Category Archives: PRODIGALS

Don’t Be That Person

The story of Achan in Joshua chapter 7 is a little sobering. His private sin led to a public humiliation by the entire nation of Israel. By slipping a few banned items into his tent, He sentenced Israel to defeat at the hands of a small city named Ai. When the confident victors from Jericho are found running for their lives from a small village, Joshua and the leaders fell on their faces to seek God’s face. Achan’s private sin, not only prevented God’s people from success, but resulted in humiliation and a God-dishonoring defeat.

  • 36 families lost their fathers.
  • All the momentum of crossing the Jordan and Jericho’s victory instantly vanished.
  • The quivering fearful people of Canaan gained hope that they could defeat God’s people.
  • The strong and faithful people of Israel became filled with fear…their hearts “became like water.”
  • Everyone suffered because of one person’s sin.

DON’T BE THAT PERSON.

Can one person living in sin prevent the rest of us from experiencing success? It did here! For us today, let’s not find out. Make sure you’re not the person living in sin.

Achan was drawn away from God by:

  • Secrets. He took something he wanted and thought hiding it would keep it private. It never does…
  • Disobedience. He did something he KNEW was prohibited, but he did it anyway. He threw caution to the wind and thought he could slip through unnoticed by God.
  • Compromise. His desires were drawn toward these material things — gold, silver, and some beautiful things from Shinar. This STUFF had captured his heart and turned his allegiance away from being a sold out follower of God.
  • Double life. He was still a soldier in God’s army tying to look like everyone else, but he was living a secret life on the side. In his own tent, he was a heathen.

DON’T BE THAT PERSON.

One person living in sin DOES affect all the rest of the Body. As 1 Corinthians states, “If one member  suffers, all suffer with it.”

Let’s ALL be consecrated to the Lord this week. Give Him your everything — your secrets, disobedience, compromises, and double life.

DON’T BE THAT PERSON…

Whatever it Takes

I’m glad I don’t have to teach on circumcision every week! That’s what I did yesterday in the context of Joshua and the nation of Israel. Some mom just sent me a message and said, “You should have heard all the snickers through the first half of your message yesterday!” Oh yes–I heard them all right. And a few groans at times, too–especially from the men in the audience. It was interesting that the women were really enjoying the whole affair while the men had painful looks on their faces.

All kidding aside, circumcision was serious business for the nation of Israel.

  • It was a sign of their covenant relationship with God.
  • It was God’s very personal mark that would remind them everyday whose they were.
  • It was, at least when performed on grown men, a painful passage to stand in a right relationship with God.

This is why it is so revealing when Joshua 5 tells us that the generation of Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years did not circumcise their children. They lived as everyone else in their day. They lived in separation from God. (They didn’t observe the Passover for 40 years either.) But, the first thing that God calls His people to AFTER they cross the Jordan is to be circumcised. God was saying, “We’re on target again. You are my people and now we’re ready to do business together.”

If you ever find yourself wandering without God, go back to the place you left Him. Literally go back. When this second generation stood in the place where the first generation would not go, God re-established His covenant relationship with His people. Generation #1 left God at the Jordan — generation #2 found Him there. Powerful stuff…

What’s so stunning about this whole story in Joshua 5 is that hundreds of thousands of men are circumcised! They all were. There is no hint of a defector. There was spirit toward obedience and sacrifice. These Israelites, raised in hardship of the wilderness wandering, were ready to do whatever it took to follow hard after God. They were living in the motif of gut-it-out-do-whatever-it-takes to be right with God. We may often view our pain or sacrifice as too great because we tend to live in the motif of ease. If we could just get out of that and realize we’re called to greatness in a world that presses us into mediocrity.

So, as a visual of mass of obedience (and suffering) enacted that day by the nation of Israel, they named the place Gibeah-haaraloth. It means, hill of foreskins.

Get the picture?

Balaam’s Bungle

I’m thinking that a lot of Christians are too much like the Balaam when we first find him in Numbers 21. He’s a guy who has a relationship with God (even though he wasn’t an Israelite), but it wasn’t based on knowledge nor rooted in God’s purposes. Balaam used His connection with God for personal gain.

We unwittingly use God for personal gain way too often:

  • We use Him to give us security
  • We use Him to give us purpose
  • We use Him to make life manageable
  • We use Him to make life better
  • We use Him to provide a predictable routine for our lives
  • We use Him to make ourselves feel good about ourselves
  • We use Him to make ourselves prosperous

You get the idea. This is what Balaam was doing too. He actually knew God, had communication with God, and lived in a way that made him different than the average Joe that lived in his vicinity. But when he could make a fortune by cursing God’s people, He was ready to go!

It was an ass that stopped the whole twisted episode. (This, by the way, has the power to humble any one of us who thinks we’re really something when God uses us…) Yes–after the beast was beaten for not kindly carrying Balaam to the heathen king Balak, the animal actually spoke up for himself! And what’s way too funny about his story is that, with seeming normalcy, Balaam begins this ridiculous conversation (most likely at feverish pitch) with the lowly animal.

But here’s what eventually happens:

  1. Balaam finally understands that God will not allow him to curse His own people.
  2. He confesses his sin to the intercepting angel, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going,” Numbers 22:34.
  3. He is gripped by God’s command. In fact, Balaam’s first words to Balak, when he finally met him, was simply this, “Look, now I have come, but I have no power to say whatever I want. I will speak only the message that God puts in my mouth,” Numbers 22:38.

I feel like many Christians and many churches need to find clarity in what God has for them. Rather than a vague idea that God is there — and somehow thinking that God is primarily there for them — we need to realize:

  • our sin of self-indulgence,
  • confess our failure to live within God’s design,
  • be gripped by  God’s command,
  • and live it out with a passion.

With profound clarity, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples…teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

Let’s do just that…

She Got It!

I recently witnessed a person teaching and training in a particular type of prayer ministry. The concepts being presented were biblical, powerful, and transferable. It was good stuff. It’s the kind of information that every prayer warrior should have. But one thing really bothered me–the presenter was proud. The arrogance came through in numerous ways…demeanor, statements, inferences, and slights. It was there. Undeniable.

It reminded me both of the power of information and the danger of information. The power of knowledge is that we are informed to know and do things we could not do without it. The danger is that it can consume us and make us haughty. It gives the sense that we’re a little better and a little more mature and a little more valuable than others who don’t have what we have.

I want to make it clear: It doesn’t need to be this way, but it often is.

The Bible tells us that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” This wasn’t stated so that we would shun knowledge. Rather, it was a warning that when we get new and valuable information, use it to love (positively minister to others) rather than let it get in you and give you an ego trip.

There are streams of Christianity that emphasize more of the intellectual and theological dimensions of our faith. I’m good with that–we need those valuable contributions. BUT–the danger of those very same “streams”–the warning to leaders in those ministries of that nature–watch out. Without even realizing it, we can produce a hoard of followers that think they’re pretty special. The very nature of much knowledge and stimulating insight is that we feel superior to others who even appear to not have it.

Here’s where I’m at on all of this. I want to be on the cutting edge of biblical insight, keen on theological awareness, but not make it so obvious. I was reminded of that this past Sunday when, again, I spoke in terminology that every human being in America could understand. While doing that, an abused, broken, first-time visiting stripper “got it.” She was so deeply moved by what she experienced on Sunday morning that, after weeping through the entire service, she asked her host if she could come back this next Sunday too.

That would not have happened if my primary goal was to show how smart I was.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” 1 Corinthians 8:1.

What He Came to Do

When Jesus was just in the beginning steps of His earthly ministry, He publicly read the words of a prophecy about Himself. These verses describe, by Jesus’ own proclamation and demonstration, the core essence of why He came.

So what did He come to do? Read it closely…

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:1-3)

We are surrounded by brokenness and have become broken people…often times more than we would like to admit.

This past week, I was in touch with a friend of mine who was a pastor. His life spiraled out of control a number of years ago when alcohol took over his life. Then his relationships went bad, he lost his ministry as a pastor, lost his marriage through divorce, and proceeded to plunge into a terrible abyss of darkness and despair. But he made clear to me that “God is always faithful” and “I have come to love Him more than I knew possible.” In the worst of times, He desperately and unreservedly turned to the One who loves him unconditionally and can help Him heal completely. Jesus did what He said He came to do!

Even though this friend’s life is still not peaches and cream, He walks in freedom with the One who has set him free.

So many of us are slaves and prisoners–to things like addictions, anger, unforgiveness, past failures and mistakes, the sin of others, abuse by others, the circumstances of life, and our own bad habits and learned ways of “survival.” Why have so many of us remained captives when Jesus came to set us free?

My upcoming teaching series, Setting Captives Free, is all about this. It’s about helping us receive and apply the freedom that Christ has intended for us all along. We have an army of prayer warriors interceding before God to see ALL of us set free whatever it is that binds us.

This will be a good time to invite others who are struggling with life. This will be relevant to EVERYONE. Don’t miss it.

We plan to see a whole lot of Jesus Setting Captives Free!

So Many…

So many people want righteousness rather than religiousness.

So many people want to be a part of a kingdom cause rather than a church culture.

So many people want to taste God rather than catch a whiff of churchianity.

So many people want to catch fire rather than be a smoldering wick.

So many people have given up on God because they haven’t found Him in the church.

So many people seek the real deal rather than a cheap imitation.

So many people want to live for a great cause rather than be conformed to a list of rules.

So many people have lost hope because they feel like they’ve tried everything biblical.

So many people have had their eyes blinded by professing Christians who mean well but dishonor God.

So many people out there need to see Jesus in you.

So many people out there need to experience Jesus in you!

So many people our there need to meet Jesus through you!

Many of the people you may be tempted to judge or look down upon for their worldliness or lack of spirituality are the very ones who are seeking the real thing. Jesus knew this so well! That’s why He became known as the friend of sinners. The religious environment of the day imposed it’s impressive and completely sinful motif upon those that couldn’t live under such oppression. They gave up…just like so many in our world and in our culture today.

Jesus needs to step into their world–through you!

So many need to actually meet this amazing Savior.

So many….

Setting the Captives Free!

During Morph, someone made a comment to me that really stuck. When encouraging people to love like God loved, I was told, “So many people cannot even think of living this way because they are hurting too bad and are bound too deeply.” As a result of that comment stewing in me ever since, I’ve pieced the following series together to address the captivities we find ourselves in. It will begin in February. I’m praying that we will see Jesus Setting the Captives Free! After all, that’s exactly what He came to do.

We ALL need to be set free from:

  • Being held hostage by our secrets and habits of denial
  • Our brokenness which results from our sin and failures
  • Being ravaged by the ugly and selfish sins of others
  • From spiritual bondages that bind us, sentencing us as prisoners to the forces of darkness
  • Living under the harsh circumstances of life

Instead, we need to live by the victory that Christ provides for us, the forgiveness He died to offer us, and the strength He has made available to us! We need to stop living as victims and begin living as victors! We need to stop responding to life like wimps and persevere like warriors! He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of a sound mind. He has not made us to be weak, but to be strong in the strength of the Lord.

Jesus came to set the captives free! As Isaiah 61 states about the mission of Jesus,

“He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel.
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

10 Cents Worth of God, Please

I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please.

I want enough to get a taste, to actually have Him, but not so much that it costs me much.

I don’t want to get distracted from the things that I really want.

I don’t want to be consumed by a huge dose of God.

I want enough to feel pretty good about myself, enough to make my life respectable and manageable–enough to get me through the pearly gates.

I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please….

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! …I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” Revelation 3:15-16, 19

Bar Ministry

I conducted a memorial service today…in a bar! It was an amazing experience. I’m energized by it all.

I was asked to help with a simple service for a family’s friend who has a number of other close friends in the area. Our church had a big statewide convention in our facilities today, so we had no room to hold it there. We ended up in a bar a couple blocks from the church building.

By the time things got started, nearly half the people had beers. With about 35 people gathered together, we shared some memories of the deceased which then led into the message I had prepared. It was, I believe, a word from the Lord. In terms that completely unchurched people could understand, I shared the gospel message of God’s love, Christ’s forgiveness, and the opportunity for eternal life. People really listened.

After we had finished, I had many people thank me, ask more questions, and tell me that they had never heard this before. It was really cool. I know seeds were planted, hearts were stirred, and maybe even salvation was granted to some.

This is what Jesus meant when He said He was to heal the brokenhearted, free the prisoners, and preach the good news to the poor. I got to be Jesus today. Really cool.

Waiting…

God’s compassion, grace, and love are beyond our comprehension.

The Father in the parable of the two lost sons (Luke 15) demonstrates compelling grace. It draws you in. It blows your mind. It inspires us to imitate. The power of grace is staggering.

Susan and I spent a little time with a family in crisis last night. A prodigal has fallen even deeper into the insanity of sin. The irrefutable consequences will be severe. We felt their pain, standing on the precipice of hopelessness, wondering if there is any way things could get worse. And then–we remembered the Father. His arms are always open, His heart tender, His wisdom confounding, His patience enduring, His love overwhelming, His grace compelling. There is ALWAYS hope with God.

Nothing is too difficult for God.

No waywardness is too far removed for His grace.

No hopelessness to great to dispell.

There He stands with open arms…

He may be waiting for you right now…to restore, comfort, strengthen, sustain, or forgive.

Just go…