Friday

Victory. Overwhelming Victory.

This has been on my mind for a while.

Where our Owners’ Manual speaks of the battle (in Ephesians 6), it’s very specific: the victor is defined as the one still standing when the dust settles.


“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore.”

So if you’re battered and bloody and discouraged and weary when the fighting stops, that’s normal. If you’re still standing, you’re the victor.

We tend to think “victory” means that we’re still humming a happy tune, the birds are still singing and our armor is still shiny.

Bah! Shiny armor means you haven’t been in a real battle yet. And the birds will sing again when it’s time. And you can always choose what kind of tune you want to hum.

Someone will bring up Romans 8: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” True that. We are more than conquerors. Isn’t that talking about the happy Hollywood ending where the hero (you) rides off into the sunset with his heart’s desire next to him?

Not so much. What it means is that you’re still standing.

How do you conquer except that you do battle? Real battle. War. Blood. Guts. Demons flapping. Curses flying. Tongues wagging. Naysayers naying. Enemies screaming.

Look at our own example of “more than a conqueror.” He wore the crown of thorns and not a scrap of cloth as he dangled bloody, groaning “It is finished.” That’s our example. That’s our Forerunner. That’s our King.

Have you fallen and you’re not getting up? That’s not winning. I don’t care who’s fault it is. Lying there, staying there, with your face in the mud and blood is not victory.

Having face-planted, and then struggled to your feet as the angels mopped up the battle, even if you need three others to help you to your feet, that’s victory. That’s more than a conqueror.

Do not let the devil tell you you’ve lost if you’re still on your feet, if you’re still fighting, if you’re weary to the bone. If you’re upright, you’re the victor.

‘Nuff said.

Thursday

Reflections on Some Influencers

I was reflecting on some of the guys who have influenced my life in God over the years. None of these guys had a position of “leader,” but all three of them were competent leaders.

I knew a man who studied God, and God’s ways, for decades. He could put all kinds of letters after his name, including DMin, and PhD. He understood the Bible better than anybody else I knew at the time.

When I listened to him, I thought, “What a learned man. What a great foundation! I need a foundation like that.”

I knew another man who didn’t have a degree, but had spent a couple of under-funded decades among a people who didn’t even know who God was: teaching some, discipling a few, and desperately depending on God every day, for his meals, for his ministry, for his family’s lives.

When I listened to him, my heart melted. I prayed earnestly, “Father, I want to know you like this man knows you!”

I knew another man who came from the streets, and even that was just recently. He had not the slightest shred of education, and it showed. But he spent hours, many hours, just sitting in God’s presence, listening to his heartbeat, talking with him about what was on his heart.

When I listened to him, I realized that he had some ideas that were pretty messed up, and the first guy could help him with that. And I saw that he had some serious insecurity issues, identity issues, and the second guy could really help him with that.

But when he talked, he blew my mind. He healed the sick regularly, got words of knowledge effortlessly, and unbelievers listened carefully when he talked about his Jesus.

When I listened to him, I thought, “Father, is this really possible? Can your children walk in this kind of revelation, this kind of power, in this day and age?”

I learned some things in this reflection.

I really do love meditating on the things God has done in my world, in my life. The angel in Revelation 19 was right: the testimony of Jesus, who he is, what he's done, really is the spirit of prophecy. Mmm mmm. So good.

Different people have imparted different strengths into my life. If I only listened to people like me, I would certainly not be who I am today. Since both my wife and I like who I am today, this would be a bad thing.

Even people that make me uncomfortable can have a great impact on my life, provided I’m willing to learn. It's that "willing" part that I wrestle with sometimes.

It’s not enough to know ABOUT God. I must know God. And there’s more to know than I have any idea, even now. What a big heart!

It’s not enough to know God. I must also know ABOUT God if I aspire to trust him, to be like him. And again, there’s more to know about him than I even believe is possible.

When God invests himself into a person, he doesn’t necessarily make that person tidy, neat, clean, respectable. My ideas for what a “Good Christian” is were woefully inadequate, which means they are probably still woefully inadequate today. (Yet again I am reminded: He is NOT a tame lion.)


Believers Who Find Fault

A favorite activity among some (not many) Christians is fault-finding. When someone makes a positive comment about certain topics, the faultfinders are quick to point out all the reasons we shouldn’t be positive, all the bad things that are associated there. 

Favorite targets for these people include:

a) Famous Christians (“Did you know that this famous leader once sinned? Gasp!”),

b) Politicians (This doesn't need much explanation; there aren’t many Christians who can say positive things about all three: Trump, Clinton and Obama),

c) Poignant Facebook posts (“Martin Luther is an evil man because some of his followers did bad things!”)

I’m convinced that this is a model given to us by the accuser of the brethren, since these are indeed accusations, and it’s aggressively marketed to us by the secular (and, to a lesser extent, Christian) news media.

When I run across people who have to begin their conversation with criticism or “We need to know both sides of that!” then I’m afraid I make the assumption that this is a person who is more influenced by the news media than by the Spirit of God. (I don’t like assumptions, particularly in myself.)

Our Instruction Book gives us certain standards for our behavior, and for our conversation with each other, standards like “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6)

And one of those standards is not fault-finding: Proverbs 11:12 “People without good sense find fault with their neighbors, but those with understanding keep quiet.” & Jude 1:16 “These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”

Another of those standards is the solution: fixing our attention on whatsoever is good and right. Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”.

Faultfinding is a fundamental failure to meet Scriptural standards, I’m afraid. It’s also something I aggressively discourage in conversations on this page (as I am doing in this post).

Off the record, my motivation for discouraging this is not Scripture: you are responsible for your own response to that standard; that’s not my job.

I speak up because being around that particular work of the enemy (the “accuser of the brethren” Revelation 12:10) is like swimming in a sewer for me: it’s incredibly distasteful, and more importantly, it’s really quite dangerous to my own health.

If you want to find fault with people, living or dead, do it somewhere else. If you to take a crap, don’t use my swimming pool for that purpose.

Thanks! 

God’s Beauty in Creation

It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was out and the rains of winter hadn’t come yet so it was cool and clear.

I was wandering through a grassy field with Father. We were talking about something or other, sauntering, quiet and peaceful. I was running my fingertips through the tops of the grass as we walked.

I loved the way the wind moved the grass, blowing gently, eddying. The tops of the grass swaying with the breezes was fascinating and lovely. I sighed in appreciation.

I latched onto  one stalk of grass as I walked and pulled it out, something to fiddle with as we walked, rolling it around my fingers.

After a few minutes of fiddling blankly with the grass, I looked at the single stem of grass, and suddenly I saw it. Suddenly I realized that the single stalk of grass was every bit as beautiful - in a completely different way - as the entire field of grass. The tall, straight stalk had a classic, almost a formal beauty.

I reflected on that for a while as I looked at my piece of grass. Then I looked more closely, and I saw the pattern of the veins in the leaf. It was on the stem, too: completely irregular patterns that reflected it’s Creator’s attention to detail.

I stood there in awe of how beauty infused the grass at every level: the field was beautiful, the single stalk was beautiful, the tiny veins were beautiful. What a wonderful Creator we have. That’s Jesus (John 1). He’s amazing.

 Suddenly, I remembered my high school biology classes where I examined the cells of a leaf of grass. That had another beauty all its own: row after irregular row of semi-autonomous life all contributing to the overall life of the plant, each asymmetrical in its beauty.

And then I thought about the molecular structure of the grass, the molecules all reaching out and attaching to the molecules, all the atoms perfectly in place within each molecule. Wow. What beauty at that level, too.

And then we could talk about quarks and neutrinos and string theory! Beauty, all the way down! I was overwhelmed.

And that’s it. Nothing profound. Just amazement at a Creator who fills, full to the brim, everything He touches with beauty.

Beauty is everywhere. I just need eyes to see it. And when I do, I get to see more of God’s amazing attributes.

I’m so proud of my big Brother. He’s amazing!