29 September 2012

I am Iron Man

Depending on your age, when you read the title of this devotional, one of two things probably went through your mind:

1. You just heard Tony Iommi’s heavy grunge guitar riff and Ozzy Ozbourne’s vocals from the Black Sabbath classic titled “Iron man” or…
2. You just envisioned Tony Stark suit up in his Iron Man armor.

I have been anxiously waiting for the release of The Avengers on blu-ray (which finally was released this week) and Iron Man 3 which, hopefully, will be released on the big screen in the near future. So I’ve been watching over and over again Iron Man parts one and two. I can’t help it and I admit it, I want an Iron man suit. What guy wouldn’t want the suit or to be Iron Man? Think about it- he’s smart, has unlimited money, is a natural ladies’ man, and fights injustice. 

Bringing the superheroes to life on the big screen with almost believable technology and current world events makes me want to fight crime.  It also fires me up for spiritual warfare. 

My favorite scene of the first movie is at the very end. Tony Stark has finally embraced his identity and proudly proclaims it to the world, “I am Iron Man.” No longer does he have to hide behind the mask like the majority of all other comic book characters. He outs himself, giving the world his unspoken commitment to fight evil on their behalf.

The scene that I enjoy the most from Iron Man 2 is when Tony Stark is fighting a seemingly-unending army of robot villains alongside his friend James Rhodes, a military officer who dons his own Iron man suit named ‘War Machine. 

They’re holding their own for a while, but small arms and shoulder-mounted rockets just aren’t cutting it. As the odds are beginning to look more and more grim, Tony turns to James and says, “GET DOWN!” He then powers-up one last time in an effort to destroy the enemy. Iron Man unleashes some sort of red beam that literally cuts through the drones like butter. After a brief surveying of the damage, War Machine simply looks at Stark and says, “You should have opened with that.”

How often do we engage the enemy ill-prepared, relying on our own strength and knowledge? God has given us authority over the “… spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12), yet we forget to use the weapons of our warfare.

The armor of God found in Ephesians 6, more impressive than any Iron Man suit- in my opinion, is at our disposal. It’s always powered up to 11 (max power plus), and ready to red beam the demonic forces into oblivion at the mere mention of Jesus and the power of His blood.

Stand firm and say to the world “I am a Christian man.”  Be ready to back it up with action and sacrifice. Before you head back into the world of air sirens and rocket blasts that may disorient you, …put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. (Eph 6:11).  

If Christ is the leader of all believing troops, then, spiritually speaking, we’re merely followers- all in the same platoon. It’s a pleasure going into battle with you, Gentlemen!



23 September 2012

The Courage to be a Christian

The barbarian’s life had changed drastically since he had forgiven his once sworn enemy.  He used to lay his head down at night, the only thoughts crossing his mind were of war, pain, death, blood, and revenge. But this night was different, very different.  As he closed his eyes, he felt a peace surrounding him that he had never experienced before in his rough barbaric existence.

He no longer ‘needed’ to awaken to the smell of burning wood and flesh.  No longer did he sleep with one eye open, sword in hand.   No longer did he fear what the dawn would bring.  Yes, he had fought many battles, killed many men, pillaged many villages.  He had failed in his last battle miserably.  The pain and tears of that day would not soon be forgotten. But the day he embraced his enemy and forgave him…that day was the day he became a true warrior.

A true warrior is courageous:  He fights when it is deemed necessary.  He accepts failure as a teacher from which he can learn.  He forgives the evils wrought against him. Now the barbarian could rest!  Every day did not have to be about bloodlust. He was a real man, and real men are not afraid to be who they are.

Whether the barbarian is at his new home living and loving among his new family…
Whether the barbarian is toiling alongside other villagers to raise a new home…
Whether the barbarian is making his presence known as guardian of the village…
Whether the barbarian is in the pub laughing with his friends…
Whether the barbarian is deep in the forest, alone…

He is still and always will be a barbarian.

Our journey comes to an end with the barbarian. It all began with us hearing the truth that we must give our all in our daily walk with Jesus; having the courage to serve, to fail, and to forgive.

Do you have the courage to be a Christian at HOME?

How much of Jesus does your family see in your attitudes and actions? Being a Christian is most difficult at home….and I must admit: it can be tough. Home is where we spend the biggest chunk of our down time, let our guard down. Who you are at home is who you really are.

Do you have the courage to be a Christian in your COMMUNITY?

What kind of impact are you having in Jenks? Tulsa? Glenpool? Sapulpa? Kellyville? What are you doing to be a positive force for Jesus here in your own neighborhood or town? I hope and pray that you will ask yourself this question over and over again until you tire of hearing your own voice ask, and it prompts you to ACTION!

Do you have the courage to be a Christian when you PLAY?

I believe a Christian should have more fun than anyone else on the planet.  We should laugh harder, love longer, and scream louder than anyone else. God designed us to enjoy life.

Are there any rules to what a Christian can or cannot do when it comes to entertainment? I mean are all movies evil? There was a time, early in my ministry, where I would have readily given you a long list of what was ok for you to do and what was wrong for you to do but I have learned there is an easier and more biblical way to handle the issue.

The next time you are trying to decide whether or not to participate in some form of “play” ask yourself, “If Jesus were physically with me right now, would I be comfortable having Him with me during this activity?”

By doing this, you bring your relationship with Jesus into focus and you let your love relationship with him decide the rules. Considering a movie? Jesus has already seen it! Would you feel comfortable watching it with Him and then discussing it with Him later? If the answer is yes, go! If the answer is no, then find something else for you and Jesus to do.

If you think that being a Christian is boring, you do not know my Jesus! Enjoy your life!

Do you have the courage to be a Christian when you’re ALONE?

Who are you when you are alone? Is the only time you live for Jesus when you are in the presence of watchful eyes? It has been said that if you want to know a person’s true character find out what they do behind closed doors when they’re alone. I want you all to be courageous believers, strong, fearless, and unstoppable! Listen well to the voice of God for this is how He wants us all to finish life:

“I have fought a good fight! I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful!!!” 2 Tim 4:7

16 September 2012

The Courage to Forgive

He has lost it all: his home, his fellow warriors, his family. The smoke still billows from the inferno that once was called “home.” From deep inside, a rage boils that he has never felt before- a rage so intense, it is as if it would totally consume him!

“Arrrrgggggghhhhh!!!”

The barbarian’s primal scream echoes throughout the war-torn valley. He turns, tearfully, to once again look upon his boyhood home before he begins his long trek across rugged terrain to reach the neighboring village, a place where he can rest, gain strength, and begin living again.

As the minutes soon turn into hours, the barbarian comes upon a small brook that he and his friends often used to cool down their horses and relax beneath the shade of the willows along the bank. As he approaches the water he notices a man kneeling at the brook’s edge drinking water from his cupped hand. His heart begins pounding deep within his chest for he recognizes the armor and weaponry of his enemy, the very scum that he had watched pierce his brother through with his spear.

With the stealth of a prowling wolf, the barbarian makes his move to attack his unsuspecting prey. Just as the barbarian is preparing to thrust his broadsword into the neck of the enemy warrior, the man turns and catches a glimpse of his attacker approaching! He twirls about, but instead of reaching for his weapon, he remains on his knees—blood is oozing from a deep wound in his stomach and he has not the strength to stand, much less fight the barbarian.

The barbarian raises his broadsword high above his head to strike the death blow his enemy so much deserves when suddenly the barbarian’s eyes meet his enemy’s eyes and he freezes. “Those eyes, I have seen them before, they are my eyes!”

It only takes a portion of a second for the barbarian’s mind to imagine this man, raised in a hostile warrior’s home, killing his first man at 13 years old, in battle at 14, celebrating in victory the demise of an invading horde, just like himself.

“Is this all there is to being a barbarian? Death, pain, sorrow?” He thought. And then his rage begins to fade, and in its place he feels compassion for this dying man on his knees before him.

The barbarian lowers his sword and then tosses it to the ground. His eyes still haven’t left the eyes of the man before him. He lowers himself to his knees, now face to face with his enemy. His eyes begin to fill with tears, and he reaches out, embracing his enemy, and says, “I forgive you…”
* * * * * *
When we hear the word courage it is most often associated with brave and daring feats of wonder or strength like a fireman rushing into a burning home to rescue a baby from raging flames. But to even picture a huge war-torn barbarian falling to his knees to forgive his enemy---NO WAY! That is not a picture of courage it is a picture of weakness isn’t it?

I want to take you to a new place, a place that few men ever dare to tread. I want us to visit a place called “Forgiveness.” This place requires the strongest of hearts and the most fearless of all men. To forgive takes more courage and more guts than to seek revenge, to fight, or to simmer with rage.

After being beaten, being flogged, being spit on, and then nailed to a cross Jesus says to his Father “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Luke 23:34

That is courage. He could have called down legions of angels to kick some serious Roman and Pharisee butt, yet he chose to forgive.

If anyone ever had any right to hold a grudge or to seek revenge, it was God, but He chose to give us life by offering us forgiveness. Since God forgave us, then it only ‘goes to say’ that we need to forgive ourselves.

Have you ever thought that failing to forgive yourself is the same thing as saying, “I am better than God!?”

Think about it. God looks at you with all your failures, your screw-ups, your anger, your perversions and CHOOSES to forgive you because he loves you and desires the best for you.

Then you come along and say, “Yeah God, thanks for forgiving me, but I’m not gonna forgive myself.”

Who do you think you are? If God can forgive you, you must learn to forgive yourself.

There is nothing God will not forgive you for. So forgive yourself. Do not live in your guilt and shame. Allow shame to do its godly work and bring you to the cross to seek God’s forgiveness and then He will take that shame and replace it with joy. Shame is meant to bring you to God.

After you have rested in God’s forgiveness and, in that, forgiven yourself, then you can begin forgiving others.

Forgiveness is not my strong point. If you hurt me, I want to hurt you. But forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt for the hurt I felt. Do I have the courage to accept such surrender? Do I have the passion to forgive in spite of my pain?

I think we lean more towards unforgiveness! When you read about a little child being molested or killed, I don’t particularly care to forgive! When I read about Christians being slaughtered simply because they love Jesus, it makes it hard to forgive. I would rather just condemn them all to Hell! But…..

Jesus tells me to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Eph 4:31-32

Forgiveness takes courage. Courage because it involves risk. You are placing your heart out there to be stomped on! But Jesus holds us to a very high standard. In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus said, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, I repent—forgive him!”

Have the courage to be a person of forgiveness. Be a barbarian, not a wimp!

09 September 2012

The Courage to Fail


The warrior looked around at the carnage that surrounded him.  The blood and bodies of enemies and friends, burning houses and barns. The stench of burning flesh invaded his nostrils and the black smoke burned his eyes. In his hand was his sword, the blade scarred and broken.  His shield was lying somewhere in the haze of the battlefield. Finding an old wooden crate, he sat down, exhausted, spent from battle. He turned his weary eyes to the home ablaze before him, his home, his eyes filled with tears.

He was a barbarian, a fierce warrior, yet this battle he had lost. His fellow warriors lay either severely wounded or dead on the ground around him. His village had been savagely ransacked by his enemy.  Most every home was in flames or crumpled to the ground. As he closed his eyes to finally rest from the battle, this thought repeated itself in his mind: “I may have lost my home, my friends, and this battle, but I am still a warrior! I will live to fight another day!”

We come to a place within the heart of a barbarian that is rarely discussed, the courage to FAIL.

Have any of you ever experienced failure big or small? Truth is, failure is a big part of every one of our lives. How did you respond to failure? There are really only two choices:

We can experience failure, call “Game over” and let that disappointment haunt us for the rest of our stinking miserable lives.
We can experience failure, call a “do-over” and let that failure motivate us to risk again!

I believe that too many times when we experience failure we tend to get down on ourselves and mope around like a pathetic little puppy. The warrior in the opening story could have done that, but he didn't, he looked ahead to the positive possibilities of tomorrow.

Let me share a truth with you that may free you to be a risk-taking barbarian who is fearless and powerful. YOU WILL FAIL. Not once, not twice, not three times, but over and over and over again. God never, not one time, tells us to never fail.

Failing does NOT make you a failure. If you grasp this truth, it will change the way you live: It turns your thinking from “I am a failure” to simply, “I have failed.” God is looking for some barbarian warriors that are not afraid to FAIL.

Let me be blunt honest with you. I have failed God miserably since I have been saved. There have been times where I can hardly believe what I did. But not once did God say, “We are through buddy! You have crossed the line this time!”

John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.’”

Peter had denied Jesus three times, he failed miserably, but Jesus did not hold that against him.  As Peter said, “You know I love you” for the third time, Jesus embraced him and whispered, “Follow me…”

We are just like Peter, we may fail, but thanks to the grace of God, we never need to be failures.

If you want to be the barbarian warrior God has called you to be, then you cannot let the fear of failure keep you from risking ‘all’ for God. We must reach deep within and  find and use a determination and willingness to keep risking our all for God over and over again, regardless of the results.

There was a little boy who was determined to be the best hitter the world of baseball had ever seen. Taking a ball and bat into his backyard, he stopped at his chosen spot and announced to himself and to all who could hear, “I am the greatest hitter in all the world!”

He tossed the ball high in the air and swung the bat with a fierce determination and he missed, “Strike one!” he carefully studied his bat because certainly there must be a flaw.

He tossed the ball again, and swung with a mighty swing-whoooosh! “strike two!”

The boy spit on his hands, rubbed them together, and once again declared, “I am the greatest hitter in the world!” He threw the ball into the air, and gave his bat a wicked slash! And missed again a third time.

“Strike three!” the boy muttered. Then suddenly he smiled, “Well, what do you know? I’m the greatest pitcher in the world.”

That is the attitude we need to carry with us when we take on a great risk for God. This is the attitude of a barbarian. Miss the target? Experienced failure? So what, God still chose you to do whatever task you are doing. Our job is to be faithful. Even in failure. God will use the failure to teach you great things or to point you in a new direction.

You go to the store and buy a bag of poop to fertilize your garden. Why? Because the poop has nutrients in it that help plants to grow.

So it is with failure. Failure stinks just like poop and if you sit around and mope in your failure you will stink too. But if you use your failures to grow then your failures will become very valuable to you.

01 September 2012

The Courage to Serve

Barbarian!  The word alone creates pictures in your mind of rough, strong, and powerful men with wild eyes, a ferocious look! Their arms are taut and ripped, muscles bulging, hair long and unkempt, clothing made from a slain animals' skin, a shield in one hand, and a sword in the other. 

This is the kind of man you want going into battle for you -not against you. If a job that is too threatening and perilous for an ordinary man pops up, then a barbarian is who you want to enlist for the task. If your enemy is taunting you, then a barbarian is who you want to call to your side.

A barbarian is known by his courage, his fearlessness, his ferocity in battle...his innate ability to wreak havoc on all those he encounters. Call him into battle and he willingly and eagerly agrees. Call him to a treacherous journey? Of course! To intimidate? YES!

To be a servant to others? What? Where did that come from? A barbarian is a servant to no man! How dare you even suggest such stupidity!

But here is where our barbaric journey takes us next:  servanthood. This idea seems foreign to the whole concept of being a barbarian doesn’t it? The word servanthood implies slavery doesn’t it? Barbarians are slaves to no one!

When we picture a servant we imagine a pathetic creature without any important purpose in life—bent over, crushed in spirit, lacking self-esteem, soiled, wrinkled, worn out, and weary; Just like a human mule, who just trudges along with a sigh and a tear.

Right about now, we may feel challenged to be barbarians, and now I am asking you to have the courage to be a servant? Yes, it takes guts and strength to be a servant more than you can possibly imagine.

Where does this idea come from anyway? I mean, what nut job came up with this completely stupid idea that being a barbarian requires being a servant?

God. 

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” Mark 10:45

This is what servant hood looked like in the days of Jesus:

Slavery was very common to the ancient people of Israel. There were several ways a person could become a slave, one of them being a way to pay off a debt. A man would find himself unable to pay what he owed and thus would promise to serve as a slave to the one he owed money to. By Jewish law, the man was bound to a 7 year term of service! At the end of the 7 years, the owner had to set his slave free and cancel the amount of money owed.

Here is where things get interesting.  After the 7 years, the slave could choose to remain with the master. They could actually refuse their freedom.

Slaves in Israel were usually treated very well. Do not compare this slavery with America’s dark and dirty history of slavery. The slaves of a Hebrew family were often treated as members of the family. After 7 years in a loving and healthy family, where food and clothing were provided, as well as a place to stay, a slave may not want to return to his free life of poverty. After all,  he may end up the slave to another master who would be cruel.

If a slave gave up his right to freedom, he would have his ear pierced by an awl on the doorpost of the master, therefore having a permanent mark upon his body that he willingly chose to remain in service to the good master. From that day on anyone who saw this servant would know that he loved his master so much that he chose to remain in his home!

As barbarians, do we love our Master that much? He has given us the freedom to do as we please, but do we choose to stay in service to Him alone?

You tell me what takes more guts, standing sword raised high and shield tucked against a raging army or washing the dirty feet of a traveler in your home? To go on a mission trip to darkest Africa to face disease and possible death or silently, every day bathing your bed-ridden spouse day after day, night after night without anyone ever knowing what you do?

Jesus said in Matthew 20, “whoever wishes to become great among you will be a servant”

Your choice as a believer is not whether you will serve or not, as a believer you are a servant whether you choose to serve faithfully or not. Your servant hood is not based upon what you do; it’s defined by who you are. This means that you are God’s servants all the time the question is whether you are faithful or disobedient, selfish and lazy.

If I were to pull you aside and ask you to serve a king, most would readily agree. Yet if we are asked to serve one another, we balk- we hesitate. Why? Because we feel important when we serve a king or someone of importance, but humble when we serve a nobody. The irony in all this is when we serve the nobody we ARE serving the KING!

Yes, I am calling you to a barbarian lifestyle.  One of passion, zeal, and danger.  But the pathway of our journey goes directly through servant hood. Without the courage to be a servant, we will never be the warrior God has called us to be.

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