Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Which Side Of "IF"

A few years ago I had an annual physical examination and I remember a short conversation I had with my doctor. He was talking to me about ten risk factors for heart disease. He said that two of them we can't control but eight of them we could. When I asked him which were the two we couldn't control he said: "Your age and your genetics. They are what they are but the other eight factors are in your hands." In other words "IF" I would do this and this and this (good food, good exercise, good habits,etc), my risk factors would be much less and I would in all probability enjoy the blessings of good health for many more years.

Do you know that there are 1522 "ifs" in the Bible? Amazing, isn't it. There are so many promises made to us by God in His Word, but we must remember that many of them have "if" clauses in front of them. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want (need), and it will be granted." (John 15:7) Wow! What a promise! However, often we forget about the "if" part of the promise. It said just previous to this verse that only "fruitful Christians" will remain in Him.

I like to call these "ifs" conditional promises. So much of what God said He will bless us with are conditional on our response to what He expects of us. A big one concerns the area of forgiveness.

"If we forgive others when they offend (sin against) us, then we would also be forgiven our sins. We did a study a few years ago called "The Bait Of Satan". It exposed one of the most deceptive snares Satan uses to get believers out of the will of God -- offense. So many people who are ensnared by the bait of satan don't even know it. The are ensnared by offenses.

So, as John Bevere said so clearly, don't be fooled. We will all encounter offense and it is up to you how it will affect your relationship with God and with others. Has someone hurt you recently or not so recently? Are you hanging onto that offense? It will bring you down if you don't handle it the biblical way and that is to forgive and release -- In Jesus' Name.

So Up North Wisdom says, IF you want to experience the blessings of God and feel His presense closely, then let the Holy Spirit help you escape the enemy's "offensive trap" as well as empower you to stay free of offense and be an awesome force for the Kingdom of God. It is God's plan. You are God's plan. Believe it! And experience -- Blessings.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Independence From God

In one of his daily devotional blogs, David Wilkerson defined pride as simply "independence from God". Proverbs 8:13 says this: All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech." Wow!

Living Hope Church is a so-called "independent" church. What that means really is that we are not affiliated with any certain denomination. Since we are an independent church does that mean I am an independent pastor. I certainly pray not-- at least as far as being independent from God equaling pride and God hating that. As Wilkerson indicates, we often have a false definition of pride as needing to think that I am a nothing and a nobody.

The truth is that each morning as I get in my car and head to this place, I need to confess to God that I am absolute "dependent" on Him for everything in my life and ministry. I totally need His direction, His power, His wisdom, His discernment and His strength and without that I am done for. It should never be a shame to us to confess to God each day how dependent we are on Him for everything that really counts in life.

We all need to stay in the place where we recognize the importance of being teachable and understanding that we don't "know it all". Wilkerson says that if pride is independence than true humility is dependence. To say with understanding: "God, I turn full control of my life to You and I will do it each and every day.

Up North Wisdom says that we in America pride ourselves on our independent spirit. Let's make sure we understand that in the Kingdom of God there is not an elected leader who rules but a King whose name is Jesus. We bow to You and You alone, Lord.

When we pray and ask God to keep a humble spirit within us, He will always answer that prayer. But watch out for that answer because our flesh may fight against it; let's make sure that our spirit, God's Spirit, always wins the battle. For His Glory and for His Honor. Amen!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Precious Than Rubies

Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. I am so thankful that Jeanne said yes to being my wife. Other than giving my life to Christ, marrying Jeanne was certainly the best decision I have ever made.

The 40th wedding anniversary is supposed to be the "ruby" anniversary. I didn't buy any rubies for Jeanne because she had something else in mind which is still in the process. But it is interesting that almost all of the verses in the Bible that refer to rubies use it in reference to the fact that Godly wisdom is more valuable than this beautiful jewel. Proverbs 31:10 says that a virtuous, wise and capable wife is far more valuable than any ruby. And to that I say "Amen!"

Someone once asked me a serious question and wanted a serious answer. The question was "Does God ever speak to me in an audible voice?" The person wasn't kidding so I considered before answering. After thinking about it for a few moments it came to me so clearly and this is how I answered: "Yes, God speaks to me often in an audible voice and He sounds just like my wife." (and sometimes other people who love and care for me) So the problem isn't if God speaks to me clearly, the problem is that I don't often choose to listen.

God's great definition of love in 1 Cor. 13 mentions the following qualities: patience, trust, peace, not boastful, not proud, not wanting my own way, not bring up past injustices. In other words, it is giving 100 % of myself to my wife. I will admit that is the goal and not always achieved. But as Pastor Erickson used to say, "if you don't have a target, you'll never accomplish anything good."

I love being married to my wife. I hope for 40 more wonderful years. A marriage is what two people want to make it. What do you want for your marriage? Up North Wisdom says don't wait for your spouse to make the first moves. Trust God that when you start to love like 1 Cor 13, it will demand a response. Don't make your marriage about you. Ask God what you can do to make your marriage better than it is. And then listen, my friend because that is a question He will always answer. Do you want the answer? I hope so.

Jeanne, you are the love of my life. God certainly knew what He was doing when He brought you into my life. I will always remember what my mother said when we were dating: "Don't let that girl get away." I didn't, and I thank you for saying "yes". Marrying your best friend is so cool. Happy "Ruby" anniversary.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Are God's Plan

Now that Camp Daniel is over, I have had a few days to reflect and think about the experience and its effect on me and those who were there. I am exhausted, battling a viral infection and still mentally woozy. (many think that is normal for me) I said in my previous post that I believed miracles were going to happen and in ways that were not expected. I shared this with the other camp counselors and workers the last night and I fully expect to get reports of these miracles yet to take place.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Tony, Karol and the rest of the Camp Daniel staff are awesome people. They set the foundation for a week that stretches, challenges, and motivates each one who is there, from the counselors to the workers to the staff of the camp as well as the campers themselves. They are to be commended for their love and dedication to doing what God has directed them to do as are the many others who are absolutely committed to the ministry of Camp Daniel. It was an inspiration to be around all of them. I know that all involved were blessed to be able make the lives of many campers with disabilities richer for the week they were there.

I issued a challenge to the workers from Living Hope Church to take that energy, focus, commitment, and passion back to their homes, places of work and school and certainly back to their church. If "I Am God's Plan" at Camp Daniel, then I must be God's Plan in those places as well. People come into a church each Sunday carrying many disabilities that are not seen, yet are still very real. Things like addictions, abuse, abortion guilt, broken relationships, backslidden souls, depression, discouragement just to mention some. God calls each and every Christian to be instruments of healing to those who hurt. The hurting were very evident at Camp Daniel but are not so evident in church. God is in the restoring business and we are to be His hands extended.

All the implications of what took place this last week at Camp Daniel are yet to be seen but I believe the impact will bring some changes that God intends to happen to individuals as well as to our church. I believe I will be a better pastor, husband, father and man of God for having given a week to this incredible ministry.

So to wrap it up, I ask you, "do you believe that you are God's plan?" Wherever you are in life and whatever things you may be going through, it is of utmost importance to really believe that. Say to yourself often, "I am God's plan, I am God's plan, I am God's plan." And He will show you clearly just what that means. Be open to His voice. Ask for a listening ear.

And, by the way, the counselor shirt that said, "It's not about me!" -- It really isn't you know. If your church attendance has been about you then repent and ask God to show you how to make it about others. There is a place for you to serve. Let your response be, "Lord, I am ready to do your will and serve where I am needed. Even if it isn't in a "see me" ministry. Even if it isn't my choice but it is where a need exists."

You are God's plan. And because of that it really is true: "THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!

Now Up North Wisdom is telling me to get home and get some sleep.