Take A Plunge On The Wild Slide

Have you ever experienced the thrill and excitement of going down a giant water slide at a water park?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the joy the Lord and I experience by plunging down the slides He places in my life.

water slide 2The plunge comes towards the end of the journey, after lots of preparation.

First, I need a destination by choosing which water park. I can’t just hope to arrive without knowing where I’m going.

On my spiritual journey I also need a purpose. I can’t wander aimlessly hoping that somehow I will make a difference in God’s kingdom.

Once I have chosen a location, I must pack a few essentials for the trip. Suntan lotion, beach towel and swim suit are the bare minimum.

I believe that the Lord only has one essential for my journey with Him. I need to pack the attitude that I am willing to do whatever He asks.

That is a tough one to fit into the pool bag because self often wants something very different. Sometimes it seems like I have to keep shoving the desire to be obedient back into the bag when it tries to escape.

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The Gospel, Up Straight and Direct

Today I was with a group of men in the jail. One of them was very troubled because his son was getting into all kinds of trouble. He couldn’t understand why, because (he claimed) he loved his son and was always telling him he loved him.

repentanceI felt something stir in my spirit, looked him straight in the eye, and said that was a lie. He didn’t love his son, he loved his drugs more – and thus had not cared enough to be part of his son’s life as his son was growing up. This deeply wounded his son, who felt unloved and worthless because of it – and was now acting out.

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A Simple Cure for a Terminal Condition

Is it any wonder that a generation raised to believe it’s all about them has a hard time grasping that it’s all about God?snake-oil-salesman

They are easy prey for those peddling God’s amazing grace, love and acceptance, while rejecting repentance, truth and change.

The greatest deceptions, however, involve half truths.

Unfortunately, there’s just too much of this going around these days, and it’s terminal when it comes to healthy believers and healthy ekklesia.

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Repentance

In the New Testament, repentance means to change the way that we think and act. Without the Lord, this would be impossible. However, when we bring, and then surrender, our thoughts, beliefs and actions to the Lord, He replaces them with peace, truth and hope. True repentance brings transformation.

gardenI love to work in my garden. Have you ever dug a large hole in hard clay to plant a bush? I think repentance requires many of the same steps.

When I dig the hole, I expend a tremendous amount of energy. Being willing to openly expose my sins and faults to the Lord also requires much effort.

Sometimes my feet hurt from stomping down on the shovel as I try to break through the hard soil. Likewise, there have been times when my body, soul and spirit ache as I struggle and my heart can feel like heavy, solid clay.

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Integrity

It’s great to write books and blogs promoting the role of women in the church, finding “ekklesia”, and all sorts of other local church issues.

masksBut the rubber meets the road when it comes to those with a history of using the church to sexually prey upon and exploit others.

It is hypocrisy to then defend and promote them, to discount the properly issued warnings of their own local church (see 1 Tim. 5:19-21), to ignore the evidence you personally have seen, and to stand quiet as they continue a campaign of cover up through threats and intimidation against anyone who dares bear witness against them.

When it really matters, do you put your values – and the things you write – over personal friendships and your network of mutual promotion?

It’s time to walk in integrity once again…

God wants leaders who’s public persona, words and values match their private lives.

~ Jim

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Obedience

Obedience is like the tug of war game that my second grade students play every year on Field Day. Each team musters their forces together and strategically places the participants where they will be the most effective. Then, when the whistle blows, each side pulls with all of their might.

Often I find that my obedience to the Father’s plans is like that. I line up all of my reasons why I probably should not do what I feel the Father tug of warwants me to do; then, I try and justify my reasoning.

Fortunately, I am usually on the “losing” side of that tug of war because my heart’s desire is to be obedient and to do the will of my Father. However, my response is not always as instantaneous as I would like.

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Real Grace

Facebook seems to be a hot bed for the new distorted view of “grace”.

taking-up-your-crossThe other day someone posted that through grace, God finds our sin acceptable. He thus no longer “deals” with sin in our lives – and we are free of sin – because it no long exists.

According to their “logic”, sin ceases to an issue in our lives because it ceases to be considered sin by God.

That neat theological sleight of hand was followed by lots of “likes” and “amens”.

To deny the reality of sin and its bondage – and to say God doesn’t deal with sin in our lives or that we are free of sin – is an abuse of grace.

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Pastoral Counseling

Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.

The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.

To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.

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Resurrection Sunday

Forty-eight years young in the Lord!

On Resurrection Sunday, 1965, I had a deep, deep conversion experience as I totally surrendered to the Lord. I’m told the tears on that old wooden floor made permanent stains.

graceWow, how time has passed. It’s been – and continues to be – a wonderful adventure, and even during some tough times I never once regretted belonging to Him.

Through it all, I’ve always felt His hand on my life and was blessed with a solid foundation from Godly parents and mature teachers, which has served me well over the years.

In an age of crazy doctrines and postmodern spiritual angst, that foundation yet stands firm for those willing to surrender their sensibilities to the Living Word and His written Word.

Really, it’s just not that complicated, but it does mean letting go of your own impulse to define Jesus – and what ultimately is right, real and true – on your own terms.

My life is a living testimony to His sovereign Lordship, and His passion is my very life.

I invite you to also surrender, and find life.

~ Jim

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Feed the Need

Sorry, Frank Viola, but when your “revelation” of Jesus looks a lot like your own sensibilities, I’m not impressed.

And when “deeper life” merely reinforces your own postmodern proclivities, I’m likewise not impressed.

Nor do I find a persistent failure to be a functional part of any healthy, local fellowship – despite all your books and blogs on organic church – to be a virtue.

Really, didn’t you get the memo? Postmodernism and existential angst just ain’t that compelling or counter-cultural anymore.

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Faithfulness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… Gal 5:22 NIV

Faith is a seed the Lord plants in us. Faithfulness is the fruit that develops over the seasons of our life. The fruit of faithfulness requires a long growing season. There is no way to expedite the process.

tortoise and the hareIn the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise demonstrates faithfulness. He keeps on doing what he needs to do, without any fanfare or dramatics. Steadfast, loyal, conscientious, all describe a person who has allowed faithfulness to become ingrained in their life.

Often, the people who are the most faithful receive the least acclaim.

In the Bible, Joseph exemplifies faithfulness. After he was sold to Potiphar, he conscientiously served him and the Lord blessed Potiphar’s household because of Joseph. Joseph did not grumble and complain because he was in Egypt away from his family.  He faithfully served in the place the Lord had him.

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Letting Go

For most Christians, the greatest struggle is not resisting sin but in being willing to let go of our hurts. More than sin, we allow our hurts to define us, and find it difficult to leave the familiarity of our pain for the unfamiliarity of a truly new life in Christ. Even among Christians, few risk the grace of confession, forgiveness and repentance to become whole and complete in Him.

Really, it’s not that difficult…

Here’s a story of one man’s journey: Getting to Simple.

When “Intimacy with the Lord” Goes Bad

When “Intimacy with the Lord” Goes Bad is a must-read blog by Steve Crosby.

In the past, I was concerned with some of Steve’s blogs because they seemed to dance right up to the line with some of the “half grace” doctrines and existential nonsense going around these days.

With this blog, however, all’s forgiven! It strikes just the right balance between “being” and “doing”, which I’ve also tried to achieve in some of my own past blogs. But unlike me, he avoids obscure, big sounding words. ;-)

Plus, I love his swamp analogy – especially since I often use it myself when I teach!

Joy

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy… (Gal 5:22)

JoyJoy is a word that I believe is easily misunderstood.  Let me give you an example. About eleven years ago, I adopted my little dog. I named her Joy because her personality radiates joy.

One day a young workman came to my house. After he finished the repairs in the kitchen he asked me, “You named your dog after soap?” He was referring to the bottle of Joy detergent that was on my kitchen counter. I explained that she was not named after soap, but I named her because she always acted so joyful. He did not seem to really understand, but I think that is not as unusual as it may seem.

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably and people assume that they cannot have joy unless they feel happy. I disagree.

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Les Miserables

Marianne and I have never recommended a movie on our blog, but yesterday we went on a date and saw the new movie, Les Miserables.

Twenty or so years ago I saw the Broadway play in New York, and it was powerful. But the movie is … amazing.

I was hesitant to go to the movie, because I expected the original Christian themes of redemptive grace and forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel to be watered down, if not eliminated. After all, that’s the way of Hollywood. They take culture created by Christians and bastardize it.

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