SEPTEMBER EDITION

The Lord recently ordered me to dedicate the first two hours of my day to writing. As many of you have heard me say, “I am just the pen.” Those words fail to communicate the depth of joy I find in this relationship with the Author. Let me explain.

I discovered a passion for creative writing in the 12th grade. I wish I could remember the name of the teacher that encouraged me. I would like to thank her – and use her name on the “Who was your favorite teacher?” security question. I also want to encourage her for the way God used her for His eternal purpose in my life.

Regrettably, the only creative writing I did in college was to my best friend and future wife. My course work and subsequent vocation did not require it, and there was no one there to encourage the passion. And so, it just got away from me.

That lost and forgotten passion did not show up again until we launched inLight Consulting – roughly 30 years later. Honestly, I was more than a little surprised to discover that God had a use for something I had completely forgotten. It was like discovering a treasure I had unknowingly misplaced in my attic (ahh, what else might be up there?).

Recently, I have been wondering about “joy” – particularly its presence in my life and the overflow of it on to others. Frankly, I wonder why there is not more. I’m searching out the matter and hope to share some of my discovery in the future.

For now, I just want to recognize and testify that I find joy in being God’s pen. I am so very grateful for those of you that have encouraged and supported that part of the inLight adventure. I very much want you to appreciate that God has used you, much like my 12th grade teacher, to accomplish this purpose in my life. Read the rest of this entry »

You may recall the images from Iraq during the onset of Desert Storm. Having done their reconnaissance, American forces were bombing Bagdad, seemingly without mercy. The military commentator explained that we were trying to kill Saddam Hussein – which was unlikely – and/or destroy his command and communication centers. In other words, we were trying to separate the snake’s head and its body.

As it turns out, this is the strategy of every offensive force, in every war. Separate the commanders from the troops and you create a decided advantage for yourself and your allies. Consequently, threatened nations go to great length to protect their communication centers.

Regrettably, our enemies have made significant progress is cutting off the Western church from its High Command. Communication centers have been destroyed. Little effort is being made to rebuild and retrench. Consequently, we are separated from God and each other. Our efforts are disorganized, even divisive.

While it would be easy to blame the devil, those of us in leadership know better. In many respects, we are our own worst enemy. We have allowed the world to distract us and our carnal minds to deceive us into thinking we can get by with our own strategies, plans and programs.

Reestablishing communication is where we must start. Sacrifices will have to be made, but they will be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. God has all the grace we need to turn the tide in this war.

As hard a time as we seem to be having with prayer, prayer is not hard. The Father is standing by waiting on our attention. He loves speaking with His children.

Much has been said about the decline of prayer in the Western Church. We have simply lost site of the importance of personal and corporate communion with God. This is so obvious, it hardly seems worth the time and effort to say it again. Just how much encouragement is enough?

Fortunately, God has not given up on us. He is aware of our weaknesses in this area. We are not the first generation of church leaders who have needed an attitude (re)adjustment about prayer.

Now, I’m no expert on prayer; but I know some people who are. I don’t know them in-person personally; in fact, quite a few of them are dead. I know them personally through the books they have written on prayer. You can learn a lot about a person through their attitude towards prayer. After all, prayer is their heart tie with God; a connection to the center of their being.

I learned from a dear friend and mentor that giving away books is a great way to disciple someone. This is particularly true with subjects like prayer. Better to let the authors speak than try to speak for them.

So, what I would like to do here is introduce three of my favorite books on prayer. I will include some thoughts and encouragement in the way they will help you and those in your spheres of influence renew your minds regarding the importance of personal and corporate prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

Conflict is inevitable. What we do with it can have far-reaching consequences. The attitude we take into a conflict (planned or otherwise) greatly effects the outcome.

It is amazing what we do not realize about the way we think – our mindset, paradigms, attitudes. I had no conscious thought of my approach to conflicts until God hit me with the contrast. Two meetings, both occurring within a week of each other, forever adjusted my conflict attitude. Here’s my story:

In the first meeting – a Bible study of Romans – we had arrived at Paul’s exhortation on baptism (chapter six). As the teacher introduced the topic, you could literally feel and see the tension rise in the room. At least half the participants moved to the edge of their chairs waiting, it seemed, to hear the teacher say something with which they did not agree. Looking back, I am convinced that many ears were closed to hearing, and the Holy Spirit was grieved.

The second meeting was a blessed contrast. As with the first, there were people from various church fellowships and denominations. The passage being discussed was Jesus’ instruction regarding the consumption of His flesh and blood. Someone in the group asked, “What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you (John 6:53).'”

After some time of quiet contemplation, one brother said he wasn’t sure, but thought it meant “so and so”. A second brother added, “And it means ‘such and such’ to me.” Several others offered their opinions.

To be honest, I can’t remember what any of them said about the meaning. All I heard in my spirit was the “and” of their responses – the “and” attitude of their hearts. At no time during the conversation was “no” or “or” used. No one corrected or disagreed with the others. It was truly amazing; so amazing that I almost missed the most amazing thing. Read the rest of this entry »

We will close out this series with a renewed consideration of God’s purpose for it; namely, our sanctification. As we know, sanctification is the process whereby we are set apart and cleansed from the world – separated unto the Lord and for His use (2Timothy 2:21). Few realize how vehemently our carnal minds fight against our sanctification. To be used by God to His greatest advantage, our carnal minds must be overcome.

The church began with Peter’s charge to repent and be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:38-41). At the end of this age, we will be called out a final time by God Himself (Revelation 18:4). In between, we struggle mightily with our allegiances.

God has given us disciplines as an invitation and the means to come out of the world – into a deeper relationship with Him. Jesus uses the disciplines to make us (Mark 1:17) and to build His church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The Holy Spirit uses them to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Repentance is first a change of mind. From parents to preachers, we have focused on changing behavior to the detriment of this first and vital step. Coming out of this evil generation – out of Babylon, the great harlot – begins with a rejection of secular, humanistic and carnal thinking about everything… including church.

Our carnal thinking about church has become so ingrained, we hardly know it exists. We are so surrounded by it, we cannot see how it has infected us. It is like an enemy that has entrenched itself behind our strongest line of defense. Going out to Jesus Christ, outside the camp (Hebrews 13:12-14), may be the only way we can rightfully assess what has become our prison.

Lest anyone misunderstand, we are not suggesting an exodus from existing church fellowships. This encouragement is about the way we think and about the way we relate to God. A. W. Tozer prophetically wrote of our condition over sixty years ago:

To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of the world as well. They are at ease while the world burns… I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the fall of man! Renewed Day by Day, A. W. Tozer

This series began with the argument for, and proof of, our carnal mind’s status as enemy number one. Satan may be more powerful (and easier to blame); and the world may be more aggressive in its attempts to conform us. But, it is the carnal mind that has become – not just the enemy in our camp – but a trusted friend and advisor. As such, it has become a dangerous distractor and deceiver.

Our hope is that you will respond to God’s invitation for greater intimacy through the disciplines He has so graciously provided. With this hope in mind, we offer a line of questioning for your conversations with Him and those in your spheres of influence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Work of the Faith

Discussing faith and works together has become a difficult, anxiety-inducing exercise for most of the Body of Christ. This is not so much due to an identifiable point of disagreement as to the subconscious suspicion that what the other believes may be different and/or challenging to something we have been told. This again is a ploy of our carnal minds – to protect closely held convictions and opinions; to maintain control and comfort.

Rigid mindsets are generally dangerous things, built on arrogance and fear. There is nothing wrong with strong convictions – as long as those convictions are constructed on the diligent and humble study of God’s word.

Sadly, most of us lack the time required for diligent study, having given said time over to worldly pursuits. Consequently, we are left with someone else’s word as the final word for the doctrine of Jesus Christ (2John 1:9). This is particularly troublesome in regards to the foundational subjects of grace, faith and works.

At a minimum, every disciple of Jesus Christ should recognize and accept that there is more truth than they have yet learned. At the same time, they should be prepared to humbly offer what they have come to understand. And so, with a desire to learn more, I offer here my humble understanding of the work of faith – taken mostly from Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and other noted NKJV passages).

Grace, faith and works cannot be understood apart from each other. Our faith – which is a gift of God – appropriates the grace of God. The grace of God manifests itself in His good works. His good works perfect (i.e., complete) our faith, as we walk in them. Faith without these works is dead (i.e., without effect). Because these works are His, we have no claim of credit for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Obedience to the Faith

Through Him [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ… Romans 1:5-6

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 16:25-27

As you can see, the New King James Version (my favorite translation) identifies the second phase of the faith process as “obedience to the faith”. Other translations have “obedience of faith”. In either case, Paul is describing a phase of the faith process distinctly different from our  third and final phase, the work of faith.

Obedience to the faith and the work of faith are closing related – even dependent. However, the relationship and dependency of two things does not make them the same thing; and, while it is easier to consider them the same, we must resist the temptation. Our minds are capable of understanding the important differences and will be better off for the effort.

Faith does not empower obedience; faith demands and requires our obedience. It can also be said that obedience must be given to faith for faith to flourish. This begs three significant questions:

  1. If faith does not empower obedience, then what does?
  2. How does obedience meet the requirements and demands of faith?
  3. How does one give their obedience to the faith?

Romans 1:5 (above) gives us the answer to our first question. Obedience to the faith is empowered by God’s grace and His calling (e.g., to be an apostle). As we’ve discussed previously, God’s grace is appropriated by faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

God’s calling naturally comes by His word, as well. And so, we discover that God’s grace and calling originate in the hearing of faith – the first phase of the faith process.

In regards to our second question: Obedience ultimately meets faith’s requirements and demands through the work of faith (the subject of our next article).

Here, we seek to discover the answer to our third question: How does one give their obedience to the faith? Or, said another way, how does someone transition from the hearing of faith to that hearing’s perfection in the work of faith? As you might have guessed by now, we do so through a disciplined life. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hearing of Faith

In this, the seventh installment of our series, we offer four spiritual disciplines for the hearing of faith.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that God is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). His work is that of a loving Father (Hebrews 12:5-11), bringing us up in His nurture and admonition (Ephesians 6:4). Incredibly, His good pleasure is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32).

Furthermore, it helps us to recognize that our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit operate in process. They are process-oriented problem solvers. As we are discovering, the problem of overcoming our carnal mind is dependent on the process God has created for the maturing of our faith. The process of faith consists of at least seven discrete steps beginning with the word of God and being perfected in His good work (James 2:22) – the good work we are created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

For the purposes of our study, the disciplines are presented in four categories: Foundations, the hearing of faith, obedience to the faith, and the work of faith. The four foundational disciplines are covered in Part 1. Before we move on to the disciplines God has provided for the hearing of faith, let’s take a quick look at the definition and use of “discipline” in the New Testament. It should be enlightening. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the sixth article in our series on overcoming the carnal mind. I appreciate and applaud those of you that have come this far. I pray that you have been encouraged, edified and equipped – not only for yourself, but for those in your spheres of influence.

If these articles are blessing you, then they will be a blessing to others. Please pass them along – with encouragement – to the leaders you know. The church is in dire need of leaders that will search out deeper kingdom matters (Proverbs 25:2).

For those that are just joining us, we have, in previous articles:

  1. Made the case for attaching enemy status to our carnal minds;
  2. Provided five ways for exposing the carnal mind’s deceptive practices;
  3. Recognized our responsibility in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;
  4. Introduced the process of faith as God’s design for overcoming our carnal mind’s influence; and,
  5. Provided a layman’s explanation of the codependent relationship between faith and the mind.

While each of these stands alone fairly well, there is much to be gained by reading through them in order AND taking the time necessary for God to bless you along the way.

You will likely find that the second article is particularly challenging. Let me suggest that, rather than identify every deception before proceeding, you focus on one of two through an initial pass of the series – applying a few of the disciplines in overcoming those deceptions. You will then be better equipped for another iteration.

Speaking of disciplines, I appreciate your patience. If you are like me, nothing is more frustrating than to discover a gap and not know how to fill it. I have been looking forward to this myself, wondering how God would lay this out for us. Here we go. Read the rest of this entry »

In previous articles, we have:

  1. Made the case for attaching enemy status to our carnal minds;
  2. Provided five ways for exposing the carnal mind’s deceptive practices;
  3. Recognized our responsibility in taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ;
  4. Introduced the process of faith as God’s design for overcoming our carnal mind’s influence; and,
  5. Promised to introduce the disciplines God has provided to initiate and maximize His grace in the process of faith.

Begging your forgiveness, we have decided on a brief segue to share a relatively simple explanation of the relationship between our mind (or minds, should it come to that) and our faith. We will introduce the disciplines next time.

For those of you that require a summary statement:

Faith appropriates the grace of God that overcomes the influences of our carnal mind. This is accomplished throughout our lives as an iterative process – the process of faith – which is also an integral part of our ongoing salvation, transformation, sanctification, etc.

Now, for those interested in a layman’s humble explanation:

The Process of Faith and the Renewal of Our Minds

To begin, let me recognize that others may find exception to the following explanation. I think I would be surprised if someone did not. Much smarter theologians have explained it differently – and they don’t agree with each other. We are, it would seem, one of God’s most mysterious creations.

If you find yourself disagreeing, by all means, let me know what you think. In the meantime, don’t let disagreement get in the way of whatever blessing God may have for you here.

Before we are born again (as Jesus explains to Nicodemus in John 3), the physical organ we call “the brain” functions on behalf of our carnal mind and, to the extent that they influence that mind, on behalf of Satan and the world.

The mind and brain are not the same. The brain is the most incredible physical organ designed and created by God. Much has been written about the brain’s capabilities; we will not discuss those here.

In the most basic case, the brain processes sensory input, interacts with the mind concerning a response, and then directs the body in that response. Additionally, the brain is being programmed – beginning before birth – to respond automatically to external stimuli (e.g., smiling at a mother’s voice, shutting eyelids when something gets too close). These auto-responses can be self-protective, destructive, or neutral.

The mind functions at a higher level, in response to input from the brain and information that it retrieves from its storage cells. The mind gives direction to the brain both – and this is important – consciously and subconsciously. Our mind is where we think and reason; where we imagine and create. This too occurs consciously and subconsciously. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week’s article was primarily written to encourage you in identifying and exposing the ways our carnal mind attempts to deceive us (Phase One). In doing so, I may have also inadvertently communicated Phase Two of the strategy. You may recall two suggestions:

  1. Invite and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth.
  2. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

These are certainly mission critical parts of our strategy. We should know where they fit by the end of this series (I am still working some things out). In the meantime, allow me to address the promise I made last week – to update “The Process of Faith” article (from 2017).

That faith would be one of our greatest weapons against deception is not something the average Christian would intuitively recognize. However, as we will see, God has designed the process of faith with necessary and critical steps which involve our minds (spiritual and carnal). The 2017 article broke the process down into five steps. Since then, some additional revelation (related to our mind) has come to light.

As you read through the process, consider the carnal mind’s active resistance in each step. It is aggressively working to distract us from the hearing of faith (steps 1 – 3), to reject or confuse our belief and reckoning of the truth (4 – 5), and to resist or subvert our obedience to the work of faith (6 – 8). Notice also how the mind of the new man is edified and empowered to overcome our enemies’ attempts at deception. Read the rest of this entry »

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