Monthly Archives: January 2009

How Do Your Walls Look?


If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you (like the Jews who had lived their lives in the foreign land of Egypt) have been freed from the captivity of the Enemy.  Specifically, I’m talking about being free from the slavery of Satan’s temptations here on earth and from hell and eternal darkness in eternity.  Your temple (your heart) has been rebuilt – made new!

 

And yet, many of us still have little to no defenses against the attacks of the Enemy.  We are like the Jews during the time of Nehemiah.  They had a new temple, but there were no walls around the city to protect it.  Likewise, our spiritual walls, which represent our relationship with Christ, are broken down, and our gates (ears and eyes) are open for whatever the Enemy brings our way.  He assaults us with images and sounds, which we shouldn’t let into our minds, but we are weak without our walls.  He can walk freely through our minds, because we have no way to keep him out.

 

God intended for us to be a light to all we meet.  He intended for us to reflect His glory.  But instead of shining, we’ve been sinning.  Because of what we’ve allowed into our minds, they are full of darkness.  Our mouth gates don’t send out wisdom; they send out perversity.  We laugh at all kinds of sinfulness.  We celebrate it along with all the unsaved people around us.  They can’t tell that we are God’s people, because we look just like them.

 

If we are truly saved, this should cause us as great a distress as Nehemiah experienced when he first heard about the broken walls of Jerusalem. We will never rebuild our spiritual walls until we first weep over the ruins.  In other words, we need to reach a place of repentance for the mess we have made of what God gave us.  God warns that if we continue to be unfaithful, He will give us over to our sins just as he scattered the Jews to the nations.  But if we return and obey, He will restore us to relationship with Him.  Even those of us who have gone to the farthest reaches of sin.  Even those of us who think we’ve gone far beyond what God will forgive.  He will bring us back.

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Filed under character, christianity, Covering, Daily walk, Protection, temple

Right-Hand Man


Everyone wants to have a right-hand man (or woman), right?  Someone you trust implicitly.  Someone who will cover for you in a pinch and make decisions just as you would have made them.  Someone you can groom to be your successor when the inevitable promotion opportunities come rolling in.

The expression “right-hand man” (as well as the tradition of seating the guest of honor at the right hand of the host) originated from times when leaders had to worry about assassination on a daily basis.  Before the days of explosives and automatic weapons, the easiest way to assassinate a leader was to have the person sitting to his right grab his sword arm and hang on, rendering him relatively helpless so that others in the room could then kill him.  If you were a leader, it was in your best interest to put the person you most trusted next to your sword arm. Since most people are right-handed, the “right-hand man” came to be synonymous for someone you could trust with your life.

Leadership can be a lonely role.  Having a right-hand man (person) will encourage you when things get rough.  A trusted “second-in-command” can keep an eye on your blind spots and warn you when you’re stepping into dangerous territory.  If you don’t have one, start developing one (or to look for someone with the right qualities to fill your next open position.)

Incidentally, the best “right-hand man” you can have is Jesus.  He’s not seated at your right hand; He’s at the right hand of God, the Father, but he will keep an eye on your blind spots for you.  He will intercede in prayer for you and come to your rescue when you need Him.  He might not make decisions just as you would have made them, but He will make them better.  And He’ll never be your successor, but you won’t experience success in your Christian walk without His power and authority.  Best of all, you can trust Him with your life – both here and in eternity.

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Filed under belief, christianity, Covering, faith, leadership, Protection, trust

On Solid Rock


I have a friend who once had his house jacked so that it was supported by bedrock rather than clay.  He shared with me that his house is now all “womperjawed” (yes, he’s from Texas).  Not a thing in the house is square – but it’s solid.  His house had been founded on clay so long that everything had shifted over time.  In fact, much of it was square before he jacked it, because it had all shifted together.  It looked good and felt comfortable, but it wasn’t solid.

When my friend made the decision to jack the house to found it on bedrock, he gave up the comfort and aesthetics he had before.  His house doesn’t look as good as it once did, but now it’s solid and will stand the test of time.

What a great analogy for what happens to our lives when we accept Christ and anchor our lives to the Rock.  When we accept Christ, the people around us  start to realize that we don’t have it all together like we used to pretend that we did.  Our flaws begin to show, but we can rejoice in that!  God doesn’t waste anything.  He uses our flaws as much or more than He uses our strengths to accomplish His purposes.  We can afford to be vulnerable with people and let them see how “womperjawed” we are, because we’ve got a solid foundation.

“Square” is overrated.  It’s better to be a mess with a message than to be “perfect” without a prayer.

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Filed under Authenticity, belief, Change, christianity, Salvation, sanctification

Something Special


I once managed a call center, and we employed many colorful personalities to answer the phones.  One day, I walked up to the cubicle where a representative named Roz was sitting.  Pinned to the cubicle wall next to her and right at her eye-level was an 8″x10″ glossy glamour shot of herself.  I waited until she finished her call and then asked, “Roz, what on earth is that?”

She looked at the photo and then at me and said, “Michael, you’ve got to surround yourself with the ones you love!”

I loved Roz.  She was completely self-absorbed, but she knew she was self-absorbed and never tried to pretend that she was anything different.  And she had the right idea.  We should love ourselves.  Not to the point of narcissism but to the point of a healthy self-love that recognizes that we are created in God’s own image.  Remember, when Jesus told us to love our neighbor, He said to love him as we love ourselves.

God doesn’t make junk; He makes masterpieces.  Each one of us is a unique masterpiece of His creation.  Demeaning and defeating self-talk and the accusing lies of the Enemy are all are aimed at discrediting the work of  God’s hand.  We shouldn’t tolerate them for even a moment.

Give yourself permission to love yourself.  You’re awesome!  You’re wonderful!  Jesus loved you so much He went to the cross for you.  You must be something special!

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Filed under agape love, christianity, funny, humor, love, self-image, self-worth, worth

The Mongol King


Seven hundred years ago, the Mongolian Khans had conquered most of Asia and extended their empire into parts of Europe. What started with the famous/infamous Genghis Khan ended with his grandson Kublai Khan, who started the Yuan Dynasty in China. Though their reign was relatively short, these Mongolian kings exerted a huge influence during their time of power.

Kublai Khan, like the other Khans, was open to the influence of different faiths, and he once sent the explorers Niccolo and Maffeo Polo (father and uncle of Marco Polo) to Pope Gregory X to ask him to send one hundred Christian missionaries to come minister to the people of Mongolia. Specifically, his request asked the Pope …

…to send 100 persons well skilled in your law, who being confronted with the idolaters (i.e. Buddhists) shall have power to coerce them, and showing that they themselves are endowed with similar art… When I am witness of this , I shall place them and myself to be baptized. Following my example, all my nobility will then in like manner receive baptism and this will be imitated by my subjects in general; so that the Christians of these parts will exceed in number those who inhabit your own countries.

It was an incredible and unprecedented request, but for whatever reasons, Pope Gregory X only sent two friars and some lamp oil. In fact, the friars never made it. Experiencing some warfare as they passed through Armenia, they turned back. Niccolo, Maffeo and Marco Polo continued on to deliver the oil, but it was an empty gesture.

Who knows what could have happened had Pope Gregory X sent the full 100 invited missionaries to win the hearts and minds of the Mongols. Christianity might have spread strongly throughout all of Asia.

Fast forward. Handfuls of missionaries and missionary groups tried to reach the Mongolian people over the centuries, but they experienced little lasting success. Mongolians were nomadic people, and it was difficult to reach them for Christ as they moved all around the vast country. Even today, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with 2.9 million people scattered over 1.5 million square kilometers.

The Communists eventually came into power in Mongolia and declared it an atheist nation. For approximately 65 years, the borders of Mongolia were closed to God and His followers….or so the government thought. Several seemingly unrelated events were taking place that would set the stage for massive spiritual change.

During the 1980’s, the government sent some party-loyal Mongolians to study at universities in other nations. During that time, several of these Mongolians heard about Jesus, and while they didn’t necessarily give their hearts to Christ at the time, seeds had been planted that would one day grow into faith.

At the same time, an Englishman by the name of John Gibbens was working on translating the New Testament into one of the Mongolian dialects. He was assisted by a woman named Altaa, a Mongolian university student, who later became Gibbens’ wife. They finished the translation in 1989, just as the walls of Communism were coming down. Then in July 1990, the first free elections took place in Mongolia, opening the door to religious freedom. Thirteen days later, the first 5,000 copies of the new Mongolian Bible were printed in Hong Kong, ready for immediate shipment.

Even the demographics of Mongolia were changing. More than one-third of the population of Mongolia had come over the years to reside in Ulaanbataar, the country’s capital city. With so many Mongolians so close together, it was much easier to establish churches and spread the Gospel.

The first Christian church (after Communism) started in Mongolia in 1991 with just a handful of believers. (Local Christians can name all four or five of them.) Since then, over 500 churches have been planted and over 60,000 people have given their lives to Christ. Mongolian Christians fan out over their large country taking the Gospel to its most remote places. Mongolian missionaries are even leaving their country to take the Good News into Russia, China, and the “-stan” countries (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan…). All this has happened in just seventeen short years. It’s nothing short of a miracle!

Centuries ago, Pope Gregory X missed an opportunity to join God in this great work, but God is not dependent on us to accomplish His purposes. He is working powerfully in Mongolia and through the Mongolian people. They may again be on a conquest of the magnitude of the conquests of the Khans, but this time they will be winning spiritual territory throughout Asia and into Europe. I’m excited to say that there is once again a Mongol King, and His name is Jesus Christ!

Worship in Ulaanbataar - March, 2008

Worship in Ulaanbataar - March, 2008

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Filed under christianity, Church, evangelism, growth, Mongolia, overcoming obstacles, spiritual warfare

Failure is Better Than Success


For Christmas this year, my daughter – “A12” – had her first harp recital in front of our church in Chiang Mai. We (her mother and I) were absolutely terrified! Much more afraid than A12 let on to being.

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It’s only been a short time since she was part of the choir in her class’ school musical (an almost invisible role at the very back of the stage) when she froze in a catatonic state of fear because she had to sing a few lines with the rest of the kids. When one of our friends complimented her on her performance afterward, she dissolved into sobs. So, while we were excited for her to get to play in front of an audience of 400-500, we dreaded the very real possibility that she would make a mistake and melt in the spotlight.

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We had her practice over and over and over again to get it just right, and then the night came. We showed up plenty early, but things didn’t go as planned. We had been told she would have some time to warm up before service, but the Christmas drama team was doing a last-minute run-through, and they used all sixty of the last-minute seconds.

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Worse, she was told that there was a change of plans and that she would only be playing during the offering and not at the beginning of service, too, as she had prepared for. This was a major bummer for her. It cut the songs she would play from five to two, so she went out behind the church to deal with her disappointment in private.

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But then the plans changed again, and there were a few minutes for her to play while people found their seats. We found her out back, wiped her eyes, gave her a quick pep talk and turned on her microphone. Because the drama team had kept everyone out while they practiced, A12 was able to go through all three of her opening Christmas songs two times each while everyone came inside.

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Much encouraged, she joined us in the pew while the Christmas production got under way. When it came time for the offering, she returned to her bench and began playing one of her best songs. But this time was different. There was no milling congregation creating a distracting, low hum. All eyes and ears were on A12, and she must have felt the pressure.

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She missed one note, then two, then three and four… Her mother and I held our breath as she stopped to adjust one of her levers at the top of the harp, but then she played the rest of the song. It was a bit painful, because everyone knows when you miss a note in “Away in a Manger,” but she played it completely through twice before the pastor saw a natural place to break in and move to the next item on the agenda.

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She didn’t get to play her best song, and she missed quite a few notes, but we were incredibly proud (and relieved) that she pushed through.

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Since that night, we’ve had several adults tell us how impressed they were that she didn’t stop playing. Other musicians recognized how difficult it must have been for a young girl in front of such a large audience, and they confided that they were silently cheering her on – willing her to keep going. A few of her classmates told her how “horrible” she was, but it hasn’t seemed to phase her. She knows she accomplished something worthwhile that night.

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As I reflect on the experience, it strikes me that failure is often much better than success. Success builds confidence, but too much confidence leads to complacency and arrogance. Failure, however, teaches and builds character. Many of us can say that we learned our most important lessons from failure, but we hardly ever learn something significant from success. Through failure, we gain humility, and humility keeps our minds open to learning new things. Success, on the other hand, convinces us that we already know all we need to know.

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What if we didn’t fear failure so much? What if we could embrace it and learn what it has to teach us? What if we were more understanding about the failures of those around us? Wouldn’t we learn important lessons so much faster? Maybe we need a new way to look at failure, to see that it really is its own type of success. Let’s all try to fail just a little more this year…what do you say?

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Filed under Challenges, character, Christmas, Church, comfort zone, failure, parenting, success

IF…


My favorite verse in the Bible for the past few years has been Mark 9:24. A father has brought his only son so that Jesus could cast out a demon from him. But when He arrives, He learns that Jesus has gone up the mountain, leaving the disciples in charge. They try over and over to cast out the demon with no success.

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By the time Jesus returns from the mountain, it’s a circus. A huge crowd has gathered, and the disciples are in a fight with the legal experts of the day about the boy’s condition and what to do about it.

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The boy’s father cries out from the crowd and explains the situation. Jesus rebukes the disciples (they failed to have faith that God could or would cast out the demon) and asks that the boy be brought to Him. When the boy sees Jesus, the demon throws the boy to the ground, foaming at the mouth. All eyes are on Jesus to see what He will do.

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Jesus, diagnosing the problem, asks the father for some background information, and the father tells him that the boy has been afflicted since he was young. Often the demon would throw him into the fire or into the water to try and kill the boy. In the next statement, the father’s heart is revealed:

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“But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

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“If.” It’s the biggest two-letter word in the dictionary. It often communicates more than we intended to say, showing our doubts and our fears. It might be appropriate when we are talking about the capacity of a friend or a boss or a loved one, but it’s misplaced when talking about the capacity of God. With God, it’s never “if He can;” it’s only “if He will.”

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Jesus’ reply might have included emphasis on His first word:

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If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

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“It’s not about My capacity,” Jesus seems to be saying. “It’s about yours. Can you believe? Can you have enough faith? Can you have more faith than these apostles who have been with me these several years?”

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And then, my favorite verse:

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Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears,

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

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It’s so full of love for his son. It’s so desperate. It’s so….honest! I’ve been there. I want so badly to put my total and complete trust in God to help me with problems, to watch over my kids, to provide for my needs… but I just don’t have enough faith. With the child’s father, I cry out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

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God always has to meet us more than halfway. He doesn’t require that we have 100% faith before He will go to work, but He does want us to want to believe at the very least. Beyond that, I think the official measurement is “as small as a mustard seed.” And if we can muster up that much faith, all things are possible.

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Filed under belief, faith, prayer, trust