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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Celebrating 100 Years of Twisting, Licking and Dunking

Celebrating 100 Years of Twisting, Licking and Dunking

Today is the 100th birthday for Oreo cookies.

I LOVE Oreo cookies! They are proof that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives.

Enjoying an Oreo cookie also theologically demolishes all arguments one may muster in support of a pessimistic, doom and gloom eschatology. Ah, the joy! 

But enough theology …

The great thing about Oreos is that they single-handedly satisfy the FDA’s recommended daily requirements for three of the four essential food groups.

Those four essential food groups are sugar, lard, chocolate and caffeine. To achieve a balanced diet, though, I often have a mug of hot coffee with my Oreos.

I once made the mistake of mentioning our four American food groups to a friend from Canada. He seemed surprised, and said he thought the four major food groups in the U.S. were fast, fried, deep fried and refried.

I told him that was only true in the deep south. In Virginia, by God, we may be south of the Mason-Dixon line, but we’ve managed to hold onto some remnants of high culture!

I must confess, however, that strawberry “fig” newtons are my other weakness. At least they provide some pretense of being healthy (applying snobbish standards), since they contain fruit (that red goo is real fruit, right? – if not, don’t tell me and destroy my ignorant bliss).

Anyway, happy 100th birthday.

Now where did I put my box of Oreos …

~ Jim Wright

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.

I Am Content

Marianne

Marianne Wright

I’ve advised Presidents and heads of state,

And ministered forgiveness

To murderers and inmates,

In Your name.

I’ve been rich,

But know poverty.

I’ve plowed the earth

And wiped sweaty dirt from my face,

Yet poked holes in clouds.

I’ve seen the world,

Stood firm against oppression,

And dodged its secret police,

While dancing with gypsies.

I’ve changed laws

And the course of nations,

While counting the homeless

Among my closest friends.

I’ve led the march of thousands,

And brought stadiums to their feet,

Yet walked with death and a cane.

I fought the mob and won,

And quietly saved my daughters

From their threats,

Yet been broken and used up.

I’ve known the joy of hopeless battles won,

And the brotherhood of warriors brave,

Yet cried alone before their graves.

I’ve spoken truth to power,

Hugged the brokenhearted,

And helped set the captive set free.

For all these things, Lord, I am grateful;

It’s been a life well lived.

But most of all,

I thank You that love did not pass me by:

For the joy of Marianne’s embrace

And the wonders of her grace,

I am content.

~ Jim Wright

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Limousine Liberals

Seat of Luxury

One afternoon a liberal congressman – well known for supporting expensive budget busting government programs to “help” the poor – was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop so he could investigate.

He rolled down his window and motioned to one of the men to come over. From the comfort of his richly-leathered seat, he asked, “Why are you eating grass?”

“We don’t have any money for food,” the poor man replied. “We have to eat grass.”

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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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Christian Counseling Class

I will be teaching a semester-long Christian counseling class beginning next Tuesday, September 6th, through early December. We will be meeting every Tuesday evening at my home just south of Manassas, Virginia, from 7:00 to 9:15 pm.

The course is being offered through Emmanuel Christian Institute, in conjunction with Fulcrum Ministries, for a very modest $200 (this fee goes to ECI for much appreciated administrative support, not me!).

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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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A Warrior’s Heart

I thank God for the young men and women who defend our nation, and who have dedicated themselves to the discipline and skills needed to plan and carry out dangerous missions like yesterday’s assault on Bin Laden deep in the heart of Pakistan.

May we never forget that it is God who creates the warrior’s heart: To protect the innocent and put virtue above self, and to thrill at hard things.

‘Though they often remain nameless and anonymous, may they ever be honored by a grateful nation.


When the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” Proverbs 11:10

Heaven

There’s nothing like flying along at 10,000 feet with my fiancé — in and out of white bellowing clouds with quilted green earth below and majestic blue sky above — while listening to Norah Jones in our headsets and enjoying the three dimensional wonder of God’s creation.

That’s where I find heaven on — or should I say above? — earth!

Transparent

My spiritual DNA — the way God put me together — makes me instinctively encourage others to give away what God has given them. Sharing God’s blessings is a key component to spiritual growth, I’ve found.

I often teach and minister in a faith-based dorm at the local jail. Rather than me “leading” this Friday, however, I took a seat among them and let the men bless each other by sharing what God is showing them and doing in their lives.

Some rose to sing songs they wrote to the Lord, some read and commented on short passages of scripture that had become alive to them, while others gave testimony to how God is now healing and making them whole men.

One brother read a poem he wrote about dealing with the issues of his heart and finding healing through confession, repentance and forgiveness. I’ve seen tremendous peace and maturity emerge over the last couple of months as he’s been totally transparent with the Lord — even though it’s sometimes hard and painful to expose those secret and hidden places to Him.

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Reboot

God seems to be laying a foundation for yet another of His periodic, history-changing interventions in the affairs of man. Over the last two thousand years there have been many such paradigm shifts, and it’s naive to think that our current, settled status quo will somehow be exempt from the unsettling but progressive advance of His Kingdom.

Paradigm Shifts

This newest paradigm shift is starting with pioneers who realize that God’s primary goal in history is to change not only individuals but also whole cultures and nations — as per the Great Commission.

Likewise, as with all prior interventions in history, His will is being applied to more and more aspects of His creation here on earth, just as it is in heaven — as per the Lord’s Prayer.

We also are coming to realize that the Kingdom of God — His will being done on earth (including all spheres of human endeavor) as it is in heaven — is bigger than the church. Nonetheless, we are beginning to understand that His Kingdom is not going to advance much further unless the church re-discovers her New Testament roots.

Admittedly, there is comfort in the familiar status quo of “church” as we’ve all come to know it. Some, however, are so hungry for God’s Kingdom — as it continues to progressively advance through history — that they’re willing hit to the reboot button and look afresh at God’ s purposes.

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Whole Health

The more pastoral counseling I do, the more I realize how often people deal with life’s traumas, hurts and disappointments by suppressing either their mind, their heart, or their spirit – and thus some vital aspect of who God created them to be.

integrated_wholeFor example, instead of being healthy, integrated people, they numb out or otherwise retreat exclusively into the realm of their minds – i.e., their analytical logic and reason – to the exclusion of their heart and their spirit.

They are alive, but hardly living – as they deny themselves the catharsis of honest emotions and the wonder of new-found belief.

For others, their heart is the oppressor as they subjugate their mind and spirit to their feelings and sensibilities.

Some even allow their spirit to squelch their minds and hearts by super-spiritualizing everything, and treating reason and emotions as irredeemably corrupt.

I now realize that God created our mind, heart and spirit to be equally vital aspects of the whole, complete individuals He wants us to be.

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Repentance, Forgiveness and the Kingdom of God

Recorded before a group of men in the local jail, this 55 minute audio teaching explains how we find peace and freedom when we allow God, through authentic Biblical confession, repentance and forgiveness, to change what we think, believe and perceive. That, in turn, allows us to know the righteousness, peace and joy that comes from finding and doing His will — which is what the Kingdom of God is all about.

This teaching arises from hundreds of intense pastoral counseling sessions through Fulcrum Ministries. In those sessions, I’ve seen how God uses Biblically authentic confession, repentance and forgiveness to bring quick resolution and lasting freedom from the lies, hurts and deceptions we carry from life’s circumstances — including routine disappointments to extreme situations like sexual abuse, occult ritual practices, childhood abandonment and many other life-crippling situations.

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A Very Public Confession

Here’s a news brief I came across that really stood out.

In it, the CEO for Continental Airlines admits that his company in the past was racist and refused to hire black pilots. Past racism, in and of itself, is hardly surprising. What is surprising, however, is the candor of Continental’s public confession and the public amends it made to set things right.

It is rare to see anyone anymore who is willing to publicly admit to public sins, mistakes and improprieties — especially among our leaders. In this case, I was very impressed by what Continental and its CEO did, and hope this can be an inspiration for us all.

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Good Christian Satire

I often get a chuckle from Lark News, and their latest spoof definitely rings all-to-true.

It reminds me of a very large (huge, in fact) evangelical church in town — where the pastor preaches his sermons on a vast stage each Sunday while a smoke machine bellows out measured amounts of awe and mystery in the background. For real!

It’s very good theater, plus the sermons aren’t half bad if you’re into that kind of thing.

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Improbable Church

The church that meets together at my home each Friday evening to share a meal, encounter God and minister one to another is an improbable assembly of believers and even not-yet believers. We cut across races, cultures, nationalities, social status, and so many other lines – producing a rich tapestry of interwoven lives.

It reminds me of Adullam’s cave, where “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented” went to flee from Saul. While there, God began the process of forging them into leaders who eventually established and became pillars in David’s kingdom. 1 Sam. 22:2.

Likewise, if you saw us you would laugh and wonder, “what can God do with these people?” Yet, isn’t that God’s way: to establish his Kingdom on earth by transforming lives, cultures, nations and history not with the ordained, but with the ordinary?

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Pimping the Gospel

As I’ve previously ministered in other parts of the world, I’ve been alarmed at the growing influence of the so-called “prosperity gospel”.

Money or Life?

The prosperity message is simply the latest incarnation of the historically persistent “gospel of self” that’s been a blight on the Church since the beginning. Going back to Simon the Samaritan in Acts 8, there’s always been those among us – with gifted personalities and beguiling, mesmerizing spirits of seeming sincerity – who pimp the gospel for personal gain.

Such God pimps – including John Hagee, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and their minions – are all over the airways peddling their seductive gospel of “self”.

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