Although I definitely appreciate and enjoy the fun & community-oriented traditions that have developed around Halloween…like giving away candy, encouraging kids to experiment with self-expression & play-acting…I will NEVER support the celebration of evil/darkness/death. 
“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16)

The Church Needs To Be Rebuilt Backwards

“The modern Church is badly broken.

It’s not broken simply because it is filled with flawed, failing human beings. That is certainly true but this has always been the case, and yet the Church has not always been as dysfunctional and neutered of influence and culturally ineffective as it is now.

One of the reasons the modern Christian Church is becoming obsolete and irrelevant to so many people (and why they are opting out in exponentially increasing numbers) is that for decades it’s been built backwards—and they’re all realizing it.

Having been a pastor in the local church for 18 years I’ve seen thousands of new church start-ups or “church plants” spring up along the way, and far too many of them are variations on the same faulty theme.

The template and sequence for birthing these Christian faith communities is shockingly similar:”
These foregoing words are from John Pavlovitz’s blog post entitled, ‘The Church Needs To Be Rebuilt Backwards.’  He has a remarkably clear way of putting to words what many of us are thinking, and tends to be a bit sacrilegious & satirical in the process.  I would encourage you to read the entirety of this post at 

Mastery Over Cravings

Stress makes me hungry.  Relaxation makes me hungry.  Watching TV commercials makes me hungry.  Honestly, most things in life make me hungry!  Hunger is an interesting thing…not just physical hunger for food…but craving itself.  As humans, we all have lots of cravings…inner urges for something outside ourselves to make us happy & peaceful.  Something to satisfy the urges .  One of the aspects of maturity, especially maturity in Christ, is learning to control our cravings…rather than vice versa.  Over the past 2 months or so, I’ve lost about 8-9 pounds.  It’s been brutal at times, but has reminded me of some larger life lessons about walking with God.
The less I try to satisfy the cravings within me by indulging in pleasures, the more open I am to receive peace & purpose from the Lord… to fill my own heart and overflow to others.
John 4:31-34 – “Jesus’ disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
Luke 8:14-15 – “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
True mastery over cravings doesn’t come by will power…from anything inside me.  It comes from leaning into the Spirit of God, and allowing His character to permeate my heart so much that my “inner-craver” is put under His Lordship & will for me.  

Sovereignty Interplay

The history of mankind is a an object lesson about the interplay of God’s creation & sovereignty on one side, and our struggle as those created in His image to come-out from under His reign to make a name for ourselves.  As I continue reading through the entirety of the Bible this year, and having just finished “Jeremiah” the prophet and independent study about the kingdoms of the ancient Near East, this fact comes home to me.  All throughout history, people have struggled to understand and express their God-given creativity and strength according to our birthright.  We were created to live dependently in relationship with the Almighty…and when we remove Him from the equation – no matter how beautiful, entertaining, or wealthy our accomplishments may seem in the short-run – we end up with a hollow shell of self-interest and ignorance of the bigger picture.  His Kingdom endures and progresses throughout the ages of mankind’s struggle for independence from our Heavenly Father.  The real question at the heart of God’s Kingdom is whether or not the King has the right to set the rules and lead His creation, and whether the subjects will entrust themselves to follow wholeheartedly One they cannot see.
The Bible, which is actually a “library” rather than a “book,” is the written, historical record of those special (yet imperfect) people who dared to believe that God was still on His throne…working faithfully through history, and calling creation back to Himself.  They bucked the worldly man-centered cycles, and sought to bring themselves and those they led into submission to the King, entrusting themselves to Him and His greater purposes for their lives and the world around them.  In they eyes of the world, however, submission, humility, and godliness are seen as weakness…while pride, wantonness, and aggressiveness are treasured and celebrated.  This dichotomy has been true from the “cradle of civilization” kingdoms of Mesopotamia and Persia, to the Greek & Roman empires, through the ensuing Middle Ages and the corruption of the Church, the Enlightenment & Renaissance, and the Modern & Post-Modern ages.  
God’s Kingdom will be fully realized and consummated only at the end of what we call “human history”…which to the King, is merely a small section of an exceedingly large story He is writing.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21

“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sinb for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”


The Key

Have you ever said something like, “Lord, if You will just tell me what you want me to do, I will serve You to the best of my ability”?  If God were to put you in that kind of assignment, could He trust you to handle it?  Are you ready to go to the next level of faith in God?…God knows the exact limits of your faith.

Our own hearts can deceive us (see Jer. 17:9).  We can often have a higher estimate of our faithfulness and trust in God than we should.  God is never fooled.  He always matches His assignments with our character and faith in Him.  So trust Him.  Don’t insist that God put you in a position you think you should have. Don’t strive to gain a position you think you deserve or can handle…Rather, trust Him and obey wholeheartedly where He has put you, and watch to see where He leads you next.

Remain faithful in what He HAS told you to do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may appear.  God knows what He is doing.  Focus on deepening your communion with God, and out of that fellowship will inevitably flow effective service for God.

All the preceding words were taken directly from the book “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby.  It’s truly an amazing journey through what it means to know and do the will of God.  Every follower of Jesus should read it!

Romans 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Jeremiah 17: 5-10

5This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.

7“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

9The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
10“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”

Greater Than Our Hearts

I’m on the tail-end of reading through the whole Bible this year.  All I have left is to read through the books of the prophets…right now I’m about halfway through Jeremiah.  Reading large portions of scripture, in-context and chronologically, has reinforced my sense of wonder and appreciation for The Lord.  The truth of the fallen nature of all of us, and our great need for Him.  He created us out of love and for fellowship, but with free will to choose.  Over the ages of His interactions and covenants with His people, it is amazing to see His repeated dedication to REDEEM (restore, “buy back”) His people from the sins that separate them from Him… no matter how corrupt they become, and regardless of how severe their consequences had to be.  That cycle repeats itself to this very day, in my life as well as everyone else who seeks Him.  He is good, and He can be trusted.

The scriptures reveal the character of the One True God.  The only thing more powerful than His hatred for sin is His relentless love for the sinner!

That’s why I love Him.

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” 
(1 John 3:20)