Empty threats

threatenEver made an empty threat? Now be honest… you know you have. We’ve told our kids they will be grounded for the the rest of their lives. And did we follow through? No, we didn’t. Some of you have made some bigger empty threats than that. You’ve written verbal checks with insufficient funds. You knew it when you said it;  you weren’t really going to do it. But to the person threatened, it feels much more real. That’s why we do it, right? We hope our kids take us seriously. It’s an unrealistic motivational tool. Nevertheless, it is used every day.

Being threatened isn’t fun. In fact, it can be downright scary. In the book of Nehemiah, the Jews who were rebuilding the wall faced these kinds of threats. Mean threats, scary threats, death threats.  Oh, and it’s important to mention… empty threats.

Nehemiah 4:11-14 11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

These threats were meant to intimidate and discourage. They were meant to keep the work of God from stopping. Yet all throughout history, threats have never stopped the work of God. Never have they caused God to tremble and wonder if He could pull it off. Not once has God second guessed Himself  because someone took Him to task.

Yet so many of God’s people listen to the voice of the enemy. They listen to his empty threats and it causes them to be paralyzed in fear. “I’ll destroy your family. You’ll never succeed, I’ll make sure of it. You won’t ever amount to anything. God couldn’t possibly use a failure like you. You will fail again just like you always do.” Threats. EMPTY THREATS. 

To those threats of the enemy on your life, I repeat the words of Nehemiah today. “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Call out the empty threats of the enemy today. Fight for what God has promised you and put your faith in Him!

I have no idea

Genesis 41:16  “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

no ideaMany years ago, I was working for a company in which I was climbing the ladder.  I was being promoted and was moving up quickly.  I recall many days in which I was being stretched beyond my ability. My boss or even district manager would ask me to do things that I didn’t know how to do.  At first, I was not very confident and would tell them I was unsure if I could do it: “Um… I have no idea!” But I had a manager one time tell me that the answer should simply be, “No problem. I’ll get it done.”  So this became my answer.  When I was given something I didn’t know how to do, I figured it out. I found people who knew and they helped me.  Because of that, I became trusted.  There didn’t seem to be anything I couldn’t do.  That wasn’t remotely true, but it seemed that way since I always said, “I’ll get it done.”   Kind of risky, don’t you think?  But God gave me favor and it worked. If only I had given Him some of the credit.

In Genesis 41, Joseph didn’t have a problem giving God the credit right up front. He was asked to do a job by the highest authority in the land and his response was, “I can’t do it.”  But before the Pharaoh sent him back to the prison, he followed up with, “but God can and will.”  To answer like that requires both faith and absence of fear. You can’t care what others will think about you. You can’t question whether or not God will pull it off.  You just have to trust that He will.

I wonder sometimes how well we do at giving God the glory for something He deserves glory for. I see people operate in their gifting and take for granted that God is the one who gave it to them. A word of prophecy shouldn’t glorify the giver, but should glorify God. A song of worship should draw attention to Jesus, not the singer.  Yet we go along taking all the credit for things that God pulled off.  Not Joseph – He was clear about who was really doing the work. I think it would be a good idea if we did the same.

*In what places in your life do you take the glory for things that God is doing? In what places are you afraid to speak up where God is working?

Thrown in jail for being a hottie

Genesis 39:20-23 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. 

good lookingDoesn’t it seem sometimes that the circumstances of life are stacked against us? You know the days: you hit every red light, choose the longest line, forget your lunch at home, and mess up a project at work. You might even manage to offend a few people along the way. Yes, some days are full of problems.

Joseph had problems, too.  Apparently, one of them was that he was too good looking. Yes, Joseph was a hottie. Genesis 39 says he was handsome and well built.  Potipher’s wife looked and him and said to herself, “hmm mmm, that is a well built man.”  So she tried to convince him to come to bed with her.  I guess being good looking can work against you.  But he wasn’t having any of that nonsense, being the righteous man that he was. So she lied to her husband and Joseph got thrown in prison. Wait a minute… Joseph was thrown in jail because he was too good looking? So not fair.

But Joseph couldn’t help but have favor. The Lord was simply with him. In fact, the prison warden treated him more like a coworker than a prisoner.  That’s crazy!  Now Joseph could have lowered his head and started crying out to God for justice. He could have been angry or resentful and demanded a fair trial. Instead he just continued to walk in favor.  He didn’t worry about false accusations; rather he let his character speak for itself.  He continued to be faithful even in the hardest places.

Hebrews 13:6 says,  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Joseph is a living example of this verse. He didn’t move to a place a fear even when he was thrown in prison. He didn’t fear what man could do to him. He rose to a place of honor in the midst of terrible circumstances. I can’t help but think we have that same opportunity in our own lives. Circumstances can stink, but we don’t have to. We can rise above like Joseph did. We can latch on to the fact that regardless of where life takes us, the Lord is our helper.

Are you letting the circumstances of your life determine your outlook? Like Joseph, choose to rise above today!

Hug it out, bro.

Genesis 33:3-4 He himself [Jacob] went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

The unknown can behugitout scary.  Waiting for test results, an upcoming job interview, an impending difficult conversation… a reunion with a potentially angry relative who is angry because you stole everything that was important to him.  Yes, Jacob had cause to be scared. He had stolen his brother’s birthright and his inheritance.  He ran away from home before his brother could get his revenge.  He was a sneaky little thief.  He had it coming!

Now it was time to meet him after all these years.  And he was terrified! The problem is, Jacob left God out of the situation completely.  He didn’t ask the Lord for wisdom.  He didn’t plead with God for favor from his brother.  Rather, he sent lavish gifts and bowed seven times in hopes to be spared of revenge.  However, he didn’t get the response he expected.  He didn’t encounter a blood-thirsty brother.  He wasn’t attacked or beaten or hanged.  He was hugged.  Didn’t see that one coming!

We do the same things as Jacob. We peer into the unknown and expect the worst. We give ourselves cause to fear when there is really nothing to fear in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, bad things happen… and to good people at that.  But we serve a God who is bigger. He is a God who goes before us and restores the heart of Esau before we have our reunion. He goes before our test results and our job interviews.  He gives us wisdom when we ask and favor when we don’t deserve it.  That’s our God.  He can handle fear. In fact, He not only handled it, He man-handled it.

*Jacob feared. You might too. Will you turn that fear over to God today and let Him handle it? Remember that He who is in you is greater!


Don’t let fear crash the party

Genesis 15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

wedding crashersThere was a movie that came out in 2005, called Wedding Crashers.  I didn’t see it, but the premise was that these two guys crashed weddings of total strangers in order to meet women.  Party crashers can ruin a party.  They aren’t invited, they don’t really know anyone, and they mess things up.  Let’s pretend you are throwing a party and there is someone you intentionally don’t invite.  You don’t invite them because you have a history with them that is less than pleasant.  They hurt you, they slandered you, they are mean.  Whatever the reason, they aren’t invited.  But somehow they hear about your little shindig and show up.  How do you feel about that?

Abram had someone crash his party.  In the previous chapter, he had just made a bold stand against the king of Sodom.  He turned down a big gift and put his faith in God.  It’s a big thing to say no to a king and a bigger thing to trust that what you can’t see will come to pass.  And right in the middle of this party of faith, fear tried to crash the party.  Maybe he made a mistake.  Maybe he should have taken the money from the king.  What if he made the king mad? What if God didn’t come through?  Yes, fear crashed his party.

That’s when God showed up like a bouncer and kicked fear out:  “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  He spoke directly into that fear and addressed the places it was messing with Abram.  Fear told him that he would be harmed, but God told him that HE was his shield.  Fear told him that he just made a huge mistake by passing up on the money, but God reminded him that HE was his reward.  It’s like God said, “Excuse me fear, I need to see your invitation to this party.”  Fear didn’t have one so God kicked him out.

*Is fear crashing your party?  What will you do when it comes knocking at your door?


Paul needed Facebook

1 Thessalonians 3:5-6  For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.

FacebookPaul was paranoid.  Paul was pessimistic.  Paul was planning for the worst.  It seems to me like Paul needed Facebook.  He was totally disconnected from these people and that absence caused him to worry.  His lack of information made him think that maybe something was wrong, that they had stopped living for Jesus.  If only he was able to see their status updates.  If only he could have seen their photo album titled, “baptisms.”  It seems like being an apostle would be way more convenient these days.

This is what happens with silence.  We are left to make assumptions.  Sometimes we make good assumptions, but other times we make bad ones.  Often, our assumptions leave us feeling like something is going terribly wrong.  Maybe we had a conversation with someone that didn’t go too well.  Then two weeks goes by and we don’t talk to them again.  We begin to think they are mad at us.  We think they have talked poorly of us all over town.  We might even start to think that our whole lives are going to fall apart.  Paranoia, I tell you.  And it’s mostly due to silence.

Which is why we need to do a better job of finding out information before making assumptions.  If you are wondering if someone is mad at you, call them.  If you think that someone isn’t doing well, try to find out the truth.  Letting our uninformed thoughts determine our peace is pure craziness! Don’t let that happen to you.  Instead, seek the truth. Send a Timothy like Paul did.  Shoot, check Facebook.  You might find that all of your worry is for nothing.

*Are you worried about something that you don’t have good information about?


Stop freakin’

Haggai 2:4-5  But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

freakinThere are a lot of good company slogans out there and among my favorites is Beacon Plumbing.  “Stop freakin. Call Beacon.”  It’s clever, funny, and catchy.  The point is – when you are having a plumbing catastrophe, don’t freak out, just call in the pros.  They have successfully imprinted their company name onto my mind.  When I think of plumbing emergencies, I think of Beacon.

Do you ever find yourself freaking out in life?  Maybe it’s the overwhelming circumstances you are facing.  You are frustrated and scared and unsure of what will be around the next turn.  Maybe you are feeling stuck.  Stuck in your sin, stuck in your present situation, stuck in general.  Or maybe you are feeling out of control.  You used to be able to control what was happening around you, but you just can’t do it anymore.  And you are about to freak out.  Fear starts to knock at your door and you feel weak.  Frustration is mounting and tension is high.

Stop freakin’!  Call…. well….. on the Lord.  In Haggai 2, God is speaking to His people, telling them to be strong.  Be strong because I am with you.  Be strong because I have made a promise to you.  Be strong because my Spirit is with you.  And do not fear!  Because just as much as Beacon can handle plumbing catastrophes, God can handle ALL of life’s catastrophes.  He’s the pro that you need to call.  He’s the strength that you need to rely on.  He’s the truth that stands strong in the face of the lie.  He’s God.  So stop freakin’ today.  Call on the name of the Lord!

*Is there an area of your life that causes you to freak out?  Call the professional today and stop freakin’.

That freaked me out

Daniel 7:28 “This is the end of the interpretation. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts terrified me greatly, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” 

For context on today’s entry, you really should read the entire chapter of Daniel 7.  It is a vision that God gave Daniel regarding the end times.  There were crazy looking beasts, the Lord on the throne, fire, talking horns, and all kinds of other crazy stuff.  Thankfully, Daniel had the guts to ask the Lord the meaning of this vision.  Otherwise, we would still be speculating today.  It was a lot to handle, a lot to see.  And Daniel ends his recount of it by saying, “that freaked me out.”

Do the things of God ever freak you out?  If so, you are not alone.  You see, God is extremely “other.”  That’s really the best way I can put it.  He is not a human with a human brain – he made the human and the human brain.  And He is not entirely known by us.  He is in many ways a mystery: unseen and untouchable.  If our life is a bucket of water, He is the ocean.  He is huge, vast, deep, and exists beyond the horizon.

Not only does His very Being freak us out a little, so do the things He shows us or asks us to do.  He asks us to take steps of faith, to believe in miracles, to seek the power of the Holy Spirit. And it all gets a little freaky as it goes beyond our control.  It gets a little scary when our minds can’t comprehend it.  But that’s our God.  He is my Savior and my Lord.  He is larger than any problem I will ever face.  His grace runs deeper than my sin and His forgiveness is like a well that never runs out.  He is beyond me; He freaks me out.  Yet I throw my whole life into Him and trust Him with everything I’ve got.  Will you do the same today?

I’ll take my chances

Daniel 3:15-18 15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire — and who is the god who can rescue you from my power? ” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” 

Have you ever been in a situation that compromised your faith, your convictions, your morals?  I have.  I recall being asked to do something at work (this was before I worked for the church) that I was not comfortable with.  Essentially I was told to lie and cheat in order to succeed.  That’s pretty vague but I can just say that I was instructed to make it work no matter what it took.  What was I going to do?

As I sat in my office with my boss on the phone – it was his day off – I felt the inner conflict happening within me.  “Brad,” he said, “whatever it takes.  I want you to say we did some training and write it off to corporate.  Then we will make our numbers.”   Pause.  Silence.  Oh God, what do I do?  I refuse to lie and cheat in order to succeed.  There must be a way.  God, give me the creatively to make this work ethically.

“Brad, are we clear?”  The voice came in on the line.  “I can’t do it, Curt (*name changed),” I replied.  “Do I need to come in there myself and get the job done, Brad?  Can you not handle this?”  “No, no, you don’t need to come in.  I will figure something out,” I assured him.  And the conversation ended.  I hung up the phone and the challenge began.  What next?  Long story short, the light bulb came on and I worked it out.  We succeeded.  It was the hard way and it was the long way, but it worked.  I did not compromise and God gave me the creativity to do it the right way.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had the same conviction, but with much more serious consequences facing them.  But they didn’t budge, they didn’t give in.  They refused to compromise their allegiance to God.  Even though they were about to face a torturous death, they stood strong.   And what really stands out to me is the statement that even if God did not rescue them, they would still not bow.  They decided that they would take their chances.

How strong are your convictions?  I think that we would all agree that if we knew God would bail us out, we would stand up for Him.  But would we still take the stand even if we weren’t to be delivered?  We need to take a cue from these three guys here in Daniel.  The resolve we have in the conviction of our faith must be stronger than the fears we face.  Let’s have some spiritual guts today and stand up for what is right.  Who’s knows what will happen, but I’ll guess I will just have to take my chances.

Are you hiding from your calling?

I Samuel 10:20-22  20 When Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. 21 Then he brought forward the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan, and Matri’s clan was chosen. Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. 22 So they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?”    And the LORD said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”

Oooo, a little game of hide n’ seek with God, huh?  Didn’t Saul know the story of Adam and Eve?  You can’t really hide from God.  There seems to be no shortage of hiders in the Bible, either.  Gideon hid because he was afraid of the enemy; God showed up and called him mighty warrior.  Jonah hid because he didn’t like God’s assignment; God sent a whale to set him straight.  But hiding in the luggage, Saul?  Really?

There’s something different about Saul’s hiding, though.  It doesn’t seem to be because of sin, shame, or fear of bad guys.  Saul seemed to be afraid to accept his calling.  You see, this assembly that Samuel called was fresh off a supernatural experience that Saul had just walked through.  He was anointed by Samuel to be the King of Israel.  The Lord not only changed his heart, but also filled him with His Spirit.  Then Saul went out and prophesied with the prophets.  He essentially became an Old-Testament, born-again, spirit filled man. Then he hid.

And it is the timing of his hiding that puzzles me most.  I mean, we all try to hide sometimes.  When the heat gets to be too hot, we’ve got to get out of the kitchen.  But I wonder if we try to hide from our calling like Saul did.  Maybe he hid because even though he was spirit-filled and anointed, he didn’t know how to be king.  He probably didn’t feel ready or equipped.  He likely worried about what everyone was going to think about him.  Whatever the reason, he attempted to hide from his destiny.

I don’t want to hide from my destiny; I want to embrace it.  Even though I don’t feel equipped and ready, I must have enough confidence in my God that I can stand tall and walk in that calling.  So you won’t find me among the luggage.  No, you won’t find me hiding.  I will walk toward all that He has for me, even when I am unsure.  He has given me a new heart and filled me with His Spirit.  I intend to do something great with it!