“Clear Your History!”

Southern Cross Station, Melbourne

Image by sachman75 via Flickr

Not long ago I discovered the meaning of “history” according to MacBook. I clicked on to the “History” feature and was given the option to “Cancel” or “Clear”. I chose “Clear”. I was then asked, “Are You Sure You Want To Clear?”, along with the question came a warning, “You can’t undo this action”.

Clearing your history is possible, but it’s something you have to want to do and it has to be final when you do it.

Above the screen I am writing on right now there is in the left corner the words “File”, “Edit”, “View”, and “History”. The “History” is the history of the websites I have referenced. When you click “History” a list of the websites and entries I have used as resources appear.

My “history” is not arbitrary. My “history” is what I have initiated. It is what I have done. It is where I have been. My “history” is not what someone has done to me. (That would be my past!) My “history” is my participation and my decisions that have put me where I am right now.

There are options to how you can respond to your “history”.  Some choose to “File” it. When you “file” your history you are choosing to store it. There is something painfully attractive to many of us about our wrecks and crashes. We are drawn back to the moments of our failures and mistakes. We are coaxed by our fears to think about the last hurdle we didn’t clear.

This kind of filing keeps your life cluttered with regrets and remorse. When you “file” you have to hold on to old thoughts, old emotions and old hurts. Bitterness can take root in soil that is filled with files.

Some choose to “Edit”. Editing can be a form of denial. Revisionists want to remember what never happened. When you edit your history you began to rewrite your history. You perhaps deny a history that is truly yours. The pain of our own participation in the dilemmas and wounds of our lives keeps us from wanting to deal with our real history.

We have the ability to be victims and villains of our own design. We “edit” our histories, most of the time, because we are as much the nemesis of our narrative, as we are the hero. We cannot however, “cut” and “paste” our way to wholeness. We have to deal with what has shaped our stories and created our history.

Some others choose to “View”. When you “view” your history you are hiding it or showing it based on your own agenda. When we view our history we are keeping our pains and wounds in a place where we can use them to manipulate, if necessary. It becomes our emotional capital. It is the leverage we use to control people.

Some of us hide our wounds behind hard and harsh attitudes. We are unapproachable. We use our history as an excuse to be closed and unfriendly. Then some of us parade our wounds so that we can keep people tied to our dysfunctions. We show people our pain so we can capture them and make them our co-dependants. People who use “View” to deal with their history are hurt people getting ready to hurt people.

Those persons whom move behind past failures and mistakes or those who know what to do with their history. The Apostle Paul didn’t own a laptop but he did understand the power of “history”. Paul facing his own history says, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto to those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling..” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul cleared his history. He refused to live in the past. He embraced his present. He went after his future. You can do the same!

“More Than A Marriage”

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

This weekend, my wife Stephanie and I celebrate our 19th anniversary of marriage. My wife is a dream and our marriage is a vision. The ideal wife, in my mind, is my wife. She has fully captured my attention and affections. Stephanie is my dream come true. I unconditionally trust her love. Her friendship is authentic. Her loyalty to family is absolute! .

The vision for our marriage is simple, we want our descendants committed to Matthew 6:33. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” is the capstone of our covenant with God and each other. We live Matthew 6:33, as the Holy Spirit helps us. It is our desire to leave a Matthew 6:33 lifestyle as an example to our children’s children. We know of nothing else that offers the strategy, security and sensibility one needs to excel in life. We owe everything we are and have to “kingdom-first” living. This is the principal revelation God uses to guide our lives.

Our marriage has a mission. “Sean and Stephanie” are a ministry. Our marriage has created the context for the first ministry, our most important ministry-our family. Our opportunity to minister to God’s people and love people as spiritual parents begins with the harmony and holiness of our own lives and marriage. Our marriage is the place where our characters are being shaped and tested. How well we love and serve one another in marriage gives us the credibility we need to be “real” with others about the real issues of life. The lessons we learn in marriage are helping us empower other couples and encourage many families.

There is nothing more necessary in my life than my marriage and no person more important to my destiny than my wife. This is another year we celebrate more than marriage.

Happy Anniversary Honey!

“Are You Ready To Order?”

2011 is the year for you to determine to set some things in your life in order. The most important core value you will need to develop in 2011 is a respect and honor for order. Order is the ability to put people and things in their proper perspective. Order discerns between what is essential and what is preferential. Order requires making choices based on importance. It’s about setting priorities.

Order is a spiritual law. All the works of God are set in order. All of creation experiences perpetual increase and replenishment (see Genesis 1). Order is God’s strategy for increase.

The 21st century spiritual leader faces a mounting challenge as a generation is in the midst of manifesting an end-time spirit that Jude describes as, “despise dominion and speak evil of dignitaries” (verse 8). The culture cries out, more and more, for less government. Entire political parties and movements are offering up to the waiting masses political dogma and drama over “shrinking the size of government”. The idea that drives all of this is the idea that “government is bad”.

God doesn’t think government is bad. In fact, God ordains government. God requires every culture to honor government and respect those in charge of its administrations (see Romans 13). We are told by the Apostle Paul to intercede for our political and cultural leaders ( see I Timothy 2). The purpose of our prayers is “…that you might lead a quiet and peaceable life”. Order is the goal and role for government.

Government is not about laws, legislatures and leaders. The purpose of government is to provide order for the culture. I have been in countries that did not have much government; neither did they have 24 hour electricity, street signs, paved roads, health care systems, judicial systems or secure prisons. These governments are always on the verge or under threat of being toppled because of the weakness of the government’s ability to provide an orderly society that can achieve prosperity, If there is no order in a nation, its poverty will continue. The only thing that can break the stronghold of poverty is order.

Leaders who understand the importance of order are priceless. Organizers are not necessarily good leaders. Great leaders don’t have to be able well-organized. Great leaders have to have a sense of order. Great leaders have the ability to be given multiple emergencies or contingencies that all require his/her priority and can select which order they should be addressed or handled. This is not something you learn at Wharton School of Business. Order is more about values and vision than facts and figures.

The kingdom of God is the order of God. Wherever and whenever the kingdom of God is given priority, prosperity will be added. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). God gave us a supernatural strategy for financial prosperity. Order your life according to His will and all you need to fulfill His will in your life will be added.

“Distinguish Your Life Now!”

A dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, who is be...

Image via Wikipedia

One person in a family, one person in a community, one person in a company, one person in a school, one person in a church; one person can bring hope to the hurting. The idea that one person can make a difference is no new thing. God has always raised up a person among a people to pursue and perform His purpose.

It is the assignment of Adam. It is the ministry of Moses. It is the navigation of Noah. It is the design of David. It is the strategy of Solomon. It is the job of John the Baptist. It is the Cross of our Christ! In all of these, and more than I can mention, God has raised up a unique person in unequaled times to accomplish a heavenly vision.

It was Anna at the altar. Luke singles out a woman the day Joseph and Mary bring the Christ-child to the temple to be presented to Yahweh. Every Jewish family would offer a gift in thanks for the life of a new born male-child and to offer the child to the service of the nation and the temple. This would have followed his eighth day circumcision, a custom for every boy born Hebrew.

“Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess” (2:36).  She is the unique person in unequaled times who is about to help accomplish a heavenly vision. Anna is a prophetess. Anna is used by God to live and speak a message  prompted by the Holy Spirit. She is inspired to communicate a specific word to a specific people in a specific season.

Her gifting and anointing requires that she spend time with God. She has to be a hearer and a listener. Through fastings and prayers she keeps her spirit fit so she can hear from God clearly, obey God immediately and speak for God powerfully. Praying and fasting are to the spirit what running is to the body and what reading is to the mind. She stayed ready to hear from God. Her spiritual disciplines were impeccable. She “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (2:37).

What distinguishes Anna? What is it about her life that makes her life so attractive that Luke could not resist telling her story, forever linking it to the Christmas narrative? What sets her apart? What separates her from others who were attending the same temple she was, but do not have their stories in the Holy Canon?

There are a few things about Anna that make her “the one”. Her life is made uncommon because she first of all, will not leave the church. Luke says, “Who did not depart from the temple…” (2:37). This is an utterly amazing contrast and contradiction when you think of the priesthood and its corruption. In the days of Jesus the priesthood was for sell to the highest bidder. It was a racket of titles, positions and offerings. But Anna stayed faithful to her worship.  She never left the temple. She was devoted to church life. She was committed to worship God’s way.

Our families and churches need some aged women whom are committed to worship.  The temple and its furnishings, or the leaders and their failings, should not distract you from your worship. The unsavory characters in ministry that seek to corrupt the church are still at work, but God has someone strategically and spiritually positioned in the temple who can still hear from God, talk to God and proclaim the plans of God.  There was one godly woman at the church making all the difference. Imagine that!

Secondly Anna, is uncommon because she was the one that “gave thanks to the Lord” (2:38). Anna is pure positive. She is a praiser. She is thanking God for everything. Her life has not been easy. She is old. Her husband died when she was young and in the prime of their marriage. She has to sit and see how the priesthood has been reduced to a religious mafia. She still give thanks!  This is a winning attitude. Thanking God for the “no matter what” sends a signal to the enemy that you are a winner!

Finally, Anna is uncommon because “she spoke of Him”. Her message is simple and sure, she talks about Jesus. Think of how much gossip, slander, lies, and half-truths could be stopped immediately if Christians would just determine to fill their conversations with a word about Jesus. There are hurting people in the world. Luke calls them, “those who looked for redemption..”. These are the oppressed and the denied. They need a word from God! They need to know hope is here and help is on the way!

The only real redemption is to be purchased by God. Jesus came into the world in order to deliver us from the debt and slavery of sin. This is our redemption! This is our faith!

“The Christmas Tree Controversy”

There are times when I don’t know whether to laugh out loud or just grieve quietly over some of the biblical ignorance and spiritual negligence of some preachers. Today was one of those days when I just shook my head while I listened to one of our local pastors spend an hour on a call-in radio program making the case that having a Christmas tree in your house or house of worship is idolatry. His sincerity outdistanced his logic. His dogma was made all the more dangerous when he based his opinion on one passage of Scripture.  Anytime you seek to establish a “truth” you should have at least two to three biblical witnesses to establish the spiritual precedence (Matthew 18:16).

“The Christmas Tree Controversy” is rooted out of a wrong interpretation of biblical language and a misunderstanding of ancient customs. The scripture passage that this pastor chose to use to support his “anti-Christmas tree” position is Jeremiah 10:1-5. This passage uses the following language in the King James Version, “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not” (vss.3-4). This was explained and exclaimed as proof positive that Christmas trees are pagan and anyone in possession of one was engaged in idol worship.

Please allow me to offer context and clarity to the Jeremiah 10:1-5 text. This passage is a word of warning to the “house of Israel” to not participate in idol worship. “The way of the heathen” is idolatry. This idolatry can be witnessed in how the unsaved allow the “signs of the heavens” to control their perspective of life. This would be referring to the wrong use of astrology. All astrology is not evil.  God orchestrated astrology to be used by the wise men to locate Jesus (Matthew 2:9-10).

There is also a warning against idolatry that comes in the form of images that are crafted from earthy materials, like wood. This is the reference to, “the customs of the people“.  The customs included going into the forest, selecting a tree, returning with it in order to have an artisan cut the trunk or the stock of the tree to create an image that would be worshipped as a deity.

“The work of the hands of the workman” is not describing cutting down a tree with an axe, but rather using a sharp chisel to fashion a piece of wood.The word “axe” in the Hebrew is ma’atsad. It is a small sharp cutting instrument used for graving. This word also describes the “tongs” used by a silversmith. The only other place where this word is used is in the Bible is in Isaiah 44:12 where it describes the work of a smith, craftsman and artisan.

The heathens were not worshipping trees that they cut down, decorated and placed in the living room. This passage is not describing a Christmas tree. This was not “the customs of the peoples”. Their “custom” was to cut down trees, bring them to idol makers and have the idol makers create an idol from the trunk of the tree. See Isaiah 40:19-20 and 44:14-17. These scriptures are parallel passages that describe the making of idols. There is not an instance or example in the Bible of someone worshipping a decorated tree.

If you continue to read the Jeremiah 10 text you will read, “They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not, they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (vs. 5). Is this describing a Christmas tree or an idol made from wood?  This describes attributes idol worshippers sought to project onto their graven images.

Whether or not a Christmas tree distracts from the celebration of the birth of Jesus can be debated. Whether or not we should shop, buy presents, open gifts, attend office parties or hang stockings is up for scrutiny. What is not debatable is what the Bible says and what it means!

The Bible does not prohibit Christmas trees. In fact, the Bible is silent on the subject of Christmas trees! The Bible prohibits idolatry.

Celebrate Jesus for Christmas and thank God for Calvary’s Tree!


Is It Rated “P”?

In America our movies have ratings. Hollywood is required by law to rate certain movies that will have a mass circulation. The movies are supposed to be rated according to their content. The ratings are identified based on letters that indicate their proper viewing audience, like G, PG, or R. It can and should be debated whether these ratings are worthy or working, but not here, not now.

How would you rate what you’re going through right now?  What is the content of your life?  What do you see in your vision?  How do you want others to rate what they see in the scenes of your life?

The “P” rating is what I advise for every believer. The “P” rating is the “Prayer Rating!” The content of your life will be the sum total of prayers. “…He shall have whatsoever he saith..” (Mark 11:23). You have what you do or do not say and what you do or do not pray. We are what prayer makes us. Your life should be a product of prayer. Now, with that said, take a moment and think about what is happening in your life that is not an answer to any of your prayers. Or, is it!

Is your life an answer to your prayers? Can you be rated “P”? What is the most outstanding feature about you?  Is it your prayer life?

Jesus was “P” rated. Jesus lived a life of prayer and it took it Him all the way to Calvary, where he died praying. Prayer was the centerpiece of his spiritual disciplines. Those with Him saw His power in prayer and asked , “Lord teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1). This was the paramount personality of His ministry. Jesus was a man fully given to the passion and pursuit of the Father in prayer.

A “P” rated life is full of wonders, miracles and the supernatural. When the content of your life is prayer the presence and power of God are always on display. This is what prayer is supposed to do. Prayer brings the kingdom of God to wherever you are praying and targeting your prayers. When the kingdom comes, you get to see God’s will being done on earth, as it is in heaven.

How can a person “P” rate their life?  It begins with pursuing the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will perhaps prompt you to pray for people, nations and predicaments. When you have an urge to pray, stop everything and take up praying. The Holy Spirit will be pleased and will use you greatly to introduce the kingdom of God through prayer. Anytime you want to pray it is a work of the Holy Spirit! Obey the promptings and see your prayers answered.

The “P” rated life is filled with prayer and peace! Prayer is the pathway to peace. You can enter the peace of God every time you pray! “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

You are officially “P” rated!

Another Day’s Journey! Glad About It?

You are loved. You are wanted. You are wonderful. You are appreciated. You are special and supernatural! This is what God wants you to know about yourself.

God loved you so He created you. God created you to love you. God wanted you so He saved you. God made you wonderful and He appreciates you. This is your DNA according to God. This is your spiritual identity.

Identity “in Christ” helps shield you from the stings of rejection. Rejection awaits all of us. Jesus was rejected and crucified on a cross. “He was despised and rejected of men..” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus understood the redemptive nature of rejection. Rejection lead Jesus to His passion. He turned rejection into an opportunity to reach more people than ever. Jesus spoke of rejection as if it were a part of a larger divine strategy. “And he began to teach them, that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected..” (Mark 8:31).

Spiritual leaders perhaps do the saints a disservice not teaching them more about God’s strategy in suffering and rejection. Jesus taught the disciples from the very beginning of their ministry on rejection and how to deal with it positively.  Jesus knew that rejection is necessary in the pursuit of purpose. Rejection indicates that God is about to put you in the place of your purpose. Rejection can help you discover what season you are in. Rejection can help you discern where you should be. Rejection can help you decide what to do next.

Your identity must be based on being “in Christ”. Since the moment you were saved you have been “in Christ”. Old things are passed away and all things are made new in your life (II Corinthians 5:17). The Father receives you because He receives His Son. The Resurrection is proof that Jesus was not rejected by the Father. The Father has exalted Jesus and given Him a name above all names (Philippians 2:9-11). He has raised up every believer and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). As the Father loves the Son, so the Father loves you!  Isn’t that an amazing grace!

Jesus says, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad..” (Matthew 5:12). This is the kingdom strategy for “when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely…”. Your response to rejection and mischaracterization is to “rejoice and be exceeding glad”. This is strangely familiar. This is the same response we are to have to each day of our lives. “This is the day that the Lord Has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

The only difference between your response to waking up in the morning and the response you are to have to rejection, is that Jesus says, when you have day of rejection you should be EXCEEDING glad! It’s another day’s journey!  Be glad about it!

12 Books You Should Read in 2011

Three things will change your life in the next year; the people you meet, the prayers you pray and the books you read.

Readers are leaders!  The following are a list of 12 books and authors that are helping me live my life as a leader:

1) With Christ in the School of Prayer  Andrew Murray

2) Jesus, CEO  Laura Beth Jones

3) Improving Your Serve  Charles Swindoll

4) The Effective Executive  Peter F. Drucker

5) How To Deal With Annoying People   Bob Phillips/Kimberly Alyn

6) The Magic of Thinking Big   David J. Schwartz

7) The Millionaire Next Door  Thomas Stanley/William Danko

8)  Getting A Job and Becoming Indispensable  Tony Zeiss

9) How To Treat a Staff Infection   Craig/Carolyn Williford

10) The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make   Hanz Finzel

11) The Five Star Church   Stan Toler/Alan Nelson

12) Who Moved My Cheese?   Spencer Johnson

I Woke Up This Morning

Big Sur in the Morning

Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

When I started today I had to make a decision. I had to decide whether or not I would rejoice and be glad in it. Most days a conscious decision to rejoice and be glad is not necessary. Most days I just wake up with a praise and a great expectation. Today was different.

This morning I woke up having to fight the darkness of dread. Do you know what that is? It’s the foreboding feeling that you are about to encounter something else. In addition, to what you are already dealing with you, more is on the way. It must be what a boxer feels like at the 12th round when his legs are tired and his arms are heavy and he hears the sound of the bell, while he is still trying to catch his breath. He has to return to the ring. He is confident he will win. He knows however in order to win he will have to keep fighting. This is dread!

I woke up this morning not wanting to face nor fight one more misunderstanding or any misinformation. My prayer this morning was weighted down and made wet with tears of disappointment. I started my day praying that the Lord would not ring the bell. I just want the Lord to let me catch my breath.

The psalmist was trying to catch his breath. “He says, As the deer panteth for the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee” (Psalm 42:1). A deer woke every morning knowing that something wanted to devour it. The deer panted for the water brooks because the deer spent its days under threat. The deer was being stalked and chased by its enemies. Predators were the constant threat of deer. Arriving to the water brooks would refresh the deer and give him strength for the day.

The psalmist of Psalm 42 found himself out of himself. The psalmist is a positive person. He is a praise and worship leader. He spends his days rejoicing and being glad. But on this particular day the psalmist goes to bed and wakes with tears. He says, “My tears have been my meat day and night”. He feels like he is moving through this season without support. He says, “They continually say unto me, Where is thy God?”. His very life, his anointing and calling are under attack. He hears people counting him out. His obituary is being written by his haters. People are questioning his relationship with God.

So he gets up and goes to church! “I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise”. He woke up with tears and then remembered that every time he was in dire straits and was feeling dread, going to church made it better. He got around some people that were positive and full of praise. They were people with spiritual discipline. They “kept holy day”. These are the people that God will use to bring you through your days of dread.

He changed his mind in the morning. He decided to rejoice and be glad in it. He asks himself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul. why art thou disquieted in me?” He almost seems surprised that he has allowed his soul to be brought under his circumstances. It is as if he wonders about what part of himself could be weakened to the point of this depression. He shakes himself with his own questions and faces his pain with a prescription.

He says, “Hope thou in God..”. Trust God for the conclusion. Trust God that even in this He will be glorified. Trust God to bring you through this season in victory. Trust God to work it out for your good. Trust God to sustain you when you are empty. Trust God to finish what He has begun. Trust God to protect you in the midst of it all!

I woke up this morning. That is the best news I have had all day. If the Lord is kind enough to give me another day, I can rejoice and be glad in it !

I confess with the psalmist, “Yet the LORD will command His lovingkindness in the day time and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life”. The LORD is the God of my life. He cares about the life I have. He is involved in my life and has a purpose for it! I rejoice! I am glad!