Friday, December 24, 2010

This Just In...

I often wonder if Jesus was born in the 21st century what it would be like; what would the headlines be? Would anyone know or recognize Him?

"Woman Gives Birth - Claims She is a Virgin" - Three days ago in the small town of Minot, North Dakota, a 15 year old woman who claims to be a virgin, gave birth to her first-born, a son. Most are skeptical of her claims but thus far, nobody, doctors included, have been able to prove her wrong. Many of the local religious leaders have gathered to assess the truth of her claims and what, if any significance this brings. Some claim her son to be some deity, but most have passed the story off as a cleverly crafted lie.

"Homeless Group Claim Divine Vision" - A group of homeless men and women claim to have come face to face with an unexplained being(s); "something from heaven," one man said. Apparently, they were bedding down for the night when they were met with a vision. 'We weren't drunk, we weren't on drugs, we know what we saw, and we believe,' a woman interviewed for the story proclaimed. "I will never be the same" she went on. Few believe their claims, but it made news on an otherwise quiet evening in December.

"Strange New Star Appears" - A fierce battle has developed over the past few weeks between scientists, astronomers, astrologists, and religious leaders from around the world, as a bright new star has suddenly appeared in the night sky. Nobody can doubt that the star exists, for it is the brightest thing in the sky. Still, nobody seems to know where it came from. NASA, in concert with the European Space Agency, have agreed to move the Hubble Space Telescope in position to capture some images of the new star in hopes of learning its secrets.

I used to think, when I was young, that certainly I would have been one of the ones who would have believed. Now that I'm older, I often wonder...would I have believed? Would I have recognized Him? Or maybe like Thomas, would I have only believed if I saw with my own eyes?

"I wonder as I wander, out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come forth to die
For poor or'nary people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander..."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It Matters - Virgin Birth

18 "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 18 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,a because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:18-20)

As our gospel of Jesus Christ comes under more and more attack these days, it is becoming critical that we have a deep understand about what we believe and why. It matters. One of the doctrines that gets talked about this time of year is the virgin birth. In two words, IT MATTERS. Jesus being born of a virgin is critical to who he is. And who is He?  He is fully God, and fully man. Take away the virgin birth, and He's fully man but not God. Take Mary out of the picture, and He's fully God, but not fully man.

And yet Jesus embodies both...He is both. During His time on earth He identified Himself as both. "...before Abraham was, 'I Am' " was a clear and absolute statement that He saw Himself as fully God. And yet one of his titles is the 2nd Adam; another is the Son of Man. If Jesus weren't fully man, He wouldn't be qualified to take our punishment on Himself and endure the cross.

Put simply, the virgin birth means that Jesus' Father is God, and His mother is Mary...fully God, born of the Holy Spirit, and fully man. It matters because this is Jesus' entry into our world. It matters because through this birth, God becomes man.

"So what?" you ask?

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." (A.W. Tozer).

I might paraphrase him and say this;

"What we believe about Jesus Christ is the most important thing about us."

It matters.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who do you listen to?

20"He who walks with the wise, grows wise;
but a companion of fools, suffers harm." (Proverbs 13:20)

I'm reading a book called "The Principle of the Path" and want to take some time to write about one of the concepts in this book. The point of this post is so simple, at the end of it you very well might say "no duh." That's how it hit me...until I looked at how I actually apply this principle. It's one thing to know something, or even to believe something; but it's quite another to implement it and live by it. So what is the big it?

Before we get there, let me ask you this. If you were driving and got lost, who would you rather get directions from? Someone who is on the side of the road and is also lost, or someone who has been to the place you're going and can tell you how to get there? Or let's say you're on vacation in Waikiki and you've never been there before. You're trying find the surf-rental shop. Do you ask directions from someone who is also on vacation for the first time, or from the local who has lived his whole life there?

The answers to both of those questions are obvious...we want directions from the 2nd person...the one who has been where we're trying to go and can tell us exactly how to get there.

Now let me ask you a question; the last time you needed some really good advice about something, who did you ask? One of your friends? Your peers? A brother or sister? Or, did you ask advice from someone who has been where you're trying to go?

A classic example of this can be found in 1 Kings 12. Rehoboam has just taken over the kingdom from his father, Solomon, who has just passed away. He is approached by the people's representative, Jeroboam, who has but one request of the new king; lighten our load, and we will serve you forever.  Rehoboam wisely asks for 3 days to consult with two groups of people.

Group 1 are the elders; these are older, wise men who have been with his father Solomon, (the wisest man who ever lived), and their advice is to do just what the people have asked...lighten the load, and their hearts will be with you. Group 2 is Rehoboam's fact, not even his peers, but his groupies - men his age or younger perhaps, who serve him. They tell the new king to make their load even heavier.  Rehoboam goes with the advice of the younger ones, and it doesn't go well at all. The people reject him as king, appointed Jeroboam as their king and the kingdom gets split in half.

There are two glaring mistakes we can see in this story, that we would do well to avoid.
1) When seeking advice, make sure you ask the right people. Ask it from those who are where you want to be.
2) If you're not willing to follow the advice you get, don't bother asking.

Rehoboam, from all appearances, already knew what he wanted to do and merely was looking for affirmation from his buddies to do it. Once he got that affirmation, he moved.

What path are you on? Is it taking you where you want to go? Are you getting good advice from those who are where you want to be?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The "Why" of Christmas

Who is Jesus, and why do we celebrate anyways?  The answer can be found in the three names assigned/given to Him.

- Jesus: it's a transliteration from the Hebrew name Joshua, and means "Jahweh delivers or rescues" or, in a word, "Savior"

- Christ: it's a translation of the Hebrew name Messiah, meaning "Anointed one."

- Immanuel: this descriptor puts two words together; ʻImmānū which means "with us" and 'El, meaning "God."  Literally, Immanuel means "With us God."

In these three names or titles, we have everything we need to know about Christmas...and more than that, everything we need to know about God.

The name Jesus gives us His purpose in coming - His purpose was simply to save.  Jesus knew his purpose, Himself reading from the scroll of Isaiah;

1 "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners..."

(read the full chapter here)

Jesus = Savior.  He came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Which brings us to his title, "Christ" or "Messiah."  This is His identity - He was and is God's "Anointed one."  Matthew especially constantly refers to Jesus as "Messiah."  This is the one - the long awaited one...the anointed one.  Read through the first chapter of Matthew as he recounts the genealogy of Jesus and you'll see 3 times in those 17 verses that Matthew refers to Jesus as the Messiah.  It's who He is. 
Which lastly brings us to this;

23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[a](which means “God with us”).  (Matthew 1:23, quoting Isaiah 7:14).  

Immanuel (or Emmanuel), "With Us God" or "God with us."  With us in both time and space, with us in that He set aside His divinity to enter the restraints of our universe; fully human, and yet full divine.  With us in that he is FOR you, so much as you have given your life to following Him and believed in Him for salvation.  With us in that He, Jesus, lives inside of you.  With us in that we no longer need to wonder what God is like.  Do you want to know the character of God?  Simply look at Jesus.  He is the character of God...He IS God.  Immanuel...I don't know there could be anything greater.

What does all this mean? It means everything. It is the whole point of Christmas. What more is there to say?

16 "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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."  (John 3:16-17)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmastime is here

2"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned..."  (Isaiah 9:2)

Christmas means many things to many people.  Gifts, lights, decorations, trees, family, hot chocolate, time off school, parties and gatherings, etc.  Too often, however, it all adds up to two words; business + stress.  It would behoove us, then, to be intentional about what this season signifies.

6"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  (Isaiah 9:6)

What if Jesus never came?  What if God didn't allow his Son to come?  What if?  We would still be walking in darkness.  We would be a people with the wrath of God laid squarely on our shoulders.  But...  

4"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."  (Isaiah 53:4-6)

It's a very scary thought to ponder...a life without Jesus would be a life with no hope.  Just look at those verses again and imagine the significance of Jesus.  My words seem hollow to convey the meaning of His birth.  It is the entrance of a deity into our human world.  There has never been and never will be a more significant entrance.  Not a king, but The King.  Humble, full of grace and truth.   

Take that word, iniquity - do you know what it means?

1. Gross immorality or injustice; wickedness.
2. A grossly immoral act; a sin.

That's what God laid on Him...His Son, Jesus.  He laid on Him the gross immoralities, injustices, and immoral acts of all of us - the entire human race.  All our pride, all our sin, all our selfishness, all our lust, all our gossip, all our murderous thoughts - all of it, laid squarely on Christ.  Why?
4Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you...
18"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
20The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise." (Is. 43:18-21)

God formed us for Himself.  He loves us...without condition.  What did we do to earn or merit such love?  Nothing.  We did nothing.  And that's the whole point.  It's God's love and grace, not ours.

What's the point of Christmas?  It's found in words; Hope, Peace, and Love.  But ultimately I think this word is even more appropriate to the season - Salvation.  This is the reason for Christmas.  As we go through the coming weeks, let us pause often in gratitude and remember who's birthday we are celebrating.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs (5): Worry...

"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength."  (Charles Spurgeon).

"Worry.  Anxiety.  Stress.  These are the ways of the dark side."  (Yoda).  Ok, Yoda didn't ever say that, but I'm sure he might have or could have.  This quote by Charles Spurgeon hits the nail on the head.

There are really only two categories of things in our lives;
1) Things we can control
2) Things we can't control.

Everything falls into one of those two categories. When we worry about things in category number 2, we turn ourselves into God. Another word for this is "self-idolatry"... and idolatry of any kind is sin. Yes, that's right, worry is sin.  The opposite of worry?  Trust.

A couple of years ago a counselor I was seeing at the time broke it down very simply; things in category 1 are my "to-do" list; and things in category 2 are my "prayer list." This making sense to you?

The antidote to worry is trust. It's really the only thing that will help. Those who constantly worry have little faith...their need is to control the situation, which again, takes God off the throne and replaces Him with themselves. The secret to trust is knowing who you're trusting in. The only way to gain this is through intimacy with God. He wants it, we need it. This is why everything hinges on greatest commandment, to love God with your whole being...with everything. Love is a VERB (and for those who forgot their English lesson, a verb is an action word).

I learn best visually so let me try these equations for you;

Loving (verb) God = Intimacy with God
Intimacy with God = Knowing God (His true nature).
Knowing God = Increased trust in Him.
Trusting God squeezes out any room to worry.

And when we are living close to God, trusting Him in all things, we are STRONG. There is a depth and strength in the person who is intimate with God. That is the beauty of Spurgeon's quote; worry empties today of it's strength, but turn that around, trust and intimacy with God fills today with strength.

The wisest man who ever lived put it this way;

5-6 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God's voice in everything you do,
everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.

(Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message)

Don't focus on not worrying; focus instead on knowing Him...intimately. That will negate the worry that plagues you.  This reminds me of one other fantastic quote - and let us strive to live like this...

"The happiest people I know are the ones who have learned how to hold everything loosely and have given the worrisome, stress-filled fearful details of their lives into God’s keeping." (Charles Swindoll)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Warning, Admonition, and Promise

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:8-10)

A Warning, Admonition and Promise.

I. Warning: It pays for us to be constantly reminded that the very thing we fight against is the very thing our enemy wants us to forget.  It's like this; the devil, our enemy, would like us to forget that he's our enemy.  He'd like us to look at each other as enemies; divide and conquer, it's the oldest trick in the book.  Have we fallen for it?  Here's what I mean; our battles are won and lost in the spiritual realm.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12)

2. Admonition (or Ammunition): This leads us simply to our admonishment...our response.  It's simple RESIST HIM!!!  How?  First, we are to remain firm in our faith.  This really has a double-meaning; first to be firm as a believer, using our weapons (namely, The Armor of God) but also, to pray in faith believing God has and will deliver us.  Second, we are reminded that we're not alone.  There are Christians all over the world fighting this same battle and we can be encouraged by the Saints that have gone before us and those that will come after us, as well as those who are right now fighting with us.  Yes, God has defeated satan, but he has some power to deceive us (see John 12:31, 2 Cor 4:4, and Eph 2:2).  He is an enemy to take seriously...which leads us to

3. Promise.  I love the way verse 10 starts; "after you have suffered a little while..."  Now first I have to put this in context.  I have suffered very little for the name of Jesus.  I have never been beaten, imprisoned, or even threatened because I am a Christian.  Still, the point is this; after you have suffered, God Himself will what?  Look at these words and what they mean...

Perfect: to render, i.e. to fit, sound, complete, to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair
to complete

Confirm: to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix; to strengthen, make firm; to render constant, confirm, one's mind

Strengthen: to make strong, strengthen of one's soul

Establish: to lay the foundation, to found; to make stable, establish

Wow!  That's quite a list of things that will be done.  Who's going to do that in me?  God Himself.  Not an angel, not another person, not a pastor or leader or mother or father, but GOD HIMSELF.  It's almost like that job is too important for Got to trust it to anyone else.

That is what gives us the strength to endure whatever suffering He asks us to.  What a promise.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reaching Down, Lifting Up...

Our God is a personal God.  He leads as a Father would lead His children, as a Shepherd leads His sheep.  Yes, His call is high, but His love and mercy are deep.

Last week was an especially busy, hard, and somewhat lonely week for me, probably made worse by a severe case of what I call L.O.S.S. (Lack Of Sleep Syndrome).  It was in that context that I came across a song of David.  The book of Psalms is a great place to go to for getting "real" with God; however, the Psalms are not the only place where David's songs are recorded.  In 2 Samuel 22 we read a song of David that is packed with stuff.  David writes this song towards the end of his life.  In fact, he has just finished his last battle; (at least the last battle he will personally participate in).  He is getting old and Abishai has to come to his rescue, at which point David's men swear that he will never ride out with them again.  It is in this context, nearing the end of his earthly life that David penned this song (you can read the whole song here);

17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
   he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
   from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
   but the LORD was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
   he rescued me because he delighted in me."

When life comes at you fast, and you feel like you're drowning, remember these words.  God reaches down from heaven and draws us out of our trouble.  He saves us, He gives us perspective, He speaks peace and life into us, and He restores us.  Take a closer look at verse 20; God not only reaches down to lift us up, but He puts us in a "spacious" place.  That word "spacious" is interesting.  Other translations use "broad", wide-open" or "large" place.  Think about that for a moment...

Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park
When I read that I immediately got this picture of a wide-open meadow, looking over rolling hills, with a mountain vista in the background.  It's the opposite of the "city" feel.  Why a "spacious" place?  Because in a spacious place there is time, space, peace, healing, safety.  Because in a large place there is room for God.  A wide-open place is not busy, it is not urgent, there is no-one pounding on your door needing your attention, no phone calls or emails to return, it's an "un-plugged" place.  The to-do list is set aside, and you're asked to simply "be."  It's a place of rest, a place of eating, a place of re-discovering the God that adopted you into His family.

And here's the real kicker; WHY did God bring you to this place?  It's right there in verse 20b; "because He delighted in me."  Be encouraged today, disciple of Jesus Christ.  You are a son and daughter of the Most High; a citizen of the city of God...

17 "The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You

I've been thinking all week about our Veterans.  I've been searching for what I could write on my blog this day, but words seem not enough to convey what's in my heart.  Simply, "thanks."  I know many Veterans and none of the ones I know would ever want or pursue fame or acclaim.  They see what they did as duty.  I see what they did as sacrifice...and I am grateful.

So when words fail, I simply want to say...

Thank you

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs (4): Who do you Worship?

To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men. (A.W. Tozer)

Let's take a little quiz; I'll make it multiple choice for you.

1. Who are you living to please?
a. Myself
b. Others
c. God

2. Who do you worship?  Your answer to question #1 is also the answer to question #2.

Here's the deal; are you willing to live at odds with man if it means living rightly with God?  Are you willing to be a risk-taker; to be totally sold out to Him?  No matter what?  Even if it means you won't be liked?  The heart of Tozer's quote does not mean we should seek to be at odds with people...for God does call us to love each other and live in unity.  But still, there will be those times when living for Christ will be a very unpopular position.  Reminds me of two more of my favorite quotes;

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." (Bill Cosby)  
Well I do know the way to success; it's living to please God.  These words that Samuel once spoke to Saul seem to cut to the chase;

"What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22 - NLT)

Reminds me of one last quote by Mother Theresa.  It's not so much a quote by her, although she did say it, but this was a commitment she made to God and I believe He honored her for it.  She said this;

“I will refuse Him nothing…and say ‘yes’ without delay.”

The goal is not to get caught up in some legalistic way of living, but to relentlessly pursue God through Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, TODAY.  And tomorrow, we start again...don't worry about being at odds with man; seek to be right with God instead.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Grabbing Hold or Letting Go?

A couple of days ago I took Brennan on a walk using a Baby Bjorn, (he loves to face forward and sit on my chest as we walk).  It was a relatively sunny day and the Fall leaves were out.  Early in our walk I picked up a crispy leaf and handed it to him; he loved it.  Surprisingly, he didn't try to put it in his mouth (like everything else), but instead he seemed fascinated by the feel and texture of the leaf, slowly crunching it in his hands.

A little later, I picked up an even bigger leaf; one of those huge maple leaves that fell to the ground.  I could see Brennan's eyes light up and his curiosity to grab it from me, and yet, there was a problem; he wouldn't let go of the smaller leaf.  I had to actually pry open his hand (which is harder than you think), pull out the old leaf, and put the bigger one in it.  This happened one more time when I came across a huge leaf...again, he wanted it, but didn't want to let go of what he had.

This got me to many times has there been some "thing," some gift, some area or a blessing that God has wanted to give to me but because I was hanging on too tightly to what I already had, I missed out.  Or perhaps I eventually received the gift, but only after God pried open my hand.

I think that the hardest part of being a believer is trust.  Trusting God totally.  Trusting in His goodness, in His grace.  Living life with an open-hand.  Me?  The minute something good happens, I tend to shut my hand and then try to hang on for dear life, resisting anything that might threaten me.  However, all too often I find that once God does pry my hand open, and places in it something I may never have chosen for myself, that I always come out the other side better for it.  Which makes me wonder, do I live life with an open hand, or a closed one?

Key Question: What are you hanging onto today, that maybe, God is trying to take out of your hands...and just maybe, He's trying to replace it with something else?

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Heart of a King

I'm reading through the account of king David in 2 Samuel right now and a couple of things really struck me.  First, a reminder that God refers to David as a man after His own heart.  Would you like God to say that of you?  "Mike?  Yeah, I know him.  He's a man after my own heart."  Well if so, it would behoove us to pay attention to David...since here we have an account of the man after God's heart, and as such, we get a really good glimpse at exactly why God calls David that.

I'm in chapters 15 & 16 of 2 Samuel today which largely chronicles the account of Absalom's attempts to take the kingdom from his father, David.  Now imagine just for a moment what David must be going through.  He is the king!  Undisputed, appointed by God, the king of the greatest nation on earth.  And yet here is his son, Absalom, who over a 6-7 year period steals the hearts of the kingdom.  David catches wind of Absalom's plan and proceeds to gather is men around him, and leave Jersualem, "The City of David" nonetheless.  It is in this context, David leaving his palace, that we read a couple of remarkable things.

"First, David makes a decision to send the ark back into the city. He says, "If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him." (2 Samuel 15:25-26).

A little later, David meets up with Shimei, a great guy from Saul's clan.  Shimei proceeds to shout curses upon David and throw rocks at him and his group.  This is a pretty stupid thing to do considering that 1) David is still the king, and 2) David is surrounded by his body-guard.  In fact, one of those men, Abishai, asks permission to chop off his head.  But David replies in this way;

"Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." (2 Samuel 16:11-12)

David has every right to condemn Shimei to death...but he doesn't.  He lets him live, accepts his insults, and moves on, thinking that some day, God, if He sees fit, will repay David in kind for the insults he is receiving.

What strikes me is the open-window view we get into David's heart in this passage.  We see in David a man who has refuses to stoop to the level of his adversaries.  We see a man who leaves justice in the hands of God.  We see a man who doesn't feel the need to defend himself, or to take matters into his own hands.  Remember - this is a pattern with David.  He had multiple opportunities to kill Saul, and was perfectly in his right to do so as Saul was hunting him down...but he didn't.  David took the high road, and God rewarded him for doing this.

This pattern we see in David gets at the character of his heart.  In a word, it's TRUST.  David trusts God implicitly with every facet of his life.  He trusts God to reward him, if he is worthy of reward, and trusts God to repay evils done to him.  And ultimately, I think this is what God is most wanting from us; total and complete trust.  Trust in his law, trust in his plan, trust in good times and bad, trust God to repay when we're wronged, trust God to reward us, trust God in all things.

A man after God's own heart?  I believe that a big part of that is found in this word, trust.  It's like the old song says; "trust and obey."  This is what God is after.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is Your Soul Sold, or For Sale?

Is your soul sold, or is it for sale?  This question just struck me as I read these verses;

"The king said to Ittai the Gittite, 'Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland.  You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your countrymen. May kindness and faithfulness be with you.'

But Ittai replied to the king, 'As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.' " (2 Samuel 15:19-20).

This response from Ittai is pretty striking.  He had only arrived in Judah one day earlier, was an exiled foreigner, had nothing to fear from Absalom, and had just been granted a peaceful parting by the king...and yet here he is committing to follow David in his wanderings, with no idea where David is going or what the future is.  Ittai commits to follow David in life or even in death.  He soul is sold...sold out to following David.  A little later we read that David puts Ittai in charge of 1/3 of his army.  I wonder why...?

What are you sold out to?  What am I?  When we signed up to become a disciple of Christ, did we do it with the spirit of Ittai?  No turning back?  In life or death?  Or did we somehow expect a certain lifestyle?  Blessings, health, money, houses and cars, nice vacations, children that are well-behaved, etc.  Christ, of course, calls us to follow strings attached.

There's really only one other option to being sold; being for sale.  If your'e for sale, watch out.  The devil who masquerades as an angel of light has many, many things he'd like to sell you.

Being sold out to Christ is both a one-time commitment where you step over the line and into eternity, and a daily, moment by moment decision to remain in Him.  Not that you move in and out of salvation, but that we are being challenged and tested constantly.  A Christian, you recall, is a "Little-Christ."  Being sold out is not to have attained to being a perfect Christian, but it is a commitment to following Him...a commitment to living a holy life, "set-apart."  What does it look like?  I think the apostle Paul puts it best;

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)

Run hard, run fast, commit to following Him in life or death, and make sure your soul is not for sale.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Path

"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it." (Proverbs 27:12)

I recently started reading a book called The Principle of the Path written by Andy Stanley.  If you follow this blog you know that I rarely, if ever, write a book review - and to be true, this is not a review of the book. However, it has grabbed me simply because of it's "no duh" premise, which so many of us (including myself) violate over and over.

If you plan on reading this book and don't want any spoilers, stop here.  Otherwise, keep going.

The main thrust of the book is this; "direction, not intention, determines your destination."  I told you it was a "no duh" premise, so what's the point?  The point is this; most of us, including myself, seem to live by a different principle that goes something like this; my intentions and plans determine my destination.

For example, you intend to be healthy and in good shape, therefore you will be.  It's your intention. Meanwhile, you eat fast food, never exercise, drink lots of soda and mochas, and somehow expect to end up healthy.  Oh, for sure, you plan to "get around to it" some day.  But then, another day goes by...

Or you desire to be close to Christ and develop an intimate relationship with him, yet you spend more time watching espn and reading the paper than you do in God's Word and prayer.  Hmmmm.  Direction = Destination.  I wonder...

As I read this book I'm already being challenged to either 1) examine my life and determine what parts need a direction change in order to lead me to my desired destination, or 2) read the book and say "some day I'll get around to incorporating that into my life" and then putting it on the shelf like so many others.  As Stanley himself says, "Knowing doesn't make the difference.  Doing does."

I hate books like this....but I need them.

If I had to describe in one word the kind of life I want to live, it would be this word; intentional.  I don't want life to "happen to me," I don't want to live reactionary.  I want to live an intentional life...a life with a purpose, on purpose.  Maybe that's why this book resonates with me, because in many ways, it's putting words to what I already believe.  I challenge you to find any great leader or person you admire who just "accidentally" arrived at where they are now.  Still, just because I want to live an intentional life, doesn't mean I am or I will.  I have to DO it.

In the same way, living as a Christian requires intentionality.  It means making choices that will put you on a path that leads you closer to Christ.  Direction, not intentions = Destination.  Which leaves us with one simple question; where are you headed?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Christ + ? (2 of 2)

First, if you haven't read my previous post titled "Secret Things," go back and read it. This post kind of takes off from there.  I ended that post with this Scripture verse found in Deuteronomy;

"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deut 4:29)

I am daily confronted with something in myself that I hate, but seem powerless to get rid of.  Pride, Selfishness, Desires.  I pray, but often my prayers are for my comfort.  I pray for health, for provision, for job security, for a raise or bonus, for recognition for things I've done, for honor.  Even my prayer for other people are often self-motivated.  Sure, I might "pray" for closeness with God, but so often they seem to be merely words.  Truth?  I'll grow closer to God as I go through tests, trials or tragedies, yet I would never pray for those things.  I would grow closer to God if I experienced persecution, yet I never ask for that.

It seems that I've settled for a different Gospel.  Christ + ________ (fill in the blank); or worse, ________ (fill in the blank) + Christ.  What I want is "my life + Christ."  But when I read the Bible, I see Jesus said this;

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25).

The gospel is Jesus + nothing.  It's Christ and Christ alone.  It's total and complete surrender.  It's the "free gift that will cost you everything" or enemy of God.

This is a challenging truth to live out and I confess I don't have this one nailed.  I am blessed.  God has blessed me in so many way; a beautiful wife, a son, a house and cars, health, a great family, a great country where I'm free to live and worship, retirement accounts (even if they are low), and so much more.  Would I give all of it up for Christ if He asked for it?

The truth?  Jesus + nothing = everything.

Here's the challenge, for me at least.  I am wired as one of those people who loves to "finish" things, to check off the boxes and cross items off the to-do list.  I have a hard time when I have projects unfinished hanging over my head.  And yet, I know that to be a Christian, I will never "arrive."  It's a daily struggle to run this race.  I am wired for the 40 yard dash, and yet God has called me to run a 50k.

My goal must be to live today, for Christ, and for nothing else.  Go back to that verse in Deuteronomy; If I pursue him with 3/4 of my heart, not enough.  If I give Him 95% of my soul, not good enough.

My encouragement for you?  Don't you dare, for one single second, take your eyes off of Christ.  He MUST be everything in your life; your strength, your insurance, your motivation.  He won't settle for anything fact, He demands this from us.

What right does He have to demand this from us?  One word.  Cross.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Secret Things...(1 of 2)

We want answers, and we want them now.  The media feasts on this desire, often making up answers just to appease their audience, (us), who can't bear to live with unanswered questions.  When something weird happens, we want an answer.  When something bad happens, we want justice.  When something we can't explain happens, we want/demand an explanation.  Closure.  Answers.

The person I fear the most is someone who appears to have all the answers. Consider;

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Cor 1:27)

"Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." (Isaiah 29:14)

"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34, quoting Isaiah 40:13)

Do you ever stop to consider the greatness of God?  Consider eternity for a moment; think about it.  With God there is no time; there is no past, present or future.  He is eternal.  Before time began, He was.  He has always been.  Beyond the farthest galaxy, He exists.  There has never been a moment in time, if time existed with Him, that He was not.  And when our "finite" life on earth has ended, we will step into eternity with Him...or apart from Him. end, no beginning.  It kind of blows my mind...I can't figure it out, and that kind of bugs me.  I think Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived put it best;

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:10)

Think about the word "holy" for a moment, which literally means "set apart."  God is holy.  He is not like us, but he is set apart.  Do you ever stop to consider the "otherness" of God?  He is a mystery, He is a Spirit.  His ways are above our ways.

And yet, He calls us to worship Him, to pray to Him, to commune with Him.  He calls us into a relationship with Him, and because of His love for us, He desires us to live with Him to eternity.

"The secret things belong to the Lord..." (Deuteronomy 29:29)

"What's your point?" you ask?  My point is this.  This holy, infinite God who holds all wisdom and the keys to the secret things, has made a way for you and me to know Him.  Do we?  Do I?  Not know about Him, but really know Him?  Proverbs 3:5-6 talks about "acknowledging God in all our ways."  That word for "acknowledge" literally translates as "know him" and implies an intimacy with Him.  Remember Jesus' prayer for us was that we would be "one" with Him; He in us, and us in Him. heart, one mind, one know the Father.

"How" you ask?  That is a lifetime answer.  But this much I know...

"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."  (Deut 4:29).

Have you?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Never Alone

Like many people around the world today, I am transfixed by the drama unfolding in Chile as the 33 miners who have spent 69 days 2000' underground are pulled to the surface one by one.  I can't imagine the ordeal they went through as day after day went by with an uncertain future.

In reading the CNN article on this story, (so far, as of noon on Wednesday), one line jumped out at me.

"To say there were 33 trapped in the mine is wrong, Ramirez said. There were 33 men -- and God."

I've had a few phone calls this week with folks who are facing uncertain futures, and fighting with despair. Whether it's health issues, job issues, divorce, addictions, or a myriad of other challenges that our people are facing, the challenge remains the same; an uncertain future.

It is imperative that we remember one critical truth as we navigate our life on earth; you are never alone.  For those who have called and trusted in the name of Jesus, you will never again be alone.  It's you + God and that is an equation built for success.  Consider the following Scriptures;

[Jesus] "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28)

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)

No matter what we face in life; whether it's a test or a trial, grief or sin, remember that you're never alone.  As the popular worship song by Matt Redman says,

Oh no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm,
Oh, no, You never let go, through every high and every low,
Oh, no, You never let go, Lord you never let go of me.

"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:2)

My prayer is that you would be reminded today that Christ is IN you.  I leave you with this;

"And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you." (Romans 8:10-11)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs (3): Rest

"The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it." (author unknown)

Why is it we are so task driven? Why is it I often feel so guilty whenever I have an afternoon to rest?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Have you ever taken an entire afternoon to just rest?  
I read that quote above and wonder, what is it that makes this man successful, the one who spends an afternoon on the bank of a river? I think it's found in these words; solitude, reflection, self-awareness, prayer, and strength.

I just got back from a week at Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands with my wife and son. It was like a breath of fresh air. Physically restful, no, not with a 6 month old. But mentally and spiritually restful? Absolutely. Thanks to my amazing wife, I was able to find moments almost every day to rest my mind. I often took a kayak out into the middle of the bay and just drifted. There I found time to pray, to rest, to have solitude and quiet, to read, and in all of that, to find strength. The hardest part? Not feeling guilty about it.

How about you? When's the last time you rested?  Go ahead, pull up a chair and take a load off.  It's command #4 by the way.  (
Click here to read all my posts on "rest").

Friday, October 1, 2010


What's POV, you ask?  So glad you asked!  It stands for "Point of View" as in, "depending on your 'point of view,' " the Huskies loss to Nebraska last Saturday is either a blip on their way to their first bowl game in years, or a sign of another sub-.500 season.  Or "depending on your 'point of view,' " Starbucks epitomizes what good coffee should be, or, they over-roast their beans and have merely cashed in on American's caffeine addition.  Or "depending on your 'point of view,' " jazz instrumental music is only fit for elevators, or jazz instrumental music show-cases incredibly talented and creative musicians.

Depending on your 'point of view,' God is a task-master, or God is a genie in heaven, or He is so Holy we could never come close to Him, or He is our best friend.  He is either the forgiver who never holds our sin against us, or He is a just and righteous God that demands our awe.
You have to be careful with point of view.  Point of view is often based more on our experiences rather than facts.  The thing is, our 'point of view's' change so quickly.  Take these two pictures, for example.  Same building, same day, same minute, but very different pictures.  The only difference?  About 10 feet.  In photography, often the difference between a good picture and a great picture all boils down to your Point of View.  You have to move a few feet, or sometimes just a few inches to get the angle and lighting just right.

In life, often the difference between a bitter person and a joyful person, is simply how they view their lives.  Is the glass half-empty, or half-full?  Do I spend more time counting blessings, or worrying about trials?  What is your point of view as you go through life?

"Be joyful always; 
pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

What's your point of view?  Is your glass half-empty, or half-full?  If you're struggling right now with some sort of test or trial, some circumstance that has hit you or something that has you worried constantly, STOP!  Pause for a moment and write down on a piece of paper all that you're thankful for.  Try it - it just might change your point of view.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs (2): Good Timber

"Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees." (J. William Marriott)

This is an proverb which is easy to affirm when the weather is calm; much harder to affirm during the storm.  That being said, it is the storms that shape us and form us into the leaders we become.

I read alot of book on leadership and one thing I have found common in all great leaders; they have all gone through a crucible of some kind, and come out the other side better for it.  These crucibles tend to come in three forms; test, trials, and tragedies.  Depending on how you face them and how you endure them, they can either crush you and send you spiraling, or they can be a catalyst for growth.

Crucible: a severe test.

Catalyst: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.

When faced with a crucible, some sort of test, trial or tragedy, how do you tend to react?  It reminds me of something Winston Churchill once said,

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Do you aspire to be a leader, to be great?  Do you hope for influence and a position of authority?  Do you desire to to fully utilize all the gifts and potential that is within you?  If so, you must prepare yourself to face the "fires" of life which are needed and necessary to refine you into the great person that God has created you to be.

I remember my HS Basketball coach who, after one particular hard practice pulled me aside and in love reminded me, "Mike - don't be worried when I yell at you or correct you.  It's only because I see the potential in you.  It's when I stop yelling at you that you should be worried."  In a similar way, God allows us to face these crucibles in order that we might be more fully used by him.  Reminds me of yet another saying;

"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

Remember - the stronger the storm, the stronger the trees.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is God Enough?

(1 Samuel 8) 7 [God speaking to Samuel] "it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” 
(1 Sam 12)
12 "But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us'-even though the LORD your God was your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for… 17 And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.

I've been reading through 1 Samuel which among other things, chronicles Israel's move from being a people ruled by judges, to a people ruled by a king.  It is a surprising end to an era in Israel's history; an era that saw them move from trusting God (mostly) and the men He appointed to lead them, (Moses, Aaron, Joshua), to wanting to look like the other nations and have a king (rejecting God).  There's many observations and lessons we could glean, but I want to focus on just 2.

1) Is God enough?  It is clear in this passage that God views Israel's desire for a king as outright rejection.  They no longer trust God.  Instead, they want a king - and in effect they are saying, "we trust in human kings that we can see more than in an Sovereign God that we can't see."  Now before you get all judgmental on them, ask yourself, who or what do you trust in?  It's easy to say you trust in God, but what if things stopped going your way?  What if you lost your job, or house, or cars, or had all your savings lost, or the stock market crashes and you lose your retirement, or you get diagnosed with cancer, or a child dies, etc.  Then who do you trust?  Is God enough?  What if, like Job, everything you had and had worked for were stripped away?  Ultimately, we can't honestly answer that question unless we're in that place.  However, the call for us as believers is nothing short of whole-hearted trust in God.

2) Do you look like the world?  In other words, Israel wanted a king because all the other nations had kings (1 Sam 8:19-20: " 'No!' they said.  'We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations...").  How many times have you and I been guilty of wanting something or wanting to do something simply because "everyone else has/does it?"  As Christians, we are called to live "in" the world but not to be "of" the world.  Our citizenship is in heaven and we are sons and daughters of God.  In other words, we're not supposed to look like everyone else.  We're supposed to be LIGHT - and SALT.

In the end, Israel was found guilty on both counts; rejecting God as their king, and wanting to look like everyone else.  And still, God promised to bring them back to Him if they would follow Him whole-heartedly; "For the sake of His great name the Lord will not reject His people..." (I Sam 12:22)

I leave you with two questions; 1) Is God enough?  2) Are you "different"?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs (1): The Stonecutter

"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without so much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before." - Jacob A Riis

I am starting a new series of blog posts which I'll call "Axioms, Adages and Proverbs," or, from now on, AAP's.  I love to collect these things, these AAP's, which often contain in them great truths and help to keep me on track, especially when times are hard.  I'm leading off with one of my favorite's, above.  Now lest you think I'm getting away from the spiritual component, hang with me on this journey.  Take the above quote - in a word, this is all about perseverance.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4).

Perseverance is a trait that we all should fact, more than that, it's a trait that God is going to build into us.  Perseverance and Trust go hand in hand.  Remember the story Jesus told in Luke 18 about the unjust judge (read it here)?  
It wasn't because the judge wanted to do right that he gave a widow justice; it was because she was wearing him out by constantly coming to him with her case.  Her perseverance won the day.  The point Jesus was making was simply to never, ever stop praying.  Perseverance.  

Jim Collins
, business consultant, author and lecturer, has spent a lifetime studying success, mainly in the world of business.  In his book "Good to Great" he talks about what he calls "Level-5 leaders."  These leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are not the charismatic types we tend to think of as CEO's.  However, with all their differences they had 2 things in common, Humility, and Will.  Think of "will" as "strength of character," the "never give up" attitude, or in a word, perseverance.

Back to the stone-cutter - what if he had stopped at 100 blows, and given up?  The rock never would have split.  This leads me to another AAP;

"Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas Edison

Makes me wonder; what prayer have I stopped praying that God still wants to answer?  What has He called me to, that I have stopped persevering in?  What break-through is right around the corner, as long as I don't give up?  Persevering is not never know whether you're at the beginning, middle, or end of the journey...whether the break-through has many more blows to go, or whether the next blow will split the stone, and I suppose this is why splitting stone with a hammer is not the type of work for all of us.  Still...I wonder?  How close are you to that break-through?  Have you given up?  It might be time to pick up the hammer and chisel again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whole or Half?

It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. 3 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. (1 Samuel 7:2-4)

Are you (and am I) following whole-heartedly, or half-heartedly?  I find that it's all to easy to fool ourselves into thinking we're "X" when in actuality we're "I."  For example;
- one says that they strive for health, yet they eat poorly and never exercise
- one says they believe in balanced finances, yet they have no budget and rack up debt
- one says they live for Christ, yet find themselves consumed with the cares and worries of the world.
There's a gap between our beliefs and our actions.  Someone once said "I will show you what you believe by looking at what you do."

This sounds harsh - it is not meant to.  The goal is not to guilt any of us into "doing" anything but instead to look at the "line in the sand" and see where we fall.  Take that passage of Scripture; the Israelites have been experiencing "discipline" at the hand of the Philistines.  The Philistines at one point capture the ark of God and rout the Israelites, killing over 30,000 of them at one point.  Well having the ark doesn't go so well for the Philistines and so they return it to Israel, which prompts Israel to mourn and seek God.

The next couple of verses are the critical pieces - God, through Samuel, wants to test the level of repentance.  Is it lip service, or are they serious?  In other words, the challenge is laid down - "if you're seriously repenting, then 'for crying out loud,' get rid of all the other 'gods' you have and are worshipping, commit whole-heartedly to God, and He will deliver you."  You see the Israelites had their hand in two places; they were returning to God and seeking Him, but they were also clinging to other 'gods.' They wanted it both ways.

This got me to thinking - what 'gods' do I worship?  Am I, have I truly forsaken EVERYTHING and committed to follow Christ whole-heartedly?  Am I also guilty of "seeking God" yet clinging to other 'gods?'  What exactly did Jesus mean when He said, "
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."? (Luke 9:23-24)

God is love and His grace is un-ending.  Anyone who calls on the name of Christ and believes in Him will be saved.  However, His call is high - He is a jealous God, and is not willing to share us with anyone or anything.  He does give us His Spirit to "guide us into all truth."  However, we do have the ability to "quench the Spirit" and in effect, choose to go our own way.  It all boils down to this; Is there anything keeping you from whole-heartedly following Him?  Today?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Land Between

A few weeks ago I was able to attend a Leadership Conference.  There were many great speakers, and I want to take a moment and share with you some thoughts from one of the sessions.  The speaker was pastor Jeff Manion, and his session was called "The Land Between."  If you want to hear or see him speaking on this topic, click here.  Or click on the picture to the right to check out his book (which I haven't read).

The Scripture text is
Numbers 11.  The setting - the Israelites have just been rescued from Egypt's army by God, who in miraculous and dramatic fashion parts the Red Sea allowing Israel to pass through on dry ground.  God rescues them from certain death and brings them into the desert.  They are no longer in Egypt, but they have a journey in front of them before they reach the Promised Land.  They are in "the land between."

All of us have been, are currently, or will be in this land.  It's a place where some of us have been often.  Our church is in this land, as we are "in between" senior pastors.  Many men in our church are in this land, "in between" jobs.  In his talk, Pastor Jeff makes 5 points about this land that need little explanation.
  1. The land between is fertile ground for complaint. (vv 1-10)
  2. The land between is fertile ground for meltdown. (vv 11-15)
  3. The land between is fertile ground for God’s provision. (vv 16-17)
  4. The land between is fertile ground for God’s discipline - inflicting pain for redemptive purposes (vv 18-20).
  5. The land between is fertile ground for transformational growth – for learning to trust God.  (vv 21-35)

As I read those 5 points again, I know that I've done all 5.  I've complained, and melted down more often then I'd like to admit.  However, his last point might be the most important thing to remember if you're in the land.  The Israelites were coming out of generations of idol worship and living in the land of the Egyptians. God knew that if they were going to be "His people," then they had to learn to trust in Him.  So it is for us.  If we are truly to be God's people, His sons and daughters, then we must learn to trust Him totally, implicitly, without wavering.  It is here; in the "land between" that we learn to pray, rely, and depend on God…this does not happen automatically.  It is also the place where faith goes to die.  We have to choose.  

Something Jeff said in that session - you “deter” complaint by inviting in trust.  “Trust and complaint are incompatible roommates.”  If that's true, I wonder, am I living in trust or complaint?  Am I one of God's sons who has learned to trust?  If you find yourself in "the land between," remember first, you're in good company.  All of us have been there, are there, or will be there (multiple times).  Second, you just may be in a growth spurt of sorts...transformational growth often happens in this land.  And as I write, I have offered up a prayer for all of you who find yourselves in this land.