Monday, June 28, 2010

Caught Up

Crowds of people standing at hot air balloon festival as balloons are lifting off,
It happens to all of us. That moment when we lose our thoughts and are caught up in something just so utterly pleasurable that words never measure up. Sometimes I watch my wife eating popcorn and I imagine when she was a little girl and the pleasure that popcorn gave her. She is so relaxed and at ease. In sports, it’s known as being in the zone.

She’s not alone. I get caught up whenever I eat chocolate. It is a pleasure for which there are no words. With chocolate there is no half-stepping. You love it or you don’t. Chocolate isn’t an indulgence for the half-hearted.

That’s what happens when you have an experience for which there are no words. I remember having that sensation when I realized I found my career path in Information Technology. There was a child-like joy which gave me elation. Often, I would catch myself smiling with the realization that I had achieved something important in my life; believing I would be able to take care of my family. That was very important to me. It wasn’t the laughter which Sarah erupted into when she heard the Lord tell her husband Abraham that he would become a father, but it was my joy blessed to me by God.

Then the LORD said, I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?'1

Sarah couldn’t imagine being caught up in that kind of pleasure at the age of ninety. But the pleasure of being caught up isn’t just for our youth.

There are all types of pleasures we can find ourselves caught up in when we forget who and what we are. Being caught up in that moment of pleasure can be either good or bad. There is the pleasure of giving birth.

Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.' And she added, 'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.'2

There is also the pleasure of excess. I’ve heard it said, “There’s no such thing as having too much of a good thing.” But the morgue and cemetery house many who lived in the pleasures of excess only to fall asleep and never open their eyes again.

I believe God gave us pleasure so we could have the experiences it provides but He never intended us to abuse the sensation of pleasure. There is the pleasure of a meal and the pleasure one gets from a kind word. A drink may give one a pleasurable experience and wearing a certain kind of clothing can give one pleasure. The first time you sit behind the wheel of your car may give you pleasure.

I believe there is a tremendous difference between gratification and pleasure. Gratification is purely a physical sensation which can never be fully satisfied, because it seeks to get more. The drug addict seeks gratification, the alchoholic seeks gratification, the gambler seeks gratification and the abuser seeks gratification. Gratification is in a sense a perversion of pleasure because it is driven to satisfy self; gratification is rooted in selfishness. Pleasure on the other hand does not seek to merely gratify you at the physical level. Pleasure touches your thoughts, rekindling past memories. Pleasure also seeks to touch your soul and spirit as well.

The most enjoyable pleasures are those given and received; these pleasures linger in our thoughts as long as we live. We may never acknowledge them but we may find ourselves sitting on the sofa eating popcorn without a care in the world.

The least enjoyable pleasures are the one’s which we steal for ourselves. We steal them because we are driven by our own lust to have. That lust can never be satisfied. It is demanding and unyielding. Like the blood-thirsty plant in the movie Little Shop of Horrors3, it screams the demand, “Feed me!” Eventually, we no longer find pleasure in the experience; it is just something we do. Still, we are caught up in it.

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.4

Here are four questions to consider:
  1. Where is your heart?
  2. What are you caught up in?
  3. What gives you pleasure?
  4. Does your pleasure give birth to pain?
Have you ever allowed yourself to be caught up in the joy of the Lord? A joy you’ve allowed yourself to experience. For some it is a physical experience, for some it is an emotional experience which touches the soul. For others it is a spiritual experience. When it is a spiritual experience, it will often be a shared experience for soul and body as well. What does it take to be caught up in the joy of the Lord? Three things are absent when one experiences the joy of the Lord:
  1. The absence of fear
  2. The absence of shame
  3. The absence of regret
Fear paralyzes a person so that they are unable to experience the freedom to do what pleases God. God has set you free to do His good pleasure, so you ought to want to experience what that is like. When you let go of your fears, you find a release within yourself. When you experience that joy to do something for God or someone other than yourself, it is like nothing that words can describe.

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might…5

David felt fearless; he was unafraid in the presence of the Lord. What happened to him was spontaneous and unrehearsed; he danced before the Lord. We are forever in the presence of the Lord, whatever we do; it should be done towards his good pleasure. When it is spontaneous, there is a special joy He shares with you. The absence of fear frees me to be caught up in the life and joy of the Lord.

Shame is the result of standing in the shadows; like when you feel the need to run and hide. There is no shame in being caught up in the joy of the Lord. Your life becomes illuminated from his presence; you are transported from a kingdom of darkness in the Kingdom of God’s own Son. Shame is replaced by God’s love and when you feel God’s love, really feel His love, you won’t ever want to feel shame as a substitute.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.6

Our shame has been removed by Christ Jesus. We can endure many things without ever giving up because of Jesus. Knowing that I can go on in spite of what happens around me gives me great comfort. But the truth is that I know my redeemer lives and because of Him, I’m alive. I live and I’m able to experience joy in my life. The absence of shame means that I no longer need to hide in the shadows; I can bask in the glorious light of Christ.

Regret is the deception that things were better back then. We are fooled into thinking that we cannot and will not enter into the promises of God. Instead of joy, we live a life of sorrow and regret.

But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.7

Salt is viewed as a preservative but in this instance what is preserved is a rebellious life. How can you experience deliverance, a new life and the fulfillment of God’s promises only to look back and say:

Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place?8

The truth is that our old life is dead and buried in Christ. God wants you to experience the full joy of living…to be caught up in moment after moment; enjoying the life you’ve been given. Don’t regret it for one minute. Live in the presence of God and you will experience the absence of regret.

  1. Genesis 18:10-12, NIV
  2. Genesis 21:6-7, NIV
  3. Little Shop of Horrors, Produced by Roger Corman, Directed by Roger Corman, Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith
  4. Matthew 6:21, NIV
  5. II Samuel 6:14, NIV
  6. Hebrews 12:2, NIV
  7. Genesis 19:26, NIV
  8. Genesis 20:5, NIV

  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Internet Archive, 300 Funston Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94118.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Father and son proclaiming faith,

To me, the word father has two meanings, one describes who a person is and the other says what a person does. What a person does in life is based on WHO THEY ARE. A man has the capacity to be a FATHER, but a male doesn't have to be a man to father a child.

Mother, father and daughter hiking, Fotosearch.comI have learned that both my manhood and identity are challenged as I tried to fulfill my role as a father; I believe this happens with all men. We struggle, but who really knows our struggles? Who can we talk to? Who understands?

It is Christ who is intimately acquainted with me. He knows both my struggles as a father and a man. His promise to me is to never leave or forsake me.

Father and son on the beach, Fotosearch.comFirst, I have always been comforted by the reassuring forgiveness, love, patience, understanding and guidance of Jesus Christ. In this, I share a bond and heritage with all Christian fathers: Fatherhood and Christ.

Through Christ, I learn of the love and grace of our Heavenly Father. The pattern He gives me is a clear, truthful and perfect example of fatherhood.

Secondly, I have learned parental love through the life of my wife. As a parent, she has remained constant, tireless and caring. I find it amazing that women have a capacity to teach men how to love without ever saying a word. I share this bond with her and others who are called to be parents.

Children kissing their father, Fotosearch.comFinally, my children have given me opportunities to be patient with them but they have been infinitely more patient with me; their love knows no bounds. I believe this is why Jesus enjoyed the presence of children. He saw in them what many eyes fail to see; unfailing love and trust. Through them, I share a unique bond with others called to be fathers.

God bless you today and every day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Faith That Intercedes

As I now begin the next six week phase of recovery I’m reflecting on the past and looking ahead to my future. The past six weeks have been a long, arduous journey for me. Physical pain gives one a perspective that empathizes with those who suffer. Due to surgery, I’ve not had the privilege of reading blogs I’d become so comfortable following. In such a short time, so many of you have touched my life; I’ve missed the fellowship each of you gives through your writing.

I’ve asked myself “What will I say to my fellow believers in Christ and to those who happen to find their way to my page, when I return to this community of bloggers?” I realize that time is something I value and so I must say I value you and the time you give me here.

I’m thankful for so many friends and family members who’ve shared an encouraging word, prayed and given me food or drink. I cried tears of thanks to God for those who’ve so touched me with the love of God demonstrated through their acts of kindness and words of affection. Through each person, God has allowed me to see a faith that intercedes.

I’ve always viewed intercession as the act of praying for another; but I now believe it encompasses so much more. There are only nine references to intercession in the bible and only one reference to the word intercessor. Although very little may have been written in scripture, I believe God would have us understand and apply the principles of intercession to our daily living.

The Hebrew word paga (paw-gah’) is used for both intercession and intercessor. It means to impinge, by accident or violence, or (figuratively) by importunity: -- come (betwixt), cause to entreat, fall (upon), make intercession, intercessor, intreat, lay, light [upon], meet (together), pray, reach, run.

The Greek word for intercession is derived from the word huper (hoop-er’) which means placing above, beyond or across for the sake of, regarding another to be superior to. To intercede in behalf of: -- make intercession for.

To me, intercession has the mindset of helping another who may be in need, distress or trouble; The Good Samaritan1 is a biblical example of an intercessor. It is the principle behind loving one’s neighbor above your own self. An intercessor answers the questions:
  1. Who is my brother?
  2. Who is a friend?
First, we have the Intercession of Christ, who as our High Priest serves as mediator between God and humanity. Christ as our High Priest sits on the right hand of God, pleading for each of us. He is therefore viewed as our Advocate. The prayers and praises of all believers are made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This is referenced by Isaiah:

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.2

The intercession of Christ is threefold:
  1. He intercedes for the world
  2. He intercedes for the Christian community
  3. He intercedes for individuals (particularly those who trust in Him)
Secondly, we have the Intercession of the Holy Spirit which Paul spoke of in Romans 8:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.3

There have been nights when I’ve been unable to sleep due to the pain from surgery and I was unable to express to God in a coherent manner my need. Oftentimes, I found myself simply uttering the word, Jesus. I believe the Holy Spirit interpreted my innermost desire and conveyed it to the Father, easing my pain and allowing me to rest.

Thirdly, there is the Intercession of Christians whom the Bible instructs to:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.4

This is the privilege and duty we as Christians inherit; powerfully and effectively, demonstrating genuine, sincere and loving acts toward others. It does not supersede the intercessory work of Christ and the Holy Spirit but it does give us opportunity to demonstrate God’s love through us to those in need.

It was no accident that Christ died a violent death, a death which paid the penalty for our sin. It can be no accident when we see others in need (spiritual, emotional, or physical); we must act with purpose to feed the hungry, shepherd the orphans and widows, sheltering the homeless, ministering to the sick and praying for our country’s leaders, those who work in government, those who provide jobs for us, that we may be blessed and our nation flourish.

It is your faith in Christ that ushers in the attitude of an intercessor. Through faith, we are given opportunities to minister and touch the lives of others. We may not see the end results of our intercession but our faith assures us that God will respond. Each day, we can intercede for someone, through prayer and acts of faith; sharing God’s love. Keep in mind the privilege and duty bestowed upon you.

Here is a list of prayer requests I use as a template for others:
  1. May your life glow brightly with the love and grace of God
  2. May your thoughts be guided by God's wisdom and truth
  3. May your words always echo sincerity and compassion
  4. May your eyes see what is needed in the lives of others
  5. May your ears hear and never be ashamed
  6. May your kindness bring healing to soothe away many hurts
  7. May your steps be guided to walk in everlasting light
  8. May you always remember the goodness of God
  9. May you teach those who come after you of God's grace
  10. May God's love always enrich and bless others through you

  1. Luke 10:30-37, NASB
  2. Isaiah 53:12, NIV
  3. Romans 8:26, NIV
  4. James 5:16, NIV

  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA