You will never get snared if you do not stray

You have certainly discovered how dangerous life can be right? Surely, by this point in your story, you have faced both demons and human treachery. You have had your back against some walls, and you have found ways to break through other ones. You have won and you have been defeated. You have been both elated and filled with despair. You have made good decisions that moved you forward like the ladder square in the children’s Chutes and Ladders game, and you have made other decisions that made you slip back to square one.

You have fought for the liberation of people’s hearts, and you have been awarded both trophies and scars. There is quite a bit at stake in this faith life of ours.

Sometimes, in our dizzying journeys through life the wisest counsel is the simplest. Indeed, true wisdom is usually not profound; it is so painfully obvious that anyone could dispense it. The challenge is in following it.

Psalm 119:110 presents wisdom that is powerful enough to save your life, and yet it is simple enough for a child to understand. It says, “The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.” Said differently, you will never get snared if you do not stray.

It’s true isn’t it? If we stick to our commitments…if we honor our promises…if we do what is right…if we retain our integrity at all costs, we won’t get snared. The snares are set a half step outside of the right path, and if we stick to the path we will avoid nearly all of them.

Are you on your right path today, or are you straying from it? If you are straying, beware of snares. They will take you out, and you will be remembered for your failure, instead of your exploits. It may seem difficult to walk the right path, but it will cost you vastly less than your forays off the path will.

Now, if you have strayed, and if you have been snared there is still good news. There is a way back! You won’t always be colored by your failure, and you will be able to start again. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” Psalm 119:59-60 says, “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”

Let’s stay on the path. Let’s pile up victory after victory in our life of faith. Then let’s cross the finish line together with our consciences clean and our heads held high.

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I will always need you more than ever before!

Ever since I was quite young, hot tubs have been one of my sanctuaries. It’s kind of weird I know, but true nonetheless. Recently, while thinking in the hot tub, I uttered a simple prayer to the Lord, “I need you more than ever before” and then I was immediately struck by the humor in that prayer.

I have ALWAYS needed God more than ever before.

As a drifting, disillusioned college student, I needed God more than ever before.

As a newlywed husband I realized that I would need Him more than ever before if I was going to be a worthy husband for Jessica.

When my three daughters were born, I was keenly aware that I needed His help more than ever before.

In other seasons of success, failure, victory, and trauma I uttered those same words. And then the other night, I prayed them again. I guess I’m always going to need God more than ever before.

I think that’s a good thing. King David felt that way. So did the prophet Jeremiah. I can relate to some parts of their stories. I have had moments of such exhilaration in the Lord’s presence that I was certain that heaven had come to earth, and I have had other moments where I didn’t know if I could go on living. The one constant throughout the highs, lows, and everything in between has been Him. Jesus has been, is, and ever will be faithful.

If you are on a mountaintop in this season of your life, enjoy it. If you are crawling through a valley, keep crawling. There are new beginnings and better days ahead of you, and you are not alone–Jeremiah’s dread champion walks beside you.

“The LORD is with me like a dread champion.” (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

“The LORD is near to all who call on Him.” (King David, Psalm 145:18).

My new friend–a Maasai warrior and pastor from Kenya

So…have you ever killed a lion? Have you ever jumped into a pit and killed a marauding lion on a snowy day? Have you ever risked your life to defend your loved ones from a giant cat with bad intentions?

I haven’t, although I’ve talked about it a lot. In my preaching I’ve often highlighted the exciting lion-hunting passages where King David, Benaiah, and others risked their lives to defend against these frightening beasts. They’re great passages, and they help to illustrate powerful spiritual truth about: A) our need to engage in spiritual battles, and B) God’s grace to help us overcome them.

Recently, my appreciation for these passages radically increased when I became friends with an actual warrior from the Maasai tribe in Kenya, East Africa. Pastor Jeremiah is a Maasai warrior, and he has actually been a member of lion-hunting war parties (I should probably mention that he was armed with only a wooden club).

Interacting with a man who has literally stared down a lion with nothing but a heavy stick changes you. It brings a slightly different perspective to the metaphorical idea of lion-hunting. Whereas I urge people to “fight the figurative lions that want to assault your family and faith” this guy has actually looked into the eyes of a real one. He has actually faced his fear and put his life on the line in the pursuit of honor and the defense of the people he loved.

When you look at this pastor, he looks so kind (and he is). But he also has a fierceness  and a courage that our generation needs to recover. He sort of reminds me of Jesus “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ministry of standing

When Nazi Germany bombed London in the direst moments of WWII, Prime Minister Winston Churchill would routinely climb onto a roof (or on top of his car if he was on the ground) to stand and watch the bombs fall. His defiant silhouette—no doubt replete with his famous Churchillian cigar—was a reminder to anyone who saw him that Great Britain was not defeated yet. His ministry of standing in the face of insurmountable odds injected the citizens of the British Isles with hope and won him the nickname “Lion.”

Did you know that’s your ministry too? Ephesians 6 tells us that there are moments in our lives when we’ve done everything that we know to do and all that remains is for us to climb onto a rooftop and take our stand.

Standing isn’t the most glamorous ministry you will ever have. It’s not the most enjoyable of assignments—indeed, we usually don’t engage in this task until most other options have failed us—however, there is something in the standing that releases the power of God.

And after you have done everything…stand.”

Are you standing today? Are you holding your ground despite overwhelming circumstances? Is your rooftop silhouette a silent reminder that you haven’t lost all faith and that the outcome of your battle is far from over?

History tells us that when England was standing America was stirring. Who knows what heavenly forces are stirring on your behalf as you continue to take your stand?

 

 

Triple-kept by triune love

smile-at-the-rainShade, shelter, stronghold…buckler, shield, and bulwark. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are triple protected by triune love.

I think you will love the following sentences from a Celtic devotional that I have recently been pondering:

God the Father is the shield beneath which we hide our fragile souls. He comes both generous and large to cover us when troubles rain down upon us.

God the Son made of His own cross a place for our hard times and the wood He chose now serves our wounds.

God the Spirit lives within us like structured steel with welded braces so the pressures from without can never crush us.

We are triple-kept by triune love, shielded by the three in one.”[1]

Know you are loved today!

 

[1] Calvin Miller, Celtic Devotions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 27.

 

What in the world is going on?

what-in-the-world-is-going-onOn the morning of September 11, 2001 I was en route to a monthly pastors’ prayer gathering at the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs when the first tower was hit. Those events of 9/11 plunged our country into unimaginable pain and disbelief, and immediately took their place alongside other unforgettable historical tragedies such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and others.

This week, in the wake of yet another tragic shooting and its resultant escalation of fear, hatred, and racism, those familiar feelings from 9/11 are resurfacing.

Bombings…shootings…racism…fury…terror…maddening presidential campaigns…the deaths of police officers…the deaths of young black men…what in the world is going on? AND what in the world can we do?

1 Chronicles 12:32 identifies a subset of King David’s mighty men, men from the tribe of Issachar, who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” How can we be those kinds of men and women? How should we process the signs of our times, and what are the courses of action that we should be taking?

Is our country falling apart? Is there only gloom on our horizon? Should we hunker down under fear? Should we assume that our glory days are over before they ever even really began, and that things will only be grim from here on out? What should we be doing as a general cloak of fear, anger, and despair settles more fully over our country’s soul?

Perhaps we should cling to and manifest some things that are promised to remain. The Apostle Paul told us that when everything else is passing away there are three things that will endure: faith, hope, and love.

The Christian worldview gives us FAITH that the God of history is still deeply at work in the universe. It gives us confidence that there is HOPE for both today as well as tomorrow. And ultimately it give us a mission: to LOVE our God, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our world.

I don’t presume to have great wisdom or prophetic insight about this…I just wonder what might change in our world if we were people of courageous and prayer-filled faith, generous and compassionate hope, and reconciling, hate-abolishing love?

I will always need you more than ever before

the lord is nearEver since I was quite young, hot tubs have been one of my sanctuaries. It’s kind of weird, but true nonetheless. Tonight, while thinking in the hot tub, I uttered a simple prayer to the Lord, “I need you more than ever before” and then I was immediately struck by the humor in that prayer.

I have ALWAYS needed God more than ever before.

As a drifting, disillusioned young college student, I needed God more than ever before.

As a newlywed husband I realized that I would need Him more than ever before if I was going to be a husband worthy of Jessica.

When my three daughters were born, I was keenly aware that I needed His help more than ever before.

In other seasons of success, failure, victory, and trauma I uttered those same words. And then tonight I prayed it again. I guess I’m just always going to need Him more than ever before.

I think that’s a good thing. King David felt that way. So did Paul. I can relate to a little bit of their stories. I’ve had moments of such exhilaration in the Lord’s presence that I was certain that heaven had come to earth, and I’ve had other moments where I didn’t know if I could go on living. The one constant has been Him. Jesus has been, is, and ever will be faithful.

If you’re on a mountaintop tonight, enjoy it. If you’re crawling through a valley, keep crawling. You’re not alone, and the Lord will meet you there.

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him…” (King David, Psalm 145:18).