Hippies, Hipsters and Hypocrites

Yesterday, my husband Bill shared our friend Mike Coleman’s Facebook post. Oh my word. I wanted to stand up and cheer. Here’s what he had to say:

“I fondly recall that during the Jesus People Movement, my favorite venue of worship was Melodyland in Southern California. It was edgy and revolutionary. A gathering of the long-haired counter-culture. The music was loud and worship was “different.” Over time, the former long-hairs have become “no hairs” and are echoing to the hipsters the kind of condemnation that they themselves received as hippies. Today’s young spiritual leaders are simply doing what the leaders of every previous generation have done… inviting their “tribe” and culture to a personal relationship and meaningful worship experience. “Dear Hipsters – please take your place in the Body of Christ”.!”Mikey’s Brain Dribble (Mike Coleman)

I was excited to hear someone from that generation say this. To admit that once-upon-a-time they too had been ridiculed for their exuberant, loud, unusual worship. To reflect on how it felt to be opposed for enjoying music they connected with as they simultaneously worshiped Jesus. To remember that they were criticized for doing something different than the establishment. And to confess that this same generation now opposes exuberant, loud, unusual worship. Admitting they ridicule the music the current generation enjoys and connects with as they simultaneously worshiped Jesus.

Kudos Mikey. Kudos.

But – even better – he ended his dribblings with the invitation for Hipsters to take their place in the Body of Christ. That’s where the cheering started. I’m no Hipster, but I could not agree with him more.

And here’s why. I believe it’s crucial – NECESSARY – for new music to be written and sung.

I believe this because I believe it’s Abba’s plan. I believe that when He formed us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), He hardwired every human with specific gifts and talents. He placed a specific calling – a way to use the gifts and talents – on each person in order to glorify Him. The perfect example of this is the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 1:5, we see that God hardwired him in his mother’s womb to be a prophet and appointed Him to prophesy to the nations for His glory – before God formed him, God had a plan for him. And Jeremiah was not special or unique. God does this for every human. Acts 10:34 and Roman 2:11 tells us that God does not show favoritism or partiality. So, if Jeremiah got gifts and a plan, then we all got gifts and a plan.

So, Abba intentionally creates specific people to write music. People whose calling is to pen melodies and lyrics that point to Him. He hardwires people to melodically tell stories of the beauty of His unfailing love. His plan is for them to sing of His holiness and grace so the nations will know of His splendor and majesty. In every generation God gives musical creativity so that these people will connect that generation to Him. So that in that generation, they would have a peer who understand who they are, where they are coming from – someone who “gets” them. Someone in that generation that God will use as His voice to sing over them. Yes, other generations may connect with their music and lyrics as well. But God uses them as a voice for and to their generation.

The message never changes. It always points to God, exalts Jesus and welcomes Holy Spirit. It always extols His worth and adores Him. It’s always about Him. (I question “worship” music that is more about “me” than “Him”…..oh, but I digress….maybe another time in another blog) And it’s always written through His Spirit under His anointing. But the style varies from generation to generation. And, it can also vary from person to person within the same generation based upon their individual hardwiring – the way Abba specifically designed them to create music. The sound He gave them, the personal preferences He gave them and the influences He surrounded them with.

The sound every generation makes will be different and unique because Abba is creative. He is not into cookie-cutter molds. We are not produced on an assembly line. While we may have many similarities, we are not cut from a mold. We are individually hand-made by God with unique hardwiring and a specific plan for us.

And if we as the Body of Christ don’t give the composers of each generation an outlet for their God given ability – a place to do what they were created to do, how they were created to do it – and celebrate their giftedness by using the tools for worship that Abba is providing through them, they will use their talents outside the church. If they experience rejection through our ridicule and criticism, they will remain silent in our presence. If they are told their creations must sound like generations before, then they will stop creating for us, because they cannot create differently than how they were hardwired. If they are not welcomed in the church to explore and express their creativity, they will take their gift and use it where they are welcome. And I can assure you, the enemy WILL welcome them with arms wide open. The enemy WILL celebrate their gifts and affirm their talents. he will gladly allow them to use their gifts in his venues as he works to influence them. (and he won’t complain about their skinny jeans and lumberjack beards)

And that is true for any gifting from God.

But, interestingly enough, we don’t seem to say this about authors. It’s unusual to hear someone say they don’t want to read new books that testifies of God’s greatness because they’re committed to older books on the same subject; that these new writings don’t inspire like the old writings do. While we do compare the differences between writing styles and the changes of language usage from one generation to the next – we never reject the new and cling to the old. We find a place for both.

We seldom say this about artists either. It’s not common for someone to say they can’t admire new paintings or pieces of art that display His glory because the old masterpieces are the only ones worth viewing. We somehow manage to see the beauty in both.

When building new churches, we don’t continue to use the same blueprints over and over again. You can easily look at any church and determine what decade it was built in. Every time a new one is built – which is always for the purpose of glorifying and exalting God – we build it in the current style being designed by the current generation of architects. And we admire the architecture of every era.

As I think through the things that the church does – all of which is supposed to be all about God – the only thing we desperately cling to and violently resist is the style of worship. (and pews vs chairs…but again, I digress…)

Reading the Bible regarding worship, I find nothing about the requirements of the swing of 3/4 time with a country twang. Or the demands of orchestration for “high church” hymns. Or a squelching guitar with a driving beat. It just said praise Him with song. With singing and with instruments. The style is left up to us. He gave us the freedom to express our heart in worship to Him, the way He hardwired us to.

So, why are we trying to place limits, restrictions and requirements on musical worship?

Who are we to think we get to define this?

Why can’t we make room for every style? Every sound? Every voice?

Why are we so critical, ridiculing the simplicity of their music as we compare it to past composers?

Why can’t we move forward and support how the current generation is worshipping and the music they are writing as we also appreciate the melodies of the past?

And dare I say it…….. if we can’t do this, maybe it’s because we have a serious heart issue. Maybe it’s because we don’t know the God we are attempting to worship. Maybe it’s because we don’t really understand the God we profess to know.

If God hardwired them to make music, let’s welcome them to make music. Let’s support their efforts as they attempt to find their voice. Let’s celebrate them as God uses them to provide us with tools to worship Him. Let’s sing the songs He’s writing through them. Let’s allow them to do it the way they hear it and join them in admiring the magnificence of God.

And let’s not get stuck where we are, because a new sound is coming. Always. While God never changes – He’s always doing something new in us. (Isaiah 43:19)

So I’m with Mike: Hipsters, Millennials, Xers, Boomers, Gen Z, and every other generation and sub-culture Jesus-loving group – I welcome to you to take your place in the Body of Christ. I ask you to worship with us and teach us how to sing the song you are singing now.

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise Him under the open skies;
Praise Him for his acts of power,
    praise Him for His magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise Him with castanets and dance,
    praise Him with banjo and flute;
Praise Him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise Him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!

Psalm 150 (Msg)

 

Note: Thanks Mike Coleman for sharing your authentic thought.  I loved your transparency and honesty.

Another Note: When I write, I always use lower case letters for the enemy’s name and the pronouns that refer to him.  I can’t bring myself to dignify his existence with a capital letter.

You can’t eat an elephant in one bite.

Or at least you shouldn’t. And you shouldn’t read your Bible through in a year either. Cause that’s a lot like eating an elephant in one bite.

Why?

Too much to chew. Too much to digest.

Think about it. The volume of content you must consume daily to stay on schedule is sizeable. Some days could require 3 or 4 chapters. And some chapters could have as many as 50+ verses. That’s a LOT of material to read and digest in one day.

Now, I can hear what you’re saying. People read lots of things every day. And many read several chapters from a novel or informational book daily. Or they read chapters from multiple books as they study for classes and exams or do research for their jobs. If they can read multiple chapters from a “fun” book or, material they “want” to read or are required to read – then surely they can do the same for Jesus. Surely reading 3 or 4 chapters of the Bible is not too much to ask.

But I think maybe it is.

You see, those books, newspapers, blogs, educational texts and paperbacks were written by men and women with limited knowledge and understanding about the subject they are expertly writing about. All were penned by people with intelligence similar to yours. From the most difficult and complicated work to the easy-read, all were written by mere mortals.

On the other hand, the Bible was written by God. 2Timothy 3:16 (Amp) tells us that All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration]…..” It is Divine. Every, single word was breathed from the mouth of God into the hearts of more than 40 different men. God used these men as pens to compose a letter to humanity. Words from the mind of God spilled onto the pages, as He poured Truth into their hearts. The One who knows all things; the One who created all things; the One who lives outside of time and space put His plans, purposes and intents on paper for every person to read. The Alpha and Omega put Himself on every page for all to see.

Think about that for a moment.

The One whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours wrote the Bible. (Isaiah 55:9) The One whose thoughts are deep – profound – in a way that transcends our depth, authored every chapter and verse. (Psalm 92:5). The One whose understanding is beyond comprehension, penned every single word. (Psalm 147:5) The One who created the intricacies of the human body (Genesis 1:27), the wonders of the heavens (Isaiah 40:6) the complexities of advance calculus and liner algebra, and the perplexities of quantum physics (Colossians 1:16) wrote all 66 books contained in the Bible without any research, help, resources, or support. There are no credits in footnotes and no recognition in a bibliography. Romans 11:33-34 (GNT) says: How great are God’s riches! How deep are His wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain His decisions? Who can understand His ways? As the scripture says, “Who knows the mind of the Lord? Who is able to give Him advice? Who has ever given Him anything, so that He had to pay it back?”

And we think we can speed read through it? That it can be skimmed? We think we can actually digest 3 to 4 chapters of Divine writing as we are winding down from the day, with brains that are tired and eyes that are fuzzy? We really think we can absorb the depth and complexities of the writings of God as we cram in bulk?

I don’t think so. I think David nailed it in Psalm 139:6 when he said, “Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.

Because it is a collection of Divine writings, you must have time to digest the Bible. You need time for contemplation. You need time to discuss with Holy Spirit. You need time to dig into the magnitude of the text, understand the setting, context, and inspect surroundings. You need time to discover the people and culture of the particular passage you are reading. You need time to grasp what God is saying to you. To savor every morsel.

That will never happen if you are (speed) reading 3 to 4 chapters a day.

So how do I think we should read the Bible?

Slowly. Thoughtfully. Repeatedly. Daily.

I think we should ask Holy Spirit where to start and let Him direct us. He knows what we need to read.

[But, if you need a pointer: I encourage new Bible readers to start with the Gospel of John. If you have not read the entire New Testament, stay there until you have. If you are ready to branch into the Old Testament, read Psalm and Proverbs. Then, read Ruth and Esther. Then move to Genesis and work your way through the Old Testament.]

Once you’ve determined where to start, read each day until He tells you to stop. And then re-read. Pray through what you’ve read. Meditate on what you read. Journal about what you hear. While you will gain information as you read, the purpose is to receive revelation. Unlike anything else we read, we are not looking to be entertained or educated; we are looking to be transformed. And this takes time.

You see, revelation comes as we allow His word to have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness,……. (Colossians 3:16), hiding it in our heart, so that (we) might not sin against (Him). (Psalm 119:11), so that His instructions are written on [our] heart and becomes part of [our] very being. (Psalm 40:8) We want our heart to pump God’s Word like blood through (our) veins;……so we must take our time and chew on wisdom like a dog on a bone, [and] roll virtue around on (our) tongue. (Psalm 37:30-31). And as we do, we are transformed – changed from the inside out.

Then, pick up where you left off the next day. Don’t jump around, reading in a different place each day. If you do this, you’ll miss the connections between sections and chapters.

And if it takes you three years – five years – to make it through the entire Bible, then so be it.

But, if we rush through, we’ll find the Bible disappointing, frustrating and boring. We’ll think God’s word is a burdensome chore. His writings will seem disjointed. (be honest – you’ve thought that) And we’ll dread reading. (you know it’s true) And we’ll miss the wealth of treasures stored within.

Rushing through, we miss the depth and profound message in that passage, section or account. Skipping sections to “catch-up” will cause us to miss the connections. In the hurry to stay on schedule, we fail to discover what God is saying to us personally in those verses.

I think this is why we often think the Bible is slow moving, boring, irrelevant, and insignificant. I think it’s often why we think the Bible is confusing. And, I think this is why we haven’t fallen in love with reading the greatest literary work of all times. Why we are not captivated by the Author. We’re going too fast to see the depth, wonders and magnificence.

So, read your Bible this year. Read it every day. Be intentional. Be systematic. Be aggressive. But move at His pace, taking it one bite at a time. And let His words wash over your heart and fill you with revelation so that you experience transformation. Then at the end of the year – regardless of how much territory you cover – you’ll find that you are full and satisfied. And yet……..you want more.

I have more to say on this subject. You can see more of my thoughts on this in my Soapbox post.

ps ~ If you need a plan to follow, here is a 3 year planYou’ll read one chapter per day as you toggle between books of the Old and New Testaments. Or, this plan takes you through the New Testament in a year and gives you the weekends off to review and reflect. Both can be printed from the links. 

It’s going to be a great year 🙂

Unity

Unity. Of all the things He could have prayed for, Jesus cried out to the Father for unity. As He prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus bowed His heart before the Father and interceded for us. In John 17:20-23 (NLT) we hear Him say: I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You gave Me, so they may be one as We are one.  I am in them and You are in Me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that you love them as much as you love Me.

His heart desired unity. He prayed that you and I, His followers, would be one. He longed for us to be unified, like He and the Father are. His plan is that His Body would function as a single unit, united by His heart and His desires, moving and flowing in solidarity in Him and through Him.

Jesus prayed for our unity because He knew it would be the key to our success. He knew that the only way we could advance would be to operate as one.  He knew that without unity, it would impossible to accomplish anything. He knew that without unity, His Body would be disjointed and splintered. And, Jesus also knew that in a disjointed and splintered state, we’d be an easy target for the enemy and susceptible to his deceptive strategies.

So what does unity look like? Does unity mean that you agree with me? Or that I agree with you? Or that together we agree with the leader? Does it mean we lay down our opinion to pick up the majority’s? I don’t think so. I believe unity means, we agree with Him. Unity is being on the same page with Abba. And solidarity is evident as together we say what He says, go where He goes and do what He does. We are unified as we live out His plan.

How does this happen? We step into unity as we practice 2Chronicals 7:14 (NLT) Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. Certainly, unity is developed through prayer. But specifically, unity is achieved through humility. Humble prayer. This means we don’t come to Abba with our agenda. We don’t spend our conversations with Him telling Him what we want or what we think. We are not sharing our plan. We are not taking our preconceived notions and opinions into the prayer closet.

Humble prayer means we enter with a heart that says: I do not have any answers. I do not know what is best. I need Your wisdom and guidance. I choose to want what You want. Please tell me what that is.  Then we sit and listen. And, in our silence He reveals His plans. As we leave the prayer closet, we follow His plan with His power.

As we humbly pray, He will reveal His plan. And the plan He reveals to me is the same plan He will reveal to you. If we disagree, one of us is not listening. Therefore, we return to the prayer closet, determined to listen until our heart is unified with His.

Humble prayer positions us for a move of God. Our unity with Him brings us to a place of restoration.

And, living this way will resolve so many issues within the Body of Christ. It would mean that we would stop fighting over everything from the color of our carpet to the type of music we worship to. We’ll no longer bicker over doctrinal differences or how to exegete a particular passage. And we’ll stop squabbling over which political candidate to vote for. (insert eye-roll here)

Which brings me to the point of this post: Abba has a plan. He has already chosen the one He desires to be in office. Shockingly, it may not be the person we think it should be. It may not be the person we identify with politically. It may not be the one we would personally choose. It may be the one we don’t like. But it doesn’t matter what we think or what our political stance is, because the one He has chosen is the perfect one for the job. He knows what we need and He knows what we cannot see. And, if we will humble ourselves in prayer and listen to His heart, He will tell us who to vote for.

It’s not about what I want. It’s not about your opinion. It’s not about what we think. It’s about His divine and perfect plan.

As we lay down our ideologies, opinions, perspective and feelings, we – the Body of Christ – will be a force to be reckoned with. When we have been in humble prayer, as a unified body we’ll exit the prayer closet and enter the voting booth and change the course of our nation.

Now – stop for a moment and think big picture. If we, the Body of Christ are unified, imagine the possibilities! To start, we’ll no longer look foolish to the world. When we say we heard from God, we’ll all be saying and doing the same thing, instead of giving the impression that God is confused or senile. In unity, we’ll powerfully execute the Great Commission with precision, making powerful disciples. We’ll step into the enemy’s territory and put an end to his destructive plans.

As we live in humble prayer, unified under His plan and purpose, we’ll be agents of change. We’ll change our life. We’ll change our families. We’ll change our local church. We’ll change our community. We’ll change our nation. We’ll change the world. This is how we become world-changes – through humble prayer that brings us into unity, enabling us to cohesively move as one.

So, with that, I am telling you who to vote for.

Vote for the one Abba has chosen. Get into your prayer closet and ask Him who that is with all bias aside. Listen. And then vote for that person. Even if they aren’t the one you’d have chosen yourself. This is unity.

And then, let’s live that way. In unity, saying what He says. Going where He goes. Doing what He does.

 

 

If you’d like to hear more on prayer and politics, I recommend this message by my son, Stefan. It will certainly open your eyes and adjust your perspective.

My Soapbox

It’s that time of year when we all start to make plans, promises and resolutions to read our Bible through in a year. We’re shopping around for a Bible reading plan that we think we can easily manage and follow.

But before you go any further – can I encourage you to read (or re-read) this post? And then ask Holy Spirit what He would like you to do. He’s got the perfect plan mapped out for you!

And feel free to share your thoughts with us below!
Blessings for exponential spiritual growth in 2016!

I’ve got to get something off my chest. I know this is risky. I’m sure I’ll be misunderstood. There may even be some backlash. But I’ve got to say it. Especially since it’s January.

I don’t like the “read the Bible in a year” plans.

I think it’s a terrible idea. I know it goes against Christian culture. I know there are dozens of plans available. I know many Bibles include it. I know lots of people, pastors and ministries support it. But really – it’s a bad idea.

Why?

Because it values quantity over quality. Because it makes reading the Bible seem like a project on your to-do list. Because it forces you to rush through chapters in order to stay on schedule. Because if you fall behind, you’ll never catch up and will more than likely give up. Because you probably won’t remember very much of what you’ve…

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You heard it right the first time.

I’m irritated. I just read an article someone shared. I won’t mention names, sites or titles – let’s just say it’s one of those lists of things the church has gotten wrong. And now I am highly annoyed.

Don’t misunderstand. The church – the collective body of Christ throughout time all over the world – has gotten plenty of things wrong. The Crusades. The Inquisitions. The Salem witch trails. Need I say more?

But one thing we have not gotten wrong is the love of God. I’m upset because the well-meaning author of the irritating article said that God’s love is conditional. And that is simply NOT true.

God IS love (1John 4:8). Love is the essence of who He is. Love is His nature. Love is the basis and foundation for everything He does. And since He does not change (Malachi 3:6 & Hebrews 13:8), then He will always be love and all He does will flow from His love.

God loves ALL of humanity – regardless of who you are, what you’ve done, what you look like, what your genealogy is, your ethnicity or socio-economic status is. John 3:16 makes that pretty clear: for God so loved the WORLD. The word “world” in this passage means the inhabitants of the world. If you are an inhabitant of this planet – God loves you. There are no exceptions.

Even if you don’t love God, He loves you. Even if you reject Him, He loves you. Even if you are unfaithful to Him, He loves you. Even if you renounce, curse and hate Him, deny His existence, choose to follow another “god” or reject Jesus, He loves you. Nothing you can ever do will change His mind about you. He faithfully loves you (Psalm 100:5).

And that is because His love for you is based upon who He is [LOVE] and not who you are. God’s love for us is not a response to us – our good behavior, good works or good words. God’s love initiates the relationship. He loved us first. (1John 4:19) And this is what makes His love unconditional – He is the initiator, reaching out to everyone, regardless. (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4-5 & 1John 4:9-10)

We don’t have to perform for it. We don’t have to earn it. We don’t have to qualify for it. We don’t have to do anything. He freely pours His love out on all of humanity.

This is why Abba is so amazing [among other things!] – His continuing, unfailing, faithful, consistent, unrestrained, unlimited, unconditional love. It’s so deep, so wide, so expansive and vast that we simply cannot comprehend how great His love for us is. (Ephesians 3:18) His love for each, individual human is so far outside anything that we know or have ever experienced that we must have His help to be able to just grasp the edges of His incredible love for us! It is so deep, profound and expansive that eternity will not be enough time to explore and discover every aspect of His love.

And when we enter into a relationship with Abba through Jesus, the journey of exploration begins. We begin to experience His love for us in a greater way. The understanding of His love starts to unfold within us. We discover the benefits of His love. His love does some incredible things in us.

And we choose whether we want it or not. But our choice does not diminish the reality that He loves us all.

That’s why I’m irritated. God’s love is poured out on all of humanity without restriction. It’s such a wonderful, amazing thing. And I hate that anyone would ever think or feel that His great gift of love was not available to them. That they must meet some standard or criteria. Even if they don’t want it – I think they should know He still loves them.

So you heard it right the first time – GOD LOVES YOU.

The value of life.

Ok. I’ve got to step on my soapbox. This is a bit wordy and still doesn’t say all I’m thinking.

Since when did the value of an animal supersede that of a human? When did an animal’s life become more important than a person? How did we – the body of Christ – come to equate the two?

While animals are a creation of Abba, they do not have a spirit. While animals are beautiful, they are not the capstone of His creation. While animals are to be enjoyed by humans, they are not to be treasured the way human life is.

In no way can an animal compare with the magnificence of humanity. Human life is superior because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Human life is priceless because Jesus left the splendor of heaven, enrobed Himself in humanity and became one of us (John 1:14) in order to sacrifice His life to redeem us (Titus 2:14) and have a relationship with us (1Peter 3:18.) Our uniqueness can be seen in the truth that humans will live forever (Daniel 12:2).

None of that can be said of an animal. Any animal. So when we value the life of an animal over any human life – and life does start at conception – we have fallen for the lies of the enemy. We have been deceived. Our enemy has succeeded in shifting our focus from Abba’s greatest passion – humanity.

This deception can be seen as we display grief for the mistreatment of an animal but accept the actions of Planned Parenthood as part of our culture. It can be seen as we simply shake our head over ISIS executions but are outraged over the death of an animal. It can be seen as we pour our money into animal rights and neglect human rights. It is seen in our concern for homeless animals but our indifference to homeless humans. It can be seen as we ignore human trafficking but rescue animals.

I am not suggesting that we ignore animals or treat them poorly. They are a part of Abba’s brilliant, spectacular creation. They were given to humans to enjoy and care for (Genesis 1:28). It is our responsibility to govern all of creation responsibly.

However, let’s place animals in their right place. Lower than humans. Less valuable than humans. Not as important as humans. And if a choice is to be made – we must choose humans. We should be passionate about humans. Our hearts should be broken for the loss of any human life. We should weep over the injustice of human trafficking. We should display holy, righteous anger at abortion. We should stand up for humans who cannot protect or defend themselves. We should pour our resources into rescuing and caring for humans. These are the true social injustices.

We should feel these injustices so deeply that we are moved to action. Action that is Spirit-led and flows from love. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 25:31-46 (NLT)

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed Me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite Me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give Me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit Me.’ 

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?’

“And He will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

This is the heart of Abba: caring for humanity. And we’ve got to get this right because He will ask us about our response to the needs to humans when we see Him face-to-face.

Do old toothless lions exist?

I recently heard someone say that our enemy is an old toothless lion. That phrase frustrates me.

Wouldn’t our enemy just love for us to think he is old and toothless? Think about it. The image of an “old” lion is one that is weak, slow moving and feeble. The idea of a lion with no teeth suggests he is totally harmless – because you need teeth to do damage. Right?

What a great strategic move by our enemy – to disguise himself as old, frail, weak and harmless.

But this disguise is exposed in 1Peter 5:8: Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

If our enemy is not a threat, then why is he identified as a great enemy that we must watch out for? Why be on alert for something that is harmless? And notice Peter says nothing about being old or toothless. And how could a toothless lion devour you anyway?

Peter also warns us that our enemy is on the prowl just like a lion. Let’s make this clear: he is NOT a lion. But he is acting like one. Our enemy behaves like a lion – stalking us, lurking, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to attack. That’s what prowling is all about, searching for the opportune moment to strike.

And how do lions attack and kill their prey? Interestingly, a real lion doesn’t use his teeth to kill. Lions suffocate their victims. They clamp their jaws around the prey’s throat, pressing the windpipe closed so that it cannot draw breath and suffocates. Occasionally, lions will clamp their jaws around the prey’s mouth and nose instead of the throat and suffocate it in what is often called a ‘kiss of death’. Lions do not kill by ripping the prey to shreds with their teeth.

So it seems that even a toothless lion could still kill.

I can see the enemy operating this way. We’ve all experienced times when we felt like we were suffocating with depression, guilt, shame, fear, worry, anxiety, regret and any other negative emotion that the enemy could press in upon us. We all know the feeling of being so overwhelmed with our circumstances or emotions that the pressure it put on us made us feel as though we could not even breathe. Our enemy knows just how to overwhelm us with negative experiences, emotions and lies for the purpose of suffocating us spiritually in hopes of extinguishing our flame.

We’ve all felt the hair on our neck stand up as we heard our enemy roar. We’ve all felt the pain of an attack. We’ve felt the sting as he pounced. We can all testify, there is no old, toothless lion. So let’s quit saying it.

Why is this a big deal to me? Why does it frustrate me? Because if the enemy can deceive us into believing he isn’t a threat and is harmless, then we’ll live unaware of the fact that he has an agenda to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). If we are living unaware, then we let him operate unchecked and just assume the negative things that happen in our life are “just the way it is” and we won’t push back and retaliate. If we don’t push back, we lose ground and he accomplishes his agenda. I have to know I have a legitimate enemy so I can prepare and retaliate.

But in this – remember: while our enemy is a force to contend with, he is no match for Jesus. On my own, the enemy will defeat me every time. But in Jesus – there is no competition. Like Bill always says: if the devil is an ant, God is greater than the universe.

I don’t want to live my life with the enemy as my focal point. But I don’t want to underestimate him either. And I don’t want him to take advantage of me. I want to exercise the victory Jesus gave me and defeat the works of the enemy in my life. So I must live with my eyes fixed on Jesus – but keep the enemy in my peripherals.

For more on this thought, check out this teaching.