ASDP

I went to bed last night feeling like a jerk. 

I had made a broad-sweeping comment to my wife that wasn’t fair or even true. I just said it. After too long of silence, I did apologize, it was sincere, but I was left to go to sleep with my thoughts. 

The thought swirl began to do its work. Slowly, the thoughts started to compile, and I tried to out-sleep them. Eventually, they subsided, but they disturbed my sleep all night. 

Fortunately, as I woke, my thoughts had changed and were God-ward. Somehow my subconscious managed to get involved and began moving me in the right direction. It could be due to the years of practice of running to God, or it could be just grace. Or, maybe a combination of the two, I’m not sure. 

All of that being said, this scripture began to flow through my thoughts:

            “…To give them beauty for ashes,

            The oil of joy for mourning,

            The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

            That they may be called trees of righteousness,

            The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV)

The two-bolded parts particularly were catching my drift. “Beauty for ashes, thank you, God.” Garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, yes please.” 

Heaviness is precisely what had settled in my thoughts last night. The Bible identifies it as an actual spirit. 

There is a spirit of heaviness. This was not the first time I had encountered it, but this may have been the first time I quickly identified it and responded accordingly.

Without a whelming feeling, without any music, and without any other cues, I began to sing (out loud, but quietly, it was 3:00am) praise, what I know to be true about God, to him. 

You see, Isaiah identifies praise as a garment that you put on. 

There is nobody that hasn’t dressed appropriately for one occasion or another. It’s how we roll. Going out for dinner? We simply assess what is needed and dress appropriately. If we need shorts and a t-shirt, we put them on. If we need a coat, on it goes. Feeling chilled? A blanket will suffice. 

We don’t battle emotionally when it comes to getting dressed, well mostly, we don’t. We simply assess, select, and don. No big deal. 

So, when you encounter, and you will, a spirit of heaviness? Assess, Select, and Don Praise. 

Praise doesn’t need music, mood, or some other support structure. Praise just needs you. It just needs us to supply the truth about God’s goodness, from the scriptures, from our experience and vocalize it back to him.

Isn’t it time we got appropriately dressed? 

Fallen From Grace (A Fresh Perspective)

In the world that I grew up in, ‘Fallen From Grace’ was something catastrophic, an unwanted label, something hugely embarrassing, and something that had an irreparable air about it. At all costs, you wanted to avoid this humiliation, this shaming, this ‘DIS’ Grace. Coming back, if you could, from a fallen position was something that would take hours, days, months or even years to repair, and it might also bar you from a place in heaven. The message was as dangerous as it sounds. It was invoked with a warble in the voice and exaggerated gestures that made the most religious squirm.

That was then, and I for one am glad that it is over for me. Oh, there are still many who would follow that understanding, but for me, there is a fresh understanding that is light years apart from that and has brought back peace and purpose.

I believe that a person can and will fall from grace, but the definition of grace isn’t directly connected to a description of eternal consequence.

Grace simply put, biblically put, is God’s ability given to an individual to meet the task, problem, obstacle, or challenge at hand. God actually empowers you to meet face-on what you need to ‘get through.’ He gives you the ‘grace to help’ in time of need

Falling from that? Falling from grace just means that I have chosen to meet that same obstacle in my own ability and trying to use my own strength, or once again saying, “God I’ve got it.” That’s it. I can continue in that power struggle if I wish or I can yield.

But, that also intrinsically means that I can get back to where God is the one helping and empowering by simply admitting my error, “God I just tried to do this, again, in my own wisdom and ability. I want and need you. I need your grace once again. Amen.” No longer fallen, once again connecting and growing with Him.

Just like getting back on a horse, dust your self off, check out and correct your place of compromise and get back up and get going.

God gives grace to the humble.

When ‘Fake’ Matters

What do I care if the rock panels on your house are fake or not?

It would matter only if I were planning to purchase your house, or if I was going to use your house for ideas for my own home, then it would matter.

Fake is relative to who you are and what you do and what you need.

If you were building a set for a television shoot, fake is irrelevant; it just has to look ‘real’ from the viewer’s perspective.

However, if you are building a life and want ‘real’ in family, friendship, and faith, then non-fake is imperative.

So, who are you? What do you do? How do you do what you do? Are you for real?

And, does it matter?

Difference Maker

I woke up this morning thinking about the Difference Maker.
I know, it’s Christmas.
There are no chestnuts, the fire isn’t open, but it is on, and it is warming the room nicely.
Mrs. Claus just gave me a morning kiss, and there is a light dusting of snow outside. There are tracks in the snow, but I see no hoof marks.
The lore, the fun, the imagery, are all on cue this Christmas morning. And, oh yah, some of the kids are sleeping in, not kids anymore, even though the stockings are hung with care.
I had a conversation with a great friend on Christmas Eve, and we talked about, “Why does it seem like there are two Gods? One who seemed to be intolerable of any misstep and one now who seems to be okay with it.” This big question came out of a year of his reading through the Bible.
Has God changed? Does he tolerate what he used to punish? Or, does he not care anymore? Is he too weak or obsolete to matter?
We spent a few moments discussing it, what an excellent question for Christmas.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, gives a perspective from personal up-close observation, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV)
God is absolutely pure; absolutely holy; absolutely true; absolutely just, and he is absolutely loving. He has not, did not and will not change from these attributes, to name a few.
What has happened is that the impossible gap between him and us has been obliterated, what used to be a barrier has now become a bridge.
Our human history shows a less than stellar track record. Our rules, our systems, and our agendas are at best weak. They have fallen short, they have hurt and injured. That is why we needed Christmas, that is why we needed the Difference Maker.
God hasn’t changed, but our approach to him has. We now can come with the full assurance of faith because the babe in the manger has made such a difference.
There is so much more to this story.
Merry Christmas!

Address The Mess: Sick! (Next)

Second: See the previous blog

The next thing that became a game changer was that I needed to be sensitive to the nudges and prompts that God gives out for those who are willing to be responsive.

I was prompted in my thoughts, “You were wrong in your dealings with Sam (not his real name) when you told him to get his act together regarding his marriage.”

Years earlier I had lost patience with a dear friend. He was struggling in his marriage, and I had coached and prayed and helped in all ways that I knew how. After many months of doing this I lost patience and just said one day, “Sam when are you going to get your act together?” I was only partway out of my legalistic tendencies. I was still learning how to live free and full of grace toward others.

Moments like this are pivotal, but I didn’t recognize it at the moment.

It was years later in a conversation with God when he brought this up. God had me. Guilty as charged.

I knew my next step was to contact Sam, own my stuff, and Seek forgiveness. I did and was able to grow from this ordeal. I hope he did as well.

It is so easy to fall from Grace. A nuance, a proud moment, a frustrated goal, all can take you into doing things your way and falling away from God’s ability and empowerment. It wasn’t my first encounter and probably not my last.

We need always to be walking humbly with God, Micah 6:8, but it is easy to morph to our own path.

I learned that to have and live a grace-filled life I needed to know how deep my mess went. It was deep.

I learned that we are no different. If left to my own devices, if my background, my family, my life and contextual circumstances were exactly like yours, I would make the exact same decisions that you have made. Every part, every dysfunction, that you experience would be mine and conversely mine would be yours. That is what addressing the mess looks like.

I am susceptible if I try to do life on my own.

I need Gods empowering every bit as much as you or anybody else because if left to myself, I would fall, I would do ‘human’ every time.

So, Grace is God’s empowering for us to do what we cannot do for ourselves. It is the outworking of who the Holy Spirit is in us. If I fall here all I need to do is address the mess, confess it to God, obey him, and once again recalibrate.

Then, only then, I can reach out and be helpful.

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Address The Mess: Not So Perfect Picture

We can assume that it is our job to address someone else’s.

Most of the time that is not the case.

Cruise2017aI recently shared this picture on Facebook, and I love it. It captures the sass and the fun that my wife and I frequently have with each other. One of the comments by someone who knows us reasonably well was that it captures our personalities.

What it doesn’t show is the regular, the mundane, the hurt, and the pain that life can hold and sometimes deal out. It doesn’t show the low moments, the struggle moments, or the confusing moments that accompany every relationship and every life. It doesn’t show the hours of conversation or the short nights that it sometimes takes to work through the mess.

We can naively carry on thinking that others have a perfect life and “If I could only have it like them then things would be great.”

Everyone has snapshots that if captured and presented would represent a moment of bliss or euphoria. I am not so concerned about those moments. Instead, I want to address in this series the other 99.99%.

I can think that life is pretty good. I can take care of ‘my side’ and believe that everything is okay. My problem is that I often start with me and work out from there. However, that may not always be the best measurement, and much of the time it can be skewed.

Even though I can look good in a moment to you, or I can look good in my thinking to myself, I also have the potential to affect others, and that will not always have me in a great light. I struggle like you with being human, with getting it right.

I can even go to the scriptural extent that I’m busy trying to take out a sliver from your eye while I am oblivious to the log in my own.

I need to Address The Mess in my own life. That is where I start. Once I come to terms with how short I have fallen, how much I need, how far I have missed the mark of perfection, then maybe, just maybe I can begin to help someone else.

God provides tons of help and encouragement, but it is only available when I can be honest with myself and real with him.

Joseph Series: You Cannot Move Forward Until…

Owning your stuff, finding forgiveness, and trusting in the one who can make a difference, is the new normal; it was for Joseph’s brothers.
The brother’s lives depended on it, and they couldn’t move ahead without it.
Joseph had his brothers, his father, and their entire families move to prime real estate, the best Egypt had to offer. They moved from absolute need to unbelievable provision all because of who they trusted. They once despised him, but now they trusted Joseph with their entire lives and future.
Joseph’s brothers could not have been saved from their dilemma without this trust.
Joseph was a picture of God’s provision to his siblings and all of their families. He was deliverance from their dilemma, healing from their past, hope for their future, and their new way of life.
History shows; the Bible shows; even Broadway shows that they made the right choice and they trusted the right person. It took them a while, it took incredible hardship, but they finally got it right.
Joseph was left for dead, despised, rejected, and unjustly suffered alone. He was raised to a position second only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph used the new position of ‘fortunate’ to provide for everyone else, especially his brothers.
Anyone else in Egypt couldn’t have and wouldn’t have provided for the brothers. Only Joseph had the answer and the help for their deepest needs; it could be argued that this was unfair to others, narrow and extremely exclusive or it could be accepted that this provision was uniquely designed for their personal lives.
Your future life, your new purpose, your hope for what is yet to be are found here; just as Joseph foreshadowed his family’s future hope and provision, so Christ foreshadows yours.
Now, it is your story, your new normal.
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has its foundation in a true story, which when applied, will change your life.

Joseph Series: Serious Vetting

Joseph was number two in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. It was his job to make sure that the country’s wealth was secure and properly accessed. He was well within his job description to ‘make sure.’
His brothers were on the other end of this process of scrutiny with no clue, but they were rocked by the uncanny, accurate, deserved and pointed treatment.
Was Joseph just going to an extreme? Like really, didn’t he take it too far?
Thirteen years, no, that was just until he entered Pharaoh’s service, then there were seven years of abundance where he collected the supply for the coming lack. Then, the famine started. Another two years into the famine once every other option had been used, financed, leveraged, Joseph’s ten brothers showed up in Egypt and immediately bowed to the man in charge. How could they have known? Twenty-two years about to be vetted and cross-examined. It wasn’t the brother’s intention to move to Egypt. They were just looking for food.
When I moved to the city I now live in, I heard the story multiple times, “I came for two weeks for the summer, and I ended up staying for twenty-five years.” My story isn’t quite that extreme, but I was on a ten-year plan in my mind. I’ve lived in Fort McMurray now for fifteen years.
That’s what happens when you come to a place of abundance. It shows how desperately your former life needs change.
Joseph was the saviour for his family, but they didn’t know it yet.
But, saviours aren’t effective until the need is abundantly clear.
Joseph knew what he had to offer, but he didn’t know that he could, thus the vetting. It wasn’t just a selfish motivation on Joseph’s part to grandstand over his brothers, but He knew what could be theirs. They had to have it presented in the context of their great need.
Do you have enough context yet? Is it time for you to need a saviour?
Joseph knows, he says, “Yes!”

Joseph Series: Finally A Chance

Somewhere around year eleven Joseph finally got his break, or so he thought.

He, once again, was successful in the prison that confined him. On this particular day, two more guests (his perspective) came into the jail. From their perspective, it would have been the roughest day of each of their lives. The king was ticked at them, and they were thrown away, just like Joseph.

After they had been there a while each of them separately dreamed, but both on the same night. They didn’t know, but they were in the presence of a dreamer just like themselves. Joseph saw them in disarray and offered help. “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” (Genesis 40:8, NIV)

Joseph had learned something. He was no longer the interpreter of his dream or the dreams of others.

It’s hard not to attach your own spin on things. Most of the time I find that I try to interpret my life, but Joseph realized that after eleven years he was not the interpreter of dreams. He could have them, as can I, as can you, but God was and is the interpreter.

It went well for the first guest the cupbearer, and it went terribly wrong for the second, the baker. After three days the interpretations came true, the Baker died, the Cupbearer was restored, and Joseph was once again forgotten.

Interpretations do belong to God, but so does timing and we don’t like that. We feel forgotten, lost, alone and frustrated. If we could fast forward the calendar five years and we could ask Joseph if he was okay with the timing, he probably would be, but not that day.

What are you waiting on? What is the long-standing dream of yours that is on hold? What prayer or plea appears to have ‘No’ as the answer?

What if there is a perfect moment coming?

You may want to wait.

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Joseph Series: Dressed for Success

Joseph was robbed of his identity as the favoured son; they stole his coat to show it.

Joseph refused to be identified as a traitor and an adulterer; he abandoned his cloak to prove it.

Joseph became the ruler of the land; the garments of royalty declared it.

It took thirteen years and three coats for Joseph to discover his identity.

It would be easy for someone in his sandals to lose heart, to be forced to accept the overwhelming circumstances, to be compelled to give up, but the clothes of authority that he needed to wear demanded success; the leader that he was called to be required no less.

Identity is no easy assignment; it seems to bring with it the very struggle that could derail it. Joseph could have quit, and we would never have known. Conversely we also never would be taking courage from this story of the Amazing.

God was at work in Joseph’s life; growing up he saw his dad struggle with God, and he must have learned it well.

“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.” (Acts 7:9-10, NIV)

We are instructed in the scriptures that God does not show favouritism. That means that what he does for one he will do for others. That means:

God is at work in your life!

He calls you son, and he calls you daughter he identifies you as his.

What clothes do you need to put on?

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You Don’t Have To Live; You get To!