Sunday, February 28, 2010

Look alike

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.

- Acts 4:13

You ever see those things online where it shows pets and their owners that look alike? It’s sort of funny but kinda creepy as well. Makes me glad I don’t have any pets.

For those who know my family, what I’m about to say will come as no surprise. I look just like my dad. I mean just like him. I think our noses are shaped slightly differently and I’m a bit shorter than he is. Other than that, we look just alike (well, except for the tattoos). We have a lot of similar mannerisms. And we’re both really stubborn. I might be a clone, come to think of it. Hmm…

I read this passage in Acts this morning and was moved. First and foremost, this is Peter we’re talking about. The dude who denied Jesus in the moment of truth, cursed even while he was denying Him. Not once but three times. Imagine Peter’s shame after all that smack talking about dying with Jesus if need be. The love of Jesus certainly transformed Peter and saved him from the shame. It’s a testament to the forgiving power of His love, this story.

In this story in Acts, Peter and John were taken before the council of high priests and leaders. See, Peter and John had the audacity to heal a crippled dude in the name of Jesus. Then, to add insult to injury, Peter had preached to the crowd about Jesus. I was reading through this and thought man, God was speaking through Peter cause Peter had suddenly grown a pair. You have to understand how dangerous this was, to preach Jesus uncensored like this. Peter didn’t pull any punches either. He told it like it was. Read Acts chapters three and four to see what I’m talking about.

So, Peter and John have pissed off the wrong people. Again I am dumbfounded but not surprised how the name of Jesus makes people so uncomfortable. Especially religious people. Anyway, they got locked up and taken before the council the next day. Here’s where it gets good. The Holy Spirit jumps up all over Peter and Peter preaches it! I mean, he brings it!! There was no watering down going on here. He spoke clean, hard truth.

Look at it. Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else. God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Boom! In your face! How ya like me now?!

Then, the most telling verse to me, the one that jumped off the page when I read it. Verse thirteen, especially the end of it, hit me right between the eyes. “They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”

I read that verse and heard the voice of Jesus in my heart, “Do they recognize you, Scott? Can they tell you’ve been with Me?” It took my breath away. See, I can’t deny who my earthly father is, even if I wanted to. We look too much alike. The question I must face today is: Do others recognize Jesus in me, do they recognize that I’ve been with Jesus?

If we’ve been with Jesus, our lives should look different, right? We should look like our Father, right? So, now I ask you.

Who do you look like?

Do others recognize that you’ve been with Jesus?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do as I say!

It continually blows my mind how He speaks to me. I’m cruising along doing something and BAM! Sometimes, it’s like a smack upside my head. Other times, it’s a soft, small voice in my heart. Either way, I am learning to recognize His voice. This is really cool for me because I haven’t always been able to recognize His voice. I haven’t always been able to hear Him and I have often not done what He says to do. The other day, I was sitting in my office at home, reading the Bible, praying…just spending some time with Him. I was reading in Luke chapter 6. Then, it hit me. The words jumped off the page at me. I could hear His voice in my heart speaking.

Luke 6:46, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”

I visibly flinched. It stopped me in my proverbial tracks. I just sat back in my chair and started shaking my head, mostly to try to shake away the tears that had just started and were now flowing down my cheeks. I could hear the love in His voice, the disappointment in His question. “Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say, Scott?” I remember just putting my head in my hands and crying, saying “I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m sorry I’ve failed you. I’m sorry that I’m a hypocrite. I’m so sorry.”

Then, He began to love on me. He began to dry my tears. “Stop condemning yourself! That is not your place anymore. I don’t condemn you and I’m not angry at you. I know you can’t do this alone, I’m not asking you to. Let me help you. Stop trying to do this on your own. All I want you to do is love me, follow me. I will show you the rest when you’re ready. For now, just follow.”

I could hear the fire of His passion for me in the sound of His voice, His presence pushing into my heart, His embrace that would not let go of me. Then, He began to speak to me of His word. “This is how you will know. This is how you live. This is how you do what I say. You must know Me to follow Me. You cannot know My heart for you without this book. All the answers to all your questions are found here. You already know that. Now you have to follow. You have to choose holiness. You have to choose submission. Choose Me.”

And I was again overwhelmed by His love for me, His holiness, His perfection. I realized that I’m not taking this idea of following Him seriously enough. Jesus wasn’t kidding around when He came here to save us. He wasn’t kidding around when He said ‘Be perfect’. He wasn’t joking when He said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength.’ He wasn’t kidding.

I am deeply convicted of my lack of effort in this area of my life. Holiness is not an option. If we claim the name of Christ, holiness is not an option. See, it’s my responsibility to seek, ask and knock. He’s not going to break my door down. I must pursue Him, His heart, His holiness as much as He pursues me. I have failed Him miserably and I know that there will continue to be times that I will fail.

But, I also know that He will pick me up when I fall, dust me off and get me back in the fight. There is effort, discipline required on my part. He’s not going to do it for me but He will be there to help me, show me, walk with me!

One of the reasons I think that the lost of the world doesn’t want anything to do with our faith, with Jesus is because we have trivialized holiness. We have reduced Jesus to a slogan, a t-shirt, a ‘be good’ mantra. The message of Jesus is so much more and goes so much deeper. The message of Jesus goes after the heart and how we live our lives.

Again, He asks me and He asks you, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's that smell?

But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
- Paul, 2 Cor. 2:14-16 (NLT)

Any coffee drinkers out there? Better question: how many don’t drink coffee? I’ve heard people say they love the smell of coffee but don’t like the taste. I personally don’t get that and think those people are probably from some other planet. But I recognize the smell of coffee, love the smell and taste of it.

Ever notice how the truth smells? Ever notice how Jesus makes people squirm?

Why is that, I wonder? I love this passage from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” I love how he puts that. That begs the obvious question. What does my life smell like, what does your life smell like?

If we call ourselves followers of Christ, shouldn’t there be something different about us? Shouldn’t we live, walk, talk, smell differently? Part of our problem is that we’ve become so much like everybody else that no one notices us. There is nothing different about our lives. We fit in, we blend. I mean, I know we’re in the world and that’s cool, we kinda have to be. But, there should be something different about us if we follow Christ. I’m not sure we’re taking this very seriously.

Paul says that to those who are “perishing”, those who are of the world, we are a smell of death. Why is that? Because our lives should point them to Christ. And when the darkness of the sin in our lives is held up to the light of Christ, all those dingy spots have a way of showing up.

We who claim to follow Christ don’t get off the hook here either. The truth is, this passage makes me squirm a little. See, when I get hit smack in the face with truth, it hurts sometimes. When I hold my darkness up into the light of Jesus, it causes me to flinch away. The truth is that very few of us are living a life of holiness, letting His light shine in us.

I’m not talking about moving to the woods, growing a beard and carrying signs around that read ‘Repent’. I’m talking about a difference in the way we live, the way we speak, our priorities. I’m talking about love. Our lives should live out Christ’s love. I didn’t say it was going to be easy and, for the record, we can’t do it without Him. But, in case anyone has forgotten, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Do the best you can’. He said, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Here’s the good news. He knows we can’t do it alone, nor does He expect us to. That’s why He brings others into our lives to walk with us. That’s why He gave us Jesus. That’s why He gave us the Spirit. That’s why He gave us His word.

Ever notice how uncomfortable people get when you use Jesus’ name? Ever notice how someone who’s in love with Jesus looks different, walks differently, talks differently? Ever notice the difference in your own life?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My prayer today

You never cease to amaze me, Father. And yet the pain of becoming, the pain of submission never ceases. You are in a constant process of chipping away what is me, burning off the me to get to more of You. Reading Luke 6 today - Wow!
Why do I call you Lord and do not the things you say? Why do I pray to You and not submit to You? Why do I pick up again the burdens I have already laid down?
Because I am broken, a hollow man. Without You, I have nothing and I am lost in myself. I don't want to be the guy who builds his house on nothing, on myself. Rather, I will build my house, my life on You. Forgive me, Jesus, for not taking up my cross to follow. Forgive me for forgetting who I am. Thank You for the love You shower on me, the grace You give and the pain of life You allow. Only in the fire of Your love can I be forged into Your son, Your brother, Your ally, Your soldier. And so, today I submit to You. Take my heart, Father, I am Yours. Take my will, Jesus, I will follow!
You are the light, Jesus! Shine through me in this darkness. You are the way, Jesus! Use me as You will to show others Your path. You are the truth, Jesus! Help me to stay grounded in You so that my life may speak Your truth!
Thank You!

Monday, February 15, 2010


I’m having to learn a rather painful lesson right now. And, just for the record, it sucks. I’ve heard people say before that they don’t believe God tests his people. I completely disagree. Did not God test Job? Did He not test Moses? Gideon? Jonathan…even Jesus was tested. I think perhaps we need to redefine what we mean by testing and the idea of God testing us. I know some are going to push back on me a bit here and that’s cool. This is, after all, my opinion.

Perhaps I should rephrase what I mean here; God is allowing me to go through some things so that I may be tested. See, I believe that He comes to us, takes us through things so that we may grow. We need to go through fire to grow closer to Him, to realize our need for Him. We need delayed gratification on things so that we may learn dependence. Our problem is that we seem to think this is all about us. How far from the truth could we possibly be? We are so ego-centric!

James 1:2-8. Check this out. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” (The Message)

The first time I read this I was like ‘what?!’. In the New Living Translation, verse 2 says when troubles come our way to “consider it an opportunity for great joy.” The more I thought about this and talked to God about it, the more I realized this is about attitude. It takes a complete shift in our thinking to find joy in troubles, opportunities in suffering. I love the way The Message puts it by saying “your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.” Maybe that’s the real problem. Our true character gets forced into the open when we go through problems. Then, the real you comes out.


I was in the grocery store this weekend. As I was walking down an aisle, I saw a mother and her children coming toward me. One of the children was clearly unhappy about something. Apparently, from hearing what he was whining about, he wasn’t getting what he wanted. I just sort of stood there and watched while this child threw himself on the floor and pitched a fit, thrashing around and screaming because he wasn’t getting his way. Needless to say, it was obviously embarrassing for the mother and I wanted to wring the little brat’s neck.

How often do we do the same thing with God? Seriously. We whine and gripe and moan because something doesn’t go our way. We find ourselves stuck in a situation that is, more likely than not, of our own making. Then we ask for Him to save us from it. And He doesn’t. Or He says ‘wait awhile’ or tells us something else we don’t want to hear. So, what do we do? We throw ourselves on the floor and pitch a fit. Are we to take only the “good” from Him and not the “bad” also? Why can’t we just accept the fact that we are being shaped, molded? Why can’t we just allow the situation to play itself out so that our character is molded to be more like Him?

I am chief among those like this. I have found myself in a work situation that I was unhappy about for some time now. I begged God to get me out of this situation, to change my surroundings. He told me to wait. I pitched several fits. Lucky for me, He is patient.

Here’s the point, I think, of all this blabbering I’m doing. He kept me here to shape my character. He kept me here to show me how much I need Him because, without Him, I cannot do this. I am learning, albeit very slowly, that I need Him every day, in every situation. There are no compartments to life. There is only life with Him or without Him. This I can promise you: if we will hold on to Him, consult Him and listen to Him in every situation of life, He will show you what must be done. It might not be on your timetable or the way you think it should be handled. Then again, who are we to question the Creator of all?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Whisper

Your touch burns,
scarring my soul
in its passing.
'Come to Me,'
the whisper in my heart,
'rest, Peace,
true meaning you will find.'
You never told me it would hurt,
tear my heart,
shred my soul.
Raging at the pain,
questioning my surrender,
baring teeth,
shaking fists,
weeping for the death of me,
i flail and scream!
Then, Your hand touches mine,
Your arms hold me close.
Love pours over me,
filling wounds self-inflicted,
weeping with the gratitude
of anguish taken.
'I love you,'
the whisper shouts in my heart,
'Let Me show you how...'

Monday, February 8, 2010


Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.

Job 1:20-22, NLT

There are prayers that are very dangerous prayers, I’m learning. There is a desire that can be awakened in us that is dangerous. I know, I’ve prayed some of those prayers, felt those desires. And there is pain involved. Sacrifice. Surrender.

Awhile back, something in me was awakened. I began to feel His presence in my life in a very real way. I began to realize that He was pursuing me, loving me, changing me. I began to pray some dangerous prayers. I didn’t know they were dangerous at the time. It’s just what I felt like I had to do. I prayed that I would know Him more, grow closer to Him. I said, “I just want to be where You are, Lord. I want to give all to You. I will follow if You lead.”

Let me just warn you of something here. When you pray something like that, you had better be prepared for what comes next. See, God doesn’t want you halfway. He doesn’t want your version of love. He doesn’t want your version of sacrifice. He doesn’t want your version of all of you.

God wants all of you. He wants to show you what real love is. He wants to show you how to sacrifice who you are on the altar of faith, to surrender all to Him. He wants all.

The story of Job is a brutal, powerful story of the love of God and the faithfulness of one man. These verses are some of the most painful verses in the entire Bible for me. Job has just had his whole world taken from him, his heart crushed, his soul shattered with grief and loss. His children are all dead, his entire wealth and worldly possessions are gone, his health is stolen from him. How does he react?

He worships. He falls on his face at the feet of the Creator and blesses His name. Surrenders to His will.

I have to be honest here. I didn’t understand this until recently. See, when I began to seek the heart of God, I knew intellectually that there might be some sacrifice involved, some pain. You know that old expression ‘this might hurt a little’? Well, there is no might. It will.

I began to pray those dangerous prayers.

Lord, use me.
Lord, Your will be done.
Lord, I want to know You more.
Lord, I want to follow You.
Lord, I trust You.
Help me to trust You more.

How could I know that He was actually going to take some things away from me so that I could prove my trust? How could I have known that He was going to make me put my money where my mouth was? Then again, I should have known. I should have known that Jesus wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The thing about Jesus that drives so many people away is that He wants all of us. Not some. Not a piece. All. Think with me of the story of the rich young ruler (see Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18). This dude came to Jesus with a question. After answering the guy’s question, Jesus got to the heart of the matter. The first thing Jesus did, according to Mark 10, was to feel “genuine love” for him. Then, Jesus hit the guy with the truth. He told him that following the commandments wasn’t enough. Jesus told the guy he was going to have to surrender all to follow. The truth, and real love, hurt in this instance.

In another instance, a guy says to Jesus ‘hey, I’ll go with you but let me go bury my dead father’. Jesus’ response? “Let the dead bury the dead” (Matt. 8:22). That sounds a little harsh to us, right? Then again, in Luke 9, there is a story of a guy that wants to say goodbye to his family before going off on the road with Jesus. Jesus’ response? “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62).

This is a little harsh for us in the “modern world”, I think. See, here’s the problem. Somewhere along the way, we’ve convinced ourselves that being a believer in God, a “Christian”, means that it’s gonna be all good, hunky dory in our lives. We’re not really going to have to give anything up right? That stuff only happens in the Bible, right? Jesus didn’t mean that we’re really going to have to surrender anything, right?


Jesus, if you notice, is not exactly a half-way sorta guy. He didn’t say He was going make everything warm and fuzzy. He didn’t say we weren’t going to have problems. He didn’t say give me this and you get that. No. He said give me all. There is no half-way. In the words of Yoda, “There is no try. Do or do not.” Either we follow or we don’t. Sometimes, following means that He may take some things away from us to teach us dependence on Him, to remove those things between us and Him. Sometimes He has to remind us that it’s not ours anyway. Sometimes He has to remind you to count the cost.

Sometimes He might throw you in the deep end to see if you’ll try to swim on your own or reach for Him. Sometimes the lights go out cause He wants to see what the despair of darkness brings out in you. It’s called love and sometimes it hurts.

That pain is good for you. It grows your character and strengthens your dependence on Him. If this was easy, we wouldn’t need Him.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let Go

Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved – the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
- John 21:20-22, NLT

Ever notice how Jesus has a way of getting right to the point? One of the things that is so painful about Jesus and yet I love is that He just cuts right to the chase, right to the heart of the matter. Some quick background on this passage. This little scene takes place after Jesus has already risen from the grave and found the disciples fishing. After they have a little breakfast, this conversation ensues.

Do you ever feel like you’re in the middle of a situation that you just want out of? I’ve been in those places. Whatever the situation is, it has left a sour taste in your mouth and you just wanna bail. Insert your name and situation here.

I love this exchange between Peter and Jesus. Peter is probably one of my favorite biblical characters. He was so brash and petulant at times. Kind of like me. Kind of like all of us at times. Peter gets backed into a corner during this conversation and clearly doesn’t like it very much. I don’t particularly enjoy it when Jesus backs me into a corner either.

Peter does what I do in this situation. He starts looking around for something else to focus on or someone else to blame. See, Jesus’ focus is on Peter and Peter’s heart. This is quite obviously uncomfortable for Peter. He starts looking around for a way to change the subject, change the focus. So, he points out John. It’s usually uncomfortable for me when Jesus focuses on me as well.

Jesus’ words to Peter are really challenging for me. It’s challenging because it pierces right to my heart. See, when the conversation began, I sort of picture it as Jesus and Peter sitting on the beach around the fire. The other disciples are cleaning the nets and just kind of relaxing. Jesus looks at Peter and, with love and sadness dripping from his words, asks him three times if he loves Him. Peter is clearly disturbed by this and answers ‘yes’ three times, albeit with a little attitude. Each time, Jesus has a specific command for Peter. So, Peter, being the brash, impatient, petulant dude he is, looks around for a way to change the subject. It’s at this point, if I’m Jesus, I wanna slap Peter. I’d be saying, ‘Dude, didn’t you just get through denying me? What’s it gonna take for you to listen to Me?’

But Jesus doesn’t do that. He simply says ‘Hey, you let me worry about that (being John), Peter. You just focus on Me’. See, this is hard for Peter. He’s looking for something to help him out here.

It’s really hard for me as well. When I’m in the middle of somewhere I don’t want to be, I look around for something else too, something or someone to take that focus off of me. I’ve had this very conversation with Jesus before.

He says to me, ‘Do you love Me?’
‘Of course I love you, Jesus’.
He just looks at me with that soft smile on His face and love in His eyes. ‘Then, give it to me.’
He says, ‘Do you know that I love you?’
Now I’m getting a bit uncomfortable under His gaze. So, I squirm a bit and say, ‘Of course, Lord, I know you love me.’
Now He has tears in His eyes. ‘Then, give it to me.’
As my frustration begins to grow and I wonder what this is about, He asks, ‘Do you trust me?’
And now I am leveled, pierced by His question and the love He shows. Hanging my head, I know I cannot lie. ‘I don’t know, Lord.’
He reaches out and embraces me. His words are a whisper, yet crashes like thunder in my heart. ‘Then give it to me. I won’t hurt you. I died for you. Trust me.’

See, Jesus is saying to me and to you, ‘Hey, I have you right where I want you right now. I put you here, let me handle this.’ This is sometimes not a fun experience for me or for you, I suspect. I don’t always enjoy where He has me. I am learning, however, that He’s less interested in my comfort than in my character, my heart.

The real question is not whether we are comfortable with where we are. The real question is: do we trust Him? Do we trust the heart of God? It’s a hard question for me as well. We trust Him with our salvation, right? Or do we try to earn our own salvation through “being good”? We trust Him with our money, right? Or do we try to control and keep what is not even ours? We trust Him with our families, right?

Or do we?

The challenge is trust. This is a really hard one for me. I get graspy with God sometimes. What I mean is, when I give Him something, I tend to want to take it back when things don’t go my way. The challenge is to trust that He who created all loves you.

He loves you. His heart for you is good. So what difference does it make what He does with what He gives? It’s His anyway. Let it go. Trust that He is sovereign. Trust His love. It’s not up to us anyway.

Let it go.

Untamed Faith

You cannot meet the Creator of the universe and remain the same. If the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present comes to dwell within your soul, you would expect at least some minor disruption. I think there’s a problem when people talk about meeting God or knowing God and yet remain unchanged by God. When the Creator comes to dwell within His creation, there is transformation. If Jesus has come to dwell within you, you are no longer suited for a normal life.
To have the Spirit of God dwelling within the heart of someone who chooses a domesticated faith is like having a tiger trapped within a cage. You are not intended to be a spiritual zoo where people can look at God in you from a safe distance. You are a jungle where the Spirit roams wild and free in your life. You are the recipient of the God who cannot be tamed and of a faith that must not be tamed. You are no longer a prisoner of time and space, but a citizen of the kingdom of God – a resident of the barbarian tribe. God is not a sedative that keeps you calm and under control by dulling your senses. He does quite the opposite. He awakens your spirit to be truly alive.

- Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way