How Well Are You Listening?

Most arguments seem to spring from a sense of not being heard or understood. When we are not understood we tend to press our point or perspective harder. Unfortunately, our extra efforts and energy can be threatening and put others on the defensive.  Change is needed.

At a number of junctures Jesus is recorded as saying, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.”  These words were always clues indicating that the listener needed to employ a spiritual, kingdom understanding in order to grasp the point Jesus was making. He was encouraging His hearers to slow down, ponder and ask God’s help to understand the things of the Spirit.

In Revelation, we see Jesus using the same expression for people to understand His messages to each of the seven churches. He said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” We, too, need to take time to listen and discern what God is saying. We need the...

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How to Deal With the Three Ugly Stepsisters: Worry, Doubt, Fear

Sometimes people believe many of the “right” things about God and have fairly solid theology, yet their lives seem none the better for it.  How can this be?  Often we have rebellious rumblings under the surface of our consciousness.  They can go undetected unless we take time to allow them to surface and intentionally address them.

Worry is one such rumbling that can rob our spiritual lives.  It is a deceptive thought/feeling.  It can make us feel like we are being responsible when we are not. Worry never helps a situation. Jesus told His disciples not to worry about their lives, clothes or food.  He asked, “Who by worrying can add one hour to their life?” (Luke 12:24)  Paul said not to worry or be anxious about anything, but instead to
bring our concerns to God. (Philippians 4:6)  Peter exhorts us to cast all our anxiety upon the Lord who cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Doubt can also creep into our relationship with...

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Are You Gracing and Facing Your Way?

When you have come up short, or have been "found out" about something, how do you respond?  Are you inclined to feel horrible and hopeless, or might you look to deflect attention by finding fault with someone else? Cain, the third person alive on the planet, was similarly challenged, and he did not fare well. 

Cain brought the first fruits of his crops to God as an expression of worship.  His brother, Abel, brought  fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  God received Abel and his offering, but He did not favorably receive Cain and his offering, and Cain became angry.  God said to Cain, “Why are you angry? … If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  (Genesis 4:6-7)  What a powerful message!  Unfortunately, Cain did not heed the word of the Lord, and it resulted in a...

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Do You Feel Lonely?

Loneliness is one of the worst experiences people face.  God knows this!   Referring to Adam, before Eve was created,  God says,  “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)   Everyone experiences loneliness, and it is difficult for us all.

Consider this obscure verse that says, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)   This prophetic word was spoken to the king of Judah to convince him that the two armies coming against him in battle would not succeed.  It also has a deeper and more profound meaning for all humanity.  Matthew quoted this verse (Matthew 1:23) and declared its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, but conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Theologically and practically, Jesus is best understood as fully God and fully human. He is the fulfillment of the name...

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How Are You Doing?

“How are you? … I hope all is well.”  This is the kind of greeting many of us write to those we have not been in touch with for a while.  It’s a very general and surface approach.  When in person, however, we may want to go deeper.  Unfortunately, oftentimes people are not very aware of how they are doing and aren’t inclined to answer very deeply.  When you ask most people how they are doing, they may describe what’s going on around them – their circumstances.  If you press in a little further, they might describe how they feel about their circumstances and what they are trying to do about them.  Few people seem to take stock of how they are doing below/beyond their circumstances.  Yet, our lives are deeper than what is happening around us.

Our circumstances will change.  Sometimes great things will happen and sometimes horrendous things will happen.  Sometimes life seems very routine. ...

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A New Season in the Spirit

How alive are you?

How abundant is your life experience in God?

The New Testament starts with the book of Matthew, but the first Gospel written was most likely the book of Mark.  It reads, “The beginning of the Good News about Jesus …” It then starts with the ministry of John the Baptist – the one who Isaiah prophesied would prepare people to receive Jesus, the Messiah.  John called everyone to repentance – to turn from their sinfulness – their self-referenced, self-promoting, self-protecting and self-justifying lives.

John the Baptist proclaimed a new spiritual season in the Messiah that had two powerful stages:

  • Turning from sin and receiving fresh forgiveness from God. Baptism (emersion) in water would be the sign of this spiritually cleansing reality.
  • Looking for, and being alert to, the Promised One – Jesus, the Son of God. Baptism (emersion) in the Holy Spirit will be the reality of this new life.

As we consider the Advent...

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Are You Waiting Well?

Do you have anything for which you are hoping or that you are hoping to accomplish in the future?  The waiting can be brutally difficult – particularly if you haven’t practiced waiting and built your capacity to wait.  Waiting is not an American value. We want things … and we want them soon!  However, Scripture indicates that waiting is one of the ways God builds faith and hope in our lives. “Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:25) Learning to wait patiently builds character and faith. Those who wait, hoping in the Lord will renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31)

The challenge is not to lose heart while waiting. Sometimes waiting can take its toll on our emotions and bodies. It can even work deep despair into our souls.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Zechariah was a priest two thousand years ago. He had been praying...

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A Season of Waiting … A Season of Preparation

This Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent. Advent means “Coming” or “Appearance.”  This is a time when Christians around the world identify with Israel waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah – Jesus. It is also a time to intentionally stir our hearts with hope for the return of Christ. We are waiting and looking for His Second Coming. It’s an opportune period to practice waiting on the Lord.  It’s also good to inform our waiting and refresh our faith and hope in God.

For what are you waiting?  What burdens are you waiting for Him to relieve? What promises, biblical and personal, are you waiting for Him to fulfill? What rekindling are you seeking in your relationship with Christ? Write these things down – and begin to pray and wait with renewed faith in the faithfulness of God.

Faith is not just about waiting; it can also involve preparing for His answers and His coming. 
This preparation is a...

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Making It Through The Morning After

What do we do after the big day has come and gone? The big day was overwhelming – either for us or for others, or both.   It took all we had, and has left us depleted and empty. The “morning after” the big day is important; it may last for a while, but it starts with a day – and how we handle it matters.

DON’T GIVE IN TO GIVING UP  

We are tempted to let the feelings of emptiness rob us of who we are and who we are in God.  Remember Elijah, after his biggest day of public confrontation – after his greatest victory – felt like dying. He said to God, “I have had enough, take my life …” (1 Kings 19:4) This is the feeling of “the morning after. Acknowledge it, but don’t give up.

REST AND BE REFRESHED

God sent angelic help to Elijah, and He will often do the same for us. The angel seemed to stand by him; he encouraged Elijah to rest and to eat – to take care of himself and be...

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What Kind of Spirit Do You Want?

Many people recognize a general brokenness in their own lives, and also sense it multiplying through our culture over the last 50 years or so. We have developed an expansive vocabulary related to different forms of dysfunction, addiction, and mental health. Most people seem to feel a need for help from beyond themselves to develop healthy and free lives. Often, they are on some kind of spiritual quest. In many circles it has even become quite chic to pursue spiritual things. For what kind of spirit and spiritual experiences, however, are people looking?

There is a (sometimes subtle) natural draw to seek spiritual growth primarily for the purpose of self-improvement, personal influence, or power. We can be tempted to use the spiritual realm, trying to get it to submit to our own personal wills. The temptation is to look for spiritual power that will help us get what we want. So, we may turn to impersonal expressions of faith/religion to boost our sense of self – a kind of...

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