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What often keeps us from discerning what God is doing in the current season is our desire to recreate what He did in a previous season.

When a man cannot conceive of something greater than himself, his perceptions become his reality, and his thoughts become his cage.

Because the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer.17:9), we need to be on guard,

Lest we confuse:

The incessant need to be right with a love of righteous

Religious complacency with standing in faith

The right to choose with genuine freedom

Craving relaxation with finding rest

Vain imaginings with visions from God

Loving what someone brings to our life with loving them

Receiving God’s grace with using it as license to go our own way

Or mistake:

An insatiable desire to win with living the victorious life

A calling from God with what we want to be called

The ministry of the Comforter with being comfortable

A sense that life is unfair with a commitment to justice

Being prosperous with being a witness for Christ

Having a good heart with having God’s heart

Knowing about Jesus with knowing Jesus

Three Questions

There are three questions that the Lord routinely asks me to facilitate an attitude adjustment.

  • What do you know?

Jesus doesn’t just reveal truth, He is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6).  Without Him, we simply have information.  Frequently, the world convinces us that we have the facts, and from there we develop an argument, and soon we find ourselves looking for a forum to make our argument.  In the midst of such moments, the Lord commonly asks me, “What do you know?”  In other words, what is it that I have revealed to you about this?  More often than not, I find that my passions have been stirred by some external stimulus, and that He’s not speaking about the issue at all.  If I am endeavoring to live by every word that proceeds from His mouth (Matt.4:4), I can’t allow myself to be moved by such things.  If He’s not speaking about it, do I need to be speaking about it?  Only He has the words of life (John 6:68).  The genuine Spirit of prophecy is not only saying what God is saying, it is not saying what He’s not saying.

  • Is that how I handle (or have handled) you?

When I reach my wits end with people (or situations), and want to throw up my hands in frustration, the Lord often chimes in with, “Is that how I handled you (or your situation)?”  This instantly reminds me of the incredible patience and grace which He’s extended to me throughout my journey.   Within that context, it becomes impossible to justify withholding grace from someone else.

  • What does that have to do with you and me?

If I have truly surrendered my life to Him, if He has become my source, if He is the vine that I abide in… than this question destroys my rationalizations and excuses.  It doesn’t matter what “they” said, or did, or didn’t do…  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself as love (Gal.5:6).

10 Album Cuts

I was fortunate to grow up in the era of the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio format, which allowed DJ’s to play songs that weren’t necessarily released as singles.  This provided access to a treasure trove of great music that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard.  In the digital download era, listening to an entire album of music is almost unheard of, so that makes the concept of an album cut even more obscure.  Here are a few of my all-time favorite album cuts, which doesn’t include what is arguably the greatest album cut ever, “Stairway to Heaven”.

  • Scenes From an Italian Restaurant – Billy Joel

This dizzying ode to “Brenda and Eddie” contains all of the best elements of Billy’s classic recordings rolled into one song.  Coming from Joel’s breakout album, “The Stanger”, it stands comfortably amongst his best work.

  • Hitch a Ride – Boston

Taken from Boston’s remarkable debut album, this laid back rocker features some spectacular guitar work from Tom Scholz, and manages to stand out on a record full of standout tracks.

  • Shoot High, Aim Low – Yes

Die hard Yes fans often bemoan the success of the band’s revised lineup from the 1980’s, but I would argue that they were still making thoroughly original, and compelling music throughout those years.  This track combines the best of those different lineups, with its shared lead vocals, it’s weaved aural landscape, and some typically dazzling musicianship.  It is a great example of what made this band so memorable.

  • Bitter Creek – The Eagles

At the time the Eagles first formed, Bernie Leadon was arguably their most accomplished member, based on his time with the critically acclaimed, “Flying Burrito Brothers” and his work with Linda Ronstadt.  An exceptional string player, and able vocalist, his decidedly country bent was a significant part of the band’s early sound.  He both penned and sang this haunting tune from the band’s sophomore release, “Desperado”.  But as the team of Henley/Frey emerged, and the band’s sound developed more of a rock edge, Leadon’s influence steadily diminished, until he eventually left the group after the completion of the “One of These Nights” album.

  • Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding – Elton John

At the time of this medley’s 1973 release, Elton, his band, and his songwriter partnership with Bernie Taupin, were all at their peak.  This epic pairing starts off the classic double-album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” with a bang, and along with “Candle in the Wind” and “Bennie and the Jets” forms one of the greatest albums sides of all-time.

  • Toulouse Street – The Doobie Brothers

Though Tom Johnston was generally regarded as the bands lead singer, Patrick Simmons frequently sang his individual compositions, including the notable hits “Black Water” and “Jesus is Just Alright”.  On this darkly beautiful cut, the vocal harmonies, layers of acoustic guitars, and a lone flute weave together to create an ominous atmosphere akin to a late-night walk, down an unlit alley, somewhere in the forgotten edges of the French Quarter.  

  • Sister Moon – Sting

By the release of Sting’s second solo album, “Nothing Like the Sun”, he had become one of the most popular artists on the planet.  Only a few years removed from the Police’s spectacular, “Synchronicity”, and fresh on the heels of the triple platinum success of, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”, his voice was all over the radio (and MTV) on both Band Aid’s “Don’t They Know It’s Christmas?”, and the Dire Straits smash hit, “Money for Nothing”.  This second record was by degrees more nuanced and complex than the first, which forecast the pioneering spirit that would ultimately come to define Sting’s solo career.  This straight jazz/blues tune was a throwback to a bygone era, and demonstrated the rapidly expanding range of his artistry.

  • Telegraph Road – Dire Straits

This sprawling fourteen minute opus demonstrates everything that made Dire Straits worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The writing, arrangement, production, and musical performance are nothing short of spectacular.   Like the movie soundtrack work done by frontman Mark Knopfler, this song creates a sweeping musical backdrop for a world weary tale of trying to pioneer a better future.  Though not their most commercially successful record, it may well be the bands most fully realized recording.

  • Nutshell – Alice in Chains

On the heels of the triple platinum success of their 1992 album, “Dirt”, Alice in Chains booked a few days in the studio to write and record some acoustic material.  Within a week, they emerged with seven songs that were eventually released as an EP (1994s – “Jar of Flies”).  Stripping the band of its thundering arena rock sound, allowed their raw artistry to emerge.  This track highlights both singer Layne Staley, and guitarist Jerry Cantrell, at the peak of their powers.    

  • Landslide – Fleetwood Mac

Though written before Stevie Nicks was actually a member of the band, this classic tune first appeared on 1975s “Fleetwood Mac” album.  Almost 50 years later, most die-hard fans still consider it to be her signature song.  Given that Nicks is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as both a member of the band, and as a solo act, that is no small accolade.

Unchecked insecurity tends to evolve into a perverse form of narcissism, where one is consumed with anxiety about what people are thinking about them, or saying about them, or even what they are not saying about them.  Over time, they become convinced that everyone is looking at them, having feelings about them, and ultimately judging them.  It is the definition of “self” absorption.

  1. I’ve never been completely honest.  To the degree that I have been deceived (or have deceived myself), I am incapable of sharing the truth with someone else.
  2. I’ve never lived a day that I wasn’t desperately in need of God’s grace.  On my best day, I’ve had thoughts I should’ve taken captive, attitudes I should have surrendered, and I’ve chosen my way over His.
  3. I’ve never led anyone to Christ.  Scripture tells us that no one comes to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father (John 6:44).  Though I have played a part in that process, I have never led it.
  4. I’ve never made someone happy.  I’ve loved people, helped people, encouraged people…, but none of that has made them happy.  The choice to count blessings, to see the beauty, and to find joy in the moment always remains with them.
  5. I’ve never been controlled by the Holy Spirit.  The Lord once told me that He has never “controlled” me, and that the moment by moment decision to surrender to the power of His Spirit is always a sovereign act of my will.  He further explained that this is why “self-control” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:23).

Hurt

There is a popular adage that says, “hurt people hurt people”, which is simply an acknowledgement of our human tendency to hold on to the pain of the past, and over time, to act out of that hurt.  Indeed, many of history’s most notorious abusers were first victims of abuse.  And though we have little control over the things that happen to us, we do bear some responsibility for how we respond. 

There is also phrase that speaks of, “nursing a grudge”, which effectively points to another common pattern of human behavior, which is to keep issues alive that would otherwise wither and die, if they were left unattended.  While a victim can rightfully claim that they didn’t start the fire, adding wood and gasoline to the flames eventually breeds some level of accountability for the resulting damage. 

Finally, there is the term, “triggered”, which describes a moment in real time (i.e. right now) when we make an emotional/intellectual/spiritual connection to an experience from the past, and we react out of that former hurt, instead of what is going on presently.  In such moments, the magnitude of our reaction can reach well beyond what is reasonable for the current circumstance.  Ironically, this term also seems to acknowledge the weaponizing of our hurt.  While there may not be malicious intent, acting out of our hurt only serves to perpetuate the damage.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he specifically calls out anger, but goes on to include every form of malice (e.g. bitterness, rage, slander…).  While he acknowledges that we can experience these emotions, he urges that we not let them take hold of us, allowing them to become sin (Eph. 4:26).  He further warns that entertaining these negative emotions will give our enemy a foothold within us (Eph. 4:27).  If we carry this woundedness long enough, it weaves its way into our identity, becoming a conduit for the enemy to sabbatoge every effort, and/or relationship.  Inevitably, the idea that we’ve always been this way evolves into the belief that this is just who we were created to be. 

I believe that this is why we so often see God give characters within scripture a new name.  He is in effect saying, the world has viewed you as Jacob, but I see you as Israel; you have been taught that you are Simon, but I call you Peter; you have thought of yourself as Saul, but I think of you as Paul: your experience has led you to believe that you are the least of the least of the least, but I know you to be a mighty man of valor.

Too many of us, who are called by His name, know that we are wounded, routinely act out of that hurt, and have even passed that damage on to the next generation.  Often times, our difficulty in letting go of the pain of the past is rooted in unforgiveness.  No doubt, the demons that we’ve failed to conquer in our own lives have snuggled with our children.  But part of the transformation that the Lord has authored for us (2Cor.3:18) is the renewal of our hearts (2Cor.4:16), and minds (Rom.12:2).  Receiving this healing is an essential part of fulfilling God’s purposes in our lives.  It is also part of the abundant life (John 10:10) Christ died to give us.

Playpen

One of our granddaughters lives with us, and as of this writing, she is not quite a year old.  She is a precious, beautiful child, who is bold, energetic, and full of curiosity.  Not surprisingly, she wasn’t even ten months old when she started walking, and containing her is a daily challenge.  With the playpen proving to be too restrictive for this 20 lb. force of nature, we fenced in our living room with plastic fencing in order to keep her from the fireplace, the stereo cabinet, bookshelves, electrical outlets… and we constructed a gate, so that us older folks didn’t have to hurdle our way in to, and out of, the living room.  Within this room sized play yard, there are all manner of soft, colorful, musical, and educational things for her to engage with.  Above all else it is intended to be a safe space for her to learn and grow; but from its inception she has made it her mission to escape from it. 

In this endeavor, she has demonstrated amazing resourcefulness, as she’s tried to pull the fence up to crawl underneath it; to slide herself between the seams in the panels, and to push the fence (or gate) down.  When those efforts have failed, she’s pushed her rocking chair, or her wheeled horse to the fence, and tried to use them to climb over it.  Often times, she’ll stand at the gate, and shake it by its bars.  Every time the gate is open, she stops what she’s doing and runs toward it.  Every time the gate closes, she lets out a yelp of protest.  Indeed, the mere existence of this fence seems to be an affront to her soul.  Even without a conscious understanding of it, she instinctively pushes against the concept of limitations or boundaries.

Similarly, while she shows little interest in pacifiers, most teething biscuits, and baby food in general, she will readily stick shoes, used tissues, clumps of dog hair… in her mouth.  Protecting her requires constant vigilance, and quick hands.

As I have prayed for this little one, the Lord has impressed upon me that this is how it is with His children as well.  Like us, He tried to setup a safe and ideal situation for them, but they chose to go their own way.  He then tried to create healthy boundaries to keep them safe, but they perceive that He is trying to keep them from the “good stuff”, and rebel against them.  Indeed, the very idea that He would set limitations causes them to doubt His goodness.  Likewise, He tries to provide them with daily bread (i.e. wisdom and words of life) for growth and well-being, but they readily choose to dumpster dive (i.e. on the empty philosophies of mankind) for their meals instead.

And in all this, I see myself.  Please Lord, not my will, but thine be done!

Pagan Holidays

While the historical link between religious feasts and pagan celebrations seems to become a hot topic during every “Christmas” and “Easter” season, I’ve never sensed that the Lord is as vexed about it as we seem to be.  God has the ability to work all things to the good, even (or maybe especially) our flawed efforts to worship Him.  I feel certain that He is more moved by a heart that yearns to celebrate (& honor) His coming as a man, and the sacrifice He made for mankind, than by a heart that is filled with indignation at the potential inaccuracies within our religious traditions. My prayer is that our hearts will be completely available to Him in this (& every other) season.