Do You Know, Or Do You KNOW?

One of my greatest pleasures comes from dusting off those "hidden treasures" within the pages of the Word. Through life's twists and turns, I was in search of some major help and big answers. So, as 2014 began, I issued a challenge over Facebook & Twitter for those who would resolve to walk through the Bible with me one time through this calendar year.  Nearly 100 people signed up,  but over the course of 3 weeks, that triple digit number dwindled down to less than 10 active viewers on our Facebook accountability group.

I too struggled to keep up with this "rigorous schedule" of multiple chapters a day.  I mean, who really has time to read the pages of God's word for more than our typical 15 minute allotment, or that 30 second "Word on the Way" from K-LOVE?  As I evaluate, I find that if you do not have enough time to listen to God,  you are doing more things than God wants you to be doing in a day. 

Even though my head grasps this fact,  the endless genealogies and regulations from Genesis on through Deuteronomy really bogged me down!  As a preacher, my job description requires evaluation of God's Word with intent to expository expound some sort of outlined principles each week.   I was evaluating Scripture passages by their ability to be broken down and masterfully reworded rather than searching out the face of the master.  How are these lists going to help me solve my daily problems?  In what way does that genealogy relate to my practical life?  God began to uncover some equal signs through the book of John that would forever change my approach to daily devotions. 

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

John 17:17  Sanctify them through thy truth:  thy word is truth.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.

John 8:32  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Knowing truth makes free.

I could continue on, verse after verse, where God equivocates himself with truth and his word. From these statements, I can surmise that there is no truth outside of God and his Word.  Every truth in life will line up perfectly with that Word.  No word from THE WORD will conflict with God and truth,  because God and truth are so intertwined that they are one in the same. GOD = WORD = TRUTH.

Understanding these equivalents dramatically changes the way I can view a devotional time.  For when I open the pages of God's Word,  through the power of the Holy Spirit I am gazing into the very heart of God.  Every word of God is pure and intentional beyond our understanding.  That which we skimmed as inapplicable and removed from modern practicality leads us to a deeper understanding of our Lord and Savior.  Freedom from sin's bondage is not found in a practical book of principles.  John 8:32 indicates "knowing truth" makes us free.  

You see, this word "know" translates from Greek ginosko as more than a perceived knowledge, but rather a personally acquainted relationship.  Ginosko is translated hundreds of times in reference to intimacy between a married couple.  For the Christian and unbeliever alike,  freedom is found in "getting to know" He who IS Truth by uncovering the Word that is Truth.  A simple head-knowledge of practical truth cannot make free.  Otherwise, every member passing through AA would find immediate freedom. As my relationship with Jesus Christ develops,  HE MAKES ME FREE.  Friend,  if you are searching for freedom,  shift your focus as you search the pages of Scripture. Do not open your Bible with the intent to find the magic verse to solve your problems....THE BIBLE IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK.  Begin each devotional time with prayer asking, "Father, please show me your face, hand, and heart in these passages.  May your Holy Spirit direct my thoughts and heart as I find you in these pages."  

An Addiction Strategy

If you're reading this blog,  you are probably very familiar with God's word and its requirements of His children. But for this preacher's kid,  much of the "christian life" has been little more than ritualistic hypocrisy.  And you know what?  I'm good at it.  Yes,  I'm confident I was saved at an early age,  and yes there have been times when God has worked in my life, but for the most part, even years into my full-time ministry vocations, many times I have shivered from the chills of cold hearted hypocrisy.

The last several years have held many changes for me,  some for the better and some the worse.  But before I can expound,  you'll need to know a little background.  I spent from age 8 to 17 in a ministry home where a double standard was the norm.  The things taught and presented from the pulpit were seldom lived out day to day.  Deception was modeled and taught.  And though deception seemed the key to temporary survival, it was the ultimate weapon of destruction in the lives of many, including myself.  At age 17,  my world dramatically shifted, and I did not know how to handle it.  Those that attempted to speak wisdom into my life were shut out, and much like the prodigal,  I ran.  The next several stops along the map would hold undeserved opportunity and great life experience,  but the remaining loose ends would haunt my every decision.  I did not leave well, therefore I could not live well.

I believe all sin is rooted in pride and/or addiction.  It seems that each individual has at least one sinful weakness they play to,  and as an addiction is developed, the sinner is conditioned and hardened toward that sin.  Dear friend,  BE CAREFUL how many times you shut the Holy Spirit out, because even Christians can harden past His prompting.  Pride tells us that we are invincible.  "I've got this!  I can handle it!  I'll stop anytime I want."  Oh the lies we believe.   I found myself inching, stepping, then striding into places I should never even have thought about.  Thank God for his grace that put the brakes on.  To run from God is to navigate darkness.  Pride clouds our vision,  addiction fuels our vehicle,  and the wreck is now impending.

Dear reader, I don't care what your addiction is,  you cannot go at it alone.  You need help.  Please listen as this voice of experience speaks into your desperately need to surrender your authority, throw yourself at the mercy of God, work through the consequences, and move on.  Daniel 1:8 tells us that he "purposed in his heart."  Prior to the temptation, he had already decided.  He had a strategy.  So if you are like me and your addiction revolves around the internet in any way,  allow me to introduce a tool that saved my life.

This online accountability software is free for one device, and inexpensive for multiple.   It blocks undesirable content,  and tracks your every move.  Each week a report of your time and usage is emailed to your accountability partner.  This removes the opportunity for you to manipulate the truth in any way.  If you currently struggle,  you can stop cold-turkey today.  Whether the internet consumes too much of your time,  or you find your eyes drifting in an bad direction -  this is for you.  

If deception is the shroud that covers your addiction,  find an environment where you cannot hide.  Remove yourself from the opportunities, and seek counsel.  God is not done with you.  Be encouraged that he works ALL THINGS together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  

To those who I have hurt along the way, you have my deepest apology.  I was so full of me,  that I could not be filled with Him.  I thank the few of you who have loved me along the way, and helped point me in the right direction.  Even if it was not appreciated at the time,  you saved my life.  To the men,  especially the countless in ministry who have shared with me of their similar's time to purpose in your heart,  and get on The Watch.  

More Signs You Grew Up a PK

1.  You had two sets of at home, and one at church.

2.  If someone acted out in public, your immediate response was to say, "Well...he goes to _________"  (insert name of other church.)

3.  You "kissed dating goodbye."  

4.  You probably refer to your spot in church as "second row, piano side."

5.  If your arrival at the barber shop was announced with "HEY THE PREACHER'S HERE!!!"

6.  The TV was affectionately called "the boob tube."

7.  You referred to your father as "pastor"  in conversation more than "dad" so he would hear.

8.  You maintained that classy comb-over way past its expiration date.

9.  Rebellion = not wearing a belt and untucking your T-shirt.

10.  The first place you went after leaving home was the movie theatre.
**BONUS POINTS:  You constantly looked over your shoulder for someone you knew.

11.  Your parents would often quote "Dating is for dummies, but courting is for Christians."

12.  The paddle your father used had Scripture verses written on either side.

13.  You were LITERALLY in church "every time the doors were open" fact,  you had a key before the deacons did.

14.   Your mom was your nursery worker, sunday school teacher, and organizer of your youth group.

15.  If more people than you care to think about "Remember you when you were thiiiiiiis tall."

16.  If you can identify a deacon and/or a deacon's kid by the smirk on their face.

17.  If you are an expert at pretending you know who people are when they approach you in public.

18.  You are the last to leave church....even if you're just visiting.

19.  You hold the regional record for fastest set-up and tear-down of folding tables and chairs.

20.  If you developed a deep understanding of human psychology by the age of six.

25 Signs You Grew Up A PK

1.  You looked forward to Communion because of the snack after church.

**BONUS POINTS:  You ate communion bread as a snack because you thought it was good.
**BONUS POINTS:  You competed to see who could drink the most communion cups like shot glasses.

2.  You can recite the "don't forget who you are" speech.

3.  You had at least one secret radio.

**BONUS POINTS:  If you hid one of those mini TV's somewhere to watch at night.

4.  You have at least one childhood photo holding a Bible.

5.  You thought your patterns put the "cool" back in culottes.

6.  Your family secretly used the baptistry as a swimming pool.

7.  Piano lessons were a requirement because the church pianist was near death.

**BONUS POINTS:  You actually became the church pianist.

8.  "Mixed Swimming" only with family,  but the "neck to knee" rule still applied.

9.  You did not see the beach until adult-hood.

10.  You can recall every episode of every series on TV-Land.

11.  If you had a dollar for every time you got asked "So you're gonna be a preacher when you grow up right??" .....Millionaire

12.  Finding your parents in "car-line" after school was easy because they drove the Church van/bus.

13.  You felt a little convicted because you intentionally held hands with your crush for a few seconds after the prayer-circle "amen" was said.

14.  You were on a first-name basis with the local hospital staff.

15.  You once threatened a Sunday School teacher with "I'm telling my dad on you."

16.  You had this conversation:
Me:  Dad, I feel sick...I can't go to church.
Dad:  Throw up and prove it!
Dad:  Well, don't you feel better?? Now you can go to church!

17.  If the bike/rollerblades you got for Christmas you learned to ride between the pews and down the church hallways.

18.  You got saved at every church your dad pastored.

19.  When cleaning the church building counted as "family time."

20.  You still had church in your living room when services were canceled.
**BONUS POINTS:  You sang hymns by the piano in your living room.
**BONUS POINTS:  Your dad REpreached what he had practiced the night before.

21.  You survived mattress-surfing down the church stairs with the nursery crib mattresses.

22.  You know the layout of every local funeral home, and which ones serve cookies.

23.  You either ran sound, or were the ring-bearer in at least 10 weddings of people you did not know.

24.  If your room was the Guest Room,  and missionaries from almost every country have slept in your bed.

25.  All your embarrassing childhood memories have at one time been used as sermon illustrations.

A Forward Resolve: NOW FAITH

January is always a time of "new."  We are still somewhat fascinated with our new Christmas presents we opened days ago.  We reflect back on the old things of the year past,  and look toward everything different in a new calendar year.  There is something mentally magical about stepping into a new season;  new resolutions shed new light on the dimly lit circumstances of December 31st.  Gym memberships increase exponentially in this month,  diet plans are begun, and rough outlines are sketched for the way we will live out our day to day in a better way.  Fitness awareness, both spiritually and physically are at an all time high,  but for some reason will drop off in just a few short weeks.  Could our resolution increase if we changed the way we change?

In Daniel chapter 3,  we find three individuals resolute to be different.  Enveloped in a culture of idolatry and slavery,  these men were not hesitant to stand amid wave of adversity.  You see, the king had set up an idol, that upon the sounding music every person should bow and worship.  As every other face kissed the ground,  three men stood boldly.  Purposed.  Resolved.  As they were reminded of the coming punishment,  incineration in a hell-on-earth furnace,  they answered in a most peculiar way.

"Our God is able to deliver us from that fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand."  Seems like that would have been a great place to stop.  I mean, don't we "hipster Christians" just claim the victory in the name of Jesus?  But they continued on,  three words that will shape our 2014:  "But if not,  be it known that we will still not bow down."  In other words,  "we are so consumed in our faith that we believe God will deliver us,  but even if he doesn't,  we will still push forward."

This is faith to the extreme!  The American Christian defines faith as a belief or hope,  even quoting Hebrews 11:1 in the context of their misconception.  However,  faith is not a state of mind, but rather an active resolve.  Hebrews 11:1 speaks of NOW faith.  Faith for the moment.  Substantially Evident.

As you assemble your list of resolutions,  it will take great faith to bring them to fruition.  Paul writes in Philippians 3 "forgetting those things which are behind ... I press toward the mark."  A new year holds new challenges ahead,  but if our gaze is fixed on the past,  we will stumble over each new hurdle.  Remember the times you failed last year?  Forget those!  They do not define your new year.  Hey....remember those times you had great success last year?  Take a moment to let that inspire forget those,  because they are in the past. How can I focus on today's challenges while saturated in yesterday's success and stumbling?  Besides...I don't want the same as last year,  I want God to do a new thing while developing new faith!

Here's how to keep your new year's resolutions:

1.  Let go of your past.
You can't control the past, because its gone.  But you can move in the moment.

2.  Know your goals.
Write them down.  Recite them.  Share them.  Be intimately connected with each of your goals.  How can you arrive at a destination you have not established?  When I learned how to ride a bike,  my dad told me to pick a spot, and look toward it until I got there, then pick a new spot ahead.  Same goes for driving.  Make some mini goals,  mini destinations that help you end 2014 well.

3.  Prioritize.  Destroy Distractions.
You will make time for what is important to you.  However cliche,  that is a fact!  Prioritize your life, then eliminate the distractions that don't help you accomplish your goals.  Destroy them.  Murder them with extreme prejudice.  Distractions are a disease that will plague you eternally unless you self-medicate.

4.  Stop being so insecure.  
For real, what are you afraid of?  Write those things down.  Now,  aren't they silly?  God doesn't make junk!  Adopt your insecurities as your greatest strengths....didn't the Bible say His strength is made perfect in our weakness?  So where I am weak...I'm actually strongest!  I jump from the platform of my fear into the arms of his all-sufficient strength.

5.  Find Accountability.
Accountability has such an inaccurate connotation.  It's not about having someone to point out all your faults.  While that is certainly applicable,  it is more about having someone to lift you up in the good times and bad!  Find a personal cheerleader who will pump you up when you succeed, and challenge you when you fall.

God makes all things move FORWARD>>>>>>>>>>>>