#P5: If you see me

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ He said, ‘You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.’ “ 2 Kings 2:9-10, NASB

We live in a pretty comfortable world here in America. In many ways, I think it has softened us. Sometimes we lack the fortitude to do tough things…costly things. We don’t til the ground for our vegetables. We don’t raise and slaughter animals for meat. We hire contractors to do work for us rather than doing it ourselves. We consider suffering as that which happens when our internet goes down while typing a Facebook status. (Now it is not that way everywhere of course or with everyone. Just an illustrative point for introduction.)

Elisha wished to be used by God for great things. To do so, he had to keep his eyes on Elijah. Three occasions to stop or turn back preceded this exchange, yet Elisha stayed by Elijah’s side. Elisha wanted a double portion and he was willing to pay the price to get it.

He had to keep his eyes fixed on Elijah lest he miss something. He did so…because the PRIZE was worth the PRICE. That’s key.

We will know God’s power when we treasure Him above all else and are willing to pay any price to experience it. We will know His comfort when we pay the price to rest in Him while others are mocking and jeering. We will know His presence when we labor in His Word and seek Him diligently in prayer. This life is a Marathon…not a 100 yard dash!

Why doesn’t God do it differently? I don’t know. Above my pay grade. What I do know is this…God works this way because He chooses to and He invites us to participate with Him for His glory.

So, today…fix your eyes and do not look away. You may see Him and receive a double portion of the faith/spirit of Elijah…

Shalom, CA

#P5: If I am a man of God…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“…’If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty [men].’ Then fire came down and consumed him and his fifty.” 2 Kings 1:10, NASB.

I recently read an article…an editorial of sorts where the writer noted that an influential leader in the West called for people to evolve in their religion to accept certain conduct that the Bible specifically enumerates as sinful. This leader believes that the issue of dignity and happiness of people trumps the holiness of God as God reveals it in His Word.

Now before we cast stones at this misinformed and error-ridden statement by the leader…let’s agree that this attitude is pervasive in our culture. In many ways, people ACT as if God’s revelation is their servant, not their master. They see the Bible as a tool to get what they want rather than a pattern to conform their lives to. They see the preacher/pastor/minister as a resource for them to find encouragement from on their self-directed journey…and if he doesn’t stroke them just right…there is a replacement down the street.

This chapter is a reminder. The king does not demand that the man of God come at his bidding. The king is to beg for God’s favor and attention. (Don’t read too far into it as I am certainly not suggesting that the king/Commissioner/Mayor/Governor ought to “beg” for a pastor to make a house call. My statement relates to the attitude toward God).

102 men died before the king got the message. You don’t demand that God conform to your whims. You seek the Lord and His will…demanding of yourself that you conform your life to God’s desires…whatever they may be.

Ahaziah died. God’s judgment was carried out because he was a wicked man who disdained God. He saw the God of Israel as no different from the god of Ekron. But friends…his judgment was not authoritative. The God of Heaven will not be boxed in and defined by our desires. He is God. He is triumphant. He is Powerful, Righteous, and Just. He demands and deserves worship and any response other than broken humility before Him is dangerously devaluing. See Him as great and hear His gracious calling to come and see…taste and see that the Lord is good!

Shalom, CA.

An Open Letter to my African-American Friends

Racism, PeanutsDear brothers and Sisters:

I wish to begin by declaring my love and respect for you. I am thankful for you and for your ministries. In many ways, each of you have had a profound influence on my life and ministry.

I also wanted to share with you a concern of my heart. As you know, I am on a journey of discovery. This journey is important to me because I desire to model grace and to mirror the heart of my Savior. I recognize that there are issues pertaining to race in my community. I know that my ancestors treated black Americans as lesser beings, failing to honor the Imago Dei (Image of God) that your ancestors bore. This was and is wrong. It is horrible and while it was culturally acceptable at the time, it should have been recognized as wrong. I also recognize your claim that latent racism exists in the systems of our culture and community. I don’t see these as readily as you do. Understandably (I hope), your perspective is far clearer than mine in these areas…but I am learning. I do not recognize myself as part of the systemic problem nor do I desire to be there. I want to honor you as a fellow Image-bearer. I want you to know what I believe in my heart…we are brothers and equals in every way imaginable. I feel no sense of superiority to you. If anything, perhaps the opposite is true.

Still, I ASSUME that there are things about my life, my actions, and/or my thought life that may hold to a racial bias. Thought I would adjudicate myself innocent of this, my judgment alone is not sufficient to pronounce my innocence. Only God can know and judge my heart.

One thing I ask of you and I pray you will hear me out. I know that you are angry over the injustice you see. I know that there are things that occur that you earnestly believe are related to racism. I get that. At the same time, when you speak of the culture as racist, or the white community as racist, or the system as racist…I accept some of the weight of that personally even though I do not see it in myself. Yes…I FEEL as if you are calling ME a RACIST! Perhaps you are. If so, I hope to prove your assessment wrong. If, however, you are right, I want to learn better. Doing so requires a willing spirit on my part and I must confess….that is far more difficult to do when I hear you call me a racist. When you immediately declare RACE as the reason you were pulled over, passed over, or looked over…I hear you say that all people who are not black (including myself) did that to you. This immediately places me on the defensive.

This is my pledge to you. I will not assume you disdain me because I am white. (This too is racism). I will defend you at every opportunity if others mistreat you because of your race. Further, if I am acting as a racist…I want to know. Please…I “give you permission” to call me out biblically if I am in error, or if you perceive me to be in error. If I am wrong, I will admit it and seek your forgiveness.

But, please, help me keep the conversation going. Please don’t see racism in everything that occurs. Sometimes you’re pulled over simply because you were driving poorly. Sometimes you are looked over simply because others are distracted. Sometimes you are passed over for promotion at work..simply because there is someone who is more suited for the job.

I love you. You are my brothers and sisters. I want to do meaningful work with you. Help me address the injustices shown toward you, whether by me or others. Let’s address it together, as family…in Christ.

Peace.

#P5: I don’t Like what the Preacher Said

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil’.”  “Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, ‘Behold now, the words fo the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like one of them, and speak favorably.’ But Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I shall speak.’ “ 1 Kings 22:8; 13-14, NASB.

Sometimes the words of the prophet (or preacher/pastor in our modern context) are not favorable to us. They disagree with parts of our hearts and often they are in conflict with our actions. At such time we are faced with a choice. We can yield to the authoritative message of God’s Word…or we can go find a “prophet” (or 400 in this case) to tell us something more in line with what we want to hear.

The Apostle Paul said this would occur with increasing frequency as time progressed toward the End Times. People would look for someone with a message pleasing to their ears…more so that someone with a message that prompted their change so that they might be pleasing to God.

Two quick statement/observations:

First, if you know what you want to do and are unwilling to change…why inquire of the Lord or anyone else for that matter. You are your own god. You are sovereign in your own heart and you alone are due the honor and glory of your choice…even though it is fleeting and will one day be crushed under the weight of God’s glory!

Second, if you are a prophet/preacher/pastor…choose the convictions of Micaiah. You have nothing to say of value apart from that which God instructs you to speak. If you might compromise to please the ears of people or to mask your own sinful insolence toward God…go be a politician or a salesman. Forget the ministry of the Living God! You cannot please Him and affirm His people at all times. You are of no use to God and are actually performing the labors of God’s enemy! But you might say, “I need the job!” NO! You need the Living God and He has covenanted with you to be your Provider and Sustainer. Trust Him and tell the truth. You too will stand before Him and give an account…only with stricter judgment (James 3:1).

Shalom, CA.

#P5: God’s Motivation

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“…Because the Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys,’ therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” 1 Kings 20:28, NASB.

Sometimes people ask me, “What is God up to?” They fail to understand the motivation of God’s action or inaction in a particular circumstance. This is not a new question. Peter addressed it to the church by telling them that God is not slow or slack in bringing judgment against evil…but is patient, so as to give opportunity for repentance.

Elijah, just a couple of chapters back sat under a juniper tree and declared that God should kill him because there were no other believers in God. He was perplexed that after such a great victory, Jezebel would seem to be so powerful in her threats.

The fact is, God operates with great mystery and we cannot manipulate Him or cause Him to act contrary to His own desire. There is an overarching theme though to God’s actions: He always acts in a manner that gives Him ultimate glory.

In this text the Arameans declared that their recent defeat at the hands of the much smaller force of Israel was due to the fact that Israel’s God is powerful on the mountains. He has super powers there. This is common in their idolatry. They had gods that were over the harvest, over childbearing, over war, etc. They painted the God of Israel in the same light and assumed that since He was powerful on the mountains, He must be a God fo the mountains; therefore, He would be powerless to help Ahab on the plains.

Before they spoke though, God had already told Ahab when they would attack next. Why is God helping Ahab? Isn’t he a wicked king married to a wicked woman who incited him toward idolatry and led much of the nation of Israel to embrace idolatry too? YES! So why did God help Ahab?

The question creates the difficulty in determining the answer. God’s aid benefitted Ahab but Ahab was not the motivation for God’s actions. God’s glory was His motivation. God desired to demonstrate His power before the Arameans and all of Israel so He used this engagement to do so.

This prompted me today in regard to our own country. I have read hundreds of statements about how we need God to bless America again. NEWS FLASH: America is not in Scripture. We are not the seat of morality nor are we the key players in Armageddon. We are a nation that experienced great blessings at one time…when we seemed to honor God as a religious people. We don’t NEED God to bless us again in our condition. We need to return to seeking the glory of God’s Name. As God always seeks His own honor, our doing so puts us on the right side of the equation again and we will experience God’s blessings…not because we are adorable, but because God is faithful to Himself and His own Namesake. He is God. He is God of the mountains and the plains…of heaven and earth…of America and Afghanistan and China and Monaco and Australia and Ireland and… He is GOD! Honor Him and you will find favor in His eyes. Resist Him and you will despise His greatness and be an obstacle to His glory…thus eliminationg yourself from the glorious redemptive purpose of Holy God!

Shalom, CA

#P5: Too Great a Journey

Pastor's Five, P5 logoThe angel said to Elijah, “…Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 1 Kings 19:7, NASB.

This is perhaps one of the most significant chapters of Scripture in my personal journey. I often return here as I wrestle with the conviction of God’s calling and the cost of obedience in my own life.

Elijah has just seen God move powerfully on Mt. Carmel. He has done a supernatural feat and must be on a spiritual high! Then Jezebel threatens him. He certainly believes the threat because he is afraid and flees to Beersheba. As Elijah lays down to die, he is ministered to by the Lord and it is only the provision of God that sustained him over the next 40 days to Mt. Horeb.

God chose to speak to Elijah there, but not until a couple of reflecting questions were posed. Every minister needs to hear and answer these questions from time to time. God chose to speak softly…not in the way He spoke at Mt. Carmel with fire from heaven. He spoke personally, privately, and prominently to His prophet…as He reminded him that his mission was not up until God said it was. Elijah was strengthened and returned to Damascus and played out the last chapter of his earthly life’s story.

What is significant to see today…is that God’s provision is sufficient. Apart from Him and IT…we cannot finish the course before us. We will fail. The journey is too great. But with God, we are amply supplied…even if we do not know it in the moment.

When you find yourself at the end of your rope, remember who holds the rope and take courage. Look for the provision of God. Consume it. Rest in it. Be restored to your mission. Finish your course.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Who is Responsible?

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’ He said, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals.’ ” 1 Kings 18:17-18, NASB.

After 3 years of drought and all that goes with it for a nation and its leaders, Elijah comes out of hiding (at the Lord’s direction) and comes to Ahab. This evil king immediately assigns blame for all that Israel has incurred on the prophet who pronounced judgment. It is Elijah’s fault! He stopped up the rain!

Elijah though turns the focus back to its rightful cause…the sins of Ahab and his fathers are responsible for the troubles in the land. It is the forsaking of God and God’s covenant that is the cause of such tragic circumstance that Israel is experiencing.

Much the same way, this conversation plays out in our nation today. The “narrow-minded religious types” have stirred up trouble with their preaching on righteousness! It must be their fault. Really? Is it not the sins of excess? Of the murder of innocent babies in the womb? Of the forsaking of God and the pursuit of God? Is it not the sins of omission in not pursuing justice for all? These sins are real and prevalent in the eyes of God! He is watching the actions of His people and noting their sins of commission and omission!

The preacher who declares God’s displeasure with homosexuality, murder, lying, covetousness, idolatry, and so on…is not responsible for the consequences of sin; rather, he should be seen as the watchman who cries from the guard tower a message of warning…”Turn back to God even now before you know His wrath!”

Could it be that this is not only true of a nation…but also applies in a personal way in your life? Is it possible that the suffering you are experiencing is not due to someone else but is a direct result of your own sins?

If so, what is the cure? Only one cure for sin and it is aWHO…not a WHAT! Run to Jesus! Repent of your sin. Seek His forgiveness and redemption. Rest in His unfailing promises. He alone is good and He alone can restore you to abundant life!