Warped head by James Ryle

The Trouble with a Warped Head

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (Jas_1:19-20, NIV)

Several years ago we bought a Chevy Astro Van; with captain’s seat from front to back, tinted windows, and a cassette deck. Belinda and I, along with our four kids, were stylin’ in the Mile High City.

Our second car, which I drove, was a Volkswagen squareback; custom-painted a metallic cobalt blue, and fitted with silver tinted windows. Yeah, that’s right — it was cool.

But anyway — one day as we are cruising in our Astro I noticed the meter indicating that the engine was running hot. Hmmmm. What could that mean, I wondered. Then it began to lose power, and felt like it was lurching along the road — all the while continuing to over-heat even more. Then, white smoke started billowing out everywhere — and I managed to make it to the dealership just in the nick of time.

And for the record — I made a scene once I got there. In fact, you might say that there was as much steam coming out of my ears as was previously coming out of my van. I was angry — and it was all their fault!

They rolled the van into the bay and did a full exam, and brought the news to me in the waiting room — where I was drinking car dealership coffee and scanning old copies of Reader’s Digest for some news jokes to use on Sunday morning.

“Mr. Ryle,” the grease-stained fellow said with a polite smile, “You have a warped head.”

I don’t really remember much else of what he said, or what we did to get it all corrected — for in that otherwise ordinary moment, the Lord used the man’s comment to speak to me about my problem with anger.

Sometimes our relationship with the Lord is like Candid Camera — when you least expect it, and always at a time when you would not want it to happen — He walks right up to you, dressed is some clever disguise like a grease-stained mechanic at a car dealership, and says, “Mr. Ryle, you have a warped head.”

As the guy went on to explain the problem I was having with my Astro van, the Lord started talking to me about deeper issues in my own heart. Specifically –the issue of anger.

The mechanic told me that because the engine head was warped, it caused a break in the gasket seal, which in turn resulted in an oil leak and loss of power. The smoke was the result of oil burning on a hot head.
you get all that? Yeah, me too. At that moment I realized that while the mechanic was talking about my van — the Lord was talking about me.

When we are warped in our thinking – nothing good can happen. And to make matter worse, we get all hot and bothered when something good doesn’t happen. And when things go bad or wrong – we blow our lids. That’s the trouble with a warped head.

The Lord wants to set our minds right. And as He does so, the seal will hold and there will be no blown gaskets, nor any loss of power.

Have you “blown your lid” lately? Finding yourself over-heating and losing your cool? Take heart — the Lord is expert at fixing a warped head!

Next time you find yourself over-heating and getting ready to pop – just pull over to the side and ask the Lord to straighten out your thinking; to check the seals, and make sure your “oil level” is fine. Cool down, and only then proceed along the high way.

 

There is A Calling On Your Life

September 22

There is A Calling On Your Life

“Called by God.” (Heb_5:4 KJV)

I was invited to speak at a historic church in the North East, a church that was facing a defining moment in their long history. I realized that showing up and simply preaching a sermon would not be the thing to do – they were desperately needing a word from God, and they were fully expecting me to bring it. I could sense what the Lord was stirring me to say, and on the plane ride to my destination I took a napkin and wrote down these words.

“There is a calling on your life; a purpose that God has assigned to you. Thus, you can make a difference. However, this calling is not uncontested. To answer it one must be ready to contend for it against challenges great and plenty. The key will be in keeping your heart open and responsive to God. In the end a great work will have been wrought, and a lasting legacy endowed with the grace of God. Shudder, therefore, at the thought of saying no.”

Sunday arrived I preached a message about answering the call of God upon our lives, and during the sermon I took out the napkin and read what I had written to the congregation. It was a dramatic moment. I could tell immediately that the Lord was speaking to many.

Perhaps He is speaking to you even now.

There is a call of God upon your life; a purpose He has for you; an assignment for which you are uniquely suited. Your life matters. You can make a difference in some way that counts. There are no inconsequential people – and certainly this is true of you. History is upon us now in its full measure, and the time has never been more certain than now for men and women to answer the call and deliver the goods.

However, you must know that there is an enemy engaged in war against your soul. The call on your life, and you answering it, pose a great threat to this enemy. Thus, he will oppose you in every way – seen and unseen; subtle and spectacular – so as to turn you from your call, deter you from your cause, and diminish your life’s effectiveness and potential. Do not cooperate with him! Fight the good fight to become the man and woman God created you to be, to fulfill the purpose for which you were born, to achieve the goal toward which you press. Submit yourself to God and He will exalt you. Resist the devil, and he will flee!

Open your heart to God and let Him fill it with His Spirit. He will give you the desire to go the distance once you decide to do so. He will honor your dedication by granting you success day by day — here a little, there a little — until at length a great work will have been achieved in you and through you for others. He will garner your determination with His supply of strength, so that no weapon formed against you will prosper, no lie spoken against you will prevail, no bandit sent to rob you will succeed, and no word or work you do will fall ineffective to the ground. You will triumph as He takes hold of your hand and secures your labors in His Name.

Even now as you read these words the Lord makes this offer to you.

“Here am I, Lord; send me!” This was how Isaiah responded. Won’t you follow his example and do the same? After all — there is a calling on your life.

 

Keeping in Step with Jesus

Keeping in Step with Jesus

“I’ve been out of step with you for a long time” (Psa_51:5, The Message)

OK, so let me tell you something childlike I did as a boy. Whenever I saw someone walking along that I really admired, I would actually try to walk in step with them, stride for stride — even from a distance. In my mind it was as if I would be like them if I could walk in step with them.

Silly, I know, but don’t we all do that in one form or another? We dress like, talk like, think like, walk like, and act like those we admire most. Is it in hopes that be will actually in someway be like them? Of course. Why else would we do it?

That brings me to the point of today’s thought — keeping in step with Jesus.

The Psalmist confessed, “I’ve been out of step with you for a long time.”

I can relate to this all too well. The Lord turns right, and I go wrong. He walks upward, I turn downward. He slows down, and I hurry up; He picks up the pace and I lag a bit behind. He says Hello; and I say Good-bye. And so on.

Occasionally, however, I do manage to get it right: somehow I walk in step with Jesus. And in those moments, rare as they are, I am actually somewhat like Him. Or at least I am aiming to be. Lord, have mercy and be patient with me.

How about you? Do you see Him walking by anywhere throughout your busy day? Do you sense His presence, hear His voice, follow His leading, and keep in step with Him? Aren’t you, in the words of the apostle Paul, becoming “conformed to His image?”

Oh, but don’t you want to be? I do.

So let’s give it another shot; let’s see if today we can walk in step with Jesus. Who knows, we just might be able to pull it off this time, and end up becoming more and more like Him day by day. And we can say with our friend the Psalmist, “I never lose sight of Your love, but keep in step with You — never missing a beat.” (Psa_26:3)

 

There’s a Miracle in Your Hand

There’s a Miracle in Your Hand

So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” (Exo_4:2)

One thing that stands out about the early followers of Jesus is that they were ordinary men, doing ordinary things – but seeing extraordinary results. One of the most compelling examples of this was when a young boy gave his small lunch to Jesus. What happened next is a miracle still talked about to this day — a multitude was fed with two small fish, and five loaves of bread.

There are five great lessons we learn from this one amazing miracle.

First, never underestimate the Lord’s ability to meet a need. The place was a desert, and the time was late; the people were many, and the need was great. But Jesus not only met the need; He did it with abundance! And He can meet whatever need you are faced with today.

Second, never count yourself out when the Lord starts to work. A man seeing the news about disease, hunger, poverty, and sorrow in the world, turned to his wife and said, “Sometimes I just want to ask God why doesn’t He do something about all of this!” “What’s stopping you from asking Him?” his wife replied. “Because,” the man said, “I’m afraid He will ask me the same question!”

Jesus gave the loaves to the disciples, and they gave it to the people. In other words – the miracle happened in their hands, while they were passing the food out to the people. There is a miracle in your hands, too!

Third, never assume that what you have is too insignificant to matter. A boy with a sack lunch containing five loaves and two small fish – that’s all it took. One disciple asked, “But what is this among so many?” It is tragic how many count themselves out simply because they feel they do not measure up to the moment.

Fourth, never think that He will fail to meet your needs while using you to bless others. The Bible says that they did all eat, and were full. As for the disciples, they collected the fragments and filled twelve baskets – one for each of them. Your service to Him will never go unnoticed, nor unanswered.

Finally, never hold on to what the Lord is asking from you. What if the boy had kept his lunch for himself? Well, he would’ve had lunch – and that’s all. But, giving it to the Lord Jesus took that young man into history. And now, Jesus is asking you, “What do you have? Bring it to Me.”

History awaits your response.

The Triumphant Trudge

The Triumphant Trudge

“They shall walk, and not faint.” (Isa_40:31)

in the heart of every person is a passionate desire to know that he or she is fulfilling the purpose for which they have been placed here on this earth. Have you found it? Found that one thing that is worthy of your one life?

D. Eisenhower said, “We succeed in life as in war, only as we are able to identify a single, over-riding objective, and then bend all other considerations to that one thing.”

What one thing overrides all other considerations in your life? What noble purpose has captured your spirit? What deep resolve beats in your heart? What great decision has won your full allegiance in life?

Assuming that you have indeed found it, let me now ask — how’s it going? If you’ve been at it for any appreciable length of time then you know by now that the journey is no cake walk. It is not a stroll through the park on a blissful Sunday afternoon. No. The path has many turns – up turns and down turns, ditches on both sides, potholes aplenty, and mounds of debris inconveniently strewn all about.

There are setbacks that stall you, and obstacles that intimidate you. There are bystanders that deride you, backsliders that dismay you, and back-stabbers that dishearten you. There are days when you walk with a company of passionate pilgrims who buoy your spirit with renewed aspiration, and then there are the days when you walk the lonesome valley all by yourself. Alone.

You, my friend, are on the Triumphant Trudge! To trudge, according to Webster, is “to walk steadily, and sometimes laboriously; but ever onward.” Isaiah’s poetry says it best, “They shall walk, and not faint.” That is, they shall not tire though the way at times be wearisome.

This will always be the case in every soul who follows Christ up Calvary’s mountain. Despite the trudge of each deliberate step, an unmistakable tone of triumph attends their every move – for each move is always onward, and ever upward. And the Lord who has gone victorious before us will welcome us with open arms on the day we cross over the finish line.

 

The God of No Options

 

The God of No Options

 

“Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”

Jas_1:7-8 (The Message)

We’ve all heard the old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” While the sentiments behind this whimsical adage are admirable, the saying itself is quite untrue.

Yes, it is true that a person shouldn’t sit around aimlessly all day just expecting God to do this or that for them, while they themselves do nothing. But the adage errs significantly by failing to realize that God in fact does not help those who help themselves; rather, He helps the helpless.

He is the Defender of the defenseless; He rescues the perishing, saves those who are falling, and lifts ups those who have been struck down. He is a Father to the orphan, a Friend to sinners, and the Champion of those who are weak. Indeed, Paul summed it up — “when we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (

Rom_5:6).

The problem with “helping yourself” and asking God for a little assistance is that you’re the one still calling the shots — keeping all your options open. Few things are more insulting to God than for a man to come before Him while holding onto other options….just in case the “God thing” doesn’t work out.

Remember Lazarus, the dead man? He had no options whatsoever. Jesus stood before the cold stone which sealed his tomb and ordered it removed, and then called out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And the dead man did so, now fully alive. A significant part of this event is contained in the name Lazarus — it means “without help.” You see? God helps the helpless.

Like Lazarus of old lying cold in his tomb, you and I will never be called into a new and deeper, more vibrant and wondrous walk with Jesus until we realize we truly have no other options but God.

Peter was speaking for all of us that day when he said, “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life” (

Joh_6:68). He is the God of no options, and you have no option but Him.

“So, What’s the Funnel All About?”

“So, What’s the Funnel All About?”

“For by grace are you saved through faith” (Eph_2:8)

We had traveled about a half day and were making good progress when someone asked, “Hey, so what’s that funnel all about in the Tour Guide?”

Yea, I was wondering when somebody was going to notice that. So, let’s talk about it.

Remember that Paul told us that we are saved by grace through faith. In our visual Tour Guide drawing, we can see “grace” entering the “funnel of faith” at the top. When grace passes through faith, what comes out of the funnel, and floods our lives is — salvation.

Salvation. That’s a word we need to examine closer. Most of us assume that it means “being born again.” No, it is much more than that. Being born again is but one part of the great salvation we have in Jesus.

By definition, salvation is the complete reordering of our entire lives in keeping with the will of God. Faith, another word we need to redefine, means something much more than merely “believing” – it means “knowing.”

Faith is the conscious awareness of what meets with God’s approval (as revealed to us by the Spirit of God through the Word), and the courageous decision to live within that conviction.

“Faith comes by hearing,” the Bible says. And note; it does not say, faith comes by reading. There are many who read the Bible and never hear what God is saying. They see the golden leaves on the surface of the river, but do not see the true gold beneath the surface on the river bed.

We hear when the Spirit of God opens our hearts to God’s voice. Faith comes when the gift of hearing occurs, and in that moment we not only know God’s will, but we are also filled with the desire to do God’s will.

Putting this all together here is what we learn.

When we hear (i.e., experience the gift of faith that causes us to know) what God is saying to us, and we agree with Him (i.e., humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord), then God gives us grace (i.e., the power of Christ to do God’s will) and we experience salvation (i.e., the complete reordering of our entire lives in keeping with God’s will).

And that’s what the “funnel” is all about.

So, if there are no other questions, let’s pick up the pace. Having made this journey before, I can tell you that we are in for a special treat first thing tomorrow. The Ancient Library (where I received my credentials for this Tour) is but a half day’s distance ahead.

We’ll stop there for an extended visit before we make our final push to the place named Grace.

Lesson Two: Never Under-estimate the Power of a Personal Word from God

 

Lesson Two: Never Under-estimate the Power of a Personal Word from God

 

“With God nothing shall be impossible.”

(

Luk_1:37)

Sometimes important things can be lost in translation. This verse is one example of that. The word nothing fails to convey into English the fullness of its Greek beginnings. In order to get a better sense of what is being said, we first need to split the word into two words — as in “no thing” instead of “nothing.”

Next we examine the Greek word rhema, which is translated as “thing.” It literally means “that which is spoken by a living voice.” It refers to the power that is inherent within any thing that God says.

In fact, the full meaning of the word “nothing” would look like this if translated into English — “Each and every thing God says; any and all words that proceed from His mouth; the whole of what He speaks, and not just a part, shall not under any circumstance of any sort be impossible in any way or at any time.”

Or, as the English puts it, “With God nothing shall be impossible.”

The point is both powerful, and personal. Whenever God speaks a word to your heart and places a promise upon your life — you can take it to the bank! He will do what He has said He will do.

“God said it, and it was so.” This phrase fills the first chapter of Genesis and introduces us to the God who does what He says. Even foolish Balaam had enough sense to state the obvious — “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (

Num_23:19).

So, then, what has God spoken to you? What promise has He made, what dream has He given, what hope has He placed in your heart? Whatever it is, know this for certain — “Each and every thing God says; any and all words that proceed from His mouth; the whole of what He speaks, and not just a part, shall not under any circumstance of any sort be impossible in any way or at any time.”

Never under-estimate the power of a personal word from God! That’s the second of three great lessons we learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s amazing invitation.

Lesson Three will come tomorrow.

Lesson One: Never Overlook the Potential of the Ordinary

 

Lesson One: Never Overlook the Potential of the Ordinary

 

“Despise not the day of small beginnings.”

(

Zec_4:10, NLT)

God always does extraordinary things with ordinary stuff. Just look at what He made with dirt — YOU! How amazing is that? The Bible tells us that He made everything out of nothing. He is the CAN DO God. With Him nothing is impossible.

One day a young boy showed up at a crowded event to hear a traveling preached talk about wonderful things. He never dreamed for an instant that he would become the central character in an epic moment of history. The preacher was Jesus. The young boy was the lad with a small sack lunch containing two fish and five loaves of bread.

It was just a sack lunch on any other day, but on this day it became the stuff of miracles. It is amazing what can happen when you place something in the hands of Jesus. What do you think could happen if you placed your life in His hands?

You may be just an ordinary person, with ordinary looks, and ordinary thoughts, ordinary talents and ordinary dreams — but Jesus can do something amazing with that sack lunch of yours. If you just let Him have it.

Most people never reach their full potential in life simply because they overlook the potential of the ordinary. If you simply start where you ARE, instead of waiting to start until you get to where you hope to go — you will become all you ever dreamed of being!

Little by little. Step by step. Day by day.

Like Mary did on that first night when God told her of extraordinary things, say yes to God and let the miracle begin to slowly grow inside you.

Never overlook the potential of the ordinary. That’s the first of three great lessons we learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s invitation.

Lesson Two will come tomorrow.

Say Yes to God

Say Yes to God

“Be it unto me according to Thy Word.” (Luk_1:38)

As you travel up this mountain — and to call it a mountain is more than a little overstated; actually it’s more like a rocky hill. But as you travel up you come to this town. And to call it a town is somewhat ambitious; it’s more like a mobile home park that sprang up around a truck stop.

It is a nowhere town, with nothing going for it. No one would ever want to live there, and the people who do so were either born there and don’t realize they can leave, or they were forced there by economic circumstances that left them powerless. The other group that rounds out the citizenship of this sad place are outlaws and social misfits.

To make matters worse the people of this particular place are of an ethnic group that is reviled by the dominant culture of the land. Yet, though they suffer from discrimination, there exists within their own social structure a similar misbehavior. They discriminate against one another.

But, inasmuch as it cannot be based on ethnicity, the discrimination is based on position and influence; it is based upon gender and wealth. Thus, wealthy men are the top of the pile…and poor girls are at the bottom. The worst thing you could be in this pitiful place is a poor girl.

One such girl lived in this town. And like any girl, she dreamed of something more. God took note of her tender hopes, and one special night He spoke to her of unimaginable things. She said “Yes” to God’s will and then walked into history.

We know her today as Mother Mary.

There are three great lessons we may learn from Mary’s humble response to God’s amazing invitation, and if we will follow her example and say YES to God’s will for our lives — we just might step into history as well.

Lesson One will come tomorrow.