Slaying Giants

giant-slayerOn Christmas eve, Marianne and I spent time with about thirty brothers in the jail. During our time of fellowship, one of the men read the poem below. Here’s the story behind the poem, then the poem….

Earlier in December, I had shared with those men how our journey in the Lord is like Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and then into the promise land.

God takes us out of the bondage of Egypt, but then uses the wilderness to burn Egypt out of us.

In the wilderness, God prepares us to take possession of the promise land – that place where we are able to own and responsibly manage the things He has created us to both be and do.

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Touching the Heart of God

Touch the Heart of God


Even in my sorrow, I also know gratitude. Jesus is able to handle both, and as they’ve merged I’ve touched the very heart of God.
https://crossroadjunction.com/2009/03/30/sufficient-grace/

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This last year has been marked by very painful and difficult health issues. Through it all, however, I’ve been grateful for what the Lord has done for me even as I struggle with the sorrow of diminished capacity.

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The Power of God

We don’t go looking for or emphasize miracles, but in our fellowships we’ve been seeing the miraculous happen time and again.

We had one man collapse and then die right in front of the paramedics and the fellowship he had been helping to start in the jail – and then come back to life shortly thereafter on the gurney in the jail infirmary after brothers gathered together to pray for him.

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Apples and Pears

Apples and Pears

On Saturdays I love to go to the Farmers’ Market. I always go to one particular stand because they have the most flavorful peaches, apples and fresh vegetables. At the Farmers’ Market I enjoy the eclectic mix of people as well as the fresh produce.

Because it is the fall season, apples and pears are in abundance. The number of varieties is astounding! When I go to the market I look for the fruit that is unblemished. If I arrive near closing time, often the bruised fruit are the only ones left. Everyone seems to desire the perfect fruit, not the damaged ones.

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Hanging On – Part 2

Are we living up to God’s plan for His body? What is His plan for His body? Are we all heart? Are we all head?

I believe a spider web exemplifies the body of Christ. A spider web is both beautiful and useful, but also very complex. The spider’s silk has the unique ability to become softer or stiffer depending on the stress the web receives. It is not stagnant but active. God so designed the spider’s web that when one strand breaks, the strength of the entire web actually increases.

God desires the same for His church. There are times when a situation requires softness and the “web” needs to reach out and actively demonstrate that attribute. In contrast, sometimes the body needs to show stiffness and resolve, so rushing to the rescue might not be the best answer.

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Finding Freedom From Life’s Hurts

Finding Freedom From Life’s Hurts

This is a fifty-five minute teaching I shared with about thirty men, based on hundreds of pastoral counseling sessions where God showed up and brought freedom and healing from deep hurts – including abuse, abandonment and so much more.

My blog is a feeble attempt to upload a lifetime of service to the King of Kings. I believe this audio teaching, however, captures better than anything I’ve written some of the most significant things I’ve learned as I’ve walked with folks to those ugly places of bondage and hurt in their lives. When we get there, and they exposed their hurts and lies to the Lord, He brings His loving, healing truth.

In this talk, I also share some of my own very personal story about my own places of hurt, which I had to expose to Lord so He could then bring wholeness to me.

You may think you know me from my writings, but this captures my heart in ways that a written blog never can.

 
If this resonates with you, I also recommend my related blog, God Shows Up.

Eating of the Tree of Life? Watch Out!

A strange new doctrine has emerged over the last decade to support the old dualism of everything being about my personal, subjective relationship with Jesus – to the exclusion of any transcendent, objective moral code or (in some extreme cases) even Scripture itself.

Choosing Moral Autonomy

The new doctrine goes like this:

God wanted us to eat of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, however, rebelled and chose instead to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life, they say, is Jesus (which I think is questionable, given that Jesus walked with Adam in the cool of the day and obviously was not a tree, but that’s not my point).

This new doctrine goes on to say that we should only want the subjective, relational attributes of Jesus and not let any objective concept of what is true, real and right get in the way. This is because, they say, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents things like morality, objective standards, Scripture, commandments (again, this is of dubious exegesis, but again, that’s not my point), and anything else that may contradict their feeling-driven experience of Jesus .

Like all great errors in Church history, this one has enough truth to be tempting. But truth out of context is deadly.

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Inside Out

Like a comfy, worn, ragged, favorite sweatshirt, life sometimes meanders along. Then a tidal wave comes and drastically alters the course of the stream.

So it is with the Lord. At times He allows me to peacefully follow His path; but then He turns my life completely inside out, with all of the fuzzy, bumpy, frayed edges exposed instead of hidden beneath the surface.

To me His ways are usually convoluted.

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Acceptance with Joy

My wife, Marianne, wrote this. Where I am vision and logic, she is feeling and heart. The Lord speaks to us in very different ways, and we have learned to passionately value those differences.

Anyway, I think this was for both of us, and maybe it will speak to you too as the first of hopefully many devotionals from her.

~ Jim


Marianne

As I was in the midst of an intense struggle over some situations in my life, the Lord spoke to my spirit: “Acceptance with joy.”

I responded, “Lord, I don’t even know what it is that I am to accept, but whatever it is, there certainly is no joy.”

For me, it became pray, pray, pray: I cried my heart out in hopes that somehow He would let me see what He wanted.

With me, the Lord speaks in pictures, and the picture He showed me was not encouraging.

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Becoming Our Past

Often, longstanding hurts, disappointments and emotional wounds are like old, familiar friends. We let them become so engrained into our sense of identity that they begin to define us.

When that happens, we often aren’t willing to transparently expose and turn them them over to Jesus, but tightly hold onto them like a child clinging to a security blanket.

Instead of finding transformation and wholeness, we become our past.

If this is a struggle for you or someone you know, let me suggest an old blog I wrote years ago called God Shows Up. It’s a good starting point on the road to healing.

A Hollow Gospel

Sometimes I get angry and need the Lord to settle my spirit.

I am so frustrated over the shattered lives of man after man who I help find the Lord in jail, who then go to some on-fire, podium-focused, pastor-centric church when they get out.

worship-band

The Show

Inevitably, I will see those men back in jail again a year later, or I’ll hear that they have relapsed and fallen back into addiction or bondage.

Why are they back in jail or back in bondage? Because that “church” is little more than glory-halleluiah feel-good meetings with exciting sermons framed by manipulative emotional intensity which masquerades as “worship” – all deliberately designed to serve as a platform to showcase the gifted pastor and his gifted team.

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I Saw Satan Fall

On Tuesday evening, I understood how Jesus felt when his disciples finally “got it” and reported back, after He sent them out to minister on their own for the first time, that the sick were healed and darkness conquered. In His joy, the Lord said He saw Satan fall from Heaven because of them.

On Tuesday I’m teaching and mentoring a class of students on how to minister in the areas of confession, forgiveness and repentance. After seven weeks of foundation laying, the students this week started doing ministry sessions on their own and – wow! – it was amazing what God did through them that evening.

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Beauty from Ashes

Since early this year, I’ve been working on a huge sex abuse case involving a large, local Assembly of God church.

Hurt and Confusion

The human carnage and shattered lives have been great.

I take on these kinds of cases not only because I believe in justice, but because I also believe in redemption. Often, I have the privilege of seeing God’s grace shine through as healing comes and the survivors begin to find the strength to reclaim their lives – and their stolen voices.

As I interview and get to know various survivors and their families, I’m often asked if the pain will ever stop. I tell them how I have seen God bring beauty from ashes time and again, both in others and in my own life.

It is hard, but once we pass through the fire and begin to see what God does with the ashes of our lives, we experience gratitude for who we start to become.

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Government Run Amuck

Government Run Amuck

S&P downgraded the United States last night.

I hope and pray that this will serve as a wake-up call for the Church to realize that Biblical precepts can’t be mocked if any nation wants to survive. If God’s people don’t begin to understand, articulate and follow those precepts, then there is no hope.

One of those precepts is that God has ordained certain roles and responsibilities for civil government, and Scripture has lots to say about how individuals, families, the Church, the State and voluntary associations are to function.

However, there is not a single verse or example in all of Scripture which lends any credence to the view that God has given civil government the right or responsibility to re-distribute wealth or provide for our individual health or income. See The Growing Idolatry of Civil Government.

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Abusive Church Leaders (Part 2) – How Should We React?

How should we react to an unrepentant pastor who’s used his position of trust and power to prey on women – often after turning to him for spiritual counsel and support during vulnerable times in their lives?

All the theory in the world is great. But one thing I’ve learned from experience is this: Those who want to help these women find justice and closure, and protect others, need an unflinching resolve to stand toe to toe against these predators.

Typically, a predatory pastor is not accustomed to being questioned or challenged by anyone. He often will try to deflect accountability either through intimidation or a charm offensive – or both! These men are master manipulators, and it takes a God-given strength of will to stand firm, force answers, stop the abuse, and expose their evil as a warning to others.

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Abusive Church Leaders (Part 1) – My Personal Angst

Much to my dismay, God keeps bringing people to my door who have been abused by a pastor or other trusted church leader.

Over the last year, I’ve taken on three cases against abusive pastors. Two involve significant embezzlement and fraud by pastors in different churches. A third involves extensive sexual abuse and misconduct by around half a dozen men on the pastoral and ministerial staff at Christ Chapel Assembly of God in Woodbridge, Virginia.

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Helping or Enabling?

It’s hard cut lose a man you’ve been ministering to and let him ultimately bear the full consequences of the mess he’s made of his life – not to hurt him, but to let him finally hit bottom.

I am friends with and minister to men and women who most people, and many churches, shun (except for arms-length “programs”, if even that). Pick a vice – any vice – and I’ve likely come beside and embraced those in bondage to it: former drug addicts, narc dealers, sex offenders, embezzlers, thieves, gender benders, Satanic ritual abusers and even murderers.

Because I’ve been willing to see past the sin and accept the common humanity we all share – not as one who is perfect but as a someone willing to walk with them as we sort out our individual imperfections together under God’s mercy and grace – some of these folk are now following the Lord.

I love such people, because daily I see how God creates beauty out of their ashes.

I am blessed, because I serve a God who, above all, creates. He takes destruction – what has become void and without form, in the words of Genesis 1 – and brings wonder and life and order. . .

. . . and He delights most of all, I’ve found, in redeeming lives that many think are beyond hope.

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Freedom

In return for a little less freedom, civil government ever seeks to solve problems we should be solving on our own through individual responsibility, family support, personal charity or voluntary associations. As we’ve continued to trade liberty for government “solutions” (which never in reality actually solve much, but often make things worse), little by little we’ve become increasingly enslaved.

Every American should watch this cartoon from 1948 and heed its warning about Utopian promises to fix all of our problems. It is more relevant today than ever before.

May we once again find the courage, and the common sense, to stand tall as free men and free women.


For a related bog, take a look at The Growing Idolatry of Civil Government.

True Ministry

Last night, we had one of our best times of “participatory church” as we seamlessly shared a meal, partook of communion, fellowshipped and ministered one with another — and none of it depended on me!

The last several weeks have been very emotionally and physically exhausting for me. On top of my best friend dying, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my various professional and counseling commitments while concurrently experiencing a particularly bad bout of chronic fatigue from my autoimmune condition.

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