Are You a Mentor?

Hearts never thrive aloneSlide1

I believe we all have an obligation to share the light. What I personally want to focus more on going into the new year is making a conscious and concerted effort to be a positive influence on others. To put it simply at risk of diminishing or narrowing the focus too much, I want to be, and I think we all need to be, mentors.

We all need mentors yes, but we also have a responsibility to be mentoring. I don’t especially like that word because it conjures up a formal programmed type relationship where one person is superior to another like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the giant talking rat who was their Kung Fu master, or whatever. Or for you children of the 70’s like me; “You will be ready when you can take the stone from my hand young Grasshopper.”

There may be places for these kinds of relationships but I think it needs to be a little less formal and a lot more natural, and in reality, if we are looking for it, there are opportunities all around us. The obvious and most important being parents, investing time and wisdom into your children. There are grandchildren, in laws, the new guy at work, the apprentice or intern, church family and friends, seemingly passing acquaintances that become regular. Like a package delivery person, a fast food clerk, a waitress.

generations

And you don’t have to be old, age has nothing to do with it. We all have something someone else needs, we all have someone younger than us either in years, experience or spiritual wisdom, and the relationship may shift back and forth. That’s why I don’t like the formal mentoring thing, it designates one person as the mentor and takes away the back and forth mentoring aspect that could benefit both.

 

Vera

Back when Donna and I first got married we used to go with a few other folks to Hardee’s after church every Sunday and or Wednesday nights. I always looked forward to those times and the relationships we built and the things we gleaned from one another still affects us in big ways. We did many things together, like camping and sledding, but the lunch after church thing was the foundation that led to those other things, it was where we refueled both physically and spiritually.

At that Hardee’s there was a lobby hostess named Vera, a sweet lady who actually did her job, keeping the lobby clean and making sure everyone had whatever they needed. She was probably nearly twice my age but after a while she started to ask me questions now and then about the scriptures. She had overheard us talking about the Lord often and we always treated and greeted her as a friend so she was comfortable to ask.

One day we came in to order and before I even had a chance to order my Frisco Burger she came up and said “I have to ask you a question. I am really worried, someone told me the other day that if I have a driver’s license I am going to hell because it is the mark of the beast. If you add up the numbers and divide by 3 and multiply by pie squared and turn it upside down it is 666— the mark of the beast—Am I really going to hell because I have a driver’s license?” (Okay, I made that equation up but it was something ridiculous like that.)

I said, “I’ll be right back.” I went to the car and came back with my Bible and showed her from scripture what it really says, assuring her that no one is going to accidently or unknowingly receive the mark and be sent to hell. In fact there is a new theory every few years about the mark of the beast. In the 70’s I read a book on the coming tribulation that was just sure that bar codes were the mark of the beast.

Vera was greatly relieved and thanked me profusely. Her ever present smile returning to her face. Now, why was I, a twenty something year old fast food patron able to reassure a fifty some year old? Because I had been interacting with her, side note—always with my wife—and we had been courteous, shining the light of Jesus even as we just came to hang out with our noisy kids making messes and enjoying one another’s company. We had something she wanted and was drawn to—the truth.

We need to be those who are ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us, who know where to find the answers and are asked the question. People ask us the hard questions, not because they thumped someone over the head with their Bibles and said; ‘you need to know this’, like the woman who told Vera she was going to hell probably did, but that they would get asked the questions because people can see Jesus in them. The light is uncovered and not artificial.

There are already too many bible thumpers out there cursing people, ask my wife, she gets told she is going to Hell by her customers on a semi-regular basis at McDonalds, always by a member of a fundamentalist church with a serious religious spirit who is trying to win them over to their religion until they find out her husband is a radical Foursquare preacher.

But more often she gets asked questions about Jesus by people who are starved for truth because they see Him in her.

Bros

Mentoring relationships can happen and be built on while working together, fishing, hiking, ministering together, we are building lives, we are building the kingdom. Let’s focus less on buildings and perfection in the program and more on each other. The Holy Spirit is in the heart, not the latest study from a famous preacher or the professionalism of a church service put on by stressed out servants.

Look for others to join your hearts to. Hearts never thrive alone.

Have a blessed New Year!

 

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The True Light

“. . . my worst childhood fears were suddenly come to life, there silhouetted in the door of my dark bedroom. . . “I do not fear meme

Darkophobia part 2

The fear of the dark is one of the most common fears there is, it’s just a primal instinct that we fear what our imaginations project, or our spirits sense is lurking unseen in its cover. As I told you last week, I was once very afraid of the dark. But, at some point, I got over that fear. Today the only fear I have in the dark is of stubbing my toe on the bed post.

Anyway, after I came to have a real relationship with the Lord I understood that I not only do not have to fear the dark, but, the dark now fears me. I first had this tested years ago. I was again living in a big old house, this time alone, just me and my dog. It was shortly after an encounter with the Holy Spirit in which he set me free from my addictions and set my heart of fire for him. I was truly, finally, living in the light.

One evening I was visiting with friends after church on a Wednesday night and the talk turned to the gift of discerning spirits. ‘What is that?’ My freind said it was the ability to sense the presence of an evil spirit and know what kind it is.Huh. That sounds cool, I’m gonna pray for that.’—and I did, that night, before I went to sleep in my big old rental house on Grand avenue in Billings.

to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Cor 12:10

It made for a very interesting night to be sure. Be careful what you pray for. That night I had some crazy dreams about wrestling with two spirits, a spirit of alcoholism and a spirit of deception, we were wrestling over a friend of mine who had recently fallen off the wagon and they were taunting me—“We might not have you anymore but we have your friend.”

Suddenly I woke up and looked towards my bedroom door, my worst childhood fears were suddenly come to life, there silhouetted in the door of my dark bedroom against the lights from the street shining through my living room windows, was a hooded figure leaning into my room just watching me —seriously. And I knew it was not flesh and blood, it was a demon spirit.

Suddenly I remembered a story I had heard about Martin Luther, who, when confronted by the devil said, “What do you want you old snake?” And threw an ink well at him. And he left. (Something like that)

So here’s what I did, I said, ‘you can’t hurt me’, and I turned over in bed, turning my back to him, and went to sleep. A peaceful, fearless sleep as a matter of fact. I wasn’t going to give him even the respect of fearing him, let alone worrying about him. It was totally a God thing because I should have been scared witless.

And the next morning I just thought, huh, that was weird, and then I remembered seeing something in a large closet upstairs that a former tenant had used for a bedroom, a pentagram had been drawn on the wall with a Sharpie. That evening after work I painted over it. I discerned that this was an invitation to the enemy, but even so, he couldn’t touch me— I belong to Jesus and I am in the light.

I have never feared the enemy to this day and other than an occasional annoying heckler in a sermon or a religious Spirit come to try and mess things up in our church, he had never been able to touch me or frighten me.

Seriously, I know I enjoy a level of protection from the Lord. I have been in a lot of scary places, heard a lot of crazy stories, both as part of ministry and just as a part of life, and I have never been accosted in any meaningful way by the enemy. It’s kind of hard to explain, I’ll just have to trust that as Christians who have been around for a while that you know what I mean.

Scary forest

I never understood why people get all uptight about the enemy messing with them, fearing evil spirits, worrying about their influence or presence in their lives, their homes, their health—tell them to take a hike! Don’t make their day by fearing them, they deserve no respect whatsoever.

You are a child of the living God, a child of the light, the light that shines in the darkness, the light that the darkness cannot overcome, does not understand and cannot stand against—there is absolutely no reason to fear him, to put up with him, no reason why you cannot tell him to take a hike—‘you do not scare me, in fact, you do not even bother me, I’m going to sleep, you just let yourself out and by the way; don’t come back— in the name of Jesus; just be gone! And stay away from my kids as well.’

. . . how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strongman? Mat 12:29

The only way the enemy can touch you is if you fear him, the only way he can bind you is if you let him. Sometimes it’s simply because you don’t see him. That’s why you need to stay in the light, that is part of what the light is for, it not only illuminates your heart, it allows you to see into the darkness around you. Not so you can fear it, but so you can tell it to go away.

As soon as you shine the light into the dark, it ceases to be dark. That’s just a basic law of the universe, physical and spiritual. You want discernment of spirits? That’s all that is, seeing into the darkness and realizing the monsters are nothing to fear.

Why would a monster hide in the first place unless they were afraid of you.

monster

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Ps 119:105

Living in the light is knowledge and understanding, living in the dark is not understanding, that is why the dark can never understand the light, and you can never overcome something you cannot understand. We understand that we are loved by the God of the universe and nothing can snatch us away from him. That’s all we need to know.

That might not have all sounded very Christmassy, but when you look at the lights on your Christmas tree, or the lights on the neighbor’s house, remember why we celebrate—the true light that gives light to all mankind has come.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. John 1:9

Never—fear the dark, let the dark fear you.

 

 

Darkophobia

“. . . suddenly I would hear a rustle and the sound of quick footsteps, the creak of the door. . .  “

Light path

They say that the fear of the dark is one of the most common fears there is, right up there with public speaking, claustrophobia, spiders, snakes and mice.

Why do we fear the dark?

We shouldn’t, we mustn’t. Only a heart still in the dark fears the dark.

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4,5

The light that we have, the light that illuminates our hearts, is not the kind of light that can always be seen with the eyes. Rather it is an illumination of the spirit. A light, literally a life, the life of Christ, who resides in us, and does all the things visible light does only better. It guides us, reveals things to us and dispels darkness. With the true light that brings life we no longer have to fear the darkness, in fact the dark now fears us.

Last week I told you about a time when I was five years old and raiding the refrigerator in spite of the fact that I knew Santa was watching me. What I didn’t tell you was that this was a time of darkness for me, in many ways.

The story reminded me of the house we lived in at the time. It was a big old two story house and we lived on the main floor while the top floor was rented out to someone else.

I was living there with my mother and younger sister because my parents had just gotten divorced so we moved out of our nice new house in the country into this rental in town, while my dad moved into an apartment. My world was turned upside down and I didn’t understand any of it—darkness.

During this time I also became deathly afraid of the dark as well. My bedroom had a window next to my bed that looked right into the window of the house next door, which was only about six feet away, and the house was abandoned. Which to me meant that it was surely haunted. So not only did I have to worry about the spooks in my own bedroom who were just waiting for me to go to sleep so they could get me, I had to worry about the ones in the house next door who were also watching me—darkness.

So I would lay in bed afraid to close my eyes, hearing every creek and pop an old house makes, convinced that it was a monster or a skeleton watching me from the closet or patiently waiting under my bed for me to fall asleep so they could come out and get me or do whatever spooks do in your room in the dead of night. Then suddenly I would hear a rustle and the sound of quick footsteps, the creak of the door, and the fearful scream of a little girl fading away down the hall.

It was my 3 year old sister, with whom I shared a room, getting up as she did nearly every night sometime after we were tucked in, to run crying to my mother’s room because she was scared or had had a bad dream. She would then crawl into bed with my mother leaving me all alone in my dark bedroom. I tried the same trick a time or two but was told I was too old; “Go back to bed.” Darkness

I would spend the next several years afraid of the dark. We would move several times and I would end up sharing a room with a stepbrother, but I would still imagine the spooks in the night patiently waiting for me to close my eyes. Thinking about now I see the truth; I had always made the correlation between my fear of the dark being caused by moving into the scary house next to the scarier house because I wasn’t afraid before that. But looking back now with the eyes of the Spirit illuminated  by the true light I think my fear of the dark had more to do with the spiritual darkness that crept into our family and taunted my young heart as my family was ripped apart by divorce and meshed with a family broken by suicide—darkness

 

Darkness is more hiding-1209131_960_720than just a lack of sunlight, it is a spiritual condition. Whether it was caused by an actual dark spirit or simply by the virtue of my Dad not being there to bring light into our home—by the darkness caused by the confusion of the situation, seeing and hearing my parents tear each other apart in a really nasty divorce, or by the new dad whom I was being forced to accept, I don’t know, most likely it was a combination of all those things.

 

Cover

Parents are supposed to be their children’s cover until they are old enough to receive the light on their own behalf. And if that is missing—that cover—God still has a hand of protection on those kid’s souls, but their world will be one of darkness.

 

I was only just understanding this as I was writing it and thinking of no one but my own family as I continue to try to understand the pain of my childhood, so don’t get all bent out of shape here thinking I was out to pick on anyone—just take it as an exhortation to do the best you can in whatever your family situation to keep your kids covered in prayer, to hold the darkness at bay, and do your best to live in the light yourselves.

 

Like I say over and over again and what I tried to stress in my last book, Hope for Families, ‘every decision you make, especially as a parent, affects so many more people than you think.’ And if you have kids it is no longer about you, if you are married it is no longer about you, and if you are a Christian, it never was about you. It is about Jesus—if he is first in all you do, he will take care of you, orchestrate your steps, illuminate your path and keep you in the light, so you don’t have to look out for you, that’s his job, that is why he invited you into his light.

Selfishness is darkness. The world does not want you to know that because it wants to keep you in the dark, keep you hungry so you will strive for and buy more of what it is selling; ‘You deserve this, you deserve that— you deserve to be happy, you deserve a new car, a new phone, a bigger house, time for yourself—a better looking, sweeter, harder working husband or wife who will make you happy. Go find yourself!’

You know what you find when you go find yourself? The enemy waiting for you with open arms saying ‘step into the dark and do what feels good.’

Well, Jesus had something to say about that.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. John 3

You are so much more thaPowerful Bible.n that. You are a child of the living God, a child of the light, the light that shines in the darkness, the light that the darkness cannot overcome, does not understand and cannot stand against—there is absolutely no reason to fear him, to put up with him, no reason why you cannot tell him to take a hike—‘you do not scare me, in fact, you do not even bother me, you just let yourself out, don’y let the door hit you in the ass on the way out and by the way; don’t come back— in the name of Jesus; just be gone! And stay away from my kids as well.’

 

Grace Become Flesh and Blood -(no not Santa)

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Grace is something that is dispensed as needed. We only need grace when we are behaving like sinners, so—pretty much all the time.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  . . . 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. –John 1

 

John makes a reference here to the Law—that written word that foreshadowed and foretold the coming of the living word—in drawing attention to the stark difference and reality of the treasure and gift we have now that we have available to us the grace that was foreshadowed in the law given through Moses.

He is making the point that we have something so much better now, that rather than condemnation and death we have what the law, when kept, was intended to bring, perfection and holiness. Except now instead of earning it we have it freely given to us by the one who earned it in our place and can give it to us as those who received him who offers it to us. He who alone  has the right to offer it to us; Jesus, the Son of God.

We are no longer condemned by the flesh because we are born of God, born of the Spirit as Jesus would call it.

But we just can’t help but look at the flesh and get all bound up by it can we? I was talking to the electrician on my job the other day and he said; “I’m sure you discovered this years ago, but I just realized how handy the whole Santa Claus thing is.” “Yesterday the kids were acting up and I mentioned that Santa was coming soon, and all of a sudden they were perfect angels.”  “Too bad Santa only comes once a year.”

There’s Moses and the Law—Santa is the law, or as Sylvester Stallone said in Judge Dredd, “I am the law.” That is until the law was turned against him.

So anyway, here’s Santa Clause who sees all and makes a list of who’s naughty and nice, no appeal process or debate, he has a pen and a phone and he uses it—no wait, that was President Obama’s line.

Oops, I forgot

Anyway, it reminded me of a time when I was 5 years old. I don’t know where my mother was, I’m sure she wasn’t too far away, but I found myself in the Kitchen, alone with the refrigerator—the forbidden zone. It was close to Christmas and I was a firm believer in Santa Clause and I knew, because my mother had told me, that if I was good Santa would bring me what I wanted for Christmas.

Apparently this magical being could also know if indeed I was being good or not. I mean, I had heard the words of one of the songs written about Santa played on the radio—from which only truth emanates—that he has written a list and he’s checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. So it was indisputable.

But as I stood there gazing into refrigerated heaven illuminated by the magic light that somehow is always on when you open the door, I was suddenly craving a piece of lunch meat. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat it, that doing so surely constituted being naughty and could land me on the lump of coal list.

But I had a plan, I was going to outsmart ol’ Santa. So I took that slice of pimento loaf and started chowing down and after about half way through I stopped and said out loud to the kitchen ceiling; “Uh, oh, I forgot it’s almost Christmas.” Oh’ well, can’t waste a good piece of lunch meat, better finish it.

So Santa, who sees all, but surely cannot read minds, would know it was just an honest mistake. That I just had a momentary lapse of memory and judgement in doing something naughty, succumbing to the temptations of the flesh, so close to Santa finalizing his infamous lists. And sure enough, Christmas morning I got what I wanted, a Tonka Toy Bulldozer—so it must have worked.

Thots

That sounds silly and surely it was, but that’s the way people under the law often thought, and some still do. “If I just appear to be doing the right thing, to be making an effort and having good excuses for my failures, then I will get the reward, I will get to heaven.”

That kind of thinking is all flesh. The legendary Santa can’t read minds, he doesn’t know the intent of the heart, and only see’s the deeds and hears the words; maybe through his creepy little Elf on the Shelf spy.

That’s the way we think about God—and we try to please him in our flesh. It doesn’t work because we are always going to fail and it is seldom an accident. You know what I mean don’t you—we always know when we are sinning but we do it anyway. It’s like we have this uncontrollable urge or a temporary insanity where we think we can get away with something or that “there must be a good excuse or justification—even if I cannot think if it right now.”

“Geez, I hope my guardian angel  wasn’t watching.” It was a mistake, that’s not who I really am. That’s the line of the day—ain’t it?

There are very few real mistakes, if we are honest with ourselves we know that there are a lot of on purposes that we need forgiven for—grace upon grace, one thing after another. And if Santa had known the intent of my 5 year old heart and not just the words on my lips, he would have known this was no accident. But he is not God. And it is a good thing, because I don’t know that there is any grace in his lists—it is strictly a merit system, just like the law given through Moses.

Fortunately we have grace and truth given us by Jesus.

“but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”