Posted in Matthew, Psalms

Resting in Christ

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…” Psalm 23:1-2

Before our good Shepherd leads us in paths of righteousness, or feeds us in the presence of our enemies, or anoints our heads to do great things for Him, He makes us rest our identity in Him.

Phillip Keller, in his book A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23 writes: “In every animal society there is established an order of dominance or status within the group. In a pen full of chickens it is referred to as the ‘pecking order;’ with cattle it is called the ‘horning order;’ and among sheep we speak of the ‘butting order.’

“Generally an arrogant, cunning and domineering old ewe will be boss of any bunch of sheep. She maintains her position of prestige by butting and driving other ewes or lambs away from the best grazing or favorite bed grounds. Succeeding her in precise order the other sheep all establish and maintain their exact position in the flock by using the same tactics of butting and thrusting at those below and around them…. Because of this rivalry, tension, competition for status, and self-assertion, there is friction in a flock. The sheep cannot lie down and rest in contentment.  They must always stand up and defend their rights and contest the challenge of the intruder.”

The only time they can rest, Keller goes on to tell us, is when they are in the presence of the shepherd. When he is nearby there is no butting order. Each sheep is special, not because of a place it holds in relation to other sheep, but because the shepherd knows its name. Each sheep has the place the shepherd gives her, not the one she has earned for herself.

Have you noticed that human beings, left to themselves, create a butting order? No one can rest or they might lose their place. Someone said that we “spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.” It’s all part of the butting order.

The Lord wants you and I to come out of the butting order and learn to live in His Presence. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Posted in 2Corinthians, Romans

Becoming the Real You

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2Corinthians 5:17

Modern psychiatry helps people understand why they do what they do by looking into their past. The premise is that you and I are products of our past. If we can identify where we have been hurt, rejected, and abused in the past, we can better understand why we react the way we do today.

While this can be helpful, especially if identified hurts are forgiven, Jesus comes to a human being in the opposite way – from our future. When you give your life to Jesus Christ you are no longer a product of what has been (that is all washed away by His precious blood), but of what He is making you by His grace. He has predestined you to “become conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)

In Christ we are a new creature. The old is passing away. Don’t dwell on the old in you, or you will remain trapped by it. Dwell on what He is doing by His grace, and the power of the old will lose its grip. When you dwell on the old in other people you tend to trap them with labels. “That’s just how he is.” If you look beyond people’s faults and find Jesus and what He is doing, it inspires them to rise.

A missionary in India was discouraged because many of his converts to Christianity were still clinging to some of their old habits. He prayed about this on a walk and the Lord directed his attention to a tree that had lost almost all of its leaves, but there were several dead leaves still clinging to the branches.  The Lord whispered to him something like this:

“There are two ways of getting the rest of the leaves off. One way would be for you to climb up there and cut each one off individually. That would be a lot of work. The other would be for you to wait until spring, when the new life will come through the same shoots and push the old leaves out naturally. Don’t worry about their old habits. Get them focusing on their new life in Christ and they will eventually find themselves completely free.”

Focus on what you are becoming, and thank God you’re not trapped by who you once were. You’re becoming the real you!

Posted in Matthew

The Price of Free Oil

“The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’” Matthew 25:8-9

Intimacy with God is a gift given to every believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose again, not just so that we could go to heaven one day, but so that we could experience Him right now.

Imagine for a moment a gas station that is giving away free gas. The only price you pay is the effort to get to that gas station and the time spent waiting while your tank is filled up. In God’s economy there is an abundance of the precious oil of intimacy, and it’s all free through Jesus, but we must make the effort to get to His station and be patient while He fills us up.

We can’t get this oil from one another. You can’t give me your relationship with God and I can’t give you mine. All we can do is tell each other where the station is and how to get the free oil. Each of us has to go there ourselves.

When we go through trials, when we experience injustice, when we need something that only God can give, and when Jesus comes again, we will wish we had taken time to become intimate with God. When you’re in the middle of the crisis there’s not time to develop intimacy that you don’t already have.

So don’t wait! Set a time and a place every day. Read God’s word and purpose to pray back to Him whatever He speaks. Journal those things He gives you and treat them as valued seeds that must be protected and watered. Develop a habit of waiting on God every day.

What starts as only a desire for intimacy must move to a plan for discipline. God’s reward will be an eventual delight in your quiet time that will make meeting with Him a highlight you look forward to each day. Desire, discipline, and then delight. Let your desire fuel a renewed effort at discipline. Stay at your discipline and pray for more and more delight.

Begin now to build a secret store of oil that no one else can see except you and God. As it grows, enjoy the assurance that you and God can face anything together and that you will be ready when Jesus splits the sky to come for us.

Posted in Isaiah


“No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her), and your land Beulah (married); for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:4-5

I often tell people who want to see a modern day miracle that they need look no farther than Kansas City where there has been a prayer meeting going on continually, 24/7, for over twenty  years. Mike Bickle has led and organized thousands of young people who have been seeking God for revival in America and in the world for almost two decades. Amazing! There are 84 back-to-back two-hour shifts where one team replaces another – they call it the International House of Prayer or just IHOP. (Google “IHOP Prayer room” to live stream the prayer meeting going on right now!)

We took a group to the One Thing conference they hosted for years, and at one of them, I heard Mike Bickle tell a dream he had that paved the way for this historic prayer meeting. In this dream he was preaching to a large group of young people at the convention center, but the entire message was only one word: Hephzibah.

He shouted over the group from the center of the stage: “Hephzibah!” Then he went to the right and once again shouted: “Hephzibah!” And then to the left hand side of the stage: “Hephzibah!” When he woke up he was determined to find where  this vaguely familiar word was in the Scriptures. He was stunned to find that the two verses quoted above were right before his life verses (Isaiah 62:6-7) about the need for unceasing prayer to accomplish all of God’s purposes. Then the Lord spoke to him: “They will never go night and day without knowing that My delight is in them.”

The power to serve God continually comes from an identity that is secure in the truth that we are God’s delight. As long as we are questioning God’s delight in us, or feel we aren’t good enough to be delighted in, or don’t feel we perform well enough for God to delight in us – we are going to struggle. The Father has a one word sermon He wants to speak to our hearts: “Hephzibah!”

Posted in 2Chronicles, 2Corinthians, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, John, Luke

The Best Wine

“You have saved the best wine for last.” John 2:10

I am convinced that God has saved the best of His Spirit for those who are older. I’m not an expert on wine, but I know that the older it is, the more valuable it becomes.

Paul said we are renewed in our spirits “day by day” and that we are being transformed “from glory to glory.” (See 2Corinthians 3-4) The picture here is of ever increasing glory as we grow older in the Lord.

Think about it: The temptations that were so strong in youth no longer grip us when we age, and the youthful pride we often had in our own strength no longer deceives us. As we age, we become better positioned to lose our life for Jesus so that we can find our life in Jesus.

It’s not that the Holy Spirit (wine is compared to the Holy Spirit in a number of places in the New Testament) gets better over time, but simply that less of His outpouring is wasted because of the wisdom gained by walking with God for many years. But only if we grow older in the right way.

There will always be a temptation of getting stuck in the past. In Luke 6:39 Jesus says, “But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is good enough,’ they say.” This warning is about how our past experiences with the Holy Spirit can prevent us from entering into the fresh thing the Spirit wants to do.

Solomon warns us to not “long for the good old days.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) God says in Isaiah, “Do not dwell on the past; it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) Dwelling on the past, even the glorious past, will keep us from perceiving the new thing God is doing.

It seems that if we believe our best spiritual days are behind us, then they are. But just think about some of the past giants of faith: Moses was 80 when he led the people of God out of Egypt, Daniel was well into his eighties when he was delivered from the lion’s den, and Anna was 84 when she prophesied about Jesus. (Luke 2:37) God is searching for people to show Himself strong through (2Chronicles 16:9) no matter what their age. So why not you? Why not us?

Posted in 2Samuel, Revelation

A Place at the Table

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

Jesus isn’t inviting us to a one-time experience, but to an ongoing relationship. Amazingly, we’re not the only ones who eat when we come to His table. Jesus also eats with us.  The longing of His heart for fellowship with us is satisfied when we open our hearts and take our place at the feast He has prepared.

In 2Samuel 9 we have the story of Mephibosheth. He was king Saul’s grandson and Jonathan’s son. David sought him out because he wanted to show kindness to one of Jonathan’s descendants in order to honor the covenant of friendship he had made with him.

When Mephibosheth was brought before David, he was afraid for his life because it was customary for a new king to wipe out all the descendants of the king he replaced. (2Samuel 19:28) But mercy, not judgment, was in David’s heart. He gave Mephibosheth all the property Saul had previously owned, making him a wealthy man, but he wanted to do something more than just give him property. David wanted to have an ongoing relationship with him so he gave him a place at his dinner table as if he was one of his own sons. (2Samuel 9:11)

Redemption doesn’t just give us immediate access to the wealth of heaven, it gives us a place at the King’s table. However, just because there was always a place set for Mephibosheth doesn’t mean he always came to meals, just like God doesn’t force us to take the place He’s made for us to have fellowship with Jesus.

The church in Laodicea had said in its heart, “I need nothing.” They were living as Christians apart from intimacy with Christ and had become spiritually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17) Jesus was pursuing their fellowship and was ready to restore spiritual riches, eye salve and garments of white to remove their shame, but they had to respond to His knocking.

He was inviting them to a meal, but not just one meal; the invitation was to start taking their place at the table for all the meals. Physically we need to eat regularly and this is a picture of our ongoing need of daily fellowship with our Savior.

Jesus is still knocking today, have you taken your place at His table?

Posted in Galatians, Genesis

Heaven’s Laugh

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:6-7

The joy Sarah experienced when she had Isaac (Isaac means “laughter”) would be shared by others when she told them the story. She was barren, Abraham was too old, and she had given up on having children long ago. People would laugh for joy because this child was tangible evidence of three things:

  1. God is alive. Because of the circumstances, this was clearly a miracle that only a living God could do.
  2. God is good. Life can be harsh and frustrating, but this child was a desire fulfilled that gave Sarah, and anyone who would hear about it, a taste of how good God is.
  3. God is gracious. Sarah had tried to have a child her own way through Hagar, and then laughed cynically when she heard God’s promise of her having a child. (Genesis 18:12) When she was asked why she had laughed, she lied because she was afraid. Yet God did the miracle anyway! God does wonderful things, not because of our great faith, but in spite of our imperfect faith.

What does this have to do with us? Everything. “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28)  The God who owed us nothing but death, gave us eternal life. The one who was heading to hell is now on the path to heaven.  The life that was degenerating in isolation is now regenerating through adoption into God’s own family, by the Spirit of life.

We are the miracles that should bring heaven’s laugh into this dark, cynical world. God loves us and Jesus died for us!  Don’t forget to laugh today at how wonderful these simple truths are.

Posted in Isaiah

Horse Talk

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He waits to show you compassion.” Isaiah 30:15,18

A few years ago  my wife and I went with our missionaries to a horse farm where horses are used to teach spiritual truths. Our director asked all of us to be quiet while we observed her with a horse who was unfamiliar with her. She asked us to imagine her as God, and the horse as us, and encouraged us to listen to what the Holy Spirit might teach through the experience.

She was in the middle of a circular pen set up in the arena and had a headset microphone on that allowed us to hear everything she was saying without her having to raise her voice. The horse was then let in with her and she began speaking softly to him, but he was having none of it. He began running around in circles ignoring her, but she kept speaking and never took her eyes off of him.

Once in a while the horse would kick or change direction or even speed up to let her know he resented being locked up in this small space with her. She just kept speaking tenderly and waited for him to tire out. Finally it happened.

All at once the horse stopped, went right to her, and bowed his head, letting her touch him. She told us this was an act of surrender. Now when she spoke and walked around the horse followed her wherever she went.

Here are a few reflections:

  1. The circular pen was something artificial that she created for the purpose of establishing a relationship with the horse. Our circumstances are like the pen. God allows us to feel penned in only for the reason that we might come to Him, surrender, and establish a stronger relationship. Even though the horse ignored the director, she never took her eyes off of him and never stopped speaking to him. God’s eye is on us even when we resent our circumstances and kick and snort to communicate our unhappiness with Him.
  2. Horses were created to be ridden in the beautiful outdoors, not stuck in a pen. God wants to have an intimate relationship with us where we become one with Him. The sooner we embrace this purpose by surrendering to Him, the sooner the adventure of  “riding” with Him will begin.
Posted in Isaiah, Psalms

A New Beginning

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word.” Psalm 119:67

We had a house cat when we lived in Minnesota named Sugar, and one day Sugar wanted to go outside. The problem was that it was freezing cold and we were in the middle of a snow storm. She put up her paws against the glass patio door in our dining room and meowed at the top of her lungs. I explained to her that she didn’t really want to go outside; she wouldn’t like it. But she wasn’t listening and was driving me crazy with her persistent meowing.

There were so many things she could enjoy if she would just get away from that door. She could watch TV with the kids who were home from school. She could sit on Beth’s lap and allow Beth to gently pet her for hours. She could go down in the basement and eat some more or go up to the bedroom and sleep on Beth’s bed. She had options, but she wasn’t interested in any of them. She wanted to go outside.

Finally I said, “Alright, you asked for this.” I opened the door and she shot out. I then closed the door and after about five seconds she wanted back in. Now she was pawing the other side of the glass door  and meowing at the top of her lungs to get back in.

I want to assure you that it was always my plan to let her back in – she was a house cat after all and belonged in the house with us. But she wasn’t coming back in that easily. Before a new beginning was offered, I wanted her to get a taste of life out in the winter storm. If she wasn’t fully convinced, I reasoned, once I let her back in she would quickly forget about how cold and windy it was and think she wanted to go out there again.

When she finally came back in she had obviously learned her lesson because there were no more episodes of her wanting to go where she wasn’t allowed.

Sugar’s story is often our story with God. We get bored doing the right thing all the time and think we want to investigate the “dark side,”  or what the Bible calls sin. Instead of enjoying all of God’s legitimate blessings we crave something that is off limits and become convinced that we will be happier if we have it. God then becomes “mean” in our eyes because He won’t let us have what we want. We pout. We whine. And then finally He allows an opportunity for us to have what we want.

If we won’t listen to His word, He hopes we’ll listen to our lives. Life doesn’t work when we disobey God. Even when we disobey and stray far from Him, He waits for our return, “longing to show us mercy.” (Isaiah 30:18)

Posted in 1Peter, Galatians

Waiting on God

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time, casting all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:6-10

The language of the New Testament has two different words for time. One of them, “chronos,” corresponds to our word for time in definition, but the second, “kairos,” has no one English word to define it. “Kairos” is translated in a number of ways: “the right time;” “the proper time;” “an opportune time;” or as it is in the text above, “in due time.” All of these have the same basic meaning: “in God’s time.”

God has His own time for things. He does plan to lift us up, answer us, promote us, provide for us, and heal us in His time, but there is a time of testing that often comes before which requires us to wait on God. The text above gives us important clues of how to wait.

  1. Wait on God with humility. “Under God’s mighty hand” references God’s power. His face is who He is; His hand refers to His ability to act. God is able to do what you need Him to do. To wait humbly we must cast our anxiety about our situation on Him and leave it there. Let go, and let God!
  2. Wait on God with confidence. God cares for us. He loves us even when in our minds we question why He doesn’t remove the present suffering.  It’s at this point of waiting that the enemy roars in our ears accusations against God to undermine our faith. Remember: the loudest voice in your head is often not the truest one.
  3. Wait on God with perseverance. When we are suffering there is a great temptation to give up on God and take matters into our own hands. If we persevere, God Himself will use the waiting period before the kairos to make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.” “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)