Whoever Receives Him

Read:  John 1:4, 10-13, 17


They are some of the saddest words in the entire Bible, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11 ESV) I can only imagine how I would feel if I knocked on the door at one of my children’s houses, and they completely ignored me. Everyone’s inside, having a great time, while I stand on the porch, knocking. Eventually I go to the front window. I can see them all in there, eating and drinking and laughing. I try knocking on the window and waving to get someone’s attention.  One or two look up briefly to see me standing there.  They wave to acknowledge my presence, but no one comes to the door.  No one invites me in.  All my children are in there, and I’m standing outside. And I’m the father! Something’s terribly wrong here. That’s how Jesus must have felt.

We are his people, first, by right of creation (v.10) and second by his own choice of self-identification. Before he made the world, Jesus had already agreed to step out of his glory, and put on flesh, to become one of us. He identified with us, unashamedly calling us his friends (John 15:15) and his brothers (Hebrews 2:11) He walked among us and talked to us on our level so we could know him and understand him.

As he stood within Pilate’s Judgment Hall on that fateful morning, stripped and bleeding, he looked out upon his own people. And they said, “No, thank you.” Actually they said,” Crucify him!” The point is, they refused to receive him.

There were, of course, some exceptions. John goes on to say, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12 ESV)

So, let me ask you, Are YOU a believer?  Really? More important, are YOU a receiver?  It’s possible, you know, for someone to say they believe in Jesus, but that by itself doesn’t mean much unless they go on to receive Jesus. It would be like the children I mentioned earlier who waved at me through the window, but never came to the door to invite me in.  Some people may even come to church every Sunday, smiling and waving; but they keep the Lord at a distance the rest of the week.

If you haven’t already, start by opening the door of your heart to Jesus, just like you have already opened your heart to every other person you love. You know how to let people in and how to shut people out.  Now open your heart to Jesus. Invite him to come in.  But know that when he comes in, he’ll want to enter every room and take over your entire house.  He’ll start by taking out the trash. Then he’ll begin to re-arrange your furniture. Some of your old “stuff” isn’t working for you.  He’ll want to remove that.  He’ll also want to introduce some brand new things into your life.  I call these “holy habits.” If this feels like a radical lifestyle change, that’s because it is.  BUT WARNING! This is not about making a few changes on the surface of our lives. We’re not simply adopting a new set of rules.  (Start doing this. Stop doing that.) God wants to change us from the inside out!  Notice John’s words, “to all who did receive him, . . . he gave the right to become children of God, who were born . . . of God.”  (John 1:12-13 ESV)

Think about it. If we have been born of God, we have received a new spiritual DNA.  This is God’s DNA!  Just as our physical DNA determines everything about our physical appearance, our spiritual DNA ,which  we received from the Holy Spirit when we were born again, begins to change us at the level of our spirit. We’ll begin to love the things God loves—and hate the things God hates.  We will start looking forward to growing up spiritually, and becoming just like our heavenly father. Most important, we’ll no longer instinctively run away and try to hide ourselves from God.  We’ll actually develop the habit of running toward our Father with our arms up, looking for his smile, eager to receive his hug.

There’s another way to think about receiving Christ.  We can think about Jesus as God’s gift to us. Ask yourself, what’s the first thing you do whenever you receive a gift?  Answer:  you open it to see what’s inside, of course! So, in these verses, John helps us open our gift (Jesus) to discover the things we receive when we receive him.

First, we receive life.  “In him was life . . . “  (v.4a)  Don’t be fooled.  This is more than the natural life we have, simply because our heart is beating and our lungs are breathing.  John is talking about the spiritual life we receive when we are connected, or re-connected, with God.  (Ephesians 2:4-5) It is the abundant life Jesus promised to bring those who come to him. (John 10:10) It is nothing less than the discovery and fulfillment of God’s purpose for our life. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Remember Adam and Eve, hiding among the trees, trying to cover themselves with fig leaves, hoping God won’t find them.  (Genesis 3:7-8) What’s wrong with this picture?  We could list many things, of course, but the point I want to make right now is that none of us can possibly experience the abundant life Jesus promised while we’re hiding, trying to cover up ourselves and blame someone else for our trouble.  We need to come out of hiding and run toward God.  This life can only be discovered as we consistently walk with him and talk with him.

Second, we receive light. “ . . . and the life was the light of men.”  (v.4b) When you were small, were you afraid of the dark?  Most of us were. Why? I think the main reason was simply because we can’t see in the dark. We didn’t know what was out there, so we let our imaginations go crazy.  We invented all kinds of scary things that might be out there, waiting for us.  None of it was real, of course, but you can never be too sure—in the dark. Then again, there are many very real dangers in the dark. That’s the thing. You just never know what you might run into, or fall into—in the dark. We might even suggest that the things we fear most aren’t even there—but the things we don’t consider are the things that trip us up every time—in the dark.  “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.”  (Proverbs 4:19)

In contrast, the first words of God recorded in the Bible are, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) Immediately, the light conquered the darkness. In fact, from the beginning, darkness has never been able to remain in the room when the light comes.

In his first epistle, John declares that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.                  (I John 1:5) Furthermore, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin.”    (I John 1:7)

These verses describe two opposing kingdoms, warring this minute over your soul and mine.  The kingdom of darkness is characterized by lies, and fear, and destruction. Since Adam and Eve, men and women have been stumbling in this darkness.  Jesus came to introduce us to the kingdom of light. (John 8:12) And it’s found in him.  In fact, “The path the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

Furthermore, when we open this gift God has given us (Jesus) we receive grace. John says that    “ . . . grace . . . came through Jesus Christ.”  (v.17) You ask, what’s that?  Grace is every good gift God gives you—because he loves you. It’s exactly what you need—exactly when you need it. 

The truth is, your heavenly Father thinks you’re beautiful.  (Even the guys, believe it or not!) Don’t worry about what anyone else says. His opinion is the only one that matters. And that’s where grace begins—every time. In fact, the root meaning of the word grace is— “beauty.”

It works something like this.  Whenever your Father sees you running toward him with your arms up, calling for him, “Daddy! Daddy!” He thinks, “That’s my boy!” (or my girl) “And he’s/ she’s beautiful!”  He smiles real big and reaches out to pick us up and carry us.  In that moment, his first impulse is to give you anything you need. In fact, he has promised to do exactly that! (Remember, he has unlimited resources, unlike most of our earthly fathers.) He will forgive your sin and heal your hurts. He will equip you to perform any task he’s asked you to do. And he’ll give you the necessary wisdom for whatever difficult choice you might be facing while you’re doing it. It’s all a demonstration of his grace toward you. And his grace just goes on and on.

Did you catch the strong contrast in verse 17?  “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” This simply means the Law came to show us what’s wrong with us. But it could never fix us. The Law, by itself, is only bad news. Only Jesus can heal our brokenness. That’s good news. That’s grace.

Finally, when we receive Jesus, we receive truth.  “. . . and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  (v.17) This simply means we can believe everything Jesus has told us in his word.  This is because first, Jesus knows the truth. Also, because he always speaks the truth. Many people who talk to you every day either don’t know the whole truth about whatever they’re saying, or they’re, for some reason, not telling you the whole truth.  They’re either dishonest, or misinformed. Jesus is the only one I know whose words are absolutely trustworthy. If I read something in his word that seems wrong, or impossible, to me, I can assume the fault lies within me somewhere. I either don’t have all the facts, or I’ve misunderstood what he’s trying to say.

That’s one reason we’re so often reminded in this book how important it is to believe these words we’ve received. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)

So, I’ll ask again:  Are YOU a believer?  Are YOU a receiver?


In the Beginning . . .

Bible Reading:        John 1:1-3, 18

I take it as a fact of life that the best place to start any new project is in the beginning.  Don’t laugh.  How many do it yourself kits have your brought home and started to assemble somewhere in the middle?  When you saw things not fitting together properly, you finally decided to stop and read the directions. Again, you realized that you’re not ready for step three until you’ve completed steps one and two.  Our first steps in any new endeavor are necessary to establish the foundation and set the direction for everything that will follow.

This is especially true about your life, specifically, the construction, or re-construction of your life.  Are you sitting in the middle of a mess right now with no idea where the problems started, or where to begin fixing any of it? Are you dissatisfied right now with things as they are in your home? Or at work? In your closest relationships? Or within the depth of your soul?  Are you ok with the idea that this time next year, you could be in the exact same situation you are now? Or worse? No improvement? No learning? No growth?  Are you content to just keep repeating the same old mistakes again . . . and again . . . and again . . . ?

I guess that’s why many people attempt “New Year’s Resolutions.” But most of us by now have learned that it’s one thing to make a resolution, and an altogether different thing to keep it.  We have difficulty maintaining our willpower and self-discipline for much more than two weeks, if we last that long. I’m guessing that most of us don’t even bother to try. We’ve faced the reality that a new year changes nothing—except we all get a new calendar, with new pictures, to record a new year, during which we’ll probably continue to make the same mistakes we made last year.

We don’t need a new calendar, or a new resolution.  We need a new power source. And we need to begin—at the beginning. But where can we go to find that?


Read:  John 1:1-3  

“In the beginning was the Word. . . “   John makes it clear clear that this “Word” he is talking about is Jesus.  Jesus (the Son) was with God (the Father) from the beginning. He is the co-creator of everything, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. John boldly declares that Jesus, not only was with God, but that Jesus is also God!  These words are really a good place to begin to understand the trinity; but that’s a discussion for another time.

The essential point I’m making now is that Jesus is at the beginning of every good thing. As he was at there at the beginning of creation, he must also be at the beginning of our re-creation.  Only he knows where to begin.

Some questions come immediately to mind. First, why does John call Jesus “The Word?”  For our purpose, today, let’s recognize that our words communicate our thoughts and intentions to others. Think about it. You can’t read my mind. So if I stood before you, saying nothing, you would have no idea what I was thinking.  You might try to guess, based on my facial expression or “body language” or other circumstances, but really, you can’t know for sure. You won’t know until I begin to speak—words.

In verse 18 of this chapter, John says that “No one has ever seen God . . .” (NIV) That’s our common human problem. We’re all standing here on earth and God is in heaven.  That’s a huge gap separating us! Beyond that, God is Spirit and we are flesh.  We could never find him, even if we looked for him. How can we have a conversation? How can we possibly know what he is thinking?  Is he angry with us or pleased with us? What does he intend to do to us—or for us? Exactly what does he expect us to do?  If we wanted to have a good relationship with God, where should we begin? How should we begin?

John gives the answer to our predicament in the last part of that same verse“ the one and only Son who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father has made him known.”  (NIV) Just before that, in v. 14, John had already said that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (NIV)

In other words, Jesus came to us as one of us (“in flesh”) so he could walk with us and talk with us and reveal the Father’s intention toward us. It’s that simple. And that awesome! Why would he do that?  Why would he be willing to leave his own comfort zone to sit with us in the dirt, among the broken pieces of our lives? Beyond that, how did his experience among us, sharing life with us on our level, increase the effectiveness of his message?

Jesus came to show us how to begin a new relationship with the Father. The whole time he was on earth, Jesus continued to announce the Kingdom of God.  He explained clearly how we may enter the Kingdom, and how we should behave as citizens of the Kingdom. He healed sick people and cast out demons to demonstrate the power of that Kingdom.

 Most important, he restored our relationship with the Father when he took upon himself the guilt from our sin.  That guilt, and the fear that results from it, was the thing drove Adam and Eve to hide themselves from God in the Garden (Genesis 3:7-8) Most of us have been running and hiding from God ever since. That’s the stuff he carried the whole time he was on the cross.

We must understand that it was the combined weight of all the guilt of all the sin of all the world that really caused his suffering on the cross. He bore the pain of the whip and the thorns and the nails without complaint.  But in the agony of the guilt of all our sins, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Let’s be clear. Our broken relationship with God isn’t because God stopped talking to us.  It’s because we stopped talking to God. Jesus came to remove our guilt and fear and bring us back home—to the Father.  Know this—Jesus carried our whole load of guilt with him, into the grave.  And he left it there. When he came out of the grave three days later, he didn’t drag the old sin out with him. It’s buried! Forever! From that time, he announced his victory over both sin and death. Finally, he returned to the Father’s side. He’s still there, preparing a place for us, so we can live in fellowship with him and the Father and the Holy Spirit—forever.

Someone might say, “That’s all fine, but he’s gone now. He’s back in heaven and I’m still on earth. I’m sure Peter and John and the other disciples had a great time talking to him, but I can’t find him anywhere. For me, nothing has changed!”

Let’s go back to the original text: “In the beginning was the word.” Now, I’m talking about the written word—your Bible.  You ask, “Where can I go to begin the re-construction of my life?”  Or maybe, “How can I begin to really grow into the person God wants me to be?”  Simply put, you must begin at the beginning. Today, we have a written record of Jesus’ words and his works. We also have the collected teachings of the Apostles and the Prophets, as they spoke God’s message to us as the Spirit of God moved them to write.  Within the pages of our Bibles, we can read everything we need to know to find our way into the kingdom of God, and to live in fellowship with God, and with each other, forever. As we read, we should understand that the Holy Spirit is hovering directly above to help us clearly understand this message.

Here’s the whole point.  Every meaningful change we may desire for ourselves must begin with Jesus, the (living) Word of God.  Today, we can get to know the (living) Word within the pages of the (written) word as the Holy Spirit makes him real.  We may say that we meet the Word, in the word, with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

So, today, I want to invite you to join me on a journey through the Word of God.

Prepare a quiet place for yourself.  Set aside a regular time to rest your soul in the presence of God.  Don’t be in a hurry to leave this place. Ask (request) God to speak to you—whatever message you need to hear that day, through his word, by his Spirit.   Read.. Read thoughtfully.  Read prayerfully.  Know that it’s better to read a short passage and absorb its message than to read several chapters and forget everything five minutes later. Reflect. Write your thoughts in a Quiet Time Journal.  That way you can always go back and review the things God has been speaking to you.  And of course, we should always be sure to respond to what God has said.  Ask yourself, “What do I intend to do about this?” Write it down.

Know this, whatever damage or disappointment we’ve suffered, the Lord comes to us in quiet places, through his word, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  That’s the place we all must begin.

A Window of Grace

            Out of seventeen candidates standing on the stage, the man would have been my seventeenth pick.  The reasons were obvious.  So deeply flawed. But against all odds, he became the nominee.  I groaned.  During the general election, almost everyone on both ends of the political spectrum agreed that this was a choice between the lesser of two evils, and most of the campaign rhetoric played out that way.   Don’t we deserve better than this?  Don’t we?

No worries, they said. There’s no way he’ll win the general election. (As if that was supposed to make me feel better!  What’s the alternative?)  But after all the drama—and trauma, as the nation sat down that evening to watch the returns, half with increasing anxiety and the other half with increasing jubilation, virtually all watched with shock and surprise.  The impossible was happening before our wondering eyes.  How could this happen?  The talking heads, of course, struggled bravely, even desperately, to offer some satisfactory analysis, or rationalization, to make some sense of the situation.

Thousands took to the streets in protest.  Several notable celebrities tweeted their dismay and intent to leave the country!  Inconceivable! Unacceptable! How?  Why?  I overheard one lady in a coffee shop  announcing  that  she  was  so  “terrified”  by  the result that she didn’t even want to watch the evening  news  anymore.  O  brother!  Now what?

Theories abound, but let me offer a scriptural perspective.  “He (the Lord) changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings . . . “  (Daniel 2:21 ESV)  “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will.”  (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)  “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. . . . For he (the authority) is God’s servant for your good.”  (Romans 13:1-4 ESV) 

Please don’t miss the fact that Nero was the primary authority at the time Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans!  So, what about that idea that God can’t use an unclean vessel?  Or, to put it differently, what qualifies or disqualifies a person to be an instrument of God?

Ask Moses, a murderer and a fugitive from justice.  But after 40 years of hiding out and feeling sorry for himself, he followed his curiosity straight into the presence of God—and a new assignment, which he didn’t even want by that time. God changed him. (Exodus 2-4)

And while you’re in the neighborhood, ask Pharaoh, who consistently refused to acknowledge God’s authority (Exodus 5:2) and continually hardened his heart.  (eg. Exodus 7: 13-14)  Yet, however unwilling, he was a chosen instrument in the hand of the Lord.  (Exodus 9:16)  His stubborn action provided the occasion for one of the greatest testimonies in Israel’s history.  (Exodus 15:1-21)

Ask David, whose uncontrolled lust led him to commit adultery with the wife of Uriah, who was serving that very night in the battlefield with the armies of Israel.  In fact, Uriah’s own sense of loyalty provoked David to send an order that resulted in Uriah’s death.  (II Samuel 11)  Still, God used him.

And ask the prophet, Habakkuk, who was distressed by God’s choice of the Chaldeans as an instrument of judgment upon God’s own people, though they were even more wicked than Israel. (Habakkuk 1) Nonetheless, both Nebuchadnezzar, and later Cyrus, served God’s purposes, flawed as they were.  (II Chronicles 36:17-23; Ezra 1: 1-4; Daniel 1: 1-2; 2: 36-38.)

The point is that the sovereign God sets up and takes down whoever he wills to accomplish his own purpose.  So don’t blame the Republicans or the Democrats or the independents—or even the media here.  In the larger sense, every one of us are instruments in God’s hand.  As the record shows, whether we are willing or unwilling, however flawed we may be, each of us will contribute our part toward the accomplishment of God’s ultimate end game, which may be summarized in the simple prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6: 10)

But where does that leave us?  To be specific, should we simply conclude that, since God is in control anyway, we should just go on autopilot and ride this thing all the way to . . . wherever we’re all going?  I don’t think so.

Of course, we should continue to exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens by remaining informed and conscientious voters. But before anything else, we’re expected to pray.  As Paul declared, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. . . . I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”  (I Timothy 2: 1-4, 8)

It may be argued that, from a natural perspective, this was the most perilous time in the history of the church.  And the governing authorities were entirely to blame. (And they weren’t even Republicans—or Democrats!)

But this was also the time of the most dramatic growth in the history of the church, accompanied by dramatic demonstrations of divine presence and power.  Could it be that the ‘last days” of human history (Acts 2:17) are to be bookended by mighty outpourings of God’s Spirit?  Could it be that we are, in fact, entering the final moments of time before the Lord himself returns?  Furthermore, could it be that the prayers Paul called for then are the same kind of prayers we, as the people of God, must begin to earnestly pray today; which will bring forth the final Great Awakening which will shake, not only our nation, but the world, in preparation for the coming of the Lord?

Several observations should be made here regarding Paul’s exhortation.  First, Paul is calling for a full court press in prayer at this critical time.  His call is extended to the men (and women, given our current cultural context) “in every place.  This is to be the most all-encompassing prayer movement in the history of the church.  It must transcend all national, ethnic, denominational and theological boundaries, if we are to fulfill our calling.

While we’re at it, we should consider who we’re praying for.  Paul is clear about his desire that all people might be covered in prayer.  Don’t be put off by the magnitude of that task.  Of course, you might try doing that with a very general “God bless everybody” kind of prayer. Or you may decide to pray for certain groups of people as you become aware of special needs, perhaps in response to a report of a natural disaster, or a missionary presentation.  That’s not a bad start. But I tend to believe that the main point of the passage is more that we must all make regular prayer and intercession for others an integral part of our lifestyle.  I’m going to be so bold as to suggest that as we simply begin to obediently pray for people as the Holy Spirit lays certain ones on our heart, and especially as we pray those prayers that He inspires, and carries to the throne of God, (The Bible calls this praying in the Spirit: I Cor. 14:15;  Romans 8:26-27) He will make sure all the necessary bases are covered.  I’m afraid, for most of us, our problem isn’t so much that we can’t possibly pray for everybody, as much as we really don’t take much time to pray for anybody.  This is especially true for the ones Paul specifically instructed us to pray for, “for kings and all who are in high positions.”  Do we really believe God turns the heart of the King, or the President, or Congress, like a river in his hand?  Do our prayers reflect our faith?

Second, the tone of these prayers is critical.  Our supplications and intercessions are to be blended with times of sincere thanksgiving. This is an essential seasoning for all prayer.  Beyond this, our hearts, as well as our words, must be free of anger and quarreling.  Thanksgiving and anger simply cannot live together within the same heart at the same time. If we try that, we run the risk of taking two steps forward and three steps back within our own soul.

A church divided along lines of race, social status, secondary points of doctrine or political differences is not prepared to fulfill its God ordained ministry during these critical days. Beyond that, we must not allow our anger or frustration with those for whom we’re praying to poison our spirits, and thus, hinder the effectiveness of our supplication.  To put it another way, don’t allow the accumulated debris generated by our years of bad experiences and frustration to build up into a stubborn dam that hinders the flow of grace and mercy and healing we so desperately need right now.

Finally, what is the aim of our prayer?  It should be no surprise that, during a time of great persecution, Paul would naturally pray for “peace” and “quiet.”  But this wasn’t a selfish prayer.  It was peace for a purpose.  Paul was actually praying for opportunities to spread the good news without unnecessary hindrance.  These prayers are good and pleasing in the sight of God precisely because their ultimate end is the salvation of men and women.  Paul was always careful to align his prayers with Kingdom purposes, and so should we.  In fact, that’s the secret to praying with confidence.  (I John 5: 14-15)

So let’s pray!  I sincerely believe that God has, at this time, opened for our nation a window of grace.  This is an opportunity to pray for the healing of our land and a great in-gathering of men and women into the kingdom of God during this climactic conflict at the end of time.  But if we fail now . . .

Selah . . .

(Note)  It is NOT my intent to turn this blog into a political soapbox, so please, don’t even try.  Notice, I didn’t even use the names of the candidates.  This was deliberate.  Rather, it is my intention to use this space to speak a word to the people of God at this critical moment in time.  The question facing us all is clear. (ie) What do we do now?  The answer for all believers should be equally clear.  Above all, it’s time to pray!

Touch Us Again,Lord


Can every thoughtful person reading this at least agree that one thing we don’t need right now is one more program pushed upon us by the church?  Yes, I know, someone is asking, “But aren’t you proposing one more program for us to try?”  And I would answer, “No, I don’t want to design a program.  But I would love to do whatever I can to help inspire a movement.”  Programs are mechanical.  Movements are organic.  Programs are artificial and coercive.  Movements are natural and spontaneous.  Programs consume huge amounts of energy.  Movements generate their own energy as they go.  Most important, Jesus didn’t come to propose a new program for the world.  He came to build his church, which has always been a worldwide movement, generated by the Holy Spirit.

So the first thing to understand, while I’m talking about expanding our circles, is that I’m not talking about some elaborate visitation program, or forcing everyone to sit at racially diverse tables, discussing intrusive questions with people we haven’t even learned to trust.  That’s both manipulative and offensive.  And that’s not how the body of Christ was designed to work.

The movement I’m talking about, as I stressed in my last writing, begins in that small circle we all must draw around ourselves alone, asking God to pour out his Spirit within that circle.  This is the place for personal brokenness and confession and repentance.  Until the necessary work is done within that circle, none of us are ready to encounter anyone else.  But after we have been renewed, we’ll finally be ready to be connected, like many small streams running together, ever increasing, until a mighty river of God’s Spirit flows freely throughout our land.  Remember, everywhere this river flows—it brings life!  (Ezek. 47:9)


The question then becomes, how can these streams connect without someone planning and programming, and ultimately killing the sovereign move of God?  Is there no place for local church leadership?  Yes there is, but it will require a careful balance that won’t be easy.

In the first place, the movement I believe God wants to begin among us is too large to be contained on any single church’s agenda.  We must learn to steward and encourage the gifts God desires to place among us without yielding to the temptation to try to contain and control them out of existence.  We might as well try to bottle up the wind.  Or, as Jesus warned, we can’t carry new wine in old wineskins.  (Mt. 9:17)

Again, Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians helps us here.  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets. and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”  Stop and notice that these are gifted people placed among us for God’s own purpose.  And that purpose is . . . “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of faith . . . “  (Eph. 4:11-13 NASB)  It stands to reason that the job of “equipping” requires these leaders to inspire and instruct, as well as correct when necessary.  The aim is both maturity and fullness.  Trust me, there will be plenty for us all to do.  But the agenda can’t possibly be ours.  To accomplish the purposes of the Kingdom, it must be far beyond anything any of us can plan.  This is by God’s design—lest any man or church board or denomination could boast.

It may be helpful to recall an earlier time I believe God tried to bring racial reconciliation to our nation.  The twentieth century had just begun.  Less than fifty years earlier, the ugly stain of slavery was still laying heavily upon us as a national curse, which has not been fully broken to this day.

Earnest believers had been gathering for some time in homes, praying specifically for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Notice that the people who attended those early meetings weren’t primarily concerned with racial issues.  They were just hungry for more of God.  But God had his own agenda, which superseded their personal agendas.  He did answer their prayers, as the Holy Spirit began to be outpoured upon all flesh, in a dimension the world hadn’t experienced, perhaps since the Day of Pentecost.  (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:14-18)  Suddenly, the Holy Spirit was no longer shut up within the pages of dusty theological textbooks.  He was a living person, powerfully active among his people.  Yes, God answered their prayer; but he gave them so much more than they even thought to ask for.

You see, when the Holy Spirit begins to move among his people, he never leaves things as they were.  He always comes to clean his house.  First, he wants to throw out the trash.  Even some of the habits of thought and longstanding traditions we’ve assumed to be part of the permanent furnishings are, in heaven’s light, only broken pieces that must be thrown out.  Then, he wants to introduce gifts of his own choosing to fill his house.  (Rom. 12:6-8; I Cor. 12:7-11) In the end, we all stand together as a brand new house, the very Temple of God, overflowing with his Spirit.  (Eph. 2:19-22)

I believe one of the primary pieces of trash God intended to remove over a hundred years ago was the sin of racism.  The work began with a small congregation that met on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, beginning in about 1906.

(Note)  You can quickly google “Azusa Street Revival” and/ or “William Seymour” for more detailed information about these meetings.

William Seymour was the pastor of this congregation, and the shepherd presiding over the meetings that continued for about ten years.  These meetings inspired the most powerful missionary movement in modern history.  It should be stressed that, although Pastor Seymour shepherded this movement in its earliest days, it soon grew far beyond anything he, or any one man could oversee.  The lesson to be learned here is that no one can hope to capture or contain or control The Wind.  (John 3:8)  The Wind has his own agenda.

I should pause here long enough to recognize that there has been much disagreement about what actually happened, not only at Azusa Street; but throughout the length and breadth of the movement that began there.  I won’t begin to try to defend everything that has been said or done by “Pentecostals” or “Charismatics” through the years.  Speaking as a third generation Pentecostal, I must say that some of it has been, quite honestly, indefensible.  But I would strongly contend that God was certainly at work among his people, evidenced, not just by tongues and prophecy and healings and miracles; but by something even more compelling.

If we could somehow step into one of those early meetings on Azusa Street, as our eyes scanned the congregation, we would see a strikingly diverse group, even by our standards.  It wasn’t only racial and ethnic lines that were being crossed; but social and economic classes were being blended as well.  Looking up to the platform, we would see that the meetings were being conducted by a black man.

William Seymour was, in fact, the son of former slaves, and the victim of the racism of his day.  I’m personally angered to read that, when he asked permission to attend classes in Bible and Theology in preparation for his ministry, he was forced to sit in the hall, listening through the door.  It wasn’t considered proper to allow him to sit with the white folks!  To his eternal credit, he had enough grace to endure this insult and complete his course of study.  I’m not sure I would have.  But God had an agenda for Brother Seymour.

The meetings he began to conduct were entirely open to every color and class from the beginning.  It was as if no one even bothered to remember their “proper place” in society. Not the blacks, not the whites, not the men, not the women, not the rich, not the poor.  It was as if they all actually believed what Paul wrote to the Galatian church, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Gal. 3:28)  This was possible because the Spirit was manifestly being poured out across every conceivable boundary, including race, gender, age and social status.  Pastor Seymour often said that it was his desire that the wall separating the races would finally be destroyed, as a result of this outpouring of God’s Spirit.

And that’s exactly what seemed to be happening, until certain influential white people visited the meetings, and left with an evil report.  The tide of public opinion began to turn against this movement, still in its infancy.  It was finally determined that it was challenging enough to confront the strongly entrenched theological prejudices that insisted spiritual manifestations had ceased to exist after the first century.  They felt they could not at the same time confront the deep racial prejudices that still bound the minds of the general public.  Jim Crow laws would not be overturned in this country for another fifty years.  Finally, even Brother Seymour accepted this logic, flawed as it was.

So Black Pentecostal churches, such as the Church of God In Christ, continued to serve our black population.  White Pentecostal churches, such as the Assemblies of God, were established to serve the white communities.  And in the midst of it all, I believe God himself must have wept.  Yes, the Pentecostal churches that have been established since that time have been leaders in evangelism and spiritual renewal around the world, But I believe they have failed so far in at least one major part of their mission—the healing of the centuries old wounds left by slavery. 

These wounds are beyond the capability of any executive or legislative or judicial action. These are soul wounds that have afflicted us all.  And only the Spirit of God can heal our souls. 

In the Gospels, we may read the story of the blind man who was brought to Jesus for healing.  The first time Jesus touched him, he asked the man if he could see anything.  The man said he could see—but everyone looked like trees walking.  Undeterred, Jesus touched him one more time, after which the man could see everyone clearly.  (Mark 8:22-25)

I believe this story offers us a fitting illustration of our condition today.  For the last hundred years, people of God have continued to benefit from that long ago  touch of the Spirit.  Millions have begun to see their walk with God in an entirely new way.  But for the most part, we haven’t all been seeing clearly.  Preceding generations have told themselves that separation between the races was either entirely appropriate, or necessary under the circumstances, or just the way things are.  In this, we have not seen clearly.  I remember being told as a teenager, for example, that the Church Of God In Christ believed just like the Assemblies of God (which we attended) except that it was for black people.  That was in the mid sixties, and at the time everyone felt perfectly satisfied with that view.  We weren’t seeing clearly.  Some of us still haven’t understood that any body that is divided can’t possibly be functioning at full capacity.  We’re missing vital parts!

So, in this day, as our society shows increasing signs of disintegrating along racial lines, and as brothers and sisters of every color emerge from our personal places of confession and repentance, and as we look up and see each other across a great divide, may we unite in one great prayer, “Touch us again, Lord! Let us finally see all things clearly.” 

But how can we connect?  And what do we have to say to each other after all this time?  That’s a conversation for next time. Until then . . .


PreserveThe Unity of The Spirit

Let’s be clear. I’m not writing this to everyone. This word is intended only for those who identify themselves as members of the Body of Christ. Notice I didn’t say “Christians.” Anyone can call himself or herself a “Christian.”   I’m more concerned with what’s behind the label. Has the Spirit of God immersed you into his body, making you an integral part of God’s own self-manifestation on earth? If you understand this question, and if you can say an honest, heartfelt YES to my question, I’m talking to you. The rest of you are welcome to listen, of course, but understand that you aren’t my immediate target audience.

Recent events have threatened the fabric of our nation. Many are of the opinion that this fabric has been irreparably torn. Many are saying that we have been torn for a very long time—We’ve just been in denial until now.

As the seams continue to come further apart, there will be those who instinctively run to embrace, ever more tightly, whatever social or political or economic agendas they have been carrying all along. By the way, how has that been working for us? Are we really expecting better results going forward as we continue to do the same things? In this election year, politicians take turns offering analysis and condemnation, along with their own proposed solutions in an attempt to attract attention and win votes; but it all only serves to remind us that we’re way past the time for empty political rhetoric—from either side. In frustration, some have turned to violence, as if that can solve anything. Too much noise. Too little listening. Too much heat. Too little light.

Is it possible that we are, in fact, so deeply wounded that only God can heal us? Are we, as a nation, finally being forced to admit that our help cannot possibly come either from the right or from the left? It can only come from above—and from within. If so, that’s a good thing! That’s exactly what I want to talk about . . . to the body of Christ.

Truthfully, the deep, ugly reality of racial division, suspicion and hatred has threatened this body from its earliest times. In those days, the wall was between the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul referred to this as a “dividing wall of hostility.” (Eph. 2:14 ESV) The Jews were the privileged few, or so they considered themselves. In their arrogance, they determined to keep themselves segregated from the rest of us, broadly identified as “Gentiles.” And that was the nice term they used for us. A quick survey of the second chapter of Ephesians will yield the following descriptions of us and our condition: “dead in trespasses and sins . . . sons of disobedience . . .children of wrath (by nature) . . . uncircumcision (used as a racial slur) . . . separated . . . strangers . . . having no hope . . . without God . . . far off . . . aliens . . . . Please understand that every “good” Jew of that day would read that list and heartily agree with each descriptor. But please also understand that every indictment could have been equally applied to those same Jews. (Remember that Paul gives us a new twist, even on the idea of circumcision. Rom. 2:28-29)

You see, “sin” and “disobedience” and “wrath” and “separation” and “alienation” and “hopelessness” are not uniquely Jewish conditions or Gentile conditions. Neither are they black conditions or white conditions, by the way. They are our common human condition. And the only sufficient cure for this common human condition of sin and the resultant condition of separation and hopelessness is the amazing grace of God. (Eph. 2:4-8)

Only God can tear down the walls that have so long divided us. Only God can bring together those who have been far apart, ending the hostility and speaking peace over us all. Only God can turn aliens and strangers into fellow citizens—even members of his own household. Living stones, placed side by side in the temple of God, indwelt by his Holy Spirit.

If you were to show up in the middle of the mayhem we’ve recently experienced in our streets—in Dallas . . . or St. Paul . . . or Baton Rouge . . . announcing this offer of deep healing and reconciliation, you would be immediately dismissed as a religious fanatic with no meaningful grasp of the real life issues that confront our society today. Nevertheless, I want to boldly declare that God’s solution is our only viable option today.

But who has the capacity to hear—and understand—and respond to this incredible message of hope? The world won’t—even can’t. (Rom. 8:7-8) So the church, the Body of Christ, must. (Rom, 8:9-11) Yes, the healing must begin within the household of faith. (II Chron. 7:13-14) So I’m talking to you.

I was pleased to see so many churches in our (Dallas) area completely change the format of their Sunday services, following the shootings. Our own pastor canceled an out of town trip to stay home and shepherd his own congregation. Every service (Sat. pm and both Sunday morning services) was turned into a prayer meeting—for God to heal us all. I’m sure many pastors changed their sermons between Thursday night and Sunday morning. It was suggested that no one in town was simply conducting business as usual. And, at least in our case, these weren’t “business as usual” prayers. These were the heartfelt cries of the people of God in a time of crisis. Oh God—forgive our sins, and heal our land!

Of course most of these prayers arose from all black—or all white congregations. Don’t miss the irony of that fact. It has been said, justifiably, that the hour between 11:00 and 12:00 on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week in most of our American churches. But for now, I want to make a different point. I want to look at the content of our prayers.

Instinctively, we gather in our localized prayer circles and pray, “Oh God, make us one.” Or words to that effect. And in one sense, that’s an entirely appropriate prayer, given our circumstances. But that prayer is missing one vital point.

The plain truth is, we have already been made one—a long time ago! We haven’t believed it, perhaps. We certainly haven’t been acting like it. But it isn’t like we’re asking God to do something new in the earth—something he hasn’t already purposed and planned and provided.

With his last breath, Jesus declared for all heaven and earth and even hell to hear, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Paul writes of this event, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2:14-18) I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that one of the things that was “finished” on the cross was the reconciliation of all God’s people, from every race, into one body, one household, one holy temple! (cf. vss. 19-22; 4:4-6) In another place he declares, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:13)

This is why Paul doesn’t call upon us to obtain unity of the Spirit, but rather to maintain the unity already provided for us! Listen carefully. Listen prayerfully. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness with patience bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)

I think it’s important to remember that we aren’t starting from zero here. We’re simply called to remember what Christ has already done, repent of our willful negligence, and re-align ourselves with this kingdom truth. I say, “simply,” but I need to quickly recognize that the depth of work required here is far beyond anything we can accomplish in our flesh. For this work to be done at the required level, we are absolutely dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. We’re that broken. Until we can admit that to ourselves—and to each other—we have no possible hope of recovery.

So the first conversation we must have is with ourselves—and with God. As broken individuals, we must fall before the cross of Christ, where the work was done two thousand years ago. Each of us must draw a circle around ourselves, as it were, and humbly ask God to pour out his Spirit within that circle, without regard for anyone else beyond that immediate boundary. Let me be clear. This isn’t the time to push blame off on any other person or group. This is the time for each individual to own his or her personal responsibility for the mess we’re in. We need God to show us our own sin that we haven’t been able or willing to see until now. But now we must, or we’ll all perish. Only after we’ve done that necessary work, will we be ready to get up and move beyond our personal circles to connect with anyone else.

But after that, we must connect. At first we’ll connect with our own immediate circle of relationships, and most likely, they’ll be people who already look a lot like us, and think a lot like us, and share similar life experiences. That’s not a bad start, as long as it doesn’t end there. Eventually, as soon as we’re able, we need to intentionally expand our circles. But that’s the subject of my next writing.

Until then . . . Selah.

Gone Fishin’

Reading: John 21:1-14

Think about it:

Peter had a lot to think about. So he did the reasonable thing. He went fishing. He had to come to terms with his own recent failure. Jesus had predicted it. How had he known? What fatal flaw had Jesus detected within him? Why? Did all that make him unfit for kingdom service after all? But Jesus had called him “A Rock.” Some rock! And Jesus had said he would fish for men. Peter felt like a walking self contradiction.

But Peter had been right there with the others that night when Jesus appeared to them. He spoke peace to them. He told them that he was sending them out . . . Where? When? And when he had breathed on them, and said “Receive the Holy Spirit,” something had stirred deep within him. So much to think about . . . and a lot of time for thinking, as the fish didn’t seem to be cooperating that night . . . all night.

In the morning, they began to return to the shore with nets empty, and heads full of disturbing thoughts. And there he was. But they didn’t know him at first. Then, it was as if they were re-playing a scene from the earlier days. No fish? Cast your nets on the other side. Here we go, because you say so—a tug at the nets—fish are everywhere! It all seemed so familiar. Wait a minute—That’s Jesus!

I think the following scene must have been comical, with the disciples shouting and pointing. And Peter, never content to just remain in the boat, had to jump in and splash his way to the shore. By the way, he may be the only man on record to put his clothes on before jumping into the water. It isn’t clear whether this decision was prompted by modesty or confusion. But there he was, coming up out of the water—dripping wet—breathless—to meet the Lord. And the Lord had breakfast already cooking on the fire.

Now, that’s interesting. These men had just spent the whole night, trying to catch something that the Lord had already prepared for them—as he waited for them to finally show up. The fish they had caught were in their nets, not due to their own skills; but because of their simple obedience. Then when they arrived, Jesus asked them to bring the fish they had caught to add to the fish he had already prepared, as if to say, you can’t do this by yourself—but I won’t do everything for you. Bring what you have—and add it to what I already have—and we’ll have breakfast together. Isn’t that how the kingdom works?

So the fishermen got a fishing lesson there on the shores of Galilee. And Peter got time to think. Not a bad night’s work after all.

On the third day . . .

Read: Matthew 28:1-9; Romans 8:11; Ephesians 2:6-7

Think about it:

It was almost dawn, and thing were beginning to happen. After Friday’s darkness. After Saturday’s silence. The sun comes up on Sunday!

Suddenly, the tomb is the place to be. Jesus has been there three days. The guards were posted shortly after his burial. The women are on the way.
I have to wonder, by the way, what they expected to see. Do you think they remembered the words of Jesus—and expected the tomb to be empty? Why do we so quickly forget the promises?

The silence is shattered by an earthquake. Another one. (cf. Mt. 27:51) God is shaking and moving . . . again! It seem that this particular earthquake was caused by an angel who rushed down from heaven, overpowered the Roman guards, and rolled away the stone. Then he sat on it. I just love that picture! More about that later . . .

Then the Holy Spirit showed up. According to Paul, it was the Holy Spirit who entered the tomb on that day and pierced the death and darkness with resurrection life. And Jesus stepped out! And glory was all around.

Finally, we’ve come to the place God has indeed been leading us. After Gethsemene . . . after Golgotha . . . after the Grave . . . I’m referring now to the journey we’ve all been on with Jesus during this series of meditations. The call to follow the Lord has taken us to places we never wanted to visit. Each of us, in our own time, in our own way must know what it is to be broken, and crucified, and yes—even buried. But that’s never the end of our story. Someone once said, “If you’re a Christian, your worst day can never be your last day!”

Did you really think God intended to just leave you in whatever grave the enemy of your soul has dug for you? That has never been God’s ultimate purpose concerning you. Not a literal grave, and not even an emotional or spiritual grave. God stands ready to roll away whatever stone has been sealing off your access to the life he has promised you. He’ll not only roll it away—he’ll sit on it! Complete triumph! And he’ll call you to come sit with him.

He is risen indeed!

On the second day . . .

Read: Matthew 27:57-66

Think about it:

Finally, silence . . . fade to black.

Everyone had done everything they could possibly do. Even Satan had done his worst by now. The earth’s rulers, both political and religious, had conspired together, against the Lord, who now hung limp upon a cross.

The only thing left for the few remaining faithful followers was to receive the body, and prepare it for burial. Joseph offered his own tomb for the purpose. He who had no place to lay his head in life, was finally placed in a borrowed tomb at his death.

It seems the only ones who recalled his promise to rise in three days were the chief priests. So, they again made their plans to secure the grave against any attempted robbery. A Roman seal. Armed guards. The story of Jesus is finally finished, as far as they were concerned. But after all hell has done its worst—God is only beginning.

Remember, we’ve been using this story of Jesus’ road to Jerusalem, and finally, to the cross as a kind of road map for our own spiritual journey. We’ve traveled with him to Gethsemene, and then to Golgotha. And now, we’re in the grave.
We need to understand the grave on two levels. On the purely human level, it is the end of the line. Your story ends here, and frankly, you’re soon forgotten. Quick—what were the names of your great grandparents? All of them. Ok, what about your great-great grandparents? See what I mean?

In case there was any question about your death earlier, the grave ends all doubt. Then again, only God really knows when we’ve truly passed from Gethsemane to Golgotha to the Grave. While we’re in here, notice how quiet it is? Kinda peaceful. . . The ultimate “time-out.”

But God sees the grave from a different perspective. I like to call this God’s ICU. This is where our healing begins. Each of us must first experience the breaking, then, the re-making. That’s really what God has been moving us toward all along. Don’t ask how long we’ll have to stay here. There’s really no way to say. But that doesn’t bother dead people.

So, while family and friends weep, and enemies celebrate . . . God is quietly doing a powerful work within us, right there in the grave. Broken things are being fixed. Missing things are being restored. Every inappropriate thing is being removed. The Spirit of God is a master surgeon. He’s doing it all. But he needs time. And now is the perfect time—while everything is quiet—on this second day


Read: Matthew 27: 11-50

Think about it:

After Jesus experienced Gethsemane, where did he go next? Golgotha. This is the place where we finally die. This is the ultimate testing place for that prayer we prayed with Jesus—back there in the garden. Did you really mean it? How serious were you? Jesus not only accepted this road for himself, he called his disciples to follow him. (Matt. 16:21-25) It’s behind Jesus’ statement about the grain of wheat that must first die. (John 12:24) Paul announced that he had already followed Jesus down that road. (Gal. 2:20) It should be clear that we aren’t necessarily talking about literal martyrdom here. In many ways, this is something much more difficult. It often requires a daily choice on our part. (I Cor. 15:31)
When we’ve finally come to the end of ourselves; when we don’t have one more great idea; when we have finally abandoned all hope that we can make it with our own natural talents, our broken bats; when we finally acknowledge that Jesus was right all along—without him, we can do nothing (John 15:5) —we have finally come to Golgotha.

At the same time, there are certain unmistakable indicators that the old man isn’t quite dead yet. The “corpse” . . . isn’t. For one thing, if a corpse is truly a corpse, he’s stopped complaining about his condition, or how unfair everyone has been to him. You also won’t find him criticizing the other people in the room—living or dead. It just won’t be that important anymore. A corpse will never rise up to ask, “Are we finished here?” And if you ever hear a corpse start to boast about what he has done, or can do, or will do—just mark it down—that ain’t no corpse. A corpse has nothing to prove. Nothing to hide. And nothing to fear.

And don’t bother trying to play dead—just so you can finally move on up. I believe God allows most of the insults and irritations that come to us for the express purpose of proving how dead we really are—or aren’t. It’s amazing how many dead men jump up off the table the first time someone crosses them. What did you say? What are you trying to do? Not so fast, buddy! In a heartbeat, which a true corpse definitely wouldn’t have, he can jerk off the sheet that covers him and throw it at whoever is in his way.

We’ve come so far down this road with Jesus. We thought this train was bound for Glory. But so far, we’ve been broken, and finally crucified. It looks like we’ve come to the end of the road.

But we haven’t.

The road to glory . . .

Read: Matthew 8: 19-20; Luke 22: 39-46
Think about it:

The first part of today’s reading actually reaches back to an earlier scene on this road. Think of this as the man on the T.V. saying, “Previously on the Road to Glory. . .” Then we’ll catch up to “real time.”

The man might have been a recent seminary graduate. Anyway, that’s what he would have been in today’s context. Matthew calls him a scribe (a teacher of the Law) and his enthusiasm seems to me to be indicative of youth. He suddenly pushed himself forward out of the crowd. Had he been running? Was he a little out of breath? He didn’t waste words. “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus must have studied him for a moment.

His answer was neither a rejection, nor an invitation. It was a simple statement of fact. Essentially, he informed the man that he didn’t even know where he would sleep that night. We don’t even have a reservation in Motel 6. How are you with sleeping under the stars? He must have continued to hold his gaze for a few seconds, as if to say, Are you sure you know what you’re asking for? We aren’t told what that man chose to do with that information.

I wonder—exactly where did this man think Jesus was going? I’m sure he had heard the rumors. Is he a prophet? Is he Elijah? Could he even be the Christ? He might have witnessed some of the miracles himself. Maybe he had heard Jesus teach like no man had ever taught before. Hadn’t Jesus been announcing everywhere he went that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand? This man had to believe that Jesus and his followers were, in fact, bound for Glory—and he wanted to waste no time getting on board.

The truth is, we all stand in the place of that man. We’ve all heard the reports and the promises. We’ve seen some things. We have high hopes. We all pray, “Thy Kingdom come . . . “ We eagerly look forward to the glory that will be revealed. (Rom. 8:18) If we could just fast forward—past all the bothersome stuff that keeps getting in our way—everything would be perfect. Yes, Lord, wherever you lead—we’ll follow. Anywhere. And Jesus just looks at us, as if to study us from the inside out, before he ever says a word. Finally, the invitation comes. Follow me.

So what’s the first stop on our itinerary? On this road to Glory? Would you be surprised to learn that the first stop is—Gethsemane? This is the place where our will is broken.

Our will never breaks easily. But it must break. It’s the final thing that stands in the way of God really being our God. God can’t possibly be our God as long as our will continually trumps his when it comes to our life choices. In the daily contest of wills, which we all experience, whoever wins this contest becomes, in fact, our God.

While we’re at it, this might be a good place to say that I’ve decided that there’s really only one sin. Everything else is just a symptom of this one sin. And that sin is—failure to let God be God. That is the one sin whose roots go all the way back to the garden. (Gen 3:5)

Even Jesus had to pray, “Thy will be done.” But it’s another thing to actually surrender our will. This much is sure. Our sincerity will be tested every time we pray that prayer.

Our tendency is to approach this like we would a spoonful of bad tasting medicine. Just swallow it quickly and be done with it. Hold your nose if you must. Ok, we did it. Now—let’s get on to the good stuff. Where do we go from here, Lord? What’s the next stop?

Can you guess?