Hi, Peter

The Bible says, “And Simon he surnamed Peter” (Mark 3:16, KJV).  The name Simon means a piece of grass, a reed, weak, and easily pushed or manipulated. Peter, in contrast, means a rock, stable, fixed, established, and strong.  It seems like such a minor piece of Scripture, but in reality it is an explosive revelation about the heart of God.  Just like Jacob called his son Benjamin (son of the strength of my right hand) refusing to allow his dying wife Rachel to call him Benoni (son of my sorrow), Jesus named Peter not for what he was, but for what he would become.

Despite his new name, Peter often reverted back to Simon moments throughout Scripture, including proposing the building of three shrines in honor of the transfiguration, sinking in the water after taking his eyes off Jesus, being rebuked by Jesus for saying he would not die, refusing initially to allow Jesus to wash his feet, boasting he would never deny the Lord, cutting off the ear of Malchus in the garden, and then ultimately denying the Lord three times.

The truth is we all, despite the new birth in Christ, stumble and have our own Simon moments.  But Simon moments do not change the Lord’s mind about our potential and destiny.  Jesus has mercy when we act more like a Simon than a Peter. After Jesus’ resurrection, the angel of the Lord told those at the tomb to tell the disciples AND PETER to meet Jesus in Galilee. This simple statement made it clear that Jesus had not given up on Peter.

But Simon had to do a few simple things to get the Peter back.  First, he had to show up.  Too often condemnation and shame keep us away from God’s love and mercy.  We don’t need to give up, we simply need to show up (John 21:1-14).  We don’t know what Jesus said to him that day, but I can imagine (as Leslie Hale suggested) Jesus walking up to him and saying these simple but powerful words, “Hi, Peter.”  Believers may fall seven times, but they get back up (Proverbs 14:26).  As Micah 7:8 says, “when I fall, I shall arise.” Our victory comes in just getting up and showing up even when we don’t feel like it.  Showing up means we receive the mercy that is available to us.

Second, he had to grow up.  Our Simon moments are really just a developmental and maturity issue. Jesus challenged Peter to focus on loving, caring for, and feeding his people (John 21:15-22).  The Simon moments in our lives become scarce when we mature and begin to focus on the needs of others. We all have Simon moments, but God help us if we are not merciful to others when they have them too. Growing up means we share the mercy we have enjoyed with others. Peter would eventually say that growing up would keep believers from being unproductive and ineffective, and would keep them from falling (2 Peter 1:8-11).

The Ananias Anointing

The Scripture indicates that in the middle of his High Priest sanctioned rampage against the early Church, Saul of Tarsus had a supernatural encounter with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9).  Falling down from the overwhelming force of God’s glory, Saul exclaimed, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul, now blind and infirmed, was taken into the city of Damascus to receive care.

The Lord then came to a man named Ananias in a vision and commanded him to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him that he might be healed and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Despite the threats Saul had made and his notorious track record of persecuting, arresting, and even affirming the execution of Christians, Ananias, whose name means “to be gracious and to show favor,” honored the call of God and went to Saul because the Lord had great plans for Saul of Tarsus. Jesus called him his chosen instrument to preach to the gentiles and to their kings.

The Ananias type of believer, or the Ananias anointing, is desperately needed in the day we live.  Like Ananias with Saul, they help to restore to God what was previously lost, allow God to use them to bring healing to those that are afflicted, help God’s people get filled with the Holy Spirit, and help raise people up for God’s service and glory. We need more individuals in the body of Christ who, like Ananias, will be dispensers of God’s grace and favor, refusing to pay attention to the anti-supernaturalist and cessationist who deny the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit.

How can you become an Ananias in this critical hour in Church history? First, you must yourself be born again and filled with the Spirit. You cannot impart what you do not possess. Second, you must be tuned in to the realm of the spirit so that you can pick up on the signals of the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Notice Ananias was told to go specifically to the house of Judas in Damascus on Straight Street where he would find a praying Saul who had a vision Ananias would come to him. Third, you must be fearless in the face of the ominous threat and intimidation so prevalent in the world today against Christians.  It’s not that Ananias didn’t feel afraid. He simply refused to be ruled by that emotion. Fourth, you must be obedient and simply go.  It’s amazing how often Jesus uses that simple command.  Finally, you must be deliberate to carry out the details of your assignment, including the who, the what, and the where.

When Ananias placed his hands on Saul he was filled with the Holy Spirit, healed of his blindness, received water baptism, and began to eat and regain his strength. The Lord is in need of bold believers just like Ananias to share the resurrected Jesus with the lost, confused, religious, bound up, and hurting of our world.  He has sovereignly chosen to use people to lead people to salvation, Spirit baptism, deliverance, and healing.  Ask the Lord Jesus to send you, and don’t be surprised when he says, “Go!”

The Truth About Grace

From time to time in the body of Christ, teaching about a core biblical doctrine seems to swing to extremes and needs to be restored to the scriptural boundaries for that concept.  For example, it’s common today to hear grace, the unmerited favor of God, described as some kind of license to sin, when in reality, it is the power not to sin (Titus 2:11), and the provision of mercy when one does sin (1 John 1:9).  A growing number of believers have also been bamboozled into believing that the sacrifice of Jesus is not enough.  Advocates of this syncretism between Christianity and Judaism teach believers they must keep the law as well as accept Jesus. 

The Scripture, however, is plain: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).  Jesus described the obligation or duty of the believer as believing “in the one he sent” (John 6:29).  The Apostle Paul described the Judaizers as practitioners of witchcraft for confusing the people with an emphasis on the law over the efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice (Galatians 3:1).  In other words, as we focus on Jesus we are walking in grace.  Pope Francis recently said, “Some believe they can have a personal, immediate, and direct relationship with Jesus Christ without the communion and mediation of the Church” describing this as wrong, absurd, and dangerous.  I understand he is challenging believers to maintain or restore their relationship with the Church, but neither the Church, nor any man can take the place of the true mediator between God and man, Jesus the Christ.  We need a personal, immediate, and direct relationship with Jesus as well as a connection to the local church that springs from our relationship with Jesus.

We also walk in grace by focusing on love.  Jesus reduced the 613 old testament laws (civic, ceremonial, rabbinic, and moral) to the command to love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40).  He taught that all of the law and prophets hang or depend on the love commandment.  This means when we truly love God and others we are actually living consistent with the very heart of God.  Choose to love the haters when they treat you wrong or say ugly things about you.  Jesus, with lips anointed with grace (Psalm 45:2), loved no matter what they said or did to him.

Finally, we walk in grace by focusing on the Spirit.  We need the Holy Spirit because grace sets a much higher standard than the law.  The law said we should not murder.  Jesus said a person with anger seething in the heart is just as guilty.  The law said we should not commit adultery.  Jesus said a person who looks at a woman to lust after her in his heart is just as guilty.  Grace means that through the new birth we have the presence of the Holy Spirit operating in us 24 hours a day to help us and guide us.  The law tells us the what to do or not to do, the gospel tells us the why, but the Holy Spirit tells us the how and empowers us to do so.  For example, the law forbids murder, Jesus exposes anger as the root of murder, and the Holy Spirit tells us in real time how to specifically apply Jesus’ admonition to do good to those who mistreat us.

No, grace is not a license to sin or merely God’s merciful response to us when we do sin.  Grace is not lacking and in need of support by a return to the bondage of the law.  Grace is not sloppy living because we are no longer under the law.  Grace is a much higher standard than the law only realized by focusing on Jesus, focusing on love, and focusing on the daily leadership of the Holy Spirit who guides us into a lifestyle far surpassing life under the dictates of the law.   

Contagious by Association

People influence one another for good or bad simply by being around each other.  Every person we come in contact with is both making and receiving a unique positive or negative impartation.  As we connect with people we are bestowing and conferring on others what is operating in our lives in abundance, and they are bestowing and conferring upon us what is operating in their lives in abundance.

Moses, for example, was told to lay his hands on Joshua so that an impartation of wisdom, authority, and honor could be made into his life.  Similarly, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing when Elijah graced him with his cloak.  Paul indicated that his special grace of divine protection and deliverance was available to his partners in ministry who prayed for him and supported his ministry endeavors.  In other words, we catch what people have, not what they simply say or want us to catch.  We don’t catch the mumps from someone who has the measles.

We all have something to impart, and we all have something that can be imparted into our lives from others.  They key is to be careful who we connect with, associate with, and align with because we all will imbibe or absorb, assimilate, and take in the spirit of our connections and associations, good or bad.  The Bible says, “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), and “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  We must be mindful of who we are giving the privilege of speaking into and influencing our lives.

Some people impart love, mercy, graciousness, positivity, and gratitude into our lives.  Others infect us with cynicism, dishonor, negativity, and compromise.  The Scripture plainly teaches we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16).  Learn to guard your heart from being influenced by people who have little or no good fruit in their lives.  Are they faithful to the local church?  Do they faithfully participate in ministry?  Do they give faithfully?  Do they share their faith and invite people to church?  Do they actively walk in love, practice mercy, and control their tongue?  If not, be careful connecting with them because you will start to manifest what they have been manifesting.  You may just need to quarantine yourself from people like that unless and until they start showing signs of life and positive impartation.

The key is to make sure we are imparting life to others while maintaining diligence over what we are exposed to ourselves.  The reality is that we are all extremely contagious and we infect others with our spirit, our spirituality, our attitude, our thinking, and our behavior.  Let’s make sure our associations result in positive impartation for ourselves and others with the result that we get stronger as believers, grow in maturity, and become more effective as witnesses of Jesus Christ.

Dump the Trash

Taking out the trash when we lived in the city was simply a matter of rolling the receptacle 40 feet to the curb.  Now as a county resident with a house 400 feet from the road, the trash goes in the back of the SUV, and I drive it to the container.   

On a recent and short trip to Nashville, my wife discovered, as we were taking the bags out of the car, that I had forgotten to stop and dump the trash.  After we finished laughing about carrying that huge bag of trash with us, I asked the hotel manager for permission to use their dumpster.  She graciously agreed, biting her lip to keep from laughing.

What’s not so funny is all the garbage we accumulate in our hearts throughout our lives.  Trash in the car is kind of gross, and if forgotten would certainly begin to smell, but trash in the human heart is smelly, but also destructive and deadly.  I remember the story of the little boy who put limburger cheese on the mustache of his napping grandpa.  He awoke, sniffed the foul odor and declared, “This room stinks.”  He then went to kitchen and exclaimed, “The kitchen stinks too.” Barreling outside to get some relief from the stench, the old man growled, “The whole world stinks.” 

In reality, the source of the smell wasn’t the room, or the kitchen, or the world.  The source of the smell was literally right under his nose.  It’s the same way with our hearts.  If we’re not careful, we’ll walk around in life with a lousy attitude thinking life stinks, playing the blame game, and taking no responsibility for where we are in life.  The real source of the foul odor, however, is the trash we are carrying in the trunk of our hearts. 

Some people carry around the trash of wounds and offenses.  They just refuse to forgive and release others from real or perceived hurts.  Others have become jaded by the garbage bullying and criticism they received from people, often by people that should be encouraging and supportive.  Still other people are can’t get past the the rubbish of failures and regrets in life forgetting that every day is a new opportunity in the Lord.  Weighed down by the slop of sins and various strongholds, some people have lost the sweet aroma of Christ.

Let me encourage you to stop riding around in life with a heart full of garbage.  The longer you keep it, the more your attitude is going to stink.  Do a daily trash dump by forgiving others, by understanding the only opinion that matters in life is God’s opinion, by realizing failure is not final, and by confessing and repenting of your sin when you blow it.  God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) so be sure to extend that mercy to others and to yourself every day.  Life’s just better without trash in the trunk.

Leaving Lo Debar

lamb-in-the-grass-567099Mephibosheth was the crippled son of David’s covenant friend Jonathan and the grandson of Saul, the disgraced King of Israel.  Following the demise of the house of Saul due to his own rebellion and disobedience, David, a shepherd at heart, sought for a descendent of Jonathan so he could show him covenant kindness on behalf of Jonathan.  Covenant kindness is an intense and burning desire to show someone kindness with overwhelming force and power because of a sacred and irrevocable promise.  The covenant minded man does not rest until he finds a way to express that kindness.

David was told there was a descendent named Mephibosheth living in a place called Lo Debar. Lo Debar was a place literally without a pasture, barren, fruitless, and destitute.  King David ordered that a broken and isolated Mephibosheth be brought back to his house, that the wealth and land of Saul be restored to him, and that he would always eat at the King’s table.  In a single day this lonely, fearful, and forsaken soul went from living in utter desolation in Lo Debar to enjoying the favor of the King and the social, spiritual, and financial restoration that only he could provide.  The name Mephibosheth means “exterminator of shame.”  It’s interesting that God would take this remaining obscure member of the house of Saul and use him to remove the shame from Saul’s family. Just think, you could be the person God uses to remove the shame from your family.

It’s truly amazing just how fast our lives can turn around when we are in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  It’s ironic that David, a shepherd by trade, would bring Mephibosheth into his fold and provide him with a rich, lush, and fruitful pasture to live out the rest of his days. Jesus is our good shepherd who promises that through him we can go in and out and find pasture and enjoy an overflowing abundant life (John 10:9-11).  No matter who you are, where you’re from, what your family is like, or what you’ve done, the good shepherd will scoop you up as well and bring you to his pasture where he promises restoration, guidance, protection, provision, favor, and ultimately eternal life (Psalm 23).

So how do we go from Lo Debar to the wonderful pasture God has for us?  First we have to accept the shepherd, the only son of God Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  The benefits of restoration belong to the children of God.  Membership in the body of Christ does have its privileges.  Second, we need to get back in the fold (a local Bible believing and teaching church) because restoration takes place in the fold.  Too many Christians have bought in to the lie that it’s not necessary to be faithful to a local body.  They suggest they can live out their faith on their own.  The truth is, however, Scripture commands connection to and involvement in the local church so we can grow, experience restoration, and be there to help others as well (Hebrews 10:24-5).  Finally, we need to listen to and apply what the shepherd has to say to us through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word through the under shepherds the Lord raises up to lead, guide, tend, and feed us.  Our barren lives will begin to flourish when through obedience we release the anointing on the Word to bring to pass what was promised. 

Spiritual Kryptonite

imagesSuperman is an iconic and enduring image of strength in our Western culture and around the world.  We know about Metropolis, Clark Kent, the phone booth, Lois Lane, and Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther.  We also know there is nothing that could take Superman down, except for one glowing green gem called kryptonite from his home planet of Krypton.  In the presence of kryptonite, the man of steel became mortal, weak, confused, and subject to attack and ultimate defeat. 

Believers and Christian leaders too have a kryptonite from our home planet that works the same, draining us of life, joy, peace, and victory.  Our kryptonite, however, is more of the carbon based variety than some precious element.  The kryptonite our arch enemy uses to defeat us is people.  You see, animals don’t offend us, the oceans, forests, mountain ranges, and skies don’t offend us.  People offend us. 

Sooner or later we all have our own encounters with kryptonite.  Sooner or later we all have our stories of spending years investing in people only to have them turn on us, bending over backwards to make sure a family in need is taken care of only to get mad at you for some unspoken reason, experiencing disappointment in some bold endeavor, trusting a good friend only to find out the friend is one of your biggest critics, making great sacrifices with little to no appreciation, watching church members get in conflict with one another and take it out on the entire church, experiencing a crushing loss in life or ministry, or navigating the sting of a Judas kiss from a coworker or staff member. How we respond to the these kryptonite encounters determines whether we will reach our destiny or fold under the hurt, betrayal, and cynicism.  

I know what that’s like after nearly 30 years of ministry service.  Ministry does not exempt a person from kryptonite.  On the contrary, ministry just gives the minister more exposure to kryptonite – more opportunities to get offended.  One pastor I served slammed his hand in anger against his canoe during and outing breaking his hand and then blaming me for the injury.  Another church leader invited us to serve as his associate pastor, promised that we would soon transition into the lead role at the church, and then weeks later informed the people, after we had moved across the country, that he would have to let us go if the money did not start coming in.  My home church voted me down as their pastor, twice, after a spurious search process that included drawing names out of hat (no, I’m not joking), putting my name back into the hat, realizing the other man wasn’t going to come, and finally submitting my ministry to the church for a vote.  Rejected and dejected, we walked back into the church to face the people with a warning from the loving Holy Spirit: “Be very careful what you say next, for what you say will impact your destiny and their future.”  It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to it that matters in life and ministry.

In each situation, and countless other encounters with kryptonite through the years, I had to make a decision whether to let it poison me or move forward trusting God.  Our failure to perceive what the enemy is actually trying to do with the kryptonite of people is his greatest weapon.  Paul admonished Timothy to stay out of strife with people because strife is the doorway to becoming captive to the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24).  Imagine claiming Christ and yet living your life as a tool for Satan.  If we go through things without letting that kryptonite get inside of us and affect us, the devil cannot have his way with us.

Psalm 55 provides special insight for identifying kryptonite and overcoming its power in your life.  The Psalmist cried out to the Lord for help saying, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.”  When we are distraught we are deeply agitated, upset, unable to think or behave normally, and extremely distracted.  In reality, however, the Psalmist was distraught and close to imploding from the kryptonite because he was thinking about all the things people were saying about him, all the things people were thinking about him, and all the things people were doing to him.  There’s nothing we can do about what people say, think, or do, but we have the power to choose not to think about it. “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).  The key to defeating the kryptonite is to not even touch what THEY are saying, thinking, or doing with your thoughts.

I heard a preacher once tell the story of a jet airliner beginning to make its initial decent.  As it flew below 10,000 feet, the electronic and communication systems began to go haywire. After aborting and pulling back up to 20,000 feet the systems became normal.  After flying back down and pulling up several times with the same results, the co-pilot went below to find out what was happening.  He discovered there were rats chewing on the power conduits.  At the higher altitude the rats couldn’t function, but at lower altitudes the rats would come to and begin chewing on the cords disrupting the systems of the aircraft. 

As believers, God has called us to a SUPER life, but if we choose to live at the lower altitudes of hurt, offense, and bitterness, we will be short-circuited and defeated every time.  We need to habitually live at the higher altitudes where the kryptonite infested rats can’t affect us.  Our spiritual altitude is set by our time in prayer, time in the Word, and practically by what we choose to think about.  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).  Our lives tend to go in the direction of our most dominant thoughts. Whenever you are given an opportunity to get offended with people just tell yourself it’s kryptonite, and then choose to go up even higher where the rats can’t play in your head.

Divorcing Your Church

87604643A traveling preacher was waiting to be picked up by a local church pastor to speak at his church that evening.  Relaxing by an outside courtyard at the hotel, the preacher engaged a grandmother with two young children in a cordial conversation.  The woman noticed the man’s Bible and asked if he was a believer.  He explained he was a believer and that he was scheduled to speak at such and such church that night.  The woman replied, “I used to go to that church.”  “In fact,” she continued, “my grandchild here was healed of autism at that church.”  Stunned by the disconnect between the fact of the child’s healing of what is considered incurable by many professionals, and the statement that she used to go to that church, the preacher simply replied, “praise the Lord.”  He struggled to wrap his mind around the woman’s decision to leave a church where such faith was preached and such a powerful miracle took place simply because she was now moving in some “new” revelation.

What the preacher observed that night has in fact become an epidemic across the country where people leave their faith family despite the fact that the faith family was the source, in the Lord Jesus Christ, of the life and breakthroughs in their lives.  A couple is headed to the divorce court with no hope of reconciliation.  The Lord uses the church to restore the relationship but the couple then leave the church.  A man attempts suicide, fails, and shows up in church where he gets saved and delivered, and then leaves the church.  A young man is told he has an incurable disease but God exposes the infirmity and removes it through a word of knowledge. But then the individual lets hurt and disappointment drive him from the body God used to restore him.  A man receives a prophetic word over his life about money all around him, and after prospering in a manner consistent with the Word, departs the church leaving pledges, vows, and commitments unfulfilled.  A dejected and demoralized woman comes in to church and finds acceptance, love, and belonging only to walk away because of some minor misunderstanding or offense.  The stories are endless but they all share a common narrative of people receiving life and restoration from the church and then divorcing their churches to serve some offense, yield to a divisive or deceptive spirit, or to pursue some spurious teaching, doctrine, or practice.

According to Psalm 68:6, the Lord sets his people in families so that the benefits of redemption can be explained, explored, and enjoyed.  The word “set” means to remain or to abide.  Our destiny in this life, our ability to bear fruit, and the influence we are to have on the lives of others are all tied to remaining in God’s set place for us.  It’s easy to leave a church when it is viewed as an entity or organization, but when believers have the biblical revelation that the local church is a family, and a family the Lord has set them in, it is much more difficult for the deceiver to displace them.  Like natural families, there may be sound reasons for separation such as abuse, but in most cases people are abandoning their faith families due to a dysfunctional view of and judgment of the their faith family.  Sadly, these individuals then act like the family doesn’t even exist and was never a significant factor in their spiritual lives and well-being.  Once this type of behavior is started, unfortunately and tragically, it is often repeated over and over again sowing confusion in the affected churches, insecurity in church leaders, and contempt for the Church in the hearts of kids exposed to this behavior by perpetually disgruntled parents.

Like with any family, there are issues, challenges, disagreements, and problems, but also like most families, there are untold and innumerable benefits to being a part of a faith family.  Perhaps as American Christians we should intentionally focus on the positive aspects of family rather than focusing on what is not right or imperfect.  It’s possible for the devil to inspire us to amplify the negative, forsake our faith family, and compromise the good things God had planned to do in us and through us in association with that faith family.  Choose instead to honor the set place God has for you, to appreciate the life you have received from that faith family, and to focus on the positive when faced with issues, legitimate and imagined, in the local church.  Perhaps it’s time to remember the value of blooming where we are planted or dancing with the one that brought us.  If you have developed the habit of divorcing your church or have completely separated yourself from church altogether, consider the grace and mercy God has given to you and the fact that he did not divorce you for your imperfections.  Ask yourself a simple question: Did I and do I treat my faith family like God treats me?  Selah.

 

Oh the Humanity

gracePerhaps the greatest paradox in Christianity is the realization that the Lord sovereignly chose to use imperfect people to preach a perfect gospel and lead people to a saving knowledge of the one true perfect God.  Besides the one flawless example of Jesus, every man and woman charged with speaking or acting on behalf of God throughout history has been flawed.  Abraham was a chronic liar.  David couldn’t keep his zipper up.  Moses needed anger management.  Jeremiah could use some Prozac.  An arrogant Peter sounded a lot like Donald Trump.   Paul was quick to write people off at times.  Despite the flaws and failures, the Lord did amazing things through them and so many others because the anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.

Though a preacher of righteousness and recipient of the revelation to build a vessel to rescue God’s creation and his own family before the flood, Noah was found in a compromising position after partaking of wine from the grapes he grew after the great flood waters receded.  The behavior of his sons upon the discovery of their naked and drunk father reflects two contrasting attitudes found readily in the Church today.

In Genesis 9, Ham discovered his father’s nakedness and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers.  When Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth were told they placed a blanket between them and walked backwards into the tent to cover their father’s shame making sure they did not so much as turn their head in the direction of Noah.  Notice the different reaction when the humanity of the preacher was discovered and observed.  Ham saw Noah’s humanity and broadcasted that humanity to others.  Shem and Japheth saw the same humanity and chose instead to cover the humanity because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

So that I am not misunderstood here, Christians and particularly Christian leaders must have accountability in their lives.  But there is a difference between accountability to specific brothers and sisters who, in keeping with Paul’s command, restore the fallen and flawed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and others who observe the humanity and work to expose or broadcast the error with no heart for the restoration of the fallen.  Why is it we all want cover for ourselves and exposure for others?

There seems to be an unwritten rule some cynical believers follow that says if they witness the humanity of a Christian leader they do not have to respond in mercy, respect, or discretion, and they no longer have to receive from that leader. That “Ham” spirit, as in the days of Noah who was personally responsible for saving representatives of all of God’s created life on earth, forgets and diminishes the contribution that leader has had in his or her life and the lives of others choosing to focus instead on the imperfection of the leader.

Of course when Noah found out from Shem and Japheth what Ham had done (and understand emphatically here that just like Shem and Japheth, a godly believer does not hold confidences against the leader, but good or bad, keeps the leader informed) he was of course disappointed and prophesied a very different future for Ham in comparison to his brothers.  A simple reading of this story in Genesis reveals a powerful truth that all Christians can and should learn from.  The Hams in the body of Christ witness leadership humanity, broadcast that humanity to others, and end up cursed or empowered to fail.  In contrast, the Shems and Japheths in the Church are not blind to leadership imperfections, but in observing the humanity, choose to cover it with a garment of love and mercy and end up receiving the blessing or the empowerment to succeed.

If we spend any time around Christians and Christian leaders, we will observe imperfections, flaws, and their humanity (and they will observe our humanity).  Make a quality decision to be a blessed Shem or Japheth in the Church who sees, covers, and works to restore the humanity of others rather than a cursed Ham who sees, exposes, and cares little about restoration.  Remember that without love and mercy for others when they fail, we become more susceptible to temptation and failure ourselves (Galatians 6:1).  Without grace for others, we set ourselves up to reap the same when our humanity is observed (and sooner or later our humanity too will come out).

Lifeguard on Duty

imagesI’ll never forget the one and only time I rescued someone from drowning.  While attending the YMCA National Swimming Championships in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, our swim club spent some time at the beach body surfing in some unusually large waves.  A series of thunderstorms had rolled through the area making the waves and undertow treacherous even for experienced competitive swimmers.  Out about one hundred yards, I spotted an elderly woman in distress going under the surf repeatedly. I simply grabbed her, reassured her, and told her I would take her in.  Despite the fact we were both pushed under the waves several times on the way back to shore, the woman simply trusted that I would bring her in safely.  Back on the beach, the head lifeguard thanked me and offered me, as a fourteen-year old, a job on the spot.  I said I’m not certified.  He said, “I’ll certify you.”  I told him I didn’t think my parents in Illinois would go for me moving to Ft. Lauderdale and we left it at that.

The Red Cross is responsible for Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor (WSI) training throughout the United States.  The students are instructed in water safety, stroke mechanics, and survival and rescue techniques.  During my mom’s WSI training physical exam, she was expected to perform a mock rescue of a swimmer in distress.  A fellow WSI trainee named Curt was her pretend victim.  The victim is told to act frightened and initially uncooperative as the trainee seeks to calm the victim and then bring him safely to the pool’s edge.  Minutes into the “rescue,” Curt continued to be uncooperative and combative.  Mom gently exhorted Curt to relax and trust her.  He decided to make things difficult for her by continuing to thrash about in the water making a rescue nearly impossible and her failure inevitable.  WSI students are taught to release and even submerge the victim to prevent two tragedies from occurring in the water.  Mom, having run out of patience with Curt, simply took her hand, reached under his arm pit, and pulled as much armpit hair as she could grasp.  Instantly Curt was calm and compliant for the rest of the rescue.  I remember other students actually cheering for her.

I often see the same tendencies in people when it comes to God’s desire to rescue them from sin and destruction.  There’s just something about us that wants to make things difficult for Him or to try to help Him out (save ourselves).  But we are incapable of saving ourselves, and whenever we try, we end up making things even worse.  No, the Lord will not pull your armpit hair out to get you to cooperate, but He will not make you accept his help, deliverance, and restoration if you do not want it.  Let me encourage you today to listen to the calming voice of the Holy Spirit, relax, and let the Lord bring you back to safety.  He is truly our lifeguard.  Trust Him.  He’s on duty, and He will not fail to rescue you when you call out to Him.