Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Month: July 2021

But if He doesn’t…

There is a wonderful story in the Bible that many are familiar with. In Daniel 3, captive Jewish young men are threatened with death by fire, if they refuse to bow down to the golden image. The rest of the story is that God intervenes, an angel or a preincarnate appearance of Christ is with them in the fire. They come out unharmed. Its truly a miracle.

These are the stories that we enjoy to hear. I am a classic Pentecostal preacher. This passage is made for a Pentecostal preacher! I firmly believe that the same God who did those things back then, still does them today.

I believe that God still raises the dead to life, like He did back then. I believe God still makes blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, lame walk, minds restored… like He did back then.

In the middle of Daniel 3, there is a testimony that we need to take note of. Earlier this year I was listening to Dr. Tim Hill preaching from this passage. He also wrote a Grammy Award winning song about this passage, “He’s Still in the Fire.” Brother Hill mentioned this phrase, “but what if He doesn’t?”

Those words leaped into my ears and into my heart.

The young men told the king this testimony: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue that you have set up.” Daniel 3:17,18 NLT

Do you see those four words italicized? “But if He doesn’t.” It is almost as though the young men are giving God an out. He is able. He will. But if He doesn’t.

“But if He doesn’t” is not a good selling point. It doesn’t give way to television appearances or interviews on the news. The losing team doesn’t get invited to the White House. The doctor who didn’t find the cure doesn’t get to write about it in the journals of medicine. The school teacher with average student achievement doesn’t get the plaque of recognition.

We love winners. We want our God to be a winner, and it seems almost intolerable for God “not to come through.”

The truth be told, there are many accounts of “but if He doesn’t” in scripture. Hebrews 11 is called “the Hall of Fame of Faith.” Right on the heels of those who were delivered, we find these words, “…and others were tortured, no accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea moreoever of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword…” Hebrews 11:35-37 KJV.

The list continues, and concludes with saying that none of them received what God had promised. It was in the future where their hope lay.

Moses didn’t get to see the promise land, David didn’t get to build the temple, James got beheaded, but Peter got delivered. “But if He doesn’t” means that sometimes He won’t.

Have you believed God for a healing in your body? Have you soaked your bed with tears over a lost loved one, or a wayward child? Do you struggle financially, no matter how hard you work? Did you lose everything you had during a crisis…man made or otherwise?

You are in good company.

Is it frustrating when we work hard and don’t succeed? Absolutely. Is it hurtful when we prepare just as much, or even more, than the other guy at work – and he gets the promotion. It is real life when one minister labors in prayer, preaching, pastoring; only to see others perpetually have favorable conditions.

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He was one of the exiled people. God had promised that His people would indeed go into captivity for 70 years…and that He would bring them out after that. At the end of his prophecy, Habakkuk gives this anthem of faith: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.” 3:17,18 NKJV

Wow! what an encouragement, and what a challenge. Even if He doesn’t faith is the God-kind of faith.

You see, God himself took the greatest step of faith when He gave Jesus into the hands of sinners. Jesus would have come to the earth, lived a sinless life, died the most horrible death in the eyes of man, become the supreme sacrifice for salvation, and rose from the dead; even if no one believed.

Perhaps we take that for granted. What if no one believed? “Even if… they don’t,” was what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did.

The end of the story for everyone that did not receive the promise in this life, was that they will in the life to come.

But what if He doesn’t? Well, that’s just a matter of time!

God Tapping His Foot

Now that I live in California, I’ve experienced a couple “earthquakes.” I used quotation marks, because they were more like tremors, but we could feel it. The first one happened in spring of 2020. Faith and I live near railroad tracks, and a very busy road. We felt a “flump” and wondered if a car had crashed, or a train had derailed.

People at church said that we were now true Californians!

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas have been put in prison for telling others about Jesus, and specifically, seeing a woman in human trafficking set free. They are both put in the lowest of the dungeons, shackled, with a heavy guard.

About midnight, Paul and Silas began praying and singing to the Lord.

If I were put in jail, I have to confess that I probably wouldn’t be singing and praying…at least the way they were. Acts 16:25, “…and the other prisoners were listening.” They were a captive audience. (sorry, I went there)

Here’s what happens in the rest of the story:

  • they pray and sing, while in pain and inconceration
  • all of the prisoners chains fall off, along with theirs
  • the prison guard decides to kill himself, (this would have been an advantage to the prisoners)
  • the jailer’s attempted suicide is stopped by Paul and Silas
  • the jailer gets saved, along with his entire family
  • Paul and Silas are cleared of all charges

What was it that caused a massive earthquake? Of course, there are some that would say it was purely coincidental. That’s the natural answer.

The super-natural answer is found in the text, “they prayed and sang hymns..” The word “hymn” is “to sing praises.” The singing of hymns was directly correlated to the Psalms of praise, (hallel) in Psalm 113-118. In Psalm 114 we read this lyric “tremble, o earth, at the presence of the Lord..”

As they were singing in the jail, God was listening in heaven. They must have had good rhythm, because the next thing you know, the earth – God’s footstool – is trembling, shaking, quaking.

God started tapping his foot on his footstool. He enlisted the rocks for a percussion section.

Doug Small says, “God doesn’t answer prayer, He answers people.” Paul and Silas began to pray TO God and SING the word of God. The Lord just couldn’t help himself.

What results of praying and praising!

Why not examine your current situation. Are people in similar circumstances listening to your prayers and song? Does your language sound just like theirs? Paul and Silas had the eyes and ears of every prisoner and the jailer that night. The next day, they had the eyes and ears of the governing authority.

When we decide, in the middle of the worst of things, to pray and declare God’s word in song, God listens, and He answers.

He might even tap his foot!

Meeting Quentin Tarantino

In April of this year (2021), Faith and met Chuck and Ariel in L.A. for a week of fun. We toured Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, and other “must see” sites. One thing I wanted to do was to visit Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. It has the iconic sign.

I had no idea when I made pilgrimage to Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank that I would meet Quentin Tarantino. Our server informed us that many celebrities had lunch there. Jay Leno started doing a car show there, back when he hosted the Tonight Show.

I went there to eat a burger and got to meet a celebrity.

Prayer is way better than meeting a celebrity.

Mr. Tarantino was cordial, but he wouldn’t let me take a selfie with him, or give an autograph. He wasn’t there to meet with me, he was there to eat a hamburger and to work on his notes.

What I had hoped was that Quentin Tarantino would have said, “sit down here. Why don’t you tell me all about yourself. Do you have any good ideas for a movie? I’d love to hear them. How about your family? Are they here with you?”

That did not happen.

Jesus, the living Son of God, the savior of the world, God in the flesh, King of Kings, Lord of Lords – has an overwhelming desire to meet with us. Andrew Murray calls this meeting “the wonderful privilege of prayer.”

In Revelation 3, we see Jesus outside the door of His church in Laodecia. He has had some sharp words for them. They are in bad shape; they are the dictionary definition of apathy, as regarding their spiritual climate.

The famous picture of Jesus knocking at the door was taken from this verse, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 KJV) We apply this to one’s personal salvation, but when you examine the text, you discover that Jesus is looking for someONE… just ONE that will give Him entry into the dying church, and eat a wonderful meal; to commune with Him.

Prayer is an invitation to the mercy seat. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father; the place of mercy. In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, God had given them a beautiful portrait of intercession. “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim…” Exodus 25:21,22.

Its not the judgment seat He longs to meet you at, its the mercy seat!

In Revelation and in Exodus, it would appear that God is the primary speaker. He’s going to “speak with” us, He’s going to “sup” with us. All we have to do is open the door.

Maybe you view prayer as something reserved for the Spiritual Special Forces. The heart beat of prayer is one opening the door to Jesus, fully aware of our unworthiness, and receiving what He has to give us.

Jesus brings the bread, Jesus brings the beverage, Jesus brings the conversation.

This is why the writer of Hebrews said, “let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

Boldness is arrogance or disrespect; its confidence. The confidence isn’t in ourselves, it is in the one who has extended the invitation!

One far greater than Quentin Tarantino or Darius Walden is waiting to meet with you today! Let us pray!

Hurry Up and Wait

If you are familiar with the military, you know the phrase “hurry up and wait.” When I was in the Army, we had to have an A bag and a B bag. The A bag was our duffle bag that we used from day to day. The B bag was all of the same items, but only to be used for alerts; the unplanned-planned times.

When our unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf, we were summoned to the airfield hangar not once, not twice, but three times. We had to hurry up and wait.

It was inconvenient, and it was neccessary.

Worship to God is inconvenient.

The people of God were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. God delivered them in a hurry up and wait fashion. The Passover was “hurry”- prepare your house, eat the food, be dressed and ready to go… and “wait” for the death angel to pass over the house – then go!

  • hurry across the Red Sea, wait for the enemy to be drowned
  • hurry into the desert, wait for the plan that I show you on the mountain

It was inconvenient for the Israelites to build a tent for a God they couldn’t see. For 400 years, they had been brick layers for a man who called himself god. For 400 years they were subjected to slavery behavior, slavery mindsets, and slavery living. The invisible God had to get them out of Egypt to get Egypt out of them.

It was inconvenient to set up a tent in the desert, only to strike it and move every time the cloud or fire moved. In the ancient near east, it was common for a sheik to set up camp as the Israelites did. The sheik would set up a stake/pole, and the camp would set up around him.

Also, there were permanent style buildings in Egypt. The Israelites lived in them; tenement style – the Hebrew word was “shukkunah.”

Worshipers of convenience are looking for a sheik to build their life around; some pastor, prophet, or spiritual guru. Notice, Pastor Moses didn’t live in the middle of the camp.

Worshipers of convenience are looking for a location or landmark to build their life around. Its our fleshly tendency to need a permanent building. I am still astounded at the attitude so many believers developed during the outbreak of Covid 19. “They shut the church down!” The church is not a building. It never has been.

God said, “the place where I choose for my name to abide” in Deuteronomy. God is a God on the move. Even when Solomon finished the temple, He acknowledged that the physical building cannot contain God! God says, “heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.”

Those who need a SHEIK or a SHUKKUNAH may not realize that the SH’KINAH is what we really need. The manifest presence of the glory of God – the sk’kinah – was what Israel experienced. When God sent the Holy Spirit to take up residence on earth, He filled the church individual and corporately. Paul asks the rhetorical question, “do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit? That God lives in you?” I Corinthians 6:19

Worship is inconvenient to my flesh. In the desert camp, the sacrifices were made daily. The animal carcasses had to be taken outside the camp, and burned up. In Hebrews, we are instructed to “go outside the gate” like Jesus did, and bear His reproach. That’s called praise that demands a sacrifice – and we are to be the sacrifice. Romans 12 teaches us to make ourselves perpetual sacrifices to God.

Worship is inconvenient to my schedule. God on the move may instruct me to get up and pray in the middle of the night. He may instruct me to give more money than I had planned. He may tell me to leave my familiar behind, and go into uncharted waters. He may call me away from my life plan into something else.

Let’s hurry up and wait upon the Lord, (a lyric by Bob Hartman). There’s adventure awaiting. More than anything, there’s glory to behold!

What’s it Worth?

Growing up in the Detroit area, the largest Arab population outside the middle-east reside there. One tradition that middle-easterners have is to haggle when they shop. No matter the item, no matter the fixed cost, haggling is part of the purchase price. People that are unaccustomed to this idea get offended, and write the word “firm” on the asking price.

We were having a yard sale one day. A woman of Arab descent had her an eye on an item. Clearly, she was interested. The price was clearly marked. She offered a ridiculous amount, and then examined the item critically. What I mean by critically, is that she devalued the item.

The price was “firm.”

She left.

Then she came back again. She went through the same procedure. She left.

Then she came back.

The woman visited the yard sale the next day. To her amazement, the item had sold. She was upset and confused. In her mind, the haggling meant that the item was spoken for, and upon the next visit she would come to agreed upon price.

What’s it worth? Everything in life that we want and need has a price tag attached to it. The word “worship” is an English word for “that which has worth” “worth-ship.” What we attach worth to commands out time, our talent, and our treasure.

Some believers view collective worship from the Arab woman’s point of view. I like this song! I’ll worship. I like this singer! I’ll worship. I like these people, and the things they value…I’ll give money to this group.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying the birds of feather. The caution that we must take, is who is the center of worship? Is it my personal preferences? My wants and likes? The answer is no.

Jesus said, “you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37,38.

My motivation to worship Jesus is my love for Him.

I used to be an evangelist for families and children. We would sing these songs that required action, (stretch out your hand, lift your leg…). I was always amazed by the people who would SORT of do the motions. They must have been under the impression that lifting your hand up half way didn’t look as silly as all the way!

Let’s go all in for worship! With Jesus as the center of attention, we can eagerly embrace it with our time, talent, and treasure. All my heart – the center of my emotions; let’s be emotional worshipers. All my soul – my God-shaped place – where the Holy Spirit teaches me, guides me, speaks to me and through me; let’s be Spiritual worshipers. All my mind – my intellect – where God increases my knowledge of Him, and makes me wiser than the enemy, (Psalm 119:98). Do you want to be the smartest person in the room? Let’s be intellectual worshipers.

Let’s not be a bargain hunting haggling worshiper. Let’s not come in, check it out, criticize, come back, recalibrate…like the woman at the yard sale, we just might miss it!

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