Open Door Policy

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Matthew 7:8 NLT

This section in Matthew is about prayer. It’s worth a quick read:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
Matthew 7:7‭-‬11 NLT

Now, admittedly when asking for things, sometimes we might be asking for stones (heavy burdens) or snakes (things dangerous to us) and not even realize that what we “WANT” is not what is actually “BEST” for us. There are times when the “good gift” is to NOT give my daughter what she thinks that she wants. This is usually when she has locked her eyes onto something and has blinders on about anything else.

When the “desires of the eyes”, “desires of the flesh”, or the “pride of life” have taken over our focus so strongly that we are asking for bad gifts — we must realize those aren’t good gifts from the Father.

1 John touches on this:

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.
1 John 2:16 NLT

So I might ask myself:

Am I craving and asking for this because I think that it will bring me physical pleasure?

Am I craving and asking for this because I see it and want it (like bait in a trap)?

Am I craving and asking for this because it will make me proud to have it and show off to others that I have it?

Asking for these things is not asking for something from the Almighty, Good, Good Father but is loving this world and the things it offers us at a painful cost and price.

So we might do well to understand that asking, seeking, and knocking for such things might be the same as the prodigal demanding that the door be open for him to leave with his inheritance — rather than us asking to “come in” to what is truly a gift and blessing.

What are we discontent about today? What are we not at peace about in our lives?

Have we asked God about it?

Have we sought to have wisdom revealed to us about the situation?

Have we been persistent — persistent, not just demanding (like a Karen who didn’t get their way)?

Lord, you know what we truly need before we even ask. Thank you for being a faithful and good Father who always gives good gifts. Help us to see farther than our eyes, our hands and our mouths — to recognize the many blessings and the true treasures that aren’t of this world. Thank you. Amen.

Humble Boldness

This passage in Ephesians is especially encouraging to contemplate after the punch in the teeth of strong conviction that hit me in yesterday’s passage from Job:

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

Ephesians 4:1‭-‬6 NLT

The bulletpoints:

  • Be humble and gentle
  • Be patient with others, making allowance for their faults
  • Make all efforts to keep ourselves united in Spirit, bound together by peace

I love how this reminds us that boldness to proclaim the gospel is quite different from pride or self-righteousness. A follower in The Way, The Truth, and The Life can be humble and gentle themselves, yet bold about the gospel. We can bring forth into the light those things that we know that we have done ourselves that need to be confessed and repented personally. Even if what the gospel has to say about sin can be offensive to a world still enslaved by and serving that particular sin (conviction) — we can remain humble and gentle by offering the bent knee of our own repentance and open arms of the grace of the gospel!

We should not expect others to be perfect or consider ourselves better or worse than others, but we should consider ourselves equal at the foot of the cross. When we proclaim the gospel and it convicts our own heart towards repentance, we shouldn’t be surprised that it would convict others towards repentance. We shouldn’t be surprised that others’ rugs have dirt swept under them because we know that ours has the same. So we should be bold in the truth yet generous with forgiveness — both towards ourselves and towards others.

This sword of the Word of God is meant to be sharp and precise — but that is most true when we reveal what the Word has to say about sin and about grace, when we point that sword at ourselves, and when we allow others to hear and see the surgery that it can do upon a heart and a life.

If we are seeking to draw close to God, offense can try to work its way between us to divide us. So when a message hits me square in the teeth like Job hit me yesterday, I need to pay special attention — there is surgery that needs to be done.

Or when a preacher’s message hits that uncomfortable and protected area of my life — my carnal man wants to initially react in a way that protects my ego, that defends the sun, that justifies my continued rebellion, and that gaslights my own brain into shooting the messenger instead of heading the warning — but the Holy Spirit will whisper to me and offer me grace, peace, and life.

I remind myself, “Do not be offensive ourselves, but do not be afraid of speaking the offense of the gospel!”

If I complain and oppose the gospel — a fool would think he is just opposing just the preacher and the religion — while a wise man would see he is actually opposing the Living God, and would repent.

Lord, forgive me for so many times that I have been afraid to speak the offense of the gospel — even while I have been bold and proud in myself and all of my glorifying talk about the things of the world. Lord, you are strong enough to flip this on its head and by the power of your Holy Spirit turn hellbound fools into saints seated in heavenly places. In our weaknesses, we trust in you to do your work and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Job’s “One Great Story”

I listened to a wonderful podcast called Earbender by my friend Alexi Muzik yesterday where Rozette, a successful Pop Vocal Coach on Tiktok and InstaGram, described at the end of the interview her “one great story”. It was such an inspiring story full of doors flinging open unexpectedly and other people playing a crucial part in her growth and development as an artist. I commented that “I love when doors open for sweet people by the generosity of others around them — not only by their own talent. It helps build a humility that is so necessary in order to even begin trying to handle true success or fame.”

Success, fame and honor has another side to it that can be just as devastating to a life as loss. Just look at the number of lives destroyed by “easy come easy go” riches, success and fame. Look at the number of sports stars who can thrive on the field of competition, but whose personal lives are destroyed by what grows out of their success. Look at the number of celebrities who find themselves even more lonely, trapped, isolated and depressed even while their fame has them “on to of the world”.

But imagine the crash, to fall from the top of a building versus from the top of a few steps!

The contrast in the chapters of Job 27 and Job 28 should be humbling to any of us who have experienced success, favor, honor or fame in our lives. Chapter 27 talks about how it feels to live a life kissed by the favor of the Lord. While chapter 28 talks about a life darkened by strife, grief and depression.

Those who think that being religious and doing religious things guarantees them only success, honor and fame in this life are utter fools. And many only see religious traditions, theology and dogma as a way of improving their own standing — a narcissistic means of self worship (with God as a supporting cast in their own hero story). This is not worship or faith, but is hypocrisy, self righteousness, sin.

Even those who have truly humbled themselves before God, who know Him and walk with Him, and who are anointed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God are not immune to suffering, grief, loss, oppression, and trials in this life. In fact, Jesus tells the believer to redirect these things.

This verse in chapter 28 sticks out for me:

I live in terror now. My honor has blown away in the wind, and my prosperity has vanished like a cloud.
Job 30:15 NLT

This verse isn’t a statement from before Job ever walked in the favor of God. It isn’t like all was bad before Job made a decision for God and then all was wonderful afterwards — just like God wasn’t only angry and vengeful before the cross and isn’t only peace love and happiness after the cross — and just like our lives aren’t going to be all health, wealth and prosperity once we start “giving money to the preacher man”.

No doubt, there is so much that is gained in a life lived drawing close to the Lord. And the favor and blessing of the Lord is very real. But there is also a cost, and that cost is wonderful. Because that cost refutes the enemies claims that we love God only because He is good to us.

God is indeed very good to us. But only loving or hating Him for whether He is good or bad to us is very shallow, and isn’t about Him but is about us. Going through a season where we are hurting and God doesn’t “fix it” to what we want just because we pray over and over for it in various ways as we try to make sense of things like sickness, suffering, injustice, etc. — it stretches our faith to break through the ground and display the sapling to the world around us of a very real and peculiar faith. And it happens again when a new layer of bark is added. And again when a new branch springs forth. And again when bloom and fruit come forth.

We don’t have to pretend that everything is good if it isn’t. We don’t have to stick it up and take it until we make it. We don’t have to be in the height of our one greatest story to be content and at peace. We don’t even have to be strong.

Wherever we are today, I hope that humility will accompany us through the mountaintops and that peace will accompany us through the valley. And that even in our darkest and weakest hour, we might speak our piece, cry out to God, and then be quiet — for the glory of God. Amen.

Check out Ear Bender on Amazon Music.
https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e75409be-87d9-45e1-9206-9b6b3fa877be/ear-bender?ref=dm_sh_o2Qic3UuUfK2BbrX5h6Pp5LLI

A, B or No

Have you ever had someone ask you if you’re this or you’re that — proposing a type of multiple choice question to you as if those are your only options — when your answer may not fit either of those options? Where they want you to confirm and show your support for either a simple answer of A or B, but the complexity of the situation may have you answering outside their question with a “No”?

The first thing that comes to mind is political parties. Yes, there are people that are die hard fanatics for a certain political party versus another and who will blindly follow whatever propaganda is fed to them by those handing out the manipulations and the agendas. But many rational, reasonable and wise people can see the corruption and wickedness on both sides of an issue. In fact, any judge with time on the bench will tell you that the true rarely lies exclusively on one side or the other side recalling of the events of a dispute, but it is most commonly found “somewhere in the middle”.

I love how Joshua 5:13-15 provides us with a wonderful picture of this type of interaction. Joshua encounters unexpectedly a man with a drawn sword and asks in a way — Are you A) for us or B) for our enemies? Expecting a confirming answer from this warrior…

Let’s stop right there for a moment, and let’s try to make this a little more real. Imagine you are about to go into your favorite football game between your team and their rival, and this impending moment is foremost and up front in your thoughts. You see another person within a block of the stadium carrying a football, but not wearing the colors of either team. And you ask, “Are you for the Clemson Tigers, or are you for the Alabama Crimson Tide?”

This more familiar situation might make the ego-centric nature of the question be revealed a little easier — because I’m not sure how many of us have commonly encountered unshielded men with drawn swords in our day to day lives (at least if we are talking physical reality and not metaphorically speaking). Can we see that the question of A or B in these situations imposes upon others that what is most important and familiar to us in a situation — most assuredly must be important to them as well.

We make these types of mistakes with other people constantly — labeling people as friend or foe when they are really just stranger or acquaintance, stereotyping and judging people wrongly, etc. And we also make these same types of mistakes about God.

How many of us fools pray “trying to get God on our side” of an issue or problem or challenge, and never talk to Him again until we need to place another order at the metaphorical drive-thru “have it my way” fast-food prayer line? Missing out altogether on who is God and who isn’t in this equation, and missing out on the work that prayer is meant to do within us more often than around us.

Some of these bratty children that I see demanding things from their parents, and some of these bratty adults that I see and hear demanding things from society and others, some of us in our wants and desires — need to hear a surprising “No”.

Some of us need to understand that our personal perspective may be blocked and hindered because we have been only considering A or B, me or them, etc. — when the right answer is “No” and our response is instead, “What does the Lord have to say to His servant?”

And when we reach this place of holy surrender, we aren’t just standing upon holy ground where we can stack up stones to create an altar or marker that others can see. We are establishing a point and time in our lifesong where a true miracle of correction, revelation, repentance and spiritual victory has been won. Amen.

Related Reading:

  • Genesis 4 & 5
  • Psalm 4 & 5
  • Joshua 4 & 5

Destroying Obstacles

We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT

I remind myself that it doesn’t say “We proudly destroy every obstacle” and it doesn’t say “We destroy every proud person” but it says “We destroy every proud obstacle”.

And just like “fighting fire with fire” without any plan or understanding just creates a great bigger, raging fire — it should be clear that to destroy any “proud obstacles” that our own pride can’t be the weapon or tool used. It must be us humbling ourselves.

It should not be us trying to manipulate a way to humble “them”. It must be us submitting ourselves and humbling “ourselves”.

We must take our eyes off the person, see the actual obstacle between us, and overcome spiritual obstacles with spiritual warfare. Don’t fuel the “proud obstacle with” more of our own pride, but humble ourselves and see mountains laid low and stones rolled away.

We see our example of this in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lord, let our faith please you, and let us receive your Holy Spirit to teach and guide and lead us in The Way, as you have promised when we believe, confess, and repent. In Your Name, Amen.

Where am I?

Pride, 

thinking that we have it figured out, 

focusing on what has already been conquered,

Instead of what needs to be surrendered today, 

It will lead to disgrace.
Disgrace,

When it is found before men, 

We have an opportunity to learn, 

To be disciplined by the experience,

And given an opportunity to choose

Between remaining powerless in repeating our prideful failures,

Or if we will seek God, 

And be lead to humility. 
Humility, 

When it is found before God, 

Provides an opportunity to find Hope,

in Jesus Christ who is faithful and true, 

To be empowered by the Holy Spirit,  

who is our teacher or guide and our comforter,

To know the Love of our Heavenly Father, 

Who is the unseen made visible in Christ Jesus,

And in finding God we will understand the fear of God,

Which leads to wisdom. 
Wisdom, 

She is more precious than Gold, 

She is eternal and nourishes our soul for eternity, 

Because wisdom is not worldly knowledge, 

But it is the understanding that God is in authority over all things, 

That He is ruler and we are servant, 

But that He is also Father and we are sons and daughters, 

That He knows what is best for us,

That He has a purpose for us, 

That He loves us, 

Which leads us to Love. 
Love, 

It is that most excellent fruit, 

That grows ripe on the branches of those planted in the Lord’s garden.

It is the fragrance of the incense of the prayers of His saints, 

It is a pleasing aroma to the Lord our God, 

Because it is the evidence of His very essence breathing within those that are His.

It is the life that we find when we lay down our burdens of sin and death and pick up our cross to follow Him. 

It is eternal and it is how He knows us and calls us by name. 

Love is the law of Christ, 

And it fulfills completely the requirements of God that the law of Moses could not, 

Because being reconciled to love is being reconciled to God himself, 

For God is love. 
To love Him is to serve Him, 

To serve Him is to love others,

To love others is to serve them, 

To serve others is to carry their burdens, 

To serve others is to share with them the very hope that we have found in Christ, 

To serve others is to recognize that we have a purpose in life to reach others with the gospel, 

To tell them of this ministry of reconciliation to Christ, 

To show them this love that flows from the very Spirit of Christ who lives in us. 
Where are you today,  friend? 
Moving up from pride to disgrace, 

Moving up from disgrace to humility, 

Moving up from humility to wisdom, 

Moving up from wisdom to love,

Or falling down in pride? 
Even if you find yourself falling, 

It is never too late to let your disgrace lead you to humility, friend. 

Cry out to the Lord, 

Seek Him with your whole heart, 

Repent of your evil and rebellious ways, 

Knock until He answers, 

But remember to be quiet and listen for His answer, 

Because He will answer in that still,  quiet voice, 

And you will recognize Him as the Good Shepherd who loves you. 

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2 NLT

Lean and weak or fat and strong?

I read this and it continues to remind me that I’m just a fellow sheep and not the shepherd,  not the teacher, I’m a student – at best I’m a messenger and servant. I hope we can remain lean and weak (dependent upon God), not fat and strong (pridefully confident in ourselves), friends.

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God : Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.  “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord : As I live, declares the Lord God , surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord : Thus says the Lord God , Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. 

“For thus says the Lord God : Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God . I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. 

“As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God : Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? 

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord , will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord ; I have spoken.
Ezekiel 34:2-24 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ezk.34.2-24.ESV

My ears really perk up and my pulse quickens a bit at hearing this and having to check myself: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.”

What God wants

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer : ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!  I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’  I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:10-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.18.10-14.NLT

Will we choose to humble ourselves?

Or will we find ourselves humbled?

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited?  The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.  Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
Luke 14:7-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.14.7-14.NLT

Let us come before God in the right position of heart,  humble.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Psalms 51:16-17 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.51.16-17.NLT

I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6 NLT
http://bible.com/116/hos.6.6.NLT