He’s in You

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I’m a big Disney fan. Maybe that’s why my daughter holds the world record for visits to Disneyworld, Disneyland, and photos with Mickey and friends – even in her 30’s – influenced largely by Mom and Dad of course. One of my all-time favorite Disney movies is The Lion King.

There’s a particular scene that caught my attention recently – and you say – “You just watched the Lion King?”. Why yes, I did – funny you should ask. Colleen and I (mostly her) are teaching a class on Identity – Identity in Christ. To close out the last session we decided to use the Lion King as a parallel to the journey toward healing and the discovery of “who we are”. I’ll describe one of the scenes to you.

Rafiki shows up as Simba is struggling with his choice to leave the pride land (“forced” out much earlier by Scar) after bumping into Nala during his worry-free life with Pumbaa and Timon.

Rafiki is bellowing out this song as he bounds along ready to encounter Simba. “Asante sana! Squash Banana! We we nugu! Mi mi apana!” Not sure what that means but I do know that the name Rafiki means “friend”. A friend not afraid to confront Simba with a challenge.

Rafiki asks, “Whooo… are you?

Simba replies, “I thought I knew…. Now I’m not so sure.”

At least he’s honest. We could learn a thing or two from Simba. When our world falls apart, rather than continuing to fill ourselves with life numbing behaviors, why not pursue the answer to that question? Simba did.

Rafiki: Well, I know who you are. Shh. Come here. It’s a secret. Asante sana! Squash banana! We we nugu! Mi mi apana!

Simba: Ernh! Enough already! …What’s that supposed to mean anyway?

Rafiki: It means you are a baboon– and I’m not. {laughs}

Simba: {Moving away} I think… you’re a little confused.

Rafiki: Wrong! I’m not the one who’s confused; you don’t even know who you are!

Simba: {Irritated, sarcastic} Oh, and I suppose you know.

Rafiki: Sure, I do! You’re Mufasa’s boy!

Simba: You knew my father?

Rafiki: {Monotone} Correction– I know your father.

Simba: I hate to tell you this, but… he died. A long time ago.

Rafiki: Nope. Wrong again! Hah, hah, hah! He’s alive– and I’ll show him to you. You follow old Rafiki; I know the way. Come on!

Off they run through a maze of branches, roots, vines, trees, and reeds to a pond where Rafiki tells Simba to look over the edge into the glass-like water. He sees his reflection but balks at the idea that his Father lives.

Rafiki: Noo. Look … harder. You see … he lives in you.

Mufasa: {Quietly at first} Simba . . .

Simba: Father?

Mufasa: Simba, you have forgotten me.

Simba: No. How could I?

Mufasa: You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.

Simba: How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.

Mufasa: Remember who you are. You are my son…….

This is sooo….. good. I love the parallel. We MUST remember who we are. Mufasa, God our Father, imparts a simple truth. “YOU ARE MY SON”.

God calls us “back” to Him. When we make life-changing decisions that lead us in a direction that He never intended for us, He waits patiently for us to realize the truth. That our true-self is waiting to be reclaimed. The self that God ordained for us to live out – when He “knew us from the foundation of the world”.

A simple message for you today my friend. He’s in You. Your DNA, your character, your total being is a reflection of God’s image – in a life meant to be different from the world. One that was tainted by sin but redeemed by Christ.

What will you do with your life? The life God intended for you? Unique in every way. There is no temptation known to man that God won’t provide a way out. Take it, pursue it.

 For Simba, two dear friends delivered a message of healing and restoration – Nala and Rafiki. They called forth his true-identity. God’s character in him. If God can use a lion and a baboon to deliver a message to Simba, he can use anyone or anything to call you back to Him. Listen for that voice. That still small voice that may be the Holy Spirit – Rafiki in Simba’s case.

You may be in a place of complacency, all-out rebellion, or just in a season of not-knowing. It makes no difference. It only requires surrender to the truth that God will meet you right where you are. Whether in the reflection of yourself or in the reflection of His Son.

The simple truth is this: HE’S IN YOU.

Beauty in the Darkness

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Did you know that there are at least 10 beautiful flowers that only bloom at night? One of those is the Red flare tropical water lily. I continue to be amazed and enamored by God’s creation. We can learn so much through nature. I was particularly struck by the oddity of flowers blooming at night. My innate instinct was to believe the Sun and daylight produce the most vibrant of colors, in most every living thing. Ah, but therein lies the dichotomy.

Is it possible that in the darkest moments, the greatest beauty can emerge? I’ve often thought about the refiners’ fire written about in the Bible. Silver is heated at immense temperatures to burn off all the impurities. But with that heat comes light, not darkness. Then again, it’s darkest right before the light.

The poem of St. John of the Cross, in 8 stanzas of 5 lines each, narrates the journey of the soul to mystical union with God. The journey is called “The Dark Night” in part because darkness represents the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable. Much the same may be said about our darkest moments in this life. They are simply unknowable. At least temporarily. Until brought into the light.

Often in darkness, something amazingly beautiful begins happening. We walk the journey of descent before we can enjoy the counterpart of ascent from the ashes of our brokenness.

God desires union with each of us. Oneness. Intimate fellowship. That may require darkness to settle into our lives. You could call it refinement or simply the “Dark Night of the Soul”. Embracing it is the key to healing and healing is the key to intimacy with God. Knowing that in the darkest times of our lives, when sin and the enemy of light seem to be winning, victory and freedom await us – just beyond the darkness.

I watched as my 36-year marriage dissolved right before my eyes. It meant coming face-to-face with one of the darkest moments of my life. When I questioned everything. After all of this – Why God? So much of who I was – wrapped up in a relationship – dissolved. Why am I even here if this is all there is? Heartbreak.

But God had other plans. The darkness gave way to light and I began to understand in a much greater way that my true-identity, purpose, and significance came from Him. My Creator. My Father. It’s hard to describe the freedom that comes from knowing it’s not about me. It’s not about performance or people-pleasing. It’s about healing the wounds that impacted so much of how I viewed myself and God. Taking my rightful place as His child. Once and for all. Knowing that I’m His favorite – and so are You.

Take hold friends. Embrace the brokenness. Embrace the darkness. In it, your beauty will be evident. Bloom right where you are. Freedom awaits.

I Stayed at The Ritz-Carlton and Didn’t Hear a Thing

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At the height of my career I was fortunate enough (depending on your perspective) to have experienced some of the finer things in life. Luxury cars, a boat in the Chesapeake, condo in Antigua, oceanfront vacation home in North Carolina, and at-will travel to some of the most amazing places in this hemisphere. Staying at some of the finest hotels including The Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, a place in Philly that was once called the Bellevue Stratford, and even a few boutique hotels that no one ever heard of.  I even stayed in a $10,000 a night suite at the Venetian in Vegas on business not long after 9/11 – just by asking for an upgrade since the place was a ghost town. Ok – what’s my point? It has everything to do with getting my need for significance met through the accolades that come with prestige in this world, rather than through a relationship with God. I call that occupying the “God Spot” with something other than God Himself. The place in each of us reserved only for Him. Idolatry is a strong word to describe that attitude but in my case, it definitely applied.

With my balance sheet at the center of my identity crisis, I wasn’t hearing much from God. Yes, I considered myself blessed, from the world’s standards. But in no way was I nearly as wealthy as the folks I was trying to emulate. But that mindset just reminds me of what Rockefeller said when asked how much money was enough? To which he replied, “just a little bit more”.

Caveat alert! I, in no way, am condemning or judging anyone that has amassed great wealth. In fact, 15 percent of everything Jesus ever taught was on the topic of money and possessions-more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined. It’s an important subject and even greater tool. Many Christ followers have been given the gift to manage a whole lot of it. The love of money is the issue. Has it occupied space in your mind, heart, and psyche – crowding out all ability for the Holy Spirit to speak and to lead? In my case, It certainly did.

You know – there will always be somebody, richer, smarter, prettier, wiser or more talented. Or so it may seem to you. But to be blunt – who cares? We’ve been endowed by our Creator-God with a uniqueness that only we possess. The problem lies in how we take hold of that fact and cozy up next to Him to see what He really thinks of us. Not what our neighbor or co-worker, or boss, or the world at large thinks of us. Or, when we check into The Ritz and have our Mercedes valet parked – looking around to see who’s noticing while hoping they just snuggle it in behind that red Ferrari 458 Italia. You know, with all the other showcase cars that get to be displayed for everyone to gawk at as they wander around outside that 5-star hotel.

So, what about that notion that we can “cozy up next to Jesus” – and have a personal relationship with Him? One that provides the opportunity to hear from Him in that still small voice that speaks to our heart. Or delivers a “God kiss” in nature or through our pets. Just at the right time and often when we least expect it. Or more directly through His Inherent Word – The Bible. Or through other people. Or through our circumstances. Truth be told, I wasn’t hearing much of anything back in the days when all that mattered to me was accumulating stuff. A pretty short sited view of what matters in this life.

But now, a different story. Colleen and I were visiting Stone Harbor a couple weeks ago. A real favorite of ours. Just a nice, peaceful, seaside town along the southern coast of New Jersey. We didn’t stay at the Ritz-Carlton or a 5-star equivalent – just a tiny little Motel that we’ve come to love and appreciate; owned by a family that we’ve taken a liking to and visa-versa. Frankly, you have to step out of the tiny bathroom just to change your mind.

At the beach that day I asked God a very simple question.

But first some background. I’ve been grumpy the last couple weeks. Just ask my wife, who’s healed up enough to never take it personally or own my junk – and love me anyway. Paying attention not to give much credence to the “enemy” attacks, which can be predictable, I wanted to know why. So, I asked God. “What’s going on with me?” It took only seconds to hear back. He’s that way. If you wanna know something. Just get quiet with Him. He’ll come clean, eventually. This eventually just happened to be immediate. “You’re grumpy because you expected your business to advance more quickly, your finances to be in better shape and I don’t blame you. I get it.” It was the coolest thing I’ve heard in a long time. No condemnation. No judgment. Just a loving response to deep concerns of mine.

I looked down at the shallow surf and saw a small Top Neck clamshell and picked it up. Then another tiny Button clamshell and picked it up, placing it inside of the other. Then I “heard” this. “Big or small, I’m in it all”. What? Yep! He’s in it all. I can be grumpy about what I perceive as inaction or accept this little gift of encouragement assuring me that He’s in it all. Big or small.

I sure hope you can relate. Even if you aren’t hearing a thing. He’s always “working” on our behalf. Loving you in every moment. Patience, please.

One of the coolest takeaways for me that day was, in wealth or in want, He loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. Problem was that the distractions of this world impacted my ability to hear from Him. I stayed at the Ritz and didn’t hear a thing. I stayed at The Lark and heard all I needed to hear. For that day and in that moment, I knew God had my back. In it all, big or small.

On the Road to Hell?

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I just completed a fiction novel by Joel Rosenberg entitled The Third Target. The main character in the story is J.B. Collins. A New York Times award winning columnist covering most of the activity in the Middle East. Rosenberg’s writing has a distinct and prophetic tone to it. As J.B. is considering his fate and the after-life his brother – a born-again Christian – often challenges him to go deeper into the meaning of his existence and what happens after death. Late in the book J.B. comes face to face with the reality awaiting him. Especially after being threatened by the most dangerous ISIS terrorist on the planet. His observation, “I was now certain there was an afterlife. I was now certain heaven and hell were real places that real people went. I couldn’t explain how. I just knew it. What I didn’t know was how to get to heaven. Matt said Jesus was the only way. I wasn’t so sure. Which meant he was right about another thing – I was in danger. If I didn’t have a route to heaven, didn’t that mean I was on the road to hell?

Isn’t that the million-dollar question for each one of us? Or an even more costly question if we don’t get the right answer. I grew up in the church, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to believe that Jesus died for me. It’s what I was taught from a very early age. But that’s not the case for many people on the planet never exposed to the message of salvation and what it means to be a Christ follower. Even if they do hear it, you have to admit, it’s a story requiring a significant amount of faith for most anyone. There’s a lot of questions surrounding this idea of original sin and the choice to eat of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve. Then getting banished from the garden, never to return until Jesus comes back. Oh, but he first must die for the sins of mankind. A substitutionary death. What does all that really mean? It sounds a bit bizarre.

The idea of there being only two roads available to us, one to hell and the other to heaven, is a bit scary for anyone. Aren’t there multiple ways to get to heaven? Shouldn’t we be capable of being good enough to get there without faith in anyone but ourselves? The Bible says no. But you first must believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. That’s also a stretch for some people. Society models a self-sufficient existence with an emphasis on people pleasing and performance. If that’s the way things work, why wouldn’t entrance to heaven require the same effort? Because the Bible says no and so does Jesus. It’s not earned or strived for. It’s an acceptance of the fact that we, in and of ourselves, could never earn it. How good is good enough and who gets to decide that? Perhaps a panel of angels or demons if it’s about being bad enough.

It’s a truth written into the most popular verses in the Bible. John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV).

This is fundamental to the Christian faith. Coupled with the resurrection of Christ. It’s everything.

As we consider our destiny as believers in Christ or non-believers in Christ, don’t let the questions posed here go unanswered. Go deeper into God’s word and decide for yourself. And if you don’t believe it’s God’s word – do it anyway. What do you have to lose? Hmmm…. Maybe everything.

A Lesson from Two Mourning Doves

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I told my wife this morning, “you’re not the only one that hears from God in the shower”. She laughed out loud.

Nature has so much to teach us about the character of God but if we look real closely we can also see the fall of man. I was peering out the window while in the shower this morning. Yes, we have a window in the shower, at eye height in case you were worried a bit. There on the ground near our bird feeders was a mourning dove making his way around the plethora of nuts and seeds I tossed out there last night. He was in bird heaven. Fat, dumb, and happy. Like most doves look while chowing down on the delicacies of the day. Suddenly another dove lands in the tiny plot of ground assigned to this feast. My meek, fat, dumb, and happy dove suddenly acted like his whole life was being threatened and launched out into full attack mode on this unsuspecting peer. Off he went, and parity suddenly arrived again. All was well in the dove’s world. Then like something out of a bad dream another dove dive-bombed into the feeding frenzy and my little guy launched beak first into action. A take no prisoners all-out assault. He won again, and the other guy headed for the hills, or nearby tree in this case.

Then it struck me.  That selfish little bugger, he’s just like me. If anybody messes with my pile of stuff, boy are they in trouble. And in a bird’s world what else is there but eating, pooping, sleeping and making more little birds?  Don’t get near my territory, or my woman, or my career, or my stuff, or my wounded parts. I’m having none of that.

But here’s the thing, we can re-capture the life that God had always intended for us. Remember the greatest commandment and then the second one? In Mark 12 Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (ESV) We were intended to live in full harmony with each other and even ourselves. Love covers it all.

The dove showed me that, after the fall, even the bird population, lost that harmony. I could only imagine that in the garden that dove would have welcomed his buddies with open wings. Heck, he may even have picked up a nut and fed it to him before sharing the real estate with the rest of his fine-feathered friends. But then sin ruled the day and has ever since.

Whether the mourning dove shooing off the competition, the cheetah attacking the giraffe or us gossiping about that annoying individual, we’ve all fallen to the ravages of sin.

But God, in His infinite wisdom provided a way back. Whatever ails us, whatever happened to us along the way that set up the anger, disdain, and disharmony of man, Jesus can and will provide the healing necessary to find freedom.

Love rules the day and always will. There’s plenty for all of us, including the hungry dove.

A New Name

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2012 and 2013 were particularly difficult years for me. On the stress charts there were several events that infiltrated my life that most certainly occupy many of the first 5 places on those charts. A marriage of 33 years looks to be breaking apart, I’ve sold a business where I was expected to be employed after the sale for quite some time that doesn’t materialize, I move and become primary caregiver for an aging parent, and then try and decide what life looks like all over again at age 55. New career, new relationships and an all around new life. Wow. Welcome to my nightmare. Or so it seemed.

But God…… I’ve heard that phrase a few times BUT this time it had a whole new meaning.

I grew up in a fairly normal household, according to most people’s standards. At least that’s what I thought. But a whole new understanding of how past traumas, let’s call them wounds, lies and losses, have had such a profound impact on my ability to know myself and know God in the way he originally intended. After all, the Garden experience was supposed to be permanent. Walking and talking with God was the norm of the day. Then that slithering snake twisted the truth and our God given free will executed turned us sideways. For some reason we wanted to be like Him and know good AND EVIL. Problem is we really didn’t know what evil was until then, so our real reason was more self-serving than that.

Back to my story.

As God began to expose those wounds, the lies and the losses, it became much clearer that my brokenness was driving me in every direction but toward God. I was seeking to fill the spot in my heart, uniquely reserved for Him, with everything this world had to offer. What a distraction. The same distraction that Satan used to tempt Eve and Adam to sin against God. I had a very authoritative Father. Distant. Involved only to the extent that he could drive performance and perfection to new levels. Let the beatings begin when it didn’t happen quite right. I did deserve a few of them though. But man, that’s how I saw God. In that same way. Kick my butt if I get out of line. What does out of line really mean anyway? My Father’s interpretation who had his own wounds needing healed.

But God…..

In Ephesians 1 Paul gives us an amazing insight. “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” ESV

That part where he chose us before the foundation of the world. That’s pretty powerful. He knew us before we knew us.

David wrote in Psalm 119, “13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

You do understand the implication here don’t you? The fix is in. Yeah, well tell that to a guy whose life is falling apart at 55 and expected to be a whole lot more “successful” than this. There in lies the problem.

You see, identity is a funny thing. I took on the world’s idea of what success looked like and linked who I was directly to that. God was a little bit like Dad. Strict, distant, and expecting me to perform at super human levels and please everyone else along the way. Ugh, see how the devil messed up that message?

But here’s the TRUTH. God has made us as unique as snowflakes. Not two alike. Gifted in ways that no one else can match. Part of the Body of Christ. The one that was knitted together in Mom’s womb. No mistake.

With a New Name on a White Stone

Check this out. It’s in black and white. Totally inspired by God, written by John on a remote island nearing the end of his life.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17.

You heard it right. A new name that no one knows except you. Problem is that I didn’t ask Him what that new name was or is. Did you? Well I did now.

Tucked away in the mountains outside of Colorado Springs God led me to a “Wild at Heart” boot camp led by John Eldredge and his team at Ransomed Heart. I was given the audio book to this best seller earlier in the year and knew this was it. The rescue that God had in mind. Little did I know it would forever change my life, change my view of myself, and my understanding of God. It was the first time I even suspected there was a NEW NAME for me. As John challenged us through this long weekend to go deeper into this question, along with many others, God showed me my future. Not specifically, but generally. He revealed that new name. All that went with it was further revealed over the next 5 years.

As you read on to Revelation 2:19 you’ll see why. “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.” There it was. Not work, work as in performance or people pleasing. But God’s work through me. A freed up me. One that understood my calling, my name, my mission. First it was to become more like Him, then it was to reflect Him. Then again, I was told that the journey was to be more like Jesus since I first heard about him. But it never became real until I found myself broken and willing to consider that on a much deeper level. Ready to pick up my mat and walk; to be healed. Willing to dive much deeper into this question of identity. Identity in Christ.

G.K. Chesterton was one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. A convert to the Catholic Church but hailed as a defender of the faith and an articulate champion of Christianity, virtue, and decency. Chesterton wrote nearly a hundred books during his lifetime, and literally thousands of essays, in newspapers and magazines. He said this:

“Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are.”

But God…. Has called us to be much more.

Charles Spurgeon said, “I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank and a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is. Find out your niche’ and fill it. Do something in this great battle for God and Truth.”

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Mark Twain. It’s perfect for this moment to encourage us all to seek this name that God has for us. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Wow. Perfect.

Story is one of the best ways to pinpoint in parallel the gifts that God has given. Look at all the great ones. There’s a hero, a heroine, and then there’s a villain. At some point in the story the hero proves himself to be just that, but not before being challenged by evil to do the right thing; or in many cases to give in to the wrong thing. To choose the valiant path and rescue the heroine. Don’t forget about her. It’s God’s story. It’s the story of this life that we lead. The battle between good and evil. Between right and wrong. Between life and death. For eternity.

The movie “Gladiator” is one of my favorites. Remember Maximus? Maximus is a general and loyal subject to King Marcus Aurelius. His son Commodus has taken over after the Kings death and is threatened by Maximus’s influence. He has Maximus killed (or so he thinks) and his wife and son. Maximus actually survives and was traded as a slave. Good for nothing, “you serve me” his master said. It gets worse, he then becomes a Gladiator fighting to the death of someone. Destined to die himself at some point. His purpose? To be fed to lions and entertain the masses.  But he defies a nation. Commodus comes to him after Maximus wins a massive victory but doesn’t know who he is behind the helmet. Until he speaks. But has Maximus forgotten who he is? No way. Not a chance.

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Sending goose bumps down my spine right now. All the pain and misery in his life hasn’t changed the fact that he knows who he is. His true purpose.

I want to be that man, do you? To know my name and my destiny. To be called out of this crazy world into something bigger than myself. Imagine the cloud of witnesses in heaven cheering us on. Just like the crowds cheered and gave Maximus the thumbs up for life, in defiance of Commodus.

No more will I have to prove anything to this world. Trying to navigate the treacherous waters of influence by the enemy that seeks to destroy us. Freedom is on the horizon. But don’t lose heart, we do have a purpose and destiny to live out on this earth. Waiting for the day when all things will become new.

How about Abraham who finds out he’s going to be the Father of the nation of God’s chosen people. At what? 100 years old. It’s never too late to fulfill your destiny. And Moses floundering around in the wilderness for 40 years after killing an Egyptian and running from his own adoptive family. Crazy. Then he comes back to free the captives and lead the most significant flight in history. To this side of the Promised Land. Set up for Joshua to finish that journey.

I can sell a failing business, lose my wife of 33 years, lose my job, go broke and start a new career in 2 years and God still can fix my broken parts. Better than ever. Gotta love that.

What can you take away from someone who has lost everything?

I came across this quote from Edmond Clowney (a theologian, educator & pastor): He said “Every true church is composed of losers, those who have lost everything for Christ’s sake but have found everything in Him”

So, what exactly is it that a Christian has lost? Well, everything that holds power in his or her life that isn’t Jesus.

A follower of Jesus has lost the desperate need to prove themselves to God or earn his love and affection.

A follower of Jesus has lost the endless desire to find joy in anyone or anything other than God.

A follower of Jesus has lost the need for approval that leads to the reckless sacrifice of themselves on the altar of other people’s demands and wishes.

A follower of Jesus has lost the endless search for their identity and they found their identity in Christ.

We’ve lost a million things in Christ and we’ve gained a million more in Him.

Where in the world would the notion come from that in great loss, tragedy, sin and despair there is great good that can be brought from that? Where exactly was that demonstrated?

Of course, IN JESUS.

Remember this, Jesus plus anything equals nothing. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

You will never live beyond the way you see yourself. Even if you think you know who you are. You can think you know but you may actually not. You may have fought bravely but died quickly in that attempt. The deepest and most important part of the battle is to know who you are. Your mission and calling are centered around your NEW NAME.

Lord, could it be true? That you have Ransomed Us? Paid the full price?

We can leave the script, the vows we made with ourselves, our identity restored? Lord is that possible?

A turning point where our relationship unfolds? Could it be true that we can regain what’s been stolen from us?

I experienced it first-hand. You need to Trust Him and Ask Him.

He has a new name for you.

I heard loud and clear at that boot camp in the Rocky Mountains outside of Colorado Springs:  MIGHTY Man of Valor – WARRIOR. The name that Gideon was given. An ordinary man chosen by God. That’s most of us.

God wants to Father you, Jesus wants to shepherd you and the Holy Spirit wants to bring healing into your life. Your identity is secure, your name is unique, and God wants to reveal that to you. Just ask Him.

 

“What Kind of Man is This ….?”

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“…that even winds and sea obey him?” If we ask that same question, we’ll start to see the bigger picture of who Jesus Christ really is.

In Matthew 8:23-27 we experience a unique moment with Jesus’ followers. His disciples are panicked. Imagine the wind – which had been funneled through a narrow gorge – pushing out over the sea of Galilee, making the water turbulent. Waves breaking over the bow of the ship; certain doom is imminent. The Greek word that’s used to describe this storm is seismos – from the root that gives us the phrase “seismic activity” for earthquakes. And there’s Jesus quietly and peacefully sleeping in the stern of the boat. Seemingly unfazed by the events. The disciples wake him in fear of losing their lives and everything they had hoped for. Jesus rebukes the waves and the wind and total peace comes over the water; instantly.

Can you even imagine that moment? I’d be asking that same question. What kind of man is this? Well my friends, he’s the same Jesus that wants to intersect our lives every day. When the cancer diagnosis comes, or we lose someone close to us, or we find out that layoffs are imminent and our future is uncertain. He’s that same JESUS that asks you to trust him, love him, and follow him. Directly into the storm at times. That doesn’t make sense, does it? Remember that Jesus said earlier, as Mark recorded it, “Let us go across to the other side” (ESV). Jesus knew the destination. The other side. It was a foregone conclusion. He also knew there would be turmoil and difficulties along the way. Storms of life that seem like they’ll have a fatal ending. But Jesus…… comes through. He also said “why are you afraid, oh you of little faith?’ I don’t think that was in a reprimanding voice; but a voice of love. Calling us to a higher understanding of Him. A new appreciation of the power of his love.

Hold firm to his promises. He will never leave you or forsake you. Be strong and of good courage. He cares for us even when we can’t care for ourselves. Ask yourselves. “What kind of man is this….?”

Remember Blind Bartimaeus

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Kind of strange to be remembered as “blind Bartimaeus”. But growing up in the church and hearing teachers refer to this man in this way has become second nature. Probably not so natural for Bartimaeus. But his story lives in infamy. Let’s look at the passage in Mark 10.

46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. (ESV)

I was sitting with my spiritual counselor yesterday. Before we met I texted her to ask God to set the agenda. Typically, I’ll come to our 1-hour session with a topic of relevance in my spiritual journey but yesterday I sensed God nudging me to leave it up to her. So glad I did. She opened the Bible to this passage in Mark. God led her there and she wanted me to take some time and ponder the story. She asked me to mediate on it, while listening to her read, putting myself in the place of Bartimaeus. Feeling what he was feeling, sensing what he was sensing, and reacting as he may have reacted. Just swap places. And then answer Jesus question, personally. “What do you want me to do for you?”

Not an easy task since Bartimaeus’s life was made up of a whole lot of experiences and events that I can’t even imagine. But somehow, I got it. And God met me right there; paralleling events in my own life to help me wrestle with that question.

Most likely blind at birth, begging for every morsel of food he required to sustain life. But was it always like that? Did his parents ever take care of him or was he put out as one with defect? Headed down this path of questioning the Holy Spirit quickly re-routed me to recent events in my life. Let’s just say over the last 5 years. And wa-lah, there it was. I had the same answer as Bartimaeus. I wanna see. Going deeper. I wanna see what you see. I want your eyes of discernment. In any given situation, the wisdom to understand and to know the direction I should take personally or better yet in coming alongside others in that same way. A few years ago I began working with individuals as a Life Coach and owners of closely held companies as a Business Coach. There were times when I was called on to ask the right questions and give the proper advice. Those moments that stood out most were ones when the questions and answers just flowed. I just knew we were in the zone; the Holy Spirit zone. Do you know what I mean? You just know that you know. Well, I believe that’s available all the time. As I step into this next season of life, pursuing a completely different mission, I just wanna see. I wanna see what you see Lord.

But then, all of a sudden it occurred to me what I really want, as we closed our session yesterday. I want others to have what I have. A healed-up version of that guy who God created, and sin destroyed. What do I want you to do for me, Lord? Show me more of you in myself and more of you in others as a result. I want to see my future through your eyes.

Join me in Bartimaeus’s prayer.

“Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

In Nothing, Something or Everything – He is Faithful

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Each year for the past 3 years I’ve asked God for one word that would enable me to quickly grasp his theme for me for that year. So apropos were each of those words. As the year went on it became more and more evident what God was doing in my life and why that word was so relevant.

Let’s start in 2014. A year that required me to step into the unknown in ways that I never had before. Continued major career change, address changes, relationship changes and health issues. In many ways a whole new life. None of which was all that comfortable; but I knew all were absolutely necessary. It was really the early stages of, what I would call, my healing journey. That journey began in late 2012. Wrought with uncertainty, a lot of hurt to press in to and a lot of questions for God. Like, why would a 36-year marriage fall apart? Will I ever have a new partner some day? What will the relationship with my daughter look like? Can I even trust God to have my back? Now what? Lonely nights at dinner and a movie to escape the reality of the hurts I was experiencing. After all, how can this be part of His will for my life. It just doesn’t make sense. I was faithful and believed reconciliation was possible, but no. Not to be.

2015 – Word for the Year – TRUST. As time marched on I saw God show up in miraculous ways in my life. Trusting him was the only option and it paid off. Just being faithful. Coaching folks in business and in life became a natural part of MY life. Giving back what God gave me. Trust also meant being still – but walking at the same time. Into known and unknown territory full of surprises. He used this time to reveal himself to me on a deeper level. I never knew exactly what that meant when people said go deeper with God. But I did after taking His lead and quietly sitting in His presence. It’s just not describable until you do it. The spirit of this age is busyness. Sometimes you just need to slow down and sit AND trust Him. He so showed himself worthy of that trust.

2016 – Word for the Year. Abide. Well that seemed like a boring word. Yet it was anything but boring. I got engaged and married. So much for that question being answered. Didn’t see that one coming. On the other hand, I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life. As God showed me the ministry that lies ahead and the partner that I would have in the process, I couldn’t wait. Let’s go God. Career and calling was shifting again but in a more adventurous direction. A new food export business with a mission model. That all seemed exciting and it was; but there was an abiding that was taking place. Becoming more secure in my identity yet with tons of questions about what that even was. Learning how to walk out who God called me to be. Getting familiar with my new wife who loves the Lord and loves people better than anyone I’ve ever met. Special gifting in Leadership and Intercession. What a combination. A new family, new relationships. Abiding seemed appropriate as I simply let Him do His thing.

2017 – Word for the Year – FOLLOW. This should be interesting. What new adventures were waiting. Surely this new business would be well underway and we’d be seeing the world and doing ministry like never before. Well, sort of but not around the world. Colleen and I would begin ministering as I volunteered at Water Street Mission. To the broken and forgotten and the poor. Even leading a group of men into their own healing journey.

I’d be following God as he opened my awareness to wounds in my life that needed healed and lies that I believed about myself that needed exposed. Dysfunctional behavior and flawed thinking that needed reversed. Not exactly the following I was thinking of. Huh. Funny how that works. Awesome but very painful at the same time. Now here comes the enemy ready to pounce on the improvements. Reinforce the lies of “not having what it takes”, “gotta prove yourself to be worthy of your place in life”.  Got further reminders when a business that I owned failed after 20 years. Then the financial fallout. Wait, this is following? Where are we going? Broke? Pretty much. Since I found quite a bit of significance in my balance sheet God decided to target that and eliminate the threat to the healing he had for me. Another one of those – didn’t see that coming. So now what? Stripped of all dependence on my own control I’m left with no other choice than to FOLLOW.

Then, suddenly, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day stops. Like the Israelites in the dessert God introduces me to my Word for the end of 2017 and into 2018. WAIT!!! We’re gonna wait.

Oh my goodness. Are you kidding me? No way. Sit in this place of uncertainty where all the things that I “knew” to be true would be sidelined. God, your calling to spiritual healing ministry and international business. What’s happening? Our distributor in Panama decides to sit back and WAIT. The UK is stalled by logistics in getting product samples there. Jellies and jams and salsas and gourmet mixes. Sitting in my basement for weeks to get picked up. WAIT. Convinced that we have a partner in Colombia, South America that will be ordering immediately for shipment decides no. Now we WAIT.

Then God showed me Romans 4:18-22. Wow:

18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness[a] of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

It was one of those moments when you realize just how personal your relationship with Christ can be. As sure as I knew what God called my wife and me to bring to the Kingdom here on earth, is as sure as I know that someday that will come. The waiting can be rich. Rich with relationships. Rich with understanding. Rich with new experiences that God has for us. Rich with growth. For me it’s all of the above. God showed me that this year was for healing. What I defined as healing was building a business and subsequent ministry around that healing. God had something different in mind. And I’m ok with that now. It has not been easy but it’s been monumental for my story. The story that will be told over and over. Shared with tens, hundreds and thousands. That’s the promise. Wounded healers we all are. Until we meet Him face to face and all things become new again. Healers and lovers of God and others. That’s our calling.

There’s more to this story but, for now, it’s in the waiting. From nothing, to something, to everything. He is our God. He is our Healer, He is our Deliverer. Whether in Trusting, Abiding, Following or Waiting. He is faithful.

God – Our Provider

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Let’s start you off by reading 1 Kings 17. I know, it’ll take a few minutes but it’s worth it. Trust me.

Now; Is there any particular verse that seems to jump out at you?

Why does it seem to be more significant than others?

Meditate on what the Lord is highlighting to you personally.

This passage is full of people in dire and needy situations. Consider the number of needs presented in these verses.

  • Elijah needed food, water, and shelter.
  • The widow needed oil and flour.
  • The widow’s son needed healing.

Every single person in the passage was provided for but what is even more spectacular than the simple fact that they were provided for was the way that the Lord orchestrated resources to meet every need.

  • He directed Ravens to feed Elijah,
  • He softened the heart of a widow who had little to offer,
  • He bent the laws of nature to feed those He cared about,
  • and He placed a prophet who knew the power of prayer in the house of a man on his deathbed.

God our provider went to great lengths to remain true to His nature and not one person’s needs were beyond His capabilities. God’s realm of resources is boundless; he often meets our needs in unexpected and unseen ways, but regardless of the ways in which they are met, He is true to His promise. God our provider goes before us, orchestrating our deliverance in perfect timing (often before we even perceive the need for help) and without regard to the laws of nature. God’s provision is without limits (including time); no need is too big, too small, or too impossible for Him!

In what areas is God asking you to trust His provision? Ask for Jehovah-Jireh to reveal truth to you in your situation. How can the verse(s) that God highlighted in this text be applied in your circumstance?

God does and always will provide for those that trust Him and call on His name. That’s a simple truth. A powerful and undeniable one.