2 Chronicles 27:6 So Jotham became strong because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.

Grow StrongConsider the outcome of arranging your life in front of God. We each have systems that we live by, even if our system is no apparent system. In that case, unintentional might be called our system.

In any case, however, the way we do things can either strengthen or weaken our position in life. Let’s follow King Jotham’s example and order our ways before the Lord.

1. Bring Order

Simply put, some of the ways we handle life are better than others. It pays to put reflexive systems in place to automatically take care of situations that present themselves frequently. If the same need comes up daily, try creating a system to take care of it.

Your current system might be placing your keys wherever you happen to land when you get home. When you are leaving, and running late, it can be tremendously stressful (this is not hypothetical for me). It is entirely predictable that you will need your keys each and every day so why not have a designated place that those keys land each and every time you come home. The system is like a reflex. Instead of spending your precious emotional energy on that predictable need, the system does the thinking for you. Try applying this idea to other predictable scenarios you face each day.

2. Live Before the Lord

While finding the right way to do things will strengthen your position in life, ordering your ways before the Lord will strengthen your position in life, in eternity and on the inside. We all came from God who cares about both how we get things done and and why we do the things we do. He will ultimately judge the quality of our decisions whether they be bad or good (2 Cor. 5:10).

The quality of our decisions improves when we live before the Lord God. When we live to please God we do the right things for right reasons, improving the quality of those decisions on the inside and out.

How about asking God today to help you bring systems into your days that bring order and please Him. Order your ways before the Lord and grow stronger!

Learn to deal with the undead-dead in your life so that your destiny (and your brains) do not get eaten.

The Zombie

In recent years there has been emergence of a new player on the landscape of popular culture. It is none other than the Zombie.

The idea of zombie-like people actually originated with practicers of voodoo who use drugs, mind control and evil spirits to bring people to a comatose, yet living state. The silver screen helped us make a jump from a living person being dead-like to dead people being alive-like.

The Old Man

In case you are wondering (or worried), they are fictitious. The permanent place for zombies is in the world of imagination. They do not exist, but they do make a powerful metaphor for something you live with daily.

Romans 5:17 says “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”

This “body of death,” is often called the old man, or the carnal nature describing a propensity or pressure to sin.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

When we encounter Jesus Christ, our nature is rocked! We are then empowered to die to the old man and put on a new self. We receive a new heart, a new nature.

A zombie is a lot like our old man. The bible says it’s dead, but it thinks its alive. What do you get when you have something that is dead but thinks its alive? Something pretty ridiculous.  “Braaaaains!” We probably look pretty ridiculous too when jealousy, rivalries, immorality and other works of the flesh rise up to claim the life in us.

Paul describes this war that was going on inside him in Romans chapter seven. He said that his spirit was battling in him to do good but that sin was warring inside him to do bad things that he knows he shouldn’t do. So what do we do? How do you finish off this less that smart dead thing that is trying to kill your your walk with God?

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colosians 3:5

Three Sure Fire Ways to Kill Zombies and Survive the Invasion Every Time

Choose your weapon, aim for the head and know when to run.

1. Choose Your Weapon

Like any zombie resistance you must first choose your weapon. And all weapons are not equal. A crowbar is not the same as a bazooka but all weapons are useful.

There’s the Starvation Weapon

Zombies like to eat. The problem is the more they eat the hungrier they get. That is at least how the flesh is. We have to understand that when we gratify sinful desires, it is going to ask more of us. I’ve heard lust described as a monster that grows when you feed it, so don’t.

The Reckon Weapon

I personally think this is the armored tank of killing zombies. In the verse below, Paul instructs us to simply believe that the old man is dead. Believe it.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11 KJV

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6: 11 NIV

We live by faith whether we want to or not. If you believe that you’re “just a sinner saved by grace” or that “we always sin in word, thought and deed,” you will practice what you believe and sin.  If you believe “you are the righteousness of God in Christ” or that you are “alive unto God through Christ” you might land a little closer to the mark you are aiming for. So “reckon yourself dead to sin and alive unto God.” Your sinful past counts too. It is dead, gone. You have a living future.

Weapon of Light

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Zombies just don’t do as well in the daytime. When we bring our stuff into the light, it has a way of losing its power.

2. Aim For the Head

Yes, aim for the head. When it is a zombie you are trying to kill, a head shot is the kill shot. But when it is the living dead of your flesh you are reckoning dead, you must aim for another head, that is Christ.  You see, we don’t win the battle of wrestling with our flesh in the flesh. We have to aim higher.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

If you want to be transformed don’t focus on the ugliness of your old man. Instead pursue an encounter with the Living God. Paul says when we behold the glory of the Lord with an open face we are transformed into the same image we are beholding (2 Cor. 3:18). Translation: we become what we behold. When we behold Him, the result is glorious.

3.  Know When to Run

One more word to the wise about fighting Zombies. Know when it is fighting time, and know when it is running time.

2 Timothy 2:2 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. (NLT)

In his book The Overcoming Life, Rick Joyner makes an incredibly insightful statement about knowing when to hold em, when to fold em and knowing when to run. He says “The Bible does not tell us to overcome immorality,but to flee from it.” There’s a time to reckon, and a time to renounce, but there’s also a time to simply run away. Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife. Solomon urges us not to even go near the adulteress’ house.

God knows that when it comes to temptation in sexually stimulating situations, wrestling is not the right move.  Who wants to flirt with the dead anyway. Run!

You Are the Victor

There are two forces in our lives that are looking for an expression, a dark kingdom and a kingdom of light.  You must decide to vanquish the zombie horde and live in the freedom that is already yours in Christ. Jesus Christ has made us “more than conquerors.”

What’s better than being the winner against he undead-dead? Being more than a winner. That’s you in Him.

Honor is present when I feel powerful around you. Danny Silk

Looking at the hebrew words used in the creation story, you see that God was creating beauty out of darkness and chaos. He was involved in this process with a tender heart, just like he does with the chaos and darkness in our lives. God isn’t far from the messiness of life or confusion. Sometimes, we create the chaos and sometimes others do it for us. Some storms surround us just as a way to show how big God is in brining us out of it. No matter how we get into a mess, God’s heart is for restoration.

http://www.vimeo.com/27129027

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/27129027]

When you step back and look at Israel’s transition from life in Egypt to life in the Promised Land of Canaan, you can see that God was not only trying to transition the location of his people but he was transitioning the very core of their identity. Have you ever considered how to take a slave and make him a ruler? This was the task at hand for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham and his descendants.

Even in the holy writ of scripture Solomon says there are things that just don’t work, they can’t “bear up” and “make the earth tremble”: a servant who becomes king,  and a servant who displaces her mistress (Proverbs 30:21-23). In both situations the person moves into a position or “land” if you will, where the person’s inside is smaller than their outside. The earth cant hold up under it. It’s like a poor person winning the lottery. It ruins their life because their is no internal structure to support the enormity of the complication that comes with a large sum of money.

God had the task of bringing Israel, who were owned by Egypt into ownership of a land he had promised them. I believe this is the same work the Lord is attempting in us. We were slaves to sin and he has made us a kingdom of kings and priests.

God wants to make us as big on the inside as the plan he has for us on the outside.

walk this way

As the disciples walked the dusty roads in Jesus steps they couldn’t help but to be impressed with his life. After all, they followed. At some point, I think they made a connection between his inner life and his outer life. On one hand he prayed much and addressed God affectionately as “papa.” On the other hand he spoke with authority, demonstrated the miraculous, and moved with an uber sense of clarity.

In a logical next step, his pupils asked, “will you teach us to pray.” I like this question for two reasons. One, though they’d known prayers since they were little, they were willing admit that they had missed something in Sunday school. Secondly,  there’s hope for me.  Maybe, I can ask the same question and learn.

Occasionally, I take “prayer days,” where I go somewhere remote to decompress and talk to God. Recently, I literally went to the end of a dirt road in Randolph Co., AL to my childhood hunting camp. I was armed with a load of journals. Journaling isn’t something I did before I was a Christian but a few years into my journey as a follower I began writing down what God was showing me. I wrote down prayers and other things I wanted to remember. I ended up spending a lot of time on this prayer day reading my past observations and prayers. One selection that was particularly impacting was a reading from 1996 when God was doing some tremendous things in my life. I was making trips to the Brownsville Revival and spent the summer in Louisiana working in the cotton fields and as a youth pastor. As I read, I literally began to feel the Lord’s presence like I did at those Brownsville meetings.

I usually journal little more than a couple times a month. Taking just that little time, however, to write down what God is saying and doing in me, writing my dreams, thoughts and prayers, has had a tremendous impact on my faith walk. I wanted to pass on a few thoughts that might encourage you to document your own history in God.

Writing my thoughts gives me clarity.

When we write we have to think the thought on a level that is at least somewhat comprehensible. Writing moves our thoughts from ambiguity to articulation, or as Dawson Trotman says, Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through your fingertips. Writing helps you find the words.

Writing my prayers gives me a voice.

The psalmists were probably some of the most emotionally healthy people on the planet because they learned the art of expressing their emotions without accusing God. Psalm 142:2 I pour out my complaint before him, before him I tell my trouble. Journaling our thoughts, burdens, and prayers is another form of meditation. When you write a prayer, follow the example of the psalmists: remember to write first how you feel, but always end with truth. “Life is hard right now, it seems like everyone is against me….but I know you are good and I will praise you.”

Writing my dreams gives me memory.

Job 33:14 says this For God does speak–now one way, now another–though man may not perceive it. Yes, God speaks through dreams. We need to “perceive it.” Scripture is riddled with examples of God communicating to his people in dreams, even about the birth of his own son. Click here if you want to hear an entire teaching on dreams. John Paul Jackson says that “dreams are written in disappearing ink,” that’s why its great to write them down.

Writing my prophecies gives me get up and go.

Aren’t you glad the prophets wrote down what God was telling them? In fact the difference in the major prophets and the minor prophets was how much they journaled! God sends prophetic words into our lives to encourage us towards specific ends, to clue us in on what he is up to and to help us understand how we are designed. Writing these down not only shows you patterns over time, but they give great encouragement when you read them. Write the vision so you can run when you read it. Habakuk 2:2  And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (ESV)

Writing my goals gives me the next step.

Writing down what we want helps us to think about what we want. Solomon put it so well in Proverbs 14 when he said “it is the wisdom of the wise to give thought to their ways.” When we think about our life and take intentional steps grow it will start to show. “The path of the wicked,” Solomon also says, “is like deep darkness, they did not journal.” Ok, it really says “they do not know what makes them stumble.” Maybe they weren’t giving thought to their ways. Goals help me crystalize what I want and then move toward them.

I have life goals that I’ve been working on for sometime. I use these goals to make more specific seasonal goals (a good activity for a prayer day). Though, I never do all of them, I am usually amazed at how many of them I did get done simply because I wrote them down.

There are many great reasons to take a few minutes and write things down. I hope you are encouraged as you write and read what you have written.

Below is a talk where I go a little deeper into the subject of journaling. If you think it will help someone please pass it on.

I had a great Easter, dressed up a little and thought about what the Cross means for my life right now. I wanted to talk at church a bit about the cross so I decided to look at some videos of “The Passion of the Christ” on vimeo. They messed me up. Honestly, some of them seemed too graphic to show at church. I could hardly watch the scourging.

I cried as I watched the depiction of his suffering, while trying not to be too loud (our kids were asleep). I was moved. The thought that I can’t get away from is regarding what it means now. The Cross means that there is absolutely nothing standing between me and God. I spent some time just laying in the living room floor and thinking about this thought. Needless, to say it didn’t take long to literally feel God’s presence. It was light and loving. It was bright and inviting. It was real. Why? Because, the Cross means there is nothing that is keeping us separated.

At the Cross, Jesus initiated the great exchange: sin for forgiveness, wounds for healing, curse for blessings and rejection for acceptance. Applying the power of the Cross is step one to living in the power of the resurrection.

The first chapter of Colossians says that through Jesus’ death, God made peace with all things. He’s already made peace with us. I think he’s just waiting for us to make peace with him by accepting what he’s done.

Hope…mmm, it’s a word that feels good to say.

It seems like our family has been in and out of sickness for the last two months. In the midst of some really great things happening for us, we feel like we’ve been in a sickness fog. I’ve been snotty the last couple days, even.  So, I’m reachin’ into a nugget of truth regarding hope that I felt like God was highlighting for our church a couple weeks ago.

If you are breathing, then it is safe to say that at sometime you will experience disappointment. As disappointment builds it can freeze us from moving forward. I think hope is like God’s “first responder” to disarm disappointment. Hope in God is a force that connects where we are to the good pasture God has picked out for us.

What disappointment does:
-Stops our progress
-Limits our vision
-Makes our heart sick
-Sucks

What hope does:
-Helps us dream again
-Helps us risk again
-Gets us un-stuck
-Moves us forward

Hope is a choice with a voice.

When David was feeling blue, he made a decision to hope in God and then talked to himself about it. “Why are you so downcast, O my soul, put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:5) If we want to move forward we have to choose hope and speak hope. Consider the trajectory of your words presently. Are they leading the direction you want to go or the direction you are wanting to leave. Too often I’m trying to choose one direction but continue to nurture the place I’m trying to leave with my words. I’m trying to adopt other phrases from David’s example like “I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Now that feels good to say.

Hope comes from God.

Maybe you didn’t make the team, get the girl or win the lottery. Maybe you got burned or blew it again. There’s hope. Paul prayed an incredible prayer for the family in Rome, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It’s like he was saying as we make the choice to trust in God, our hope can overflow by God’s power. We choose, he fills. I like.

In the wake of three miscarriages a few years ago, Ginger and I were pretty bummed. Together, we made a calculated choice to hope in God (not easy). God renewed our hope when friends of ours prayed for God to do what only he can do. Score! Asher our oldest was soon accompanied by our little double portion, Elisha, then Mercy, our little girl. We have also had the opportunity to see God do some supernatural work in the baby making business of our friends too. God not only fulfilled our hope, he gave us hope to believe for the miraculous in others too.

I hope your day gets a little brighter as you hope in Him. Thanks for tracking with me. Here’s the talk if you want to listen (or the feed if you prefer).

I’ve been roughly tracing my talks from late here in my blog. It’s good for me to rehash the thoughts from Sundays back here with you.  I hope to do more than simply talk about family. Writing about it helps me get it a layer deeper in my gut. Thanks for going there with me.

Finding Life…

The way the world works most of the time is like this: you see something you want such as a dream, a new car or a candy bar, then you go for it until you get it. Interestingly enough personal fulfillment doesn’t seem to come that way. Seldom if ever do we experience fulfillment when that’s explicitly what we are looking for. Jesus said if you try to find your life (as an end goal) the then you will ultimately lose the life you are trying to hold on to. On the other hand, if you will spend your life on him then you will find life.

The best question you can ever ask yourself is how you fit into God’s purposes in the earth (v/s how he can fit into yours). He always calls us into his purposes by being part of his family first. It is from there that we discover what part he made us for. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about family and destiny and here are a few more thoughts that I believe will help us come alive in the family.

Three Pursuits that Will Make You Come Alive

1. Pursue a goal that is bigger than personal fulfillment. God, how do I fit in your plan?

2. Discover the part of the family that God has designed you to be (more on this coming soon). Our purpose makes more sense in the context of the family just like a thumb makes more sense in the context of the hand. God, how do I fit in your family?

3. Help other’s discover who they are. The essence of spiritual gifts according to Paul’s diatribe in Cor. 12 is for the purpose of helping others. It is in this spirit that we help other find out who they are. God, how can I help others find where they fit?

Jesus came to give us “abundant life,” and wants that for us now. I’m glad he also gave us a head’s up on how to and how not to access that life.

Here’s a little more….

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