Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jesus focused on obedience, not acceptance

When the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders demanded that Jesus identify His basis for authority, Jesus responded with a question about John the Baptist.  When the religious leaders balked, Jesus told them two parables.  The first was about two sons: one who eventually obeyed, and another who promised but did not obey.  The second parable was about the owner of a vineyard whose tenants killed the owners servants, and eventually killed his son.

I constantly feel like I need to prove myself.  I feel a need to validate my legitimacy.  Over the past two or three years, I have begun to realize that I am an adopted son of God, but I still have a lot of orphan tendencies.  I want to be confident in my identity as a son of God, and I want to realize that I do not need to prove myself to anyone, especially religious people who think they know God but deny His power (2 Tim. 3:5). As I continue to grow in my relationship with God, I hope that miraculous healing and genuine disciples will be evidence of the presence of God in my life.  Jesus said, "Wisdom is proved right by all her children" (Luke 7:35).

Similarly, in the academic context, it is ironic that there is a general goal for faculty to challenge the status quo and be game changers in their fields, but administration has a very narrow (religious) view of performance metrics for faculty.  In the information age with millennial-generation students, I believe that academia needs to impact society in far reaching ways that are beyond assessment by the h-index.  We need to make real improvements in the quality of life for people, and as I think about the life of Jesus, he focused on helping the overlooked.  I hope that my life is spent helping others.

Heavenly Father, I want to be like Jesus.  He was so focused on hearing you and seeing you.  Jesus, you lived a life focused on joining the Father in his work. I want to follow your example.  Holy Spirit, I want to keep in step with you.  I want to be a vessel for you to dispense yourself into others.  Please demonstrate your goodness, love, and power through me.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Excercising faith

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, and people celebrated Him as the Messiah.  He spent the night in Bethany, and on they way in to Jerusalem the next morning, He cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit.  On their way back to Bethany, the disciples were amazed that the fig tree had withered from the roots.

Mark 11:22-25
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

I am impressed by four concepts around asking:
1. Have faith in God.  Believe that He is good, that He is able to provide, that He wants to provide, and that He will provide.
2. Believe and do not doubt that it will happen.
3. Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
4. Generously give forgiveness to anyone, and expect God to be generous to you in the same way.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness.  Faith in you is never misplaced.  You are worthy of our faith.  Jesus, thank you for your example of living a life of faith.  Lord, may my life be full of tangible proofs of me excercising the faith that you have given me.  Holy Spirit, give me boldness to pray in faith.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

searching for flow

John 7
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Some people search for flow in listening to music or getting lost in a good book.  Some try to find flow in the intensity of competitive sports, or others in the relaxation of recreational sports or dance. While those activities aren't inherently evil, they fall short of the experience with the Holy Spirit that our souls are craving.  Some people even reach for drugs or too much alcohol to experience flow, but it is a worldly flow that only leaves them more wounded.

I propose that we all have a God-given desire to be immersed in the Holy Spirit and overpowered by the flow of His goodness through us.  Jesus was constantly spending time with the Father so that He could say what He heard the Father saying, and He could do what He saw the Father doing; all of that was in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  The challenge for us is to choose to be in the flow of the Holy Spirit and not in the flow of our flesh.  The battle is in both our hearts and minds.

What if I was so focused on listening to the Father and watching the Father, making myself an instrument of righteousness (Rom 6:13), keeping in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25) that I was constantly in the flow?  What if I was in the flow while I am teaching class or mentoring research students? What if I was in the flow walking down the hallway or sitting at the dinner table?  How much would He show his goodness, love, and power?

Heavenly Father, you are good, and I want to be a conduit of your goodness.  I want to live in your flow of righteousness and grace.  Jesus, thank you for your example of living in the flow of the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit, I want to be fully in step with you.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Faith to be a seer

Mark 10:51‭-‬52 NIV
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."   "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Over the past 20 years, I have been trained to develop my analytical cognitive skills and have become an extremely analytical ("left brain") person.  Over the past 10 years, I have become envious of creative, artistic, right-brain people, and I assumed that I can't operate in that capacity because left and right were mutually exclusive.  But recently, through a workbook and some conversations, I have realized that was a lie, and I can grow in right-brain capacity.  As I was driving to work one day last week, I confessed to the Lord that I had believed that lie, and that I am trusting Him to grow me, especially by giving me spiritual visions.  

During our home group last night, as I was preparing my plate of food, I caught a quick glimpse of us praying together for something important.  After dinner and a little discussion, I shared with the group what I had seen, and we prayed for a person in our group to be delivered from addiction to cigarettes.  I believe that this was a confirmation of that vision that I saw.

This morning, I am encouraged by Bartimaeus's bold pursuit of sight.  

Heavenly Father, I believe that you made me with a left brain and a right brain on purpose, and the truth is that I can continue growing in using both.  Lord Jesus, I want to see.  Holy Spirit, you already give me dreams, and I am learning to hear you and see you.  Thank you for giving me visions and growing me as a seer.  I am excited about your work in my life!  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's all about perspective

John 11:38-57

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and some of the Jews who saw it happen went back and reported to the Pharisees.  Instead of concluding that Jesus was the greatest prophet that the world had seen (and maybe even the Messiah), the Pharisees concluded that Jesus was their enemy and that he should die.  This is very sad, because it was their man-made religion that prevented them from believing God and embracing His goodness, and they were unaware of how their bias led them down the wrong track to make the wrong conclusion.

What man-made religion do I currently believe that prevents me from receiving a deeper revelation of God's character and enjoying His goodness?  

Heavenly Father, show me my distorted lenses that I can't see.  I want to see you and know you truly.  Reveal to me the lies that I believe about you.  I want to know the truth about you.  Transform me by renewing my mind.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

discovery and revelation

John 10
37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." 

Heavenly Father, I don't even have to speak out loud for you to hear me.  You are not far away.  I know that you know my thoughts, you hear them, and you are listening.  I can share raw and transparent thoughts with you even by thinking.  I am swimming around through your presence.  Speak to me, Father.  As Jesus did what He saw you doing, and He said what He heard you saying, so I want to live in constant discovery of you and revelation to people.  Set me on fire, Lord.  I wan to be soaked in the napalm of your love, smearing and dripping your fiery presence everywhere I go.  Teach me how to better listen to you.  I don't want there to be anything between us, preventing or limiting communication.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017

On Saturday morning, I helped Andrew with some landscaping in his front yard.  We had great conversation, including several spiritual topics.  It is encouraging to me how the Lord is growing him.  Iron sharpens iron.

We had good conversations in the car with Beau and Jude this weekend about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  Saturday​ evening, we watched a narrated Gospel of John, and I think the Holy Spirit spoke to Jude through it.  I pray that they will put their faith in Christ soon.

In the message yesterday, Greg focused on the walk to Emmaus. He contrasted how sin and death entered through Adam and Eve eating the fruit versus Jesus instituting a new covenant meal of bread and wine.  I was thinking about how simple it is to eat a fruit that grew naturally and was appealing versus how Jesus was like the wheat that was ground into powder and baked to make bread for us to eat.  May we truly believe in the resurrection and wield His power for resurrection life in every aspect of our lives and the people around us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming us from death and destruction, and thank you for the promise of resurrection life.  Jesus, thank you for your commitment to secure our salvation.  Holy Spirit, please empower us and give us boldness to be your witnesses.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A father's legacy

I was looking at a friend's Facebook page this morning, and his profile photo is of his brothers and him standing in the rain at their dad's burial.  It is a powerful photo.

I realized that the principal legacy of a father is his children.  

It made me contemplate how I need to spend more quality time with my children, with a focus on teaching them how to think.

As I was standing at the front of the auditorium during an exam for my large freshmen intro course this morning, I realized that I want to be a father to my students.  I want to do more than teach them how to calculate forces and moments; I want to teach them how to think.

What if the world knew how good our Heavenly Father is because we lived like Him.  His legacy is up to us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for trusting us with your legacy.  Please help me show who you really are.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

simple testimony

Every time I read this passage, I am reminded of how powerful a simple testimony can be:

John 9:24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God by telling the truth," they said. "We know this man is a sinner."

25 He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

I think the key is to focus on how the Lord has blessed us and healed us - to explain how He has changed us.  There are certainly situations that warrant a more detailed apologetic response, but perhaps too often we try to convince people with logic instead of a simple testimony of how He has changed us. As RF says, it is hard to logic someone out of their belief or practice that they didn't logic their way into.

Heavenly Father, may I be faithful to communicate your wonderful love toward us and how you have rescued my life from destruction.  I want to give a simple and undeniable testimony of your love and power.  Please help me be bold.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Looking for an angle

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"   "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."  After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the manʼs eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
John 9:1‭-‬7 NIV

I think many times, we make assumptions about people or situations and then try to make logical conclusions based on those assumptions, but we are not all-knowing, so our assumptions and conclusions are incorrect.  The man's blindness wasn't a direct consequence of sin (although it was an indirect consequence of original sin).  

Perhaps we should focus more on the power and light of God being displayed in people's lives than looking for an angle to diagnose their problems.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your light and power, and thank you for your desire to heal and restore.  Thank you for making us salt and light.  Lord, may you be honored as you flow through me to bless others today.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 10, 2017

seeing and hearing the Father

Jesus characterized his teaching simply as what he saw the Father doing and heard the Father saying.  Jesus characterized his teaching as reporting on his presence with the Father.

I know that you are Abrahamʼs descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.  I am telling you what I have seen in the Fatherʼs presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father. "  "Abraham is our father," they answered.  "If you were Abrahamʼs children," said Jesus, "then you would do what Abraham did.  As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.
John 8:37‭-‬40 NIV

Jesus modeled the close relationship with the Father that He wants us to abide in.  It seems to me that the principal barrier to enjoying that close relationship with the Father in our modern culture is being too busy.

I want to spend time every day in the Father's presence hearing Him and seeing Him, following Jesus's example.

Heavenly Father, please show me the next steps to take to grow in hearing you and seeing you.  Help me focus my heart and mind on you.  Deliver me from distractions in my heart and mind.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Growing in faith and works is an iterative process

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
Luke 17:5‭-‬6 NIV

The Lord gives you faith.  And you try to obey, and the Lord blesses your obedience.  And then you get more faith.  And then the Lord invites you to join Him in another work.  And, again, you grow in faith as you excercise the faith that you have, through works of obedience.  

That might sound mechanical, but Jesus teaches us that obedience is synonymous with abiding and loving Him (John 15).

Heavenly Father, I want to see what you are doing, hear what you are saying, and join you in your works.  Lord, may I be faithful to conserve spiritual momentum by exercising the faith that you have given me. I want to grow.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A fireplace isn't much use when it is full of rocks

I think we had a good homegroup meeting last night, and I think it was significant.  A couple of weeks ago, we started talking about how God speaks to us through dreams and visions.  Andrew said that he never remembered his dreams when he woke up in the morning, but I told him to keep a pen and paper next to his bed because we were going to ask God to speak to him through his dreams.  Andrew told us last night that he woke up the very next morning having remembered his dream, and he told us the dream.  Shaun asked the Holy Spirit for an interpretation while Andrew was sharing the dream, and then Shaun shared an interpretation that was so encouraging to Andrew.

After several other people shared their dreams, we practiced guided meditation by reading the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11ff) and focusing on visualizing the story.  I think several people received something fresh from the Lord through that experience, and the discussion time was meaningful.

At the end of our meeting, Shaun asked us to pray for him, and several people shared words from the Lord for him which were encouraging to him.

This morning, I went out on the porch for a few minutes to sit and meditate.  I wasn't out long because I got cold.  But I noticed that last night, the kids filled up our little chiminea with rocks.  At first I was frustrated, but then I thought maybe the Lord was telling me something through that picture.  A fireplace is not very useful if it is full of rocks.  If I want to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, then I need to be open, not full of other things.  The rocks don't necessarily have to be evil, but they are preventing/limiting the fire of God.

I went and moved the rocks out of the chiminea as a prayer to the Lord that I want to be open to Him and welcome His fire.  I think one rock in my heart is allowing frustration to grow to anger and then to harshness towards my kids.  By the grace of Jesus, I will not do that anymore​.  I am moving that rock out of my heart and inviting the fire of the Holy Spirit in its place.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness and love.  Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice for me.  Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking to me this morning, and thank you for your fire.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.