Category Archives: Truth-Seekers

Cups

Had a BIG revelation last night. My cup is far from full.

You know how David proclaims, with undying gratitude and enduring trust, “My cup overflows!” It gives us the sense that God fills us up so we can overflow. I have experienced this too — being so filled with God that my life, my relationships, my ministry are simply products of overflow. That is actually God’s best plan for each of us.

My latest humbling experience all began at Caribou. I purchased a set of four artsy cups for 75% off — one of those great after-Christmas sales I couldn’t pass up. They are perfect for double shot of espressos. When I brought them home, I decided to arrange ALL of our cups in the cupboard because we were running out of room. We have collected cups and mugs from all over the world (literally) and have way more than any family ever needs. They do enable us to haves brief fantasy vacations while we sip our hot beverages, however.

When Susan arrived home, I decided to excitedly share my organizational efforts (since that’s HER specialty). Her response, which isn’t important for my blog, took me by surprise and hurt my pride. My reaction was — well, surprising even to me. I berated my wife in front of our sons, made a fool of myself, and had a big mess to clean up.

I realized my cup was far from full.

I faced my wrong, killed my pride, apologized to Susan (who deserved none of my venom), and made things right with my sons, too. I can’t say I like humble pie at all. I ate lots of it last night.

All because my cup is fairly empty.

So here’s the crazy thing–I’ve been reading my Bible, preparing lessons and messages, spending time in prayer, and have stayed connected in meaningful fellowship. Why is my cup empty?

Well–that’s a topic for tomorrow. I’ll give you a hint, though. It has everything to do with the condition of my heart.

For now, I need to wash down the bad taste of humble pie with some great espresso from one of those new fancy cups.

Wild and Crazy Generosity

Abraham was on of those wild and crazy people. He embarked on a thousand plus mile journey to go to a place he had never been to follow a God he couldn’t see. One of the characteristics we easily overlook in Abraham was his generosity. Genesis 13 tells the story of Abraham and his nephew Lot together in Canaan when their herds increased so much there was not enough pasture for both.

Know what Abraham did? He gave Lot the choice of any property he wanted. Lot, of course, chose the most beautiful fertile valley of land anywhere around — the Jordon Valley. Here’s what’s so intriguing about this account: The first thing that happens after Abraham lived out selfless generosity is that God declares His generosity toward him!

14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted!

Our generosity unleashes the generosity of God.

When we are reckless with generosity, like Abraham, God responds with an even greater generosity toward us. A little reminder is in order here — God doesn’t always compensate us with material things. I’m sure the greatest blessing for Abraham was not the land as far as the eye could see, but the descendants that God had in store.

When we are generous, God’s gracious nature is ratcheted up. He cannot help but unleash is abundant goodness upon us.

So go ahead…be wild and crazy with generosity. God wins, others win, and you win.

Temperatures

This morning, my van thermometer registered -20! That’s cold, folks. It’s wonderful being a Minnesotan! We deal with such a contrast in temperatures in our parts. But nothing like last night!

Our family, along with some great friends, went to see the amazing movie “Avatar” in 3D. (By the way, it’s probably one of the best three movies I’ve seen in my entire life…) The theater had to be near 90 degrees, especially in the top row where we were. I’m not exaggerating either. I love hot, but I was so warm, I shed my hoodie and sat in my v-neck t-shirt! Our group of seven sweated the whole thing through so much so that we were all glossy by the time we departed the place. Then we walked out into -9 degree weather. That had to be nearly a 100 degree change from one place to the other in a matter of a minute or so. It reminded me of running from a sauna into a snow bank (I’ve done that only once).

We experience those sudden contrasts of temperature in our modern world, but not so in our spiritual status. Our spiritual temps change incognito. The variation in our spiritual condition certainly happens, but vigilance is required to notice the subtle changes. We can move from 80 degrees to 30 degrees, spiritually speaking, completely unnoticed because we overlook so well. There’s usually no shocking experience, no obvious contrast from one day to the next, but we suddenly find ourselves spiritually cold, dead toward God, walking around with a frozen heart.

We must be vigilant.

As Proverbs 4:23 declares, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”

The temperature contrast between inside and outside today is stunning. But vigilance is required to be sure my heart always stays God-hot.

Check the temp today, OK?

Experiencing God

Mark, who is one of my best friends in the whole world and also ministry partner for 14 years, wrote this response yesterday to the question: “How do you come to know God.”


“I recently read some things by Mark Batterson that are helping me answer this question. When I worship I can’t focus on what’s wrong with me, but what is right with God. This allows me to experience Him. By the way, I have to remember that worship is a lifestyle that includes music but in no way is limited to that. When I have problems in my life my attitude and focus must be on Jesus. I cannot be the focus of my problems because I will never experience God if that is the case. My problems are actually opportunities for me to experience God.


Altering my prayer life from only “safe” prayers to include “dangerous” prayers. Praying “safe” prayers are not bad and I will continue to pray those types of prayers. However, for me to experience God the way He wants me to I need to pray “dangerous” prayers. Prayers that I know make me uncomfortable because in my own strength I cannot accomplish the request. Knowing that God is the only one who can move forward and do what He is asking of me…that is a dangerous prayer and will lead to a wild experience!”


You’re the man, Mark! And he referred to Mark Batterson who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. (Check out the link to his blog in the right column too!) Reading at least one of his books this year would be a wonderful goal. He has three:

  • In a Pit with a Lion On a Snowy Day
  • Wild Goose Chase
  • Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity (his latest)
  • Wow! This must be Mark-Day! What a great way to start a New Year…

    Knowing God

    Thank you for the responses, people!

    By the way--this blog is averaging 105 different people visiting every single day! Pretty cool. There have been 467 different individuals that have checked out the Ecipleship blog in the month of December (my first full month). So thanks for spreading the word whenever and however you can. It's sort of like an online church gathering every day!

    Here is a survey of the responses (in order of their popularity) to “how you really come to know God”:

    #1 — Through the devotional disciplines of reading the Word and prayer. The emphasis was made that it reveals the nature of God in light of my need and depravity.

    #2  — Through adversity and trials. The statement was made several times that it is where head knowledge turns into heart convictions…God becomes real through the testings of life. What a great reminder of what James 1 states, “Consider it all joy when you encounter trials of various kinds…” Hardships are truly blessings in disguise.

    #3 — Reflecting on God’s goodness and faithfulness. We see who God really is and the ways He has intersected our lives.

    #4 — Obedience. It is in doing, taking risks, putting trust to the test that we experience who God really is. Only on the other side of obedience to do we know God clearly.

    #5 — Learning from others. This is a “hip-hip-hurray!” for all pastors and teachers…and others who pour into the lives of those around them. This the Body of Christ dynamic that is essential to every believer. We need one another and find God through one another. I love it!

    #6 — Serving and working in partnership with God. This is mine and since it’s my blog, I get to add it. I experience the reality and character of God through serving Him and others. I learn so much about God and form a deep bond with Him in these experiences.

    RELATIONSHIP is the key in knowing God. Time, experiences together, sacrificing for another, laughing and enjoying one another — these are vital elements in relationships. And they are essential in knowing and loving God too.

    In 2010, choose what one thing you will do to deepen your knowledge and love for God.

    Happy New Year!

    Knowing God?

    I finished my blog yesterday with a statement I would like your help with today.

    Here’s the statement:

    I’m quite sure that God will sneak up on you some day soon and say, “I want you to do this ridiculous thing that looks like sheer lunacy. Will you do it?” What will you answer?

    It all depends upon how well you know God…how much you can trust in His infinite wisdom and undying love.

    Here’s where I would like your help. Tell me what it is that has helped you most to truly know God. [Just click on the little post-it on the top right and leave your comment.] You can be very brief, but be as specific as possible. It will be interesting to hear how we each find our life-giving connections with the Almighty. I will follow-up with some reflections tomorrow.

    Thanks for your help, everyone!

    What Will God Ask???

    A new season of time stands before us. There are so many unknowns about it. Will I still have my job at the end of the year? Will I lose anyone close to me in the months ahead? What tragedies await me just around the corner? What school-of-hard-knocks does God have planned for me now? What disease is lurking in my body that will show itself in the days ahead? Yes—there are so many unknowns. But not one of them is a surprise to God!

    Psalm 139:3-4, 16

    3 Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.

    4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all.

    16 Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

    Joseph and Mary understood the omniscient nature of God. They understood that God’s knowledge supersedes all time. He is in the past, present and future all at once! The Almighty is not bound by this arena of time in which we live. So—with absolute trust in the command of God to leave Bethlehem, they scurried out of town in the dark of night to avoid any witnesses to their departure. Joseph’s obedience was immediate and complete, even though it brought them even farther from their home in Nazareth.

    Egypt.

    This represents a place of pain, humiliation, despair, helplessness, enslavement, bondage, lostness…

    Egypt was not a positive place for an Israelite. Their forefathers and families were debased in this despicable land. Four hundred and thirty years of slavery was cruelly etched into the fabric of these chosen people. By the way, did you know that they also spent four hundred and thirty years in the Promised Land…and then four hundred and thirty years in Babylonian and Persian exile? They returned to Jerusalem in 430BC…that’s right! Four hundred and thirty years after returning to their land of promise, the Savior comes, only to be sent back into exile again!

    So when God tells Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt, it required a special faith in the knowledge, wisdom and trustworthiness of God.

    But they go.

    They go into exile. In Egypt. Because God told them to go.

    I’m quite sure that God will sneak up on you some day soon and say, “I want you to do this ridiculous thing that looks like sheer lunacy. Will you do it?” What will you answer?

    It all depends upon how well you know God…how much you can trust in His infinite wisdom and undying love.

    Will you go?

    My Ego Boost

    I’m feeling really good about myself today! I was just told that I’m like Joseph (son of Jacob)  in the Bible! I am described in these terms:

    You are forgiving. You make the best of bad situations and trust God to take care of your needs. You will not compromise your morals. You are trustworthy. Trials do not buckle you, you patiently wait for the Lord to deliver you.

    Too bad it was Facebook that told me! Yes–I took one of those online assessments (I rarely waste my time on them), but after waking this morning at 4AM, I decided I would do something silly. So–I got an ego boost!

    Here’s the problem–I know I’m not really like Joseph. Yes–there may be a few characteristics of his that show up in my life, but I’ve never really spent years unjustly in a prison like he did. So I’m not like Joseph. I’ve never been unjustly accused of adultery, so I’m not like Joseph. I haven’t had an opportunity to lead a nation in crisis, so I’m not like Joseph. It sounded nice, though.

    Here’s what I do know: I can be Ivan, redeemed, restored, and righteous because God chooses to live in me and work through me for His purposes. I can be faithful in whatever comes my way today, whether it is good or evil, happy or sad, just or unjust. Even Joseph could not have been Joseph if he didn’t yield himself to God. I want to do that today. And maybe…just maybe, twenty five years from now, I might be a little bit more like Joseph that I am today.

    Thanks, Facebook!

    Being Dangerous

    “If following Jesus does not feel dangerous, I should probably pause and check to see if it is Jesus I’m following.” This Gary Haugen statement is packed with fact.

    Fact #1 — We naturally like to be safe rather than dangerous. Unless we deliberately choose to be dangerous, we will be safe.

    Fact #2 — God-followers have always been called to danger. From Abraham being called to move from the most developed city of his day to a place he had never heard of nor ever been, all the way to Jesus’ disciples dispensing with their safe places to join the world-rattling adventure with Jesus, we are called to danger.

    Fact #3 — We cannot muster up the courage to be dangerous rather than safe. This orientation comes only through being so filled with heart and passion of God that we take on His likeness. That’s why, when the early church leaders lost their resolve, they prayed together and the Holy Spirit came upon them. They were infused with courage to continue their dangerous cause. (Acts 4)

    Fact #4 — God doesn’t call us to anything He has not subjected Himself to first. Christmas is all about danger. The Creator became created, the all-powerful One became a helpless baby in a feeding trough, the King of Kings became dependent on his mother’s providence. He who had it all became a homeless disadvantaged and hunted human being destined for a cruel cross.

    That’s why scripture declares to every God-follower, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” 1 Peter 4:1.

    If following Jesus does not feel dangerous, I should probably pause and check to see if it is Jesus I’m following.

    Empty Christians

    Many Christians can look good but be terribly empty. In modern American Christianity, we tend to have something that is more cultural than biblical. In place of authentic faith being lived out, we easily slip into a form of something religious but lack substantive power. We can look good on the outside, but are like whitewashed tombs on the inside.

    This morning, I read Hosea 10:12:

    I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
    and you will harvest a crop of love.
    Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
    for now is the time to seek the Lord,
    that he may come
    and shower righteousness upon you.’

    God desperately longs to shower you with His love and blessing, but we often place ourselves in a wasteland apart from God’s grace. In fact, Jude 21 states, “Live in such a way that God’s love can bless you.” How cool is that?

    Hosea mentions the “seeds of righteousness”. What are those? In this scripture’s context, it refers to:

    • Living without idols…those things we rely on that become our crutches. We go to these for security and providence instead of God [like today’s financial security, credit cards, nice cars, luxurious homes, toys and entertainment items that feed our pleasure quotient]. Plow up that hard ground of your heart.
    • Running passionately after God — making Him the first love of our life…“seek the LORD”
    • Living like Jesus would live with compassion for the needy, an awareness and commitment to the lost, and honoring God with a life of integrity. Action is more important than theoretical beliefs.

    I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to “live in such a way that God’s love can bless me”…today.