LUI

You are probably familiar with the acronym DUI, which abbreviates the phrase “driving under the influence”. DUI laws date to 1910 when New York became the first state to regulate drinking and driving. Since that time, changes have included progressive reductions in the allowable blood alcohol limit and increases in the legal drinking age [1].

DUI infractions carry significant penalties for good reason: lives can be lost and innocent people can be harmed when drinking and driving are mixed. However, DUI remains within the driver’s control. A choice is made to drink and then drive. You don’t have to be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs when driving. You can choose not to ingest and the influence is eliminated.

I’d like to introduce a new, much more pervasive acronym, LUI, and its associated phrase “living under the influence”. In this case, there is no choice. You ARE living under the influence — every single person on the planet. However, you still have the opportunity to choose your influence.

God gave us free will, as well as the immense responsibility that it incurs. We can choose to worship and follow God or we can choose something else (this is called an idol). Idol choices differ for each of us and can even change over time. Rest assured that you are being influenced, however, whether your choice is God or money or sex or prestige or… It is therefore essential that we make a conscious decision about what will drive our desires, energy, and time (in other words, our worship).

LUI is supported by scripture. Let’s take a look at some representative passages.

Warnings

  • You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Galatians 5:7-9 ESV
  • Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV
  • He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. Matthew 13:24-25 ESV

Promises

  • All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 ESV
  • “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.” John 14:21 MSG

I encourage you to think carefully about your influences: media (movies, music, magazines, Internet, social apps), friends, boy/girlfriends, thought life… If that list does not include the Bible, daily Bible study, consider the concept of LUI. What wind is blowing you? Is it driving you toward a safe harbor, dangerous rocks, or further out to sea?

God wants your worship. He wants a personal relationship with you. Open His word to find His desires for your life. LUI friend!

1. http://www.liquorlaws.net/duilaws.html

 

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Envy’s children

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An ox and his will

A goad is a stick with a pointed (or electrically charged) end used to drive cattle and oxen. By extension, it is a stimulus that pricks like the pointed stick in order to encourage, urge, or drive.

I’m interested in the ox goad because Jesus used it as an analogy to Saul, who would be renamed Paul when given the mission of inviting non-Jews (or Gentiles) into God’s family through faith in Jesus. In Acts 26, Paul is on trial because his missionary work in Jesus’ name  has offended the Jewish leadership (Pharisees). He tells the story of his first encounter with Jesus when he was on the road to Damascus with the expressed intent of locating and persecuting those in the new “Christian” sect. You see, Paul was previously a Pharisee by training and choice until called by Jesus. [Think God can’t use you because of your past? Think again!]

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

The New Living Translation says it this way: ‘It is useless for you to fight against my will.’ (Verse 14b)

This version makes it personal for me. Now I get it. If I had to identify one critical struggle I’ve faced in my growing relationship with God, it is the consistent surrendering of my will. Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you are as stubborn as me and have a difficult time releasing what you are “certain” is the right decision (or path or response or desire) to embrace a better alternative provided by someone other than yourself.

Oh, the burden of pride.

Jesus’ goad that he uses to encourage me to greater (see Galatians 5:22-23) is prodding me in the direction I was created to follow. The ox kicks against the goad because he resists completing the task that he was made to perform. When I insist on my own will and stiffen my neck against God, I am refusing the direction of the One who loves me most and knows what is best for me. This is truly useless and self-defeating.

Here is a practical indicator that I’m submitting, rather than kicking. I have peace. I am not stressed and anxious. I have God’s peace that transcends my circumstances (Philippians 4:7).

The title of this post is “An ox and his will”. I’m the stubborn ox, but I choose to lay down my will. Keep prodding me Jesus. I’m listening.

God’s blessings, hope, and peace to you friend!

 

 

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Hope and feathers

In Hope is the thing with feathers  (254), Emily Dickinson wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all,

In this first stanza of her poem, she captures my personal experience with hope. It is somehow both easily startled, like a bird, and ever-present, like the tune that never ceases.

My “flighty” hope stands in opposition to what I read in God’s word. Jeremiah 29:11 is an often-quoted scripture that proclaims God’s promise to end the Israelites’ exile:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This hope doesn’t seem much like a bird. It’s a declaration of truth. It is God’s word and He is faithful.

What’s the disconnect? Why do I consistently get this wrong?

Let’s read 1 Corinthians 13:13 from the Message translation:

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Maybe that is my error… Hope is not so much a feeling as it is a choice. We are to have hope because we have God. Perhaps the linchpin is faith.

If you are hurting, if hope is the thing with feathers right now, I wouldn’t dream of burdening you. I’ve been there. Instead, I offer you an assurance. God has plans for you, plans to prosper you, plans for your future. He is your hope and He never fails.

Hope and peace to you my friend. Always.

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Furnished and ready

All of time is divided into two distinct sections: 1) before Jesus came and offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins; and 2) after His crucifixion and resurrection. This division was not an afterthought. It’s not as if God said, “I’ve made this wonderful creation and, now that man messed it up, I need to think of something else.” As mysterious as it may seem, this sequence of events began at creation and continues to this very day for you and me.

Even knowing that man’s rejection of God was destined and a salvation plan was already in place, I was still surprised to read one particular passage from Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for His betrayal, torture, death, and resurrection. Take a look at Mark 14: 12-15.

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

I highlighted the phrase that demanded my attention. I see two layers to its meaning. First, Jesus knew what was coming (the true Passover with Him serving as the sacrificial lamb) and continued in His perfect obedience to the Father. The millennia since creation had pointed directly to this moment in time. The event was “furnished and ready.” The actors in this grand play had already rehearsed their roles (the betraying Judas, the accusing Pharisees, the frightened apostles). The stage was set (Pilate in his judgement seat, the cross on Golgotha, the soon-to-be-filled/soon-to-be-empty tomb). Jesus was prepared for the final act of His ministry on the earthly stage.

Second, with this event our salvation was also “furnished and ready”. All we need to do is enter into God’s love through the acceptance of Jesus’ payment for our sins. Repent today. Prepare and submit your heart. Invite Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and Savior. Praise God!

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In/dependence

I’m a father. My son is 18 and my daughter is 16. They are great kids and I love them. Like their father, however, they are not perfect (both are far better than me at that age, however — 18 year old Tony was a real piece of work). They do not always listen to me. In fact, they sometimes defy me. They are not belligerent, thank heavens, but they do sometimes decide that their way is better.

It’s painful to watch my children choose what I know will harm them, either now or later. My deepest response is neither disappointment nor anger (although I have brought the thunder on both of them at different times). What I really feel is love. Period. I don’t want to see them hurt, but I must also let them make their own decisions if they are to grow and mature. I will always be there to pick them up should they fall.

A fundamental aspect of parenting is growing your child from complete dependence as an infant to independence as a young adult. It is a journey filled with bumps and bruises, but also celebrations and joy. Some laughter, some tears.

My experience in raising two children has taught me a lot about my relationship with God. I am His child, after all. So are you, my friend.

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:15-17

Ironically, it’s been in my hardest parenting moments that I’ve learned the most about being a child to God. I have defied Him as well. I have said, “my way, not yours” and then asked Him to bless (or at least forgive me for) my selfish plans. Through my feelings of love toward my children during their disobedience, I’ve learned that God is neither mad at me nor wagging His finger in disapproval. He is always beside me, always trying to protect me from what He knows will harm me.

I’ve learned something else, though. It’s paradoxical.

  • My job as dad is to grow my children from dependence to independence.
  • God’s task with me is to gently, patiently, gracefully transform me from independence to dependence.

You see, I was born sinful. I was born to choose me over God. I have been bred over millennia to worship me, not God. My birth day battle cry was “Independence or die!”, tiny fists clenched and jaw set in bitter resolve.

Slowly — oh so painfully, frustratingly slowly — I am learning a new cry. It’s one I give from my knees with open hands, sometimes in defeat, always in worship. It is “Abba, Father, your way, not mine.”

Peace, child. Live in dependence.

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The greatest thing

I’ve been a Christian, a believer and follower of Christ Jesus, for a long time. My story began when I was just a boy with a Billy Graham crusade on network television (my mom made me watch). Pastor Graham extended the invitation to a new life in Jesus and I accepted right there in my living room.

The decades in between have been quite a journey. There have been exhilarating mountain peaks and deep dark valleys. I’ve been good, I’ve been bad. I’ve served God and I’ve served myself. I’ve learned a few things.

  • I tried to live a religion about performance. However, like Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome, I quickly learned that: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)”
  • I tried to live a religion based on rules. I can be comfortable with rules; I know where I stand. They are also impersonal and tend to point out my failures, rather than my successes. I needed more.
  • I’ve observed that God is faithful. He does not change. He will never leave me. He will always love me. Jesus Himself told us: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28)” When I face difficult times, I repeat that line over and over: no one and nothing will snatch me from His hand.

This is what I’m learning right now. While a faithful God that is consistent and provides us with guidelines for staying out of trouble and loves us unconditionally is VERY GOOD, it is not the entire story. Our God is bigger. Our God is a Creator. He brings new life and this new life is unexpected and unpredictable! [1] It’s the greatest thing I’ve discovered about God so far.

A relationship with God is truly a journey. I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to join Him in it. I wonder what will happen next…

  1. Peterson, E.H., 2017, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Chapter 3, Waterbrook, Colorado Springs, CO.

 

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