffering will be over.

One day, we’ll gather in the Great Hall of our Father. We’ll see Jesus. We’ll enter into the forever part of our stories. 

We’ll be together to feast knowing there is a chair at the table for each of us.
We’ll tell stories for a thousand years and our laughter will ring out like cathedral bells.

But, we’re not home yet.

So, some of us straggle over here to this blog seeking company, encouragement, and an occasional kick out of our comfy chairs and back onto the road to the deep, deep heart of Jesus.

Oh, and you over there. You thought I didn't see you. I know you're here, too. You still not sure about Jesus. You're drawn to Him. You feel a desire to belong

But, there's stuff. Your stuff. The church's stuff. Other people's stuff. And it's still in the way.

You're not even sure why you keep coming back to this blog because sometimes it makes you mad
and sometimes it turns you off

but still, there's something here that feels like what you're looking for. (It's Jesus) Stick around, loved one. We love you here.

Did I miss anything? What else is important for us to know about one another? What more would you like to know?

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jesus, Only Jesus - He is Alive

“May you be strengthened with all power,
according to his glorious might,

for all endurance and patience with joy,

giving thanks to the Father,

who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness

and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For by him all things were created,

in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,

whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—

all things were created through him and for him.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church.

He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

and through him to reconcile to himself all things,

whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you,
who once were alienated and hostile in mind,
doing evil deeds,

he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,

 in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

if indeed you continue in the faith,

stable and steadfast,

not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard,

which has been proclaimed in all creation

under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Colossians 1:11-23 (ESV)

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Friday, April 18, 2014

What a Bloody Mess We've Made

Adolescent gamers know
moms are more likely to approve their game choice
if they turn off the blood.

Somehow, bloodless slaughter

is more tolerable
socially acceptable
easy to bear.

Network television executives, too,
know the secret to engaging us
in violent flicks during primetime

is to edit the blood.

Bloodless violence slides under the door
of our living room sensibilities
and becomes family entertainment.

But, the church is guilty of this whitewashing, too.

Taking a trick from the world,
the minds behind the drive for mass showings on Sunday mornings

have removed all signs of blood
from our story of faith

so the squeamish can sit comfortably,
believing their hands will remain clean.

But the gospel is more like a scene from Macbeth than Mayberry

and every attempt to squelch the true nature
of what we are preaching
only results in rooms full of corpses, sitting upright but drained and ready for embalming.

For we tell a blood-stained story

of a God who bled out on our behalf

betrayed by men with blood they can never wash from their hands,

horrifically crucified at the cry of a bloodthirsty crowd

to pay the blood ransom for our own souls.

It’s a bloody mess, this story we tell,
like a butcher shop the day before Easter,
it reeks of warm, sticky death as the man with the knife slits the belly of another perfect lamb.

When we forget the slaughter,

when we turn off the blood,

edit out the lacerations,
mute the agonized screams, the salty tears landing on open wounds,
and the sight so horrible mothers would have shielded their children’s eyes from the man who most surely did not appear to be human towards the end,

when we forget the slaughter of the cross,

we forfeit our part in the resurrection.

Securing our redemption was bloody business,

not for the faint of heart,
adult-only viewing,

an ugly treacherous testimony to man’s capacity for bloodlust and evil,
poured out on the One
from whom all creation sprang,

One who was guiltless.
One who was perfect.
One who loved exquisitely, lavishly, extravagantly

to the point of spending His last breath
on our salvation.

If we are people of truth,
If we represent the Perfect Lamb of God

then we must follow the trail of blood
that leads to our own hands

forming fists as we wave at Pilate
demanding the crucifixion of the One who healed us,
gripping the metal studded leather whips as they tore Him skin from bone,
grasping the hammers that drove the nails through His tender hands and feet

as He loved us even when we were spattered in His warm blood.

Covered with blood, He forgave us.
Covered by His blood, we stand forgiven.

There are no clean white dresses on Sunday
without the bloody mess that came before.

Don’t turn your gaze too quickly from what transpired on Friday,

it’s what it looks like when there is work only Love can do,
it’s what it looks like when the heart of Love is torn open and put on display,
it’s what it looks like when God pays the price for the bloody mess we’ve made,
it’s what it looks like in the heartbeat of time when we are redeemed.

Does all the blood of the gospel make you uncomfortable?


May that holy discomfort drive us all to our knees at the foot of the cross where Love bled out and set us free.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's REALLY Happening this Week

We play as if death is a parlor game.

Sitting around with coffee and dessert, we query one another – 

“If you only had twenty-four hours left to live, what would you do?”

But death is no game.

It’s serious business,
the ultimate betrayer,
the enemy so insidious and dominant

God placed the job of defeating it on the shoulders of His only Son.

Death stalks us from conception

and whether we combat its shadow with laughter and revelry
or piety and reverence,

we all hear its footsteps behind us on the stair
reaching a cold hand around our mouths
or closing around the throat of a loved one.

Death will come for us all
but it will not own us – not every one.

This week is not about the arrival of spring
or children in suits and bright bonnets
or tulips and bunnies and chocolate eggs.

This week is about the defeat of our enemy.

 It is our time to gather in the Great Hall and thump the table with our fists
as we hail the conquering hero who
slayed the dragon.

This is our week to remember how close we all came to eternal destruction,
to be sober minded about our failings and our weakness,
to confess our vulnerability to the power of darkness

but then to lift our eyes, to raise our glasses, to fall on our knees in awe
at the One who endured
betrayal, false charges, humiliation, indignity, flogging, abandonment, public scorn, pain, suffering, and death,

the One who delivered His body up for us

so that when Death arrives behind us on the stair
and snuffs out our final breath on earth

it simply shoves us through the doorway that is Jesus
into a life of eternal existence beyond our wildest imaginings.

 “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,

“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” I Corinthians 11:23b-26 (ESV)

Death still is the end for some.

Some refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the door, the way, the truth, the life.
Some refuse to accept the forgiveness provided through His death on the cross.

For some, Sunday is not coming.

Some choose to stand above the open maw of the relentless grave and insist there is no escape.

There is.

Jesus gave up His life on the cross.

He died and was buried.

On the third day, He rose from the grave, triumphant over death.

All who follow Him will also be raised from the dead and through Him, have eternal life.

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21

Come to the light, loved ones. There is eternal life.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Secret You'll Hate Knowing - at First

I’ve been thinking about the sacrifices of persecuted Christians in other countries

you know, in between television shows,
and restaurant outings.

In wondering about them
and what makes them capable of laying down their lives,

I’ve also wondered 

(during breaks from social media and watching the latest Youtube video)

what gets in our way

that we don’t appear to have the capacity
to lay down our daily “to do” list, never mind our lives.

And I was reminded of the seventh degree black belt
who owned the karate school where I earned my first degree.

One day, he instructed us students to do one hundred pushups
and several people moaned. (one of them may have been me)

Another complained, “Oh sure, one hundred pushups is easy for you. They’ll never be easy for me.”

In that moment, the sensei stopped the class, clearly annoyed.

“Do you know why they’ll never be easy for you?
Because you want it to be easy.

You don’t put in the work. You’re not faithful in the small things.
One hundred pushups are easy for me but that’s because I work at pushups every day – before most of you are out of bed.

No excuses. No complaining. No whining.

And I have worked at a thousand other small disciplines against which you rebel.

This will never be easy for you because you want it to be easy.
But if you want to be able to do what I do, you can start here with one hundred pushups.”

Too many of us received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ with eagerness
 but with an attitude that says,

 “Wow, this is great! Thanks. This will really enhance my life and help me achieve my goals.”

While others receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ with grateful tears and an attitude that says, “My Lord gave up His very life for me so I will spend the rest of my life showing Him my love and gratitude through obedience.”

To obey is better than sacrifice.

Since this is true,
we would do well to focus on obedience
and know that that is the training ground for sacrifice.

But we don’t like that word “obedience,” do we?

“Sacrifice” sounds hard but like maybe we could reap some credit or glory from it

whereas obedience is simply due diligence.

Sacrifice seems like a high and holy event
whereas obedience sounds like a thankless, daily grind.

And yet, I believe, that persecuted Christians will testify to the value of daily obedience
in training the soul to respond correctly in the day of sacrifice.

I think that's their secret.

Obedience is also the remedy for the sins of rebellion, stubbornness, and idolatry, so rampant in the modern church.
“So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” I Samuel 15:22-24 NKJV

Something inside us wants to believe that Christians in persecuted countries are some other type of Christian,

that somehow risking jobs or station in life or social exile or loss of family and friends, imprisonment, or torture

that somehow these things are not as hard for these believers as we imagine they would be for us.

I think these believers would respond to us much as my old karate instructor responded to the class.

“Do you want to know our secret? 

You cannot sacrifice because you want it to be easy. You don’t put in the work. You’re not faithful in the small things.

We have learned to obey Jesus in small ways, in daily ways, and to deny ourselves for Him a hundred ways before you all get out of bed in the morning.

If you want to be ready to do what we do, start here.”

And so, my thinking has challenged me to start here, this week, to deeper obedience.

How many passages of scripture have I read and dismissed without putting them into practice?
How many times a day do I justify small unfaithfulness like a moment of gossip or an indulgence in self-righteousness?

I’m not advocating a life of rule-following perfection-seeking practices (for we are not called to be slaves)

but I do want to challenge myself out of an attitude of lazy spirituality and habitual foot-dragging 

when it comes to translating my faith into a life defined by love of Christ and evidenced by an obedient spirit.

It might be as simple as saying "yes" when presented with opportunities to obey (to love, to forgive, to testify, to serve) and 

maybe each small yes builds a spiritual muscle that prepares a person for the day of greater sacrifice.

I am not a slave to sin or to modern culture or to selfishness or to a spectator faith.

I am free through Christ to enter the ring
through the door of love 
expressed through daily obedience.

And so, loved ones, are you.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

My Father, My Agent, the Men of Issachar, and Jackie Chan


Six letters that inspire either thrill or fear.

We thrill to change we initiate
and fear change thrust upon us.

That’s just how we roll.

But when it comes to change,
I’ve learned unexpected lessons from some everyday people
and everyday lessons from some unexpected people.

Take my father, Fred Stanley, a firefighter for over sixty years and my agent, Les Stobbe, in the writing business for the about the same;

they can tell you a thing or two about change
and its relationship to longevity in their fields.

From them, I’ve learned that embracing change is a key factor in staying power.

Both are still working at their passions;
active, engaged, and full of life.

long past the time when others have accepted retirement.

They are still contributing in their fields, encouraging others, outpacing younger men, and achieving noteworthy accomplishments.

This, because they have learned to adapt to change.

Less than four years ago, my father (now 78) found web addresses a mystery not worthy to solve.

I called him one night when the news stations were reporting on the Internet that his firefighters had entered a fire without proper equipment.

This wasn’t true and I knew it would bother him but he handily dismissed my concern, “No one cares about the Internet, Lori.”

The next day, when emails were pouring in from around the country criticizing his firefighters, he suddenly developed a passionate interest in the Internet.

Not long after, he acquired a laptop and learned to navigate his way around. You still won’t find him surfing the web for hours but he learned what he needed to learn to continue doing what he loves to do.

Likewise, Les Stobbe, started in the writing business back when people wrote books on typewriters and bought them from places called bookstores.

Les has kept apace with the technological changes of publishing but more importantly, he’s stayed in touch with changes in the way we communicate the gospel to each new generation.

Now in his eighties, he remains a force for Christ and inspires those of us coming along behind him to excellence, perseverance, and relevance in telling others about Jesus.

Which brings me to the men of Issachar. Maybe you’ve never heard of these men but I believe Les can trace his spiritual heritage back to this ancient Israelite tribe:

“Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.” 1 Chronicles 12:32 (ESV)

Not all of us can keep up with change the way my father and Les can

(a phrase that is probably making their wives laugh – keep in mind they’re good at keeping up with change in the fields about which they are passionate – I cannot attest to their willingness to implement changes on the home front)

but it is important that some of us have an understanding of the times so we can communicate how God’s word applies to our everyday lives in a way every generation understands.

So, from my father and my agent and the men of Issachar, I’ve learned to embrace change and to understand the times

and that brings me to Jackie Chan.

 Jackie Chan is a little guy, compact, petite.

When he first hit the scene, no one would have expected him to pack much of a punch.
He appears unassuming, unarmed, not much of a threat.

But Jackie Chan knows that power and might is not limited by size or access to props.

He fights smart and uses whatever is at his disposal to engage in battle
surprising his opponents every time.

He brought about a martial arts revolution – this little, unassuming man,
and that inspires me that even small time writers can use whatever is at their disposal
to combat the enemy in our time.

This is all to say, loved ones, that while I have embraced the change of writing a book due to be released in several months

and expanding my readership,

this necessitates the change (thrust upon me) of moving the blog to an author website sometime in the near future.


Everytime I balk at this step of progress, I see the faces of my dad and my agent.

The blog will be the same content but it may look a little different.
I’ll let you know when the website goes live and I hope you all will make the change with me.

The move will allow me greater capacity for sharing my thoughts about the times (for I, too, hail from the spiritual tribe of Issachar)
and is my attempt at using everything at my disposal in the battle for souls (like my hero, Jackie Chan).

I know you all are also passionate about reaching this generation for Jesus and applying God’s word to our times
and I’d love to know what it looks like in your life.

So tell me, what changes have you embraced to continue the work of building God’s kingdom?

How do you keep understanding the times?

How have you, like Jackie Chan, used everything at your disposal to combat the enemy?

Let’s spur one another on to love and good deeds.

(Oh, and I'll let you know when the book is due out. It's currently titled, "Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus)"

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stand Back! This is a Job for an Old Woman

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not

but God doesn’t see old women the way the world does.

The world looks at gray hair, wrinkles, and saggy parts and says, 

“Woah, take a load off, Annie. You just sit your old bones over in that rocker and rest up for . . . well, you just rest.”

Where as Jesus, well, He’s just as likely to see the same conglomeration of battered bones and liver spots

but instead of shuffling her off to the home

He’s after her with an assignment
– and no light duty, either.

He called Sarah and Elizabeth to give birth, special babies with callings,
Deborah to lead the nation of Israel,
Noah’s wife to survive when all others were doomed,
and countless other old women to similar acts of courage and faith.

And neither He doesn’t wink at the sin of old women.

He knows that just as some women age with light and grace,
others age bent like gnarled tree roots or tough and leathered like road kill in a freeze. 

He doesn’t excuse their meanness or their vitriol any more than He excuses the blood lust of young men or the foolish gossip of young girls.

When Athaliah set out to destroy her own family in a bid for power, God had her put to death by the sword.

When Jezebel faced judgment for persecuting His prophets, God had her thrown out of a window, her body devoured by dogs.

And when Sapphira insisted on lying to the apostles to cover the greed she shared with her husband, moments later she lay cold and dead beside him, at the will of the Lord.

God knows that old women are a force.

There’s something that happens to those of us of a certain age.

We lose our need to please people.

We understand that nice isn’t one of the fruits of the spirit.

We grasp the value of truth, of courage, of perseverance, and
know that

at its core
love is a sinewy muscle,
 like the heart, that weathers on despite its burdens
and the ravages of time,

love is a feisty thing with bulldog teeth and the iron grip a mother clinging to a child in a gale force wind.

Old women without God are agents of evil so terrible there should be a special forces unit assigned just to hunt down godless women over fifty.

Old women sold out to Jesus Christ, though, are light sabers in the hand of the Master Jedi,

able to lacerate the darkness with razor precision,
slice away bonds of evil freeing those enslaved,

and light the way for those lost so they may emerge from the catacombs of delusion.

 I believe God is raising up old women across the planet to contend against the evil one in the battle for souls.

He’s fostering a spiritual militia of bold, stouthearted, fearless, articulate, compassionate soldiers adorned with crowns of gray and eyes bright with eternal life.

One of them made the Charisma news on April 7th.

In a story from China about thousands of Chinese believers forming a human shield to protect their church, there is this quote from Yang Zhumei, age 74:

“On Thursday evening, several hundred police officers with bulldozers took up positions around the church.
"I held their hands and said, 'Comrades, don't take down our cross. I can give you my head instead,'" Yang Zhumei, 74, told the Telegraph.
"Even if they take my head, I can still find happiness with God," she shouted.”

It takes a few decades on this planet, walking every day with Jesus, to know that happiness can be found even if one is decapitated.

If Yang Zhumei can face down communist soldiers, others of us can stand up and be heard where we are.

We can minister to drug addicts and rock crack babies through withdrawal.

We can take planes to foreign lands to fight sex trafficking or serve in orphanages or translate God’s word into unknown languages.

We can intercede in the night. We can speak out in the day. We can take on schools that threaten to silence our children when they speak about Jesus and we can inspire lukewarm believers warming pews to rise up and walk.

 Old women are a force – for God or evil – we choose now and we’ll answer for our choice when He returns-

we face the dogs like Jezebel or birth new life even in our twilight years like Sarah, like Yang Zhumei.

And so I pray with the Psalmist: “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalm 71:18 (ESV)

Who is with me?

Sometimes the job of kingdom building calls for a tough old broad, so rise up, and bring along the old men, too.

We can be light sabers, all.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'm Curious About Who You Are - 2014 10-Question Reader Survey

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Maybe It's Time for You to Quit Jesus

It might be time for you to quit Jesus.

I want you to consider that.

Seriously, take time and ask yourself some hard questions.

Why did I start following Jesus?
Why am I still following Jesus?

What if following Jesus starts to make my life uncomfortable?
What if people I know start to dislike me because I follow Jesus?

Or it costs me my job?
Or it separates me from friends, family, my own children?

What if this war for souls gets more real than a culture war?

What if it’s more real than liking some posts on Facebook or sharing a well-written op-ed?
What if I feel Jesus wants me to open my mouth with people I see every day,

Or change my life
Or take a major risk
Or give up my security?

What if following Jesus draws the attention of the enemy towards me?
What if following Jesus costs me my plans, my status, the respect of my peers, my dreams?

It’s time to ask these questions, loved ones.
It’s time.

This past week, there was a big controversy because World Vision made a decision to embrace employees in gay marriages and then reversed their decision when people withdrew their support of their mission because of it.

Gay marriage isn’t Biblical but neither is refusing to care for orphans, so, go figure.

Some celebrity Christians spouted off about being disillusioned with evangelicalism because of it.


There is no “-ism” that died for you on the cross and it’s healthy to lose our illusions.

War does that.
It strips us of our illusions
and forces us to consider what we truly believe – what hill we’re willing to die on.

But I have to wonder if all these Christian talking heads have read one of the gospels recently?

Jesus loves us. He loves us enough to die for us
but He said some tough things
Absolutely tough.

Jesus didn’t tell us to believe in ourselves
or to accept ourselves the way we are
or to hang out and be authentically "us".

Jesus told us to give up on ourselves.

To abandon our lives where we stood.
To shed any illusion that this story is about any one of us
and to pick up our crosses
to follow Him

Or go home.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:24-27 (ESV)

He said this to the crowds.

To hard-working citizens with bank accounts and stable situations he said – deny yourself
To lesbians, gays, and straights he said – deny yourself
To the holy and the hard-up he said – deny yourself

Or following me isn’t the life for you.

And when masses of people turned away after hearing those words – He didn’t chase after them,
Or send out follow-up questionnaires
Or ask His disciples how He could tailor His message to win them back.

Nope. He let them go.

Believers in other countries already know what I’m sharing with us in the Western church in this post:

this whole war for souls, this kingdom come, is getting real and it’s only going to get harder from here.

So, now is the time to ask the hard questions.

This is a time for courage.

The Holy Spirit counts cowardice and faithlessness in the same list as idolatry, sorcery, and murder:

“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:7-8 (ESV)

If it doesn’t take courage to live the life you’re living for Jesus,
if you don’t have to deny yourself
or lay anything down

then maybe it isn’t Jesus you’re interested in following but just an “-ism” or a movement or celebrity or a life philosophy.

That’s fine. That’s your choice. 

But following Jesus, well, that’s a narrow road. 
So, loved ones, maybe this is the time for you to quit Jesus.

Or to reacquaint yourself with His word, put your armor on, and take your stand behind Him.

If that’s your choice, brace yourself.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride and it’s going to get darker before we all see the Light.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Promise This is the Moment You Need Today

I don’t know about you, but life on earth seems pretty crazy to me sometimes.

It’s a long way from the ground to glory
and it can beat a person down – even a person of faith.

Sometimes, we all just need a break, you know?

So, here’s our break today.

You know that moment in every great movie,
that moment when things look the darkest
and people are truly tempted to despair;

it seems all is lost
when suddenly, the hero appears
and there is hope?

Yeah, let’s have that moment, here today.

Consider how great is our God
And know that hope lives and breathes and moves among us now, right now.

Place your eyes on Jesus and take refreshment from the sight of Him today.
Just that. Just that, loved ones.

“Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;

you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;

he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.

He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.

He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.” Psalm 104:1-5 (ESV)

“May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
 may the Lord rejoice in his works—

he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
 who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord all my life;
  I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
 as I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104:31-34 (ESV)

“For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,

nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,

that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Acts 17:23-28 (ESV)

Do you see Him?
Isn't He great and able to do even more than we imagine?

In him we live and move and have our being – so inhale, exhale, just breathe Him in and be renewed.

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