Thursday, December 16, 2010
During the fast I will be walking us all through Luke and Acts for the purpose of understanding Jesus' heart and the power of the early church.
Until then have a great Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
In the Blues Brothers movie, the two main characters feel as if they are sent on a mission from God. This chapter shows us what it is when someone is really sent on a mission from God! There was a group of faithful men of God who were diligent in their prayers and fasting. The purpose of this time was to seek the Lord for his clear direction. God was faithful to show up and give that direction. We don’t need to go through life without any direction, guessing what we should do next; God will always speak when we wait on Him.
Paul (Saul) and Barnabas were sent by the Holy Spirit, to the governor of Cyprus in the city of Paphos. Now this next part seems a little rough but you have to understand what’s going on. God wanted the Governor to hear the Gospel message; Elymas purposefully intended to stop the message from the Governor. He was a sorcerer so the governor was used to seeing the power of witchcraft around him. This was a moment like Moses before Pharaoh and his magicians. Paul and Barnabas heard from the Lord to do what Moses had done, show that the power of God was greater than any other power.
I believe the Lord was also concerned about Elymas. His blindness was only temporary so hopefully it was enough to humble him to come to the Lord. God’s desire is for all to repent and come to know Him. He loves all people.
Paul and Barnabas were able to make their point! We will find out more about that tomorrow. The real point is no matter how powerful a person is whether it is demonic or earthly God is more powerful and can prove it. No matter how difficult the struggle, problem or person you are facing; God is big enough to handle it.
We need to, like the men who heard about the mission from God, learn to hear God’s voice better. We need His guidance everyday and He offers it everyday as well.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I have seen the Lord do amazing things through prayer. I have seen him open blind eyes and temporarily blind open eyes so I could get past guards with bibles that would be considered illegal. This story is a story of amazing answered prayer.
Peter had been through in jail. Herod was on a prideful rampage to please the Jews so he was doing whatever he could to persecute Christians. By this time Peter was a major leader in the church due to James’ murder many were concerned for Peter’s life. The church began to do what it does best, pray.
Peter literally was given a angelic escape, four squads of soldiers, two chained to him, and a guard at each door. That type of security says volumes about who Peter was and how they feared him. Remember all he was, was a simple uneducated fisherman. Remember with God we always become so much more than what we are!
Hint: when you pray don’t be surprised that God answers! Peter went to the prayer meeting of his friend’s mother, John Mark, Peter’s friend wrote Peter’s Gospel, the book of Mark. When he came to the door they were surprised and didn’t believe their own prayers had been answered.
Sometimes God answers prayers in ways we don’t expect. I am not sure they were expecting Peter to live; they were in more anticipation that his spirit would appear at the door rather than a living Peter. God always hears our prayers. We need to keep our hearts right to expect an answer that may be different from our expectations.
God delights in relationship with His people. He likes our communicating with Him our spending time with Him and answering our prayers. What have you been praying about? Has God already answered and you have not heard or been given an answer you did not expect? Look for the answers. God has great plans for you and He will hear and answer sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Look to see what doors He has opened for you!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Have you ever done anything that you thought, “Boy, I really blew it this time, nothing can fix this!” Can you imagine how Peter felt when he had denied the Lord? He had loved Him, followed Him completely for 3 – 31/2 years. He had seen the miracles and even performed miracles but when the virtual rubber met the road, he failed! At one time or another all of us feel as if we have really blown it. When that happens we have a decision to make; do we believe in God’s grace enough to forgive and that His plan is still intact for us or do fail again and believe that there really is no hope?
After a period of time, Peter believed. When we allow God’s grace to work in us, we can learn to live in it and give it to others. That is Peter’s story. Life was pretty bleak the days after the crucifixion for Peter. Peter had to be convened by the Lord, in the famous “do you love me?” speech (John 21). Peter got it, believed it and made it work.
In this passage, we see Peter healing the sick and raising the dead and people expected it from him. He had gone from depression to joy, from bleak to amazing! It is a choice we all must make do we wallow in our sin and lack of self-forgiveness or do we believe in God’s grace and allow that grace to work in us.
All of us are going to fail at some point. The choice is what do we believe! God orders our steps; He knows our struggles and our failures! He knows what we are going through always and He knows how to get us out of it and through it, if we will allow Him. There are so many great things He wants to accomplish on this earth and He has chosen to use us. Often we stop Him from making it happen through us.
What are you battling today? What area in your life are you allowing to remain defeated? God has amazing things for you to do. Daniel wrote, “the people who know their God will be strong and do great things!” That is you and I! We will do amazing things and maybe even do them today if we will but trust the Lord’s grace for our lives.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
(I apologize that this did not get posted yesterday, a glitch on my part)
Saul (soon to be Paul) was a murderer, persecutor, and terrorist to Christians everywhere. He did his job with a vengeance. Gamaliel the best teacher in all of Israel had trained him in the law. He had a passion for what was right or at least what he thought was right. He sent many to their deaths and many more to prison all for the purpose of wiping out heresy. Saul had lots of passion but very little understanding.
His teacher Gamaliel had almost defended Christianity when the disciples were brought before the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel was the one who challenged the rulers that if this is of God you may find yourselves fighting God. Saul made a very common mistake; he got caught up in his strength, his own righteousness and did not keep his heart soft for the Lord.
God saw Saul’s hearts desire to do what was right even. I thank the Lord that He is still that way with me. I am grateful that He looks at our heart motivations more than the outcome of our actions. A heart desiring to follow after Him completely will be rewarded with finding Him. Saul was ferociously zealous for the things of God he simply needed to be to be “knocked off of his high horse” a bit to remember why he was doing what he was doing! Saul wanted to protect the faith. To make sure righteousness remained. The problem you can’t accomplish godly things through fleshly actions or motives. God got his attention and turned him around to the place Saul really wanted to be.
I believe Saul really loved God and wanted to serve Him completely. The problem was that he didn’t spend the time listening to God. Part of our challenge to growing in the faith is maintaining our strengths but relying on the Lord. If we trust and depend on our strengths without maintaining our time with the Lord we end up frustrated, cynical, angry, and wounded, wondering why God is blessing what we are doing. It is so easy to become a “Saul” especially when you have a “Paul” heart. Saul loved God, he simply lost relationship with him because he got caught in his own agenda rather than maintaining his relationship with the Lord.
Acts 2:42 tells us how to stay focused basically it says this pray, stay in the Word, and stay as an active member of a body of believers. These things keep us on course and give us all that we need
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Traveling around the world has taught me so many things. I have learned to adjust to different cultures and mind sets. I have learned that the American Christian way of think is just that and not always correct. I have learned that God will do amazing things when we allow him. I have learned what I really need to take with me verses what I think I need. I have learned some things can be used for a multitude of uses. For example, when space is of a premium hand soap can be used to wash your body, hair, and to shave and occasionally for lubricant on pieces of equipment. I have learned to pack light.
Philip was a “light packer” I am sure that he carried very little but everywhere he went he brought the “light”. In Samaria he reached the lost tribes of Israel who were regular people and then the Lord took him to share the Gospel with the royal court of Ethiopia were his impact is still felt today. We are encouraged to be ready in season and out and the “light” we carry needs to be shared with everyone from the lowest in society to the highest.
The Jews hated the Samaritans. They were considered not as pure as a regular Jew. They had their own set of customs and traditions that were different but God still sent Philip to bring the light. The Ethiopians were not only a totally different race but their culture was African not Middle Eastern. Philip could have said, No I can’t baptize you here, we must do it in the Jordan where Jesus’ disciples and John baptized. Philip was packing “light”. He wasn’t limiting the Gospel by his culture or traditions. According to Leviticus a eunuch is not even allowed into parts of the temple, limiting his worship of the Lord. Philip was packing “light” and didn’t allow a man to come to Christ because of the law either. He understood God’s grace. He knew this man loved the Lord and his condition should not stop him from coming to Christ.
How do we pack light? We carefully judge in ourselves the difference between what is truth and what is tradition or ritual. What is Jesus verses what is the law. We can not carry a heavy burden of religion with us but a daily walk of the true understanding of a love relationship with our heavenly Father. Ask the Lord to show you how you are “packed”. Are there things we must lay down are they stopping you from being all that the Lord needs you to be? Are you light enough to be “whisked away” by the Holy Spirit? Let the “joy” of packing light be yours as you trust the Lord more today.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Many people think that coming into relationship with Jesus means that you must be perfect. The confusion comes because He is perfect. As our love and relationship grow we certainly growing stronger, more like Jesus and sin less but we are far from perfect. So it was with Simon the sorcerer.
Couple important points to note here; the Saul in this passage is the same man who later would become Paul the apostle. Second, Philip was chosen as one of the original deacons in the church. We often think of deacons as the guys and gals that set up the chairs. Here we see Philip preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons, pretty serious stuff for just a guy who should be setting up chairs. The position of deacon in the church is a much more powerful position then what we may have thought in the past. The third point we need to look at in this chapter is that the Samaritans had come to Christ and been baptized. Then Peter and John were sent so they might receive the Holy Spirit. The in-filling or Baptism in the Holy Spirit was something that is an additional move of God in our lives beyond salvation to empower us to reach the world for Christ.
Back to the story!
Simon had been a deceiver for many years then he heard the truth. Instantly he came to Christ was baptized, even worked with Philip while he was in Samaria. However once he saw the power of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit his old nature came out, he thought he could purchase the power of God.
When we come to relationship with Christ we are constantly at odds with our old nature. Our natural response to things is to war with God. No one ever needs to teach a baby to be bad we must train children to be good. Simon, like us had to be disciplined to correct thinking. Even as Christians people want to try to manipulate and control. If you have young children, think about how much they control you. Selfishness is a very natural response. We don’t know what the motivation was for Simon but we do know you can not purchase the gifts of God, they are free to whomever has their heart right before the Lord. All of God’s gift are that way, we can’t earn them, purchase them, or work for them they are “gifts” from the Lord to us. The purity of their working in us depends upon the purity of our hearts. The closer we draw in relationship to Jesus the purer our hearts become and the more effective our lives become and the more effective the gifts are through us. Out of a polluted well come polluted water out of a clean well comes clean water. Until this confrontation with Peter, Simon still had some pollution to deal with in his heart.
We grow in maturity and perfection; salvation doesn’t make us perfect it does however open the doors of heaven and real relationship with Jesus. Where are you today? Do you feel you need to be perfect? Are you playing games with the Lord and calling it relationship? Do you have a loving growing relationship with Jesus? I hope you are the latter but if not, make the change today. A real relationship with Jesus fills your life with joy, love, and peace as you may have never known.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Stephen was a disciple, we don’t know when he became one but it must have been a while because he had been chosen to be one of the first deacons chosen in the church. In light of our limited view of eternity his story seems tragic but is it really?
In Romans 12:18 Paul instructs us to, “be at peace with all men as much as it pertains to us.” While we may walk with the shoes of peace it does not mean that everyone will respond appropriately. There are some, like Stephen found out, that no matter how peaceful and loving you are they have another agenda. Stephen’s story seems tragic but is it really?
We know that despite his sharing Christ from Abraham to Stephen’s present time, the greatest story ever told, the Sanhedrin was determined to stone him. How do we know this? His story is recorded here. Hundreds of million have read this story and have had the strength to stand because of it. The apostle Paul was impacted as he witnessed this execution and look what we have through his life. Our lives are eternal from conception and we must always view things in light of eternity. We can easily get caught up in the day to day however we must keep in mind that as Christians, everything has eternal impact. Stephen’s life and death changed the lives of millions.
Don’t become frustrated when people don’t respond to you the way you want them to. Keep your eyes on eternity. Your story, your life is going to impact people. Make it an impact for the Lord. Make it an impact that will affect people for more that just today. Your story can change the world. There are those in this world whom you will not be able to be at peace but it is not as much as it pertains to them, but as much as it pertains to you!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
There are many people who are far deeper theologically than me who know how to argue the case for Christ in a very strong intellectual way. Some of the greatest defenders of the faith I know were not even Christians at the time. I was going to be persecuted in one way or another for my faith and they stood up to champion my cause for me in a way I never could. That is the story of Gamaliel
The disciples had been in prison, released by an angel of the Lord, and then went to share the Gospel in the temple. I guess if an angel gets you out of prison you no longer fear being thrown into prison. Brought before the Sanhedrin again, the leaders don’t know what to do with them. Gamaliel (the apostle Paul’s teacher) speaks to the crowd and in a backdoor way defends them. After being beaten the apostles are released.
When we are doing what the Lord has called us to do many will not like it or will be confused by it, but the Lord will always defend us. Part of the peace we need to have as Christians is that God sees everything. One of the names of God in the Hebrew is “the God who sees”
When we go through hard times, we need to know that God sees and he will be our defense. In fact the Bible tells us that He is our shield, our defender, our High tower, and a very present help in time of need. The defense may not come from the places we would expect but it will come. God will always protect and defend us. He never fails. If he needs to use a donkey as he did with Balaam in the book of numbers or a Gamaliel as he does here in Acts, it doesn’t matter, He will come to our defense.
You may be hurting or struggling today, whatever you are going through God will come to your defense. He may also challenge you today to share your faith with someone, don’t worry, do it with the right heart and He will come to your defense. Our God really loves us and like a good Father, protects and defends His children.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Spend any time listening to the news and you don’t know what to believe. Who is right in any given skirmish around the world? What is safe to eat or drink and what is sure to give you cancer? That information can change almost daily. It is hard to know what is the truth and what isn’t. As Christians we need to be on our guard always, staying in the Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers receiving sound teaching. It is easy to become deceived without those key elements in our lives. Trust comes by doing these things regularly.
The beginning of this passage seems a little rough. Two Christians who have stood to the public persecution in Jerusalem at this time bowed to deception. Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was not holding back some of the funds for their own use, the enemy had distorted their thinking to make them believe they needed to “look good” without paying the price and that they would attempt to pridefully deceive everyone. They were doing something more for their own glory rather than God’s glory. As Christians we always need to be aware of our own weakness. We can overcome our weaknesses through the basics of the word, prayer ,and being in a strong fellowship of accountability with other believers. I am not saying the Lord is going to strike anyone dead like Ananias and Sapphira but spiritually you could become weaker and fail to accomplish all that God has for you and end up living less than the abundant life God has planned for you.
Many want to become like the apostles of the New Testament, the challenge is that there were no compromise in them. They walked in the presence of the Lord all of the time, desiring to be like Him all of the time. Regardless of what happened to them, they kept their focus on the Lord. Their lives and livelihood had been threatened by the leaders of their day, they were thrown into prison and trusted. Bad things will happen just because the world is a fallen place and especially because we desire to follow the Lord. The challenge is how will we respond to the bad things? The apostles trusted, prayed, and believed. The result: the angel of the Lord released them from prison even in front of the guards. They then returned to preaching the Word without compromise. How do you normally respond when trouble comes to you? The miracles come because we have learned to completely trust the Lord. Our lives are more content, despite the circumstances. We are able to overcome worry and anxiety because of our relationship. Our future and today are both in God’s hands allowing us to live in peace, sometimes despite the circumstances.
It is easy to be deceived. There are so many things inputting into our lives all of the junk of the world. It is easy to believe what the world says rather than what God says, that is why being in the word, praying, and regularly being around people who will encourage, instruct and challenge you in your faith. Trust can change your life. I have a saying posted on my office wall that says this, “Don’t complain if you haven’t prayed. If you have prayed then trust!” It is something the Lord taught me a long time ago that I am still learning everyday☺
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Life can be so daily. It seems the more outsiders complain about people of faith the more they need people of faith in their lives. We need to remember as Christians that if we really believe what the Bible says, we are in a battle for the souls of men and women. That doesn’t mean that they will always want saved from the danger they are in but we have to still fight the fight for them. Among Christians I see so much weariness and depression, we are not called to these things but victory, life, joy, and peace. Why do we end up going through that stuff? This passage has part of that answer.
Peter and John had participated in a “notable miracle”; a man who was lame was now standing beside them whole. Miracles are a lightening rod; the cynics criticize the very idea, the religious try to control or explain it away. Peter and John did not pat themselves on the back but instead gave God all of the glory. Despite this, they had to get into a shouting match with the religious leaders, they were threatened they may have even had concerns that their time for their cross had come, we don’t know. They had spent a night in jail, threaten by their leaders, and lead over 5000 people to faith in Christ. These guys had gone through a very difficult time. When you pour out of yourself into the lives of others on a regular basis or when you go through difficult times it can be physically and spiritually draining.
If physically you do some extremely strenuous work or mentally have an intensely stressful time you need refreshed, refueled, and renewed. How much more, do we need a refueling when we go through spiritually strenuous times? The disciples cried out to God after their ordeal and His response was refueling them, refilling them with the Holy Spirit. Does the Holy Spirit drain out of us? No, but what does happen is our flesh and mind can get in the way of God’s plan and purpose so He comes to us to refresh us, renew us just like a meal or a good night’s sleep can do for us.
How are you feeling today? Are you refreshed or stressed? Refueled or drained? Take the time to seek the Lord ask Him to refuel you everyday. His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness to us. God is always faithful. If you are feeling worn out, burned out, or simply spiritually exhausted perhaps it is time to allow the Lord to refuel you and fresh your life. Try it today.
Friday, November 26, 2010
The city was crowded with people waiting to celebrate not unlike light up night in any major city across the United States. People from all over were jam-packed against one another. It was a tradition and celebration that everyone wanted to be part of, so people came from the world over. That was the scene on Pentecost in Jerusalem.
Jesus had left his disciples and asked them to wait, wait for what? They had heard of the Holy Spirit in the Kings and prophets of old but they were not prophets or kings were they? Jesus had talked to them about Him and there was a flow of the Spirit through them at times but Jesus was with them on earth. What was going to happen now?
Obedience always brings about great things. Much of our problem is the patience that goes along with obedience. It is easy to second-guess God when we are trying to be patience; did I miss God? Has God forgotten about me? Did I do something wrong and God is not going to answer now? All the questions anyone could have when it seems like God is delaying his answer. 500 had started out in the upper room and only 120 remained when the Holy Spirit did come. I would not have wanted to be one of the 380 that missed it. The Holy Spirit came and filled the 120; most likely the 11 disciples, the 70 others, the wives of those who were married and the special women listed throughout the Gospels.
The Holy Spirit gave them boldness. They immediately went out and preached. It wasn’t just Peter but the narrative states “they were speaking” and “everyone heard them”. Can you imagine 120 people all speaking in different languages and it not leading to confusion? That in itself is a miracle. We don’t know if all 120 spoke but we do know it was more than simply Peter. God wanted to reach as many of the Jews as possible and what better way than each hearing the Gospel in their own language spoken by those who could not have possibly learned it. Instantly the church became a mega-church of 3000 people. All of Jerusalem had to of heard about this miracle. Can you imagine the buzz through out the temple and the city?
Jesus had invested in the lives of his friends and now they in turn were given the power Jesus had through the Holy Spirit to change the world. Are you a world changer? Are you, like the disciples filled with the Spirit? Then you have the power to be “witnesses in Jerusalem Judea and the uttermost parts of the world. If you don’t feel like you have that power or don’t have it any more. I’ll be talking about it this Sunday at the Christian Center Church in Rostraver Township. See you there!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
I know there will be a lot of hustle and bustle from now until the end of the year however I would like to encourage you to take the time to be grateful for all that you have in your life.
Be thankful for:
All the various relationships
All of the ways the Lord has provided for you
That you are loved
Whatever level of health you have
All the various ways God has shown up in your life
For the freedoms we have in this nation
Most importantly be thankful that our Father loves you so much that He is always thinking about you, Jesus is always interceding for us and that the Holy Spirit is always teaching and guiding.
We are never alone. God is always with us.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful Christmas season!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Walking the face of the earth, Jesus was an amazing figure, larger than life, doing things that no one had ever done before. One of His main tasks was the training of 11 men to carry all that He had taught them so the world might be changed. We should always be about the work of training others. We can only reach so many but if we multiply ourselves through others we can accomplish so much more.
Jesus had trained, taught, and encouraged His closest friends. He had risen from the grave and spent an additional 40 days investing into their lives yet they still did not get it. As a Pastor and teacher I tend to accept the blame when someone does not get what I am teaching but that places me in good company, Jesus had the same problem with His closest friends. After over three years of being with Him, they still were wondering when He was going to overthrow the Roman and Jewish leadership and establish His kingdom. He had given them life experience and solid teaching now He was leaving them to make way for the one who would guide them daily, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had invested His life into the disciples now it was time for them to get to work. There is only is much teaching we can handle until we begin to become fat and lazy spiritually. Teaching is like food to us. We need to burn it off with some practical applications and then return for some more refreshing food. Many have heard me speak about the three types of people we need in our lives, Paul who is our mentor, the Barnabas who is our friend and encourager, and the Timothy who is our disciple the one we are investing our lives into. Part of the reason we need a Timothy is so that we have the spiritual exercise we need. In churches across the world people are receiving great spiritual food however, every time we eat we need to exercise or we will grow fat and unhealthy.
Jesus challenged His followers to go and wait for the promise and then the work will begin. You will have been given enough by me and now the Holy Spirit will come and help you remember all that I have taught you, about what to do and who you are.
It is easy to get caught up into a routine, to allow life to become so daily. Remember you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to change your world, to make a difference. Every Christian in American who has been going to a Bible-believing church for at least six months has more knowledge of the word of God than most people around the world. You too have been mentored and it is time to get to work. We need to apply what we have learned because the world needs what we have been given. If you look for them, God will give you opportunities!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I apologize to all of you who are daily reading these devotionals. I took the whole day off yesterday for the most part it was a technology free day. It was very restful. Thank you for your patience.
We all want to be forgiven when we hurt someone. We want to have relationships healed and move on with our lives Jesus wants more for us than that he wants us not only forgiven but restored as well this is part of the purpose of this chapter.
You know the story of Peter’s denial of Christ. Peter wore his emotions on his sleeve. There was never any doubt where Peter stood on any subject at any time. His denial was more crushing to him than anyone else. But despite his pain, he was the first to enter the empty tomb, the one to jump out of the boat and swim to shore rather than wait for the boat. His love went deep. Jesus knew his heart despite his actions. Have there ever been times when you have done something so completely wrong and against what you believe? It is painful, you can’t believe you have done it, perhaps this passage is for you.
As Peter drew near to Christ, Jesus engaged him in a odd conversation. Peter do you love me (three times, once for each denial). Then he gave him and instruction. The English does not do this conversation justice. The first two times Jesus says to Peter do you unconditionally love me and Peter’s response is I have great affection for you. Jesus recognizing Peter’s pain says OK Peter do you have great affection for me (we will start there) and Peter says Yes Lord all I can give right now is my great affection for you. I verse 19 Jesus basically says to Peter; I will meet you there. I understand, I will take what I you can give me for now that is enough for you to be my disciple for now. Don’t worry about anything else just “follow me!”
Jesus is never looking for perfection from us. He is looking for an on-going loving relationship. Where is your relationship with Him? Do you have great affection for Him as a good friend or are you at the level of unconditionally loving Him? Only you know that. In the world of unconditional love of there is a peace, love, trust and strength that are amazing. It is nice to have a friend in Jesus, but He wants to brig us all to a place of knowing His unconditional love for us.
Friday, November 19, 2010
It is hard to imagine that the creator of the universe was allowing Himself to be questioned by mere mortals, but it was all part of God’s plan. What other earthly way would Jesus have had access to all of the chief leaders in Israel at that time both Jew and Gentile?
We look at the abuse Jesus took over the next few hours of his life, as recorded in the Gospels as a very bad thing. In light of eternity it was a very good thing in so many ways. In these next few hours of Jesus earthly life, He will be spat upon, slapped, punched, whipped and physically and emotionally abused in so many ways, but there was a very high purpose.
All of us go through rough places. Some of us have been abused in the worst ways, physically, emotionally and mentally. Jesus can identify! He went through horrible torment. If you are looking fr someone that can relate to your suffering Jesus can!
Jesus suffered through His torment for a high purpose. He was able to share the “truth” with every person He was brought before. He had eternity in eyes. In the early 60’s an elderly African American Pastor, T. Brown was approached by a gang of white Klan members on the street near his home in Georgia. They held a knife to the Pastors throat and told him if he did not leave their part of the city they would cut him into a hundred pieces. The pastor looked them in the eyes and said, “Boys, I am not here as just a man, but as a man of God represent God as His ambassador, you can only do to me what He allows. I will tell you this that if He allows you to kill me and cut me into one hundred pieces then every piece will be saying, I love you!” They allowed him to go and the Klan never bothered him again.
Jesus established to all the leadership of Israel who He was and what He was about. Pilate even looked for a way to excuse Him from His torment. Jesus was ale to speak to Pilate in a way that he could understand in terms he could grasp. He gave him the “truth” in a way that made sense to him, so much so that Pilate was willing to allow Him to make the claim of a Kingdom and Kingship and not see that as treason. In this day and time that was a miracle.
Proverbs tells us, “a man’s gifts make room for him and bring him before great men.” Everything we good through in life, regardless of the difficulty, if given for Kingdom use, can change your world for the good! The difficulty you are having with a boss, spouse, friend, or enemy, if you allow it, God can use to impact lives.
We are “kingdom” people. We have the truth! The Lord will give us opportunities to impact lives in all kinds of ways if we will allow it and if we look at our situations through the eyes of eternity. Let the Lord do that in your life today!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Do you ever ask that question? I have! There are times where things are so crazy, grave, or disheartening that I wonder, who is in control. Of course I know God is but I, as Paul said see only through a glass dimly at the world and all that is happen. In the world, because of original sin and our human nature bad things happen. God is really in control.
Judas brought a large contingent of people to arrest Jesus. Some believe that Judas was trying to force Jesus hand others believe he was simply evil. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, Judas had more than enough people to overrun Jesus and any disciples that were with Him. They came with swords, clubs and a large group. When they approached Him as He spoke they fell back on the ground. Judas and his group thought they were in control but everything was the Lord.
There is a level of trust that I am constantly learning form the Lord. I think I have a handle on it then something comes my way where I become anxious or worry and the Lord has to remind me, if I am in His will, I can trust that He will do amazing things. God is always in control, He either allows things to happen or causes them to happen but as we have learned to trust Him, He makes all things work for our good.
What are you facing today? What challenges are in front of you? Do you love the Lord? It is never about perfection it is always about loving and building relationship with Him so that you can trust Him always. Trusting is a decision we must make. He is always faithful even when we are not, 2 Timothy 2:13.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I know many call the Matthew 6: 9 – 13 the Lord’s prayer but that is really the model prayer the Lord gave us to prayer. I believe this passage to be the “real” heart felt prayer of our Lord. This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, the compassion and the love shared between God the Son and God the Father is evident. Jesus love for us even as He is facing imminent death is simply amazing.
This passage is a conversation between and Father and Son. Jesus is talking to his Father that the job is done, everyone understands who He is and the relationship He has with the Father.
Jesus also makes it very clear that He and God are one. He says the glory of God to flow through both of them the way that it did “before the world was” verse 5. In verse 21 Jesus says that He and the Father are one.
What is this really all about? Jesus is having his final extended conversation with the Father before his betrayal and death and what is on His mind? You and me! He is saying Father we have beat back the enemies hold on humanity. I have shown them your love, they have seen you in me and they know that I am in you. I have proven to them that you really do love them and want relationship with them and that they can have a loving “oneness” with each other and you and I because of my life here and what I am about to do. Leave them here on earth to live a full and impacting life but protect and deliver them from the power of the fallen one. Fill them with love, joy, and truth! Keep them in your peace. We love them remind them of that. I have completed the race! We win!
God really does love us. Some times it is hard to believe or see but it is the truth. Jesus lovingly went to the cross for you and me. Satan does not have the power of eternal death over any believer. We have a secure place in heaven. Jesus did not stop His praying for us in the garden but He is always praying for us seated at the right hand of the Father. Our Lord’s prayer has never stopped!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I don’t understand God? I can’t understand what He is trying to tell me? How do I know what He is saying? Everything seems so vague. These are the types of response I get when I ask, “What is the Lord saying to you?” When we are struggling with something, God will, need for healing, direction or pretty much anything, it can be very difficult to understand what the Lord is saying.
Jesus is explaining to His disciples exactly regarding His death and resurrection. To Jesus it is crystal clear to the disciples it is cryptic. I wish everything the Lord guided me into were always crystal clear; my experience has been that often it is not.
Reviewing what the disciples were going through in this chapter and comparing it to my experience I want to share with you some my conclusions. We know that God does not jerk us around. He is a loving, caring God. He is the one who told us that His Word would be a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path. He wants us to understand His will. We must believe that or otherwise our view of God is skewed. Our walk is a faith walk. Simply put we must trust the Lord, that He is good and has our lives in His hands. Secondly, in our humanity, we have a way of naturally messing things up. Think about it for a moment, if the disciples knew plainly days in advance that Jesus was going to be crucified what do you think they would have done? Would they have tried to convince Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem? Would they have gotten weapons to prepare to fight? Would they have begun telling the crowd that was rejoicing triumphantly on Jesus entrance into Jerusalem what was going to happen and raised an army to protect Him? We don’t know but the Father needed for Jesus to lay His life down willingly for His people so our sins might be wiped away.
I know it sounds tough but something you need to note; in hindsight it is all very clear. Think about it in your own life, if you knew exactly what you were going to go through before it happened would you have tried to change it? If you changed things would the growth be as intense or the victory as sweet? He always speaks to us. He always guides. However, sometimes for our own sakes, He is a little more cryptic but in the end we can understand. The disciples understood Sunday morning what Jesus meant. They went through their sorrow and personal faith challenges and came out victorious, even Peter. God changed them, they walked by faith, they learned to trust, and they saw God at work. What a great thing!
What about you? What trial are you facing? What struggle are you going through? God does love you and will speak and guide you. Read the Bible, keep in prayer, talk with people that you know hear from the Lord, and most of all have faith that He really does love you!
Monday, November 15, 2010
Some times it is hard to understand God’s plans for us. There have been times in my life where I have simply been baffled by the things God is doing in my life. Times where I scratch my head and wonder. Some times the wonder is, “Why does God love me so much?” Other times it is the opposite, “What have I done that I am abandoned?” I know in my heart that the Lord would never abandon me but some times it feels that way. Faith is all about believing when you can’t see or feel. Hoping and keep hoping. God never fails!
The disciples were sure that Jesus was going to be made an earthly King. They saw the crowds following Him, the way He set right the wrongs of the religious leaders, how the people loved Him and many respected Him. God’s plan was not their plan. Jesus is a King but not of one nation or people but of all nations and people. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The disciples believed He would establish some kind of kingdom and He did not just what they were looking for.
Jesus kingdom was different than what they were expecting, add that He would need to die to accomplish the establishment of the Kingdom and you have plenty of opportunity for misunderstanding. The disciples were an oppressed people. The Roman government was ruling their nation; they thought it was finally going to be over. Jesus spoke to them about eternity not simply the few short years we live here on earth. They need to look at the long term not the immediate.
Jesus basically told them, “I’m doing the work to establish the Kingdom and you are not going to understand it right this moment but wait I’ll explain later. Then I’m going away from you again but I will keep teaching, encouraging, and guiding you through the Holy Spirit. While it seems you are alone you never will be!” Jesus wanted us to understand that in bodily form He could only be one place at one time yet the Holy Spirit could be with everyone all of the time, empowering each person to affect their world for the Kingdom of God.
Have you felt abandoned by God? I know it feels at times like you are, but that will never happen, He loves you. Your feelings may betray you and cause you to “feel” abandoned but the truth, Jesus said is, “I will never leave you or forsake
Thursday, November 11, 2010
One of Jesus’ leadership styles was service. It is always a fine balance for a leader to show vulnerability and to serve because the inclination of people is to put leadership on a pedestal and when they serve to make them common and lose respect. Many leaders simply choose not to find them selves in that position but I believe leadership is about setting examples. Jesus set the example in this passage.
Washing someone feet, in this culture, was the servant’s job. Sandals were worn every where, roads were not paved so to keep homes clean, servants would wash the feet of visitors. It is a sign of care and service and Jesus was setting an example for all grasp. Too many times when we think we have arrived we forget that love must rule our hearts. We must love enough to give the people around us what they need to become who they are called to be.
I think one of the very important points we must understand here is Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Jesus knew who Judas was and what he was going to do. Judas had become a betrayer and enemy of Jesus but he was not an enemy to Jesus, he was still a man that was loved by God. We don’t know Judas’ motive for betraying Jesus but we know Jesus’ motive for washing his feet, love. What an amazing example of how we should treat people. This is also a marvelous example of God’s love for all people. Think about it, Jesus knew this man was going to be responsible for His death. He was not just some random man, he was a friend, a disciple, some one he had invested His life into. Judas did not just turn his back on Jesus but had totally rejected Him. Despite all of that Jesus’ still loved him and washed his feet!
What have you don that you feel God cannot forgive? What have you done that you feel unloved for? Those are both lies! God loves and forgives always when we ask. He believes in you and will not give up on you. If he would wash the feet of his betrayer, don’t you think He will love you enough to walk you through whatever you are facing or have done?
Let Him love you today! Allow Him to show you that love, in a way you can understand it. You may be amazed at what God will do.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Jesus spends a lot of time taking about light and darkness. It is a very contrasting picture, easy for us to understand.
What does light do? Here are a few things about walking in the light.
1) Nothing is hidden in the light – everything can be easily seen when the lights are turned on.
2) There is no stumbling in the light – because we can see clearly we will not stumble, sin!
3) There is warmth in the light – even on the coldest winter day, when the sun is out it does get warm. Often we can become cold emotionally and spiritually, if we remain in the light we will never grow cold!
4) Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light
5) When the light is on darkness is revealed – you can see more clearly the difference between what is dark and what is light when there is light on. If you live in darkness it is easy to grow used to the darkness and to confuse darkness and light.
I know there are many more analogies that we can use and hopefully as you go through your day to day the Lord will reveal one that is important for you.
Walk in the light, the warmth, where everything is revealed, where there is no stumbling, where you can see more clearly and where it is easy to discern what is darkness and what is light!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
We are in a battle for our walk with Christ every day. It seems that there are so many things in this world that want to rob us from our faith. What is faith? According to Hebrews, it is the evidence of things unseen the substance of things hoped for. It is simply grasping who God is based on His Word and living like we believe it!
The religious leaders of the day knew God’s Word. They knew it far better than anyone else, yet they did not live it nor believe it. Who can raise a man from the dead? Only God, yet rather than believe that Jesus was God they decided to try to kill the evidence, they sought to kill Lazarus.
The people on the other hand simply believed. They heard the story of Lazarus death and resurrection and they believed. John makes an interesting statement he says that many left the Jews and believed. Nothing has changed! People are hungry for what is real. Religious tradition helps us to feel comfortable and it can point us to God, but there is still nothing like when God shows up. Most of the people did not experience the miracle they simply believed that God could do it. It way, the miracle proved to many that God does care.
Have you seen a miracle in your life? Think about it for a little while, I will bet that you have. Have you forgotten what God has done for you and maybe even through you? Life is so very daily! It is far too easy to say to ourselves and God that was yesterday, what have you done for me lately? God loves us all very intently and intentionally. He is performing “little” miracles around us every day. We need to take the time to recognize what God is doing in our lives. There is too much garbage going on around us, too many things that will rob us of faith, hope, and love. We may not see a resurrection from the dead today but if we look for it, God will give us the opportunity to see a spiritual resurrection or some other miracle today.
Don’t grow weary! Don’t give up! God desires to do miracles for us and through us. Like Lazarus if we live what we believe and we really believe many will come to see us, to know what we know. The world is looking and believe it or not, you do have the answers to questions they are asking. Believe everyday!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Sometimes it is hard to really believe that the Lord feels what we feel. Our emotions can be all over the board. The Lord really does have great compassion for us. He knows just what to do at just the right time.
Jesus had been told about Lazarus sickness several days earlier. Early enough that if He would have come when told, may have made it before Lazarus had died. He waited! God always knows the perfect timing for us. He hears are hearts cry and knows what we need to fulfill our hearts desire. He always knows what we can handle. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were not just acquaintances they were close friends, people whom Jesus had a great love for and knew quite well. Jesus knew they could handle the grief and He had a greater plan that would bless them all.
Sometimes God allows defining events in our lives. One for me was being surrounded in the Sudan by terrorist. Facing imminent death, I had full confidence in the Lord to hold my future in the palm of His hand, whether it was seeing Him soon or staying alive I was fine. It caused me to have a peace about my life and death and a renewed confidence that nothing can stop the plan of God for my life.
Jesus knowing that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead still wept at his tomb. His compassion was so great, the sense of loss Mary and Martha felt, the suffering we must go through because of original sin, suffering of all involved including Lazarus. Jesus heart broke and in verse 35, the shortest verse in the Bible it says, “Jesus wept”. God knows our pain; He longs to bring comfort and encouragement to us if we will only let Him.
Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was a defining moment in His life and ministry. His popularity reached a pinnacle and the religious leaders jealousy did as well. Openly, they began to plot Jesus’ death. Even this was part of God’s plan.
Do we really trust the Lord? That is a question I ask myself with most trials that I face. God really does have a plan for our lives. Bad things and good things will happen on a regular basis. Both will pass through our lives, the question is will we trust the Lord with them.
Make a decision today, despite the good, the bad, and the ugly, to trust the Lord. You may go through difficulty but that does not mean that the Lord is not with you. It simply means that here is another opportunity for us to trust the Lord.
Friday, November 5, 2010
As I had mentioned before, St Augustine basically posed the question, “Is Jesus a lunatic, liar, or Lord? We all must answer that question. We can not compromise to allow others to say that He was simply a good man or good teacher. Jesus laid down the challenge to all in Israel at the time. This passage makes that very clear.
When we are reading narratives like this we often read them in light of our understanding. We must observe the “tone” of what is happening here by the reactions of the people. We read passages like this based on already knowing what will happen, in doing so we can miss important nuances of the story.
Jesus said in verse 28, “I give them (my sheep) eternal life and they will never perish.” Only God can grant eternal life. Once again Jesus was telling the people that He is God. If that weren’t enough Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” a statement never uttered before Jesus. He was stating very clearly so the Pharisees and Sadducees could understand it that He is God! They understood. How do we know, “the Jews took up stones again to stone Him”. It was blaspheme to claim to be God a punishment worthy of stoning.
If that weren’t enough, He then went on to say, “Believe that the Father is in me and I in Him”. Once again they got it as they tried to seize Him (to kill Him).
Jesus was not afraid to tell people who He was. This discourse took place in the temple in Jerusalem, a busy place where the brightest and the best hung out. He knew what He was called to do and He did it knowing that nothing could or would happen until the appointed time.
One important thing that we need to understand, Jesus knew His audience. He did not speak, “Christianese” to them, He spoke in a way that they could clearly understand. He spoke in a way in which they could identify. There is was no confusion among the religious elite nor among the regular people, what Jesus was saying, everyone understood Him.
As Christians one of our major challenges is to make sure we are able to communicate in a way that people can understand. As a Pastor there are many things I desire to communicate, when I am speaking I try to remember who my audience is and speak to them clearly in a way they can understand. I try to use illustrations with which I believe they can identify.
The message of the Gospel should be shared in a way that the simplest and most knowledgeable among us can all understand. The Lord will bring people across you path today that will need to hear at least part of the good news that you understand. Find ways to speak to them so that as you are talking you can see the lights of their understand go on! You have been given a great gift ad God will help you use it and give it to others.
Jesus is God no doubt about it and we need to share that wonderful message in a way everyone can understand!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
This passage must be viewed in light of John 9:35 – 41, 10:21 clearly indicates that to be the reference. In case you don’t remember, Jesus had healed a blind man and the Pharisee’s rejected the miracle and Jesus in the process.
There are many in America today who believe that there are many ways to God or that every path leads the same way. Tis passage makes it very clear that according to Jesus there is only one way.
Jesus calls the people of the world sheep and the true Godly leadership shepherds. In Israel at this time, shepherds would place their sheep in a corral after having them out in the pastures. The door of the corral was the only legitimate way in and out. Jesus said He is the door, the only way in or out. He said if anyone tries to come in any other way they are a thief and a robber (they will attempt to steal life, joy, and their very souls for eternity).
The door is a safety net. Anyone who comes and goes throughout the world having gone through the door will have life and have it abundantly. The shepherd, (Pastors and Christian leadership) really care for the sheep and they lead only through the door. If they preach another Gospel, if anyone tries to say there is any other way they are a thief and come to come, to steal and destroy!
Sounds pretty harsh. We would like things to be kinder and gentler at times. We are not dealing with simply a good idea but eternal life and death. Often I will ask people who are saying that Jesus is just one way and that there are many paths, are you will to base your eternity on your opinion?
Believing Jesus is an all or nothing proposition! He is as St. Augustine put it, either a liar, lunatic or He must be Lord. He can be nothing else. He claimed to be God, as we talked about yesterday, so we must either believe that or totally reject Him their can be no idea of His simply being just a good teacher.
God has called us all to be shepherds in our own right. Each one of us has people that we can influence for the Kingdom. Don’t be afraid to stand strong on your beliefs. You are right, whether others believe it or not. You may be the only Jesus than others will ever see. The most freeing, blessed words in the world, you know and He will show you how to share them effectively. God loves all of your friends and family far more than you do. He will guide you to leading them into the truth in a way they can understand if you will allow Him.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
There have been a number of times in my life where things have happened and I have had to ask, “Can’t they see?” We do dumb things some times, things that others can see but we are blinded to.
The Pharisees were tasked with the job of presenting God’s word to the people of Israel. They had seen the false and arrogant rise up and claim to be something special and every time to this point they had guarded the faith. All of us, at one time or another, are able to allow our strength to become a weakness.
Jesus had healed a blind man, something never heard of in the history of the world. No charlatan could fake this. His parents were called in as proof of the man’s previous condition. The Pharisees protection moved from a positive to guard the people against heresy to a jealous fear. What would have happened if they had embraced this miracle? Often we don’t trust the Lord enough to see him in the middle of everything we walk through. God, using the formerly blind man tried to help them see that this was a miracle from God. Instead of opening their eyes to what God is doing they simply functioned in their strength, protection.
Have you ever made a snap judgment only to find you make the wrong decision? I have! Life can be so busy we don’t spend enough time listening to the Lord instead we operate in kind of an automatic mode. I believe part of the apostle Paul’s “dying daily” was to learn to always be sensitive to what God was doing and saying. We want to have the “mind of Christ”. I am sure that neither Daniel nor Joseph understood what God was doing and could have misinterpreted what was happening in their lives. Peter was having difficulty believing God really loved those who were not Jews. Each situation required sensitivity to the Lord’s heart.
Keep close to the Lord everyday. If Daniel, Peter, or Joseph would have missed God’s heart for their lives, millions of people may have missed their deliverance. The Lord may stretch you today. He may bring a person or situation to you that you will need to wait to sense what God is doing before you make a decision. God has great plans for all of us, and it does involve growing, maturing, in short, change! Become those who see not those who become blind.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Most of us like everything wrapped up in a nice neat bow. We like our movies and television shows to end with a happy and final ending. We like our lives to be in varying degrees of order. Generally we like the complexities of life simple. We fit things into categories so our minds can make easy reference and quick recall. We like things to fit in our worlds in a way that makes sense to us. God will often stretch that world to help us to see the way that He sees.
In Israel at this time, as in our world to day, we like to make simple conclusions of complex problems. If someone was sick, wounded, poor, name the problem, it was because of sin. Many people who come into my office view life this way. The difficulty they are having or some else is having is the direct result of sin. While that is a nice neat package it is not always true. Jesus said in this world you will have tribulation, some times are issues are simply because the world is the way that it is. Other times it is because the devil is the way that he is. Then there are times like we read in this passage, where it is simply about God receiving glory.
Did God specifically make this man blind and suffer for his entire life so that He could receive glory? Good question, the answer is, “No”! Sin brought into the world causes these anomalies. Not the kind we want to blame for everything else but because of man’s fall in the garden, we are bound into a sin filled and fallen world. Childhood disease, cancer, poverty, depravity and more are all the result of the fall of man. Jesus was saying to the disciples, It is not anyone’s personal sin that caused this but God is going to receive glory through the healing.
God can and still does miracles today. We put Him in a box and limit His power in our lives. We are the ones who tell Him, “No, you can’t do this or that!” Jesus said, “Nothing will be impossible with God!” the angel Gabriel said, “All things are possible with God!”
Tomorrow we find out more of what happened regarding the blind man’s story, but for today, I want you to believe in a God who can make the impossible possible for you! He can a will do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all we can hope or ask. Don’t face you difficulty alone today believe that God is able to make impossible things possible. It is not always easy to believe this way, in fact until we make a habit of it, it is never easy to believe this way, but the Lord will get us there if we let Him!
Monday, November 1, 2010
One of the arguments I hear from those who are “outsiders” or those of different sects or religions is that Jesus never claimed to be God. This passage is one of the strong passages that prove Jesus divinity. It is also a lesson in keeping focused on what is important.
Jesus spoke of His divinity clear enough for the Jews that they were ready to stone Him. I verse 56 Jesus challenges the Jews with the thought of His relationship to their patriarch of the faith, Abraham. He talks of Abraham as if He knew him personally, which he does. The clincher is verse 58. Jesus makes a very powerful statement that the Jews completely understood, “Before Abraham was (born), I AM”. Two things are being said in that statement that we need to understand. Jesus was stating that Abraham was human he had a beginning, “before Abraham was, (born)”
Secondly Jesus makes the statement, “I AM” this statement makes two proclamations to the Jews. First this says that Jesus has no beginning and no end, the “I AM” means He is saying I am eternal, without beginning or end. Secondly, by proclaiming to be “I AM” that is the name of God, “Yahweh” means “I AM”. Jesus was being very clear to the Jews that He indeed is God! What was their response, verse 59, “they took up stones to throw at Him”. There is no doubt Jesus made the claim He is God.
What else is important here? He challenged the religious of the day. They had gotten so caught up in keeping the rules that they had forgotten the heart behind the rules. Not only were they not loving the way that God loved but they weren’t even doing the works of Abraham let alone the challenge to walk as God had commanded them, “love your neighbor as yourself, love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” It is so sad when this happens; we think we are really loving God by keeping all of the rules, if we keep the rules and don’t love either God or people we miss the point and the joy of living.
Why would educated men like the Pharisees and Sadducees miss this? Most of us have the ability to want to “work” to please God. We want to earn His love and grace. We would feel better about ourselves if we did. We also interpret scripture our own way and those who don’t believe exactly as we do are considered heretics. They had a view of who the messiah was supposed to be and what he was supposed to do and Jesus did not fit their mold. Paul wrote, “I die daily”, in other words everyday he was asking the Lord for renewed vision, understanding and focus; always wanting his relationship with the Lord to be fresh and correct. It is so very easy for any of us to lose what is fresh and real and rely on stale ideas or faith. If we keep our relationship daily then all fear, worries, and concerns can fade away. We won’t need to worry about being deceived because we will have a fresh work of God in us every day.
Keep you relationship fresh! Know who Jesus is for you everyday. Allow Him to love you and speak with you everyday. See how that will change your life and your attitude.
Friday, October 29, 2010
The title of this devotional should be a sign that we post everyday. As I am reading the Bible I ask for insight and understanding each step of the way. It is easy for my mind to wander and at times confusion to creep in. When we are reading and confusion tries to overcome us we must take the time to either compare scripture to scripture or ask people that have insight and understanding.
There are things that people believe that are simply misunderstanding, myth, or simply ignorance. One example I have run into is that many believe that when people die they turn into angels. Angels were beings created by God to be His messengers, we humans go to be with the Lord the scripture tells us that we will judge angels, we do not turn into angels. There are many little things like that.
Jesus is telling the people He will need to suffer and die on the cross, He is being a little cryptic, however He had told them this before. He has also inferred to them that He is the Messiah. The people were looking for an earthly King that would raise the nation of Israel to its former state of glory. God sent a Savior to restore people bound by sin to a relationship with Him, establishing a Kingdom of people from everywhere.
The people were also confused in two different directions about what we know about Jesus and the Messiah in specifics. Some in the crowd were saying, “This can’t be the Messiah, we know where he has come from!” others were saying just the opposite, “Can the Messiah come from Galilee, the scripture says He must come Bethlehem?” If they had taken the time to ask questions rather than making assumptions they would have found the answers. God does not want us to be ignorant, He is not hiding His love, grace, or mercy from us. He is the “truth”! The enemy would like us to walk in deception and lies, leading us to frustration and a sense of hopelessness and depression. The “truth” sets us free.
The Sanhedrin guards heard the truth, they said, “no man ever spoke like this man.” They saw something and heard something in Jesus that they had never experienced before. They lived with the Pharisees and Sadducees and yet were amazed by Jesus.
God is looking for men and women of understanding to live that life before men. People are hungry for truth, they have had enough of the trappings of religion and are looking for something that is real and someone that is real. It is also very easy to cross the line trying to shake off all the things of religion and lose aspects of faith. God’s insight and understanding keeps us walking in the truth and enables us to bring the freedom so many are seeking.
You are a light in the darkness, salt in a flavorless place. You can ask the Lord for wisdom, insight, and understanding and you will be able to help bring the truth to others, a truth that sets them free.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
If we believe that God really loves us and has a plan and purpose for us, then we must look for His involvement in our everyday lives. If we are going to be a success in life then learning to listen to God’s guidance and direction are critical.
Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to go into Judea to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles in hopes that He would perform a few miracles and prove to them and the people that He was at east a miracle worker. Even though Jesus is God, in His grace He has given people free will with which they could have limited the effect of His ministry had the timing not been right. Jesus only listen to the voice of His Father to know where to go and when.
It is easy for us to jump on the bandwagon of doing this or that “for the Lord” and not really listening to what the Lord wants us to do. We are most effective when we take the time to listen to the Lord.
Ok sounds very spiritual, “listen to the Lord” but what does that mean in our practical everyday lives. First, it is not that spooky! God really does love us and in a love relationship communication is key. I believe God always wants to “talk” with us; we need to learn to listen. So how do we listen? First, God has written to us the most marvelous book, the Bible. Everyone owns one but very few people actually read it. People think they know what is in there, but once you begin to read it you begin to understand God’s heart and He begins to “speak” to you.
Second, prayer and meditation, King David wrote that he would meditate on the Lord day and night. Prayer and meditation go hand in hand. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is waiting on Him to respond. When we pray and meditate we are choosing to set aside time that are only for Him. (Most guys need to learn this in relationship to their wives) We are expecting to hear from Him, as we practice waiting we begin to hear Him speaking mostly in the stillness of our minds, something we have trouble doing with all of the noise around us.
Third, God places people who love Him, in our lives to give us the guidance we need. If you are having trouble “listening” to God, talk with people you know hear from the Lord, allow them to show you how to “hear” from God. It is always good to have someone walk you through separating what you think versus what God is saying.
Keep in mind, God very much loves you and wants to communicate with you! No love relationship can really function without communication. Good communication will save you heart-ache, keep you focused and enable you to be more effective in all that you do. You will be more fulfilled and touch more people if you learn to hear from the Lord.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
There are all kinds of people we have in our lives. People that want to hang around you because it makes them feel better, people that are in your life just because you work together, and those that stand with you whatever the storm. As long as you know where people stand, it is easy to handle. Problem happen when you think you have a friend who will ride out the storm with you and when the first little wind blows they run for cover, that is when it hurts.
Walking with Jesus is a joy. Knowing that your life and future are secure because of your friendship will make anyone’s day. Developing a friendship with the God who created everything is an amazing thing, it is one of the privileges of being a son or daughter of God.
Jesus had been performing many miracles, healings and speaking great wisdom. He had challenged those in authority who had been lording their righteousness over the people. He had miraculously fed over fifteen thousand people with only a few loaves and fish. He was all they were looking for loving, miraculous, radical and someone who would fill their bellies. What more could a people ask for? Jesus didn’t come simply for those things; those are all surface relationship things. He came so that they might have relationship with the Father.
If we want Jesus or really any relationship for simply what they can do for us we will miss out on the wonder of discover and growth that the Lord has planned for us. God brings people into our lives for us to bless, for them to challenge us, and for our growth and encouragement.
Jesus challenged the people to go deeper. The “eating of His flesh and drinking His blood” was His challenge to people to say be willing to die like I died, be willing to walk the walk they I will walk and you will have life in a way you could never imagine. You are in the way, when you die to your self and selfish desires, I will cause you to live in the fullness of God’s Spirit.
Many walked with Him no longer! Even His closest friends were challenged. Jesus had to ask them, “What about you?” Great answer by Peter, “Where else can we go? Who else has the words of eternal life?” I have been in that place where I do not understand what God is doing or why and the devil wants me to give up on my faith. That’s when I have had to stand and say, “Where else can I go?”
We all go through hard places. At one point in your life you will be asked to handle or do hard things. There are many lives that are depending on our growing to be the men and women God calls us to be. God will walk us through the hard things, if we are willing. They will cause our growth. The disciples could have walked away but they would have missed all of the great, miraculous things God had planned.
God has great plans for you! Part of that plan will cause you to walk through tough things and have you work through some difficult decisions. Will you trust Him any way? Will you continue to walk with Him or will you be a Fair weather friend who runs at the first sign of trouble.
“In this world you will have tribulation,” Jesus said, “but I have overcome the world.”
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Do you ever find yourself over-thinking some thing. Often when we over think we get into trouble, we read more into it than is necessary. Someone says something to you and rather than excepting it at face value we read something into it, “What did he or she mean by that?” It rarely turns out better or for the good and more often than not ends up either getting us in trouble or giving us a bad attitude.
The crowds around Jesus were over-thinking, they were making it harder to follow Jesus than it was. They were looking for a work or a sign that they would or could do that would give them entrance into the Kingdom. It is human nature to want to “earn” our way into the Kingdom of God. Jesus was explaining to the people it is as easy as eating food or receiving a loaf of bread. The simplicity is found in verse 35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” Simply recognizing who Jesus is, the “coming” to Him part and then believing in who He is, will get you into the Kingdom.
Too simplistic? Religion teaches us that we must work to “become” whatever the “becoming” part is of any major religion. Jesus asks us to simply believe. God already made the way! He eliminated the wall that separates us from Him by Jesus death on the cross and we want to keep putting it back up by putting in a list of rules and regulations of who can get there. Our relationship should be about falling in love with the Lord. When you fall in love and continue to give your love some very important things begin to happen, you learn to trust, you long to be with them, and you desire not out of demand but out of love, to do things that will please the one to whom you love. Some get that confused with “works” but if you love someone you long to be with them and do things that will bring you both joy. It all starts with coming to Him and simply, like a child, believing.
Are you making some things too hard today? God is really in love with you and wants only the best for you? Make the decision to simply believe, don’t worry! Just believe! Make it simple today and see what He will do for and through you. Let Him love you today!
Monday, October 25, 2010
There is more than enough in this passage to write several devotional thoughts but for today, I simply want us to look at one aspect of the miracle supper.
Most people are either glass half empty or glass half full kind of people. The idea is that some people always see the negative or problem side of things and others the positive. Neither is necessarily good or bad. People who see the glass half empty can be the ones who help solve the world’s problems. People who see it had full can always bring encouragement. It is what you do with the way you see things that matters. If you are whiney, and hopeless, half empty is a problem but if you use your insight to solve the problem you see then you change the world. if you are oblivious to reality half full is a problem, but if you help others to see the potential then you have changed the world.
The disciples saw a very real and potentially dangerous problem. People had been following Jesus and now where outside of the city with no sustenance. Jesus knew their fears and asked the question, “How are we going to feed all of these people?” Philip’s answer roughly translates into 8 months normal wages would not feed everyone. Jesus was looking to see if the disciples yet understood who He was. He was the one through whom all things were created. Jesus saw the problem and the solution; He also was looking for the disciples to see it as well. Andrew saw through the eyes of a little child. A child offered his loaves and fish. Andrew had seen what Jesus could do with plain water at the wedding of Cana. The child only knew the love he felt from Jesus and offered the only offering he had available. Jesus saw the heart of the child, the hunger of the people, and the power of the Father.
No matter what the problem, the Lord has an answer. We waste a lot of time worrying. Jesus lead the people out into the outskirts of the city, He knew they would be hungry; He knew how much money they had in their money sack. He also knew God the Father does not fail. Remember Jesus, said, “I only do that which I see the Father doing.”
What struggles or problems are you facing today? Jesus has already provided the means for your deliverance and freedom? Try not to be quick to worry but instead be quick to ask and look for the solution. There is always something or someone that the Lord will use in your life to solve your difficulty. God is a loving Father, there are times He wants us to grow through things but He always has the solution to every trial a difficulty. Look at the glass as neither empty of full but as potential for the Lord to do great things in our lives. I am sure that at some point even today you will face challenges, when you do see things as Jesus does, let Him show you the solution. Nothing is too difficult for God!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Each day we have task to accomplish. The task goes much more smoothly when we have the right tool. I have stripped many heads on bolts because of not have the right size wrench, have been frustrated with projects I needed to work on because of not having the right software for my computer. You most likely have done the same. It is very hard to accomplish the job we need when we do not possess or know how to use the right tools.
Jesus used tools as well. Does that surprise you? He was a carpenter for most of His life so He saw what happen when you had the right tool and the wrong one. Some of the tools Jesus used were; love, grace, scripture, and of course, miracles. Miracles as a tool? Absolutely, that is their purpose.
The nobleman came to Jesus looking for a miracle. His son was dying; he wanted his son to live. Jesus had compassion on both the Father and son however, understanding eternity He also would have know if the son would have spent eternity in heaven or hell. Having this knowledge He made a decision. Jesus love for all of us runs deeper than what we could ever imagine. He knows the incredible horrors of hell. No Halloween horror flick could ever truly compare to the sense of abandonment by God people will feel in hell. No Hollywood picture could capture the grandeur, splendor or wonderment of heaven. The decision was simple, based on John 3:16, 17 we know that God loves everyone and wants everyone to come into relationship with Him. God will draw people to His love always but we must choose to accept this love. Jesus used one of His tools, a miracle to touch the man, his son, and I am sure everyone who knew them.
What was the result of Jesus using the miracle of the boys healing? Verse 53 tells us the answer, “…he himself believed and his whole household.” It would be a disservice to the Lord to look at miracles as an end to themselves; miracles are always a tool to draw people closer to Him. Jesus could have made it into a spectacular event; He could have gone to the man’s home and healed the boy, but this time it was about entire family coming to faith. It sounds like had the boy died he would have spent eternity in hell. Jesus cares more than that.
Something we need to remember, everyone will have an opportunity to come to the Lord before they die. Some will experience miracles, others the still small voice, others will hear through other means. God loves all of us so much that He does all kinds of things to draw us to himself. You have people in your life that don’t know the Lord, you love them, want to see them come to the same knowledge you have and it is heart-breaking at times. Understand that the Lord knows and loves them even more than you do. Try to not worry or be anxious about you friends and family but keep placing them in the Lord’s hands. Whatever you hold on to will only be as good as what you can do. Whatever you give to the Lord will only be as good as what He can do! He can do a far better job in the lives of our families than we can. Give you family and friends into God’s hands; let Him use whatever tools are necessary to reach them. Life is not a short sprint, it is eternity and where we will spend eternity is dependent on our choices here on earth.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
One life equals hundreds
One of the statements I hear often is, “What have I really done to make a difference?” I believe one of the biggest tricks of the enemy of our souls is to convince us that our lives are worthless, that we are not having any impact. The key is always simply to do what God has called you to do. If you do that then you can rest assured that you are having exactly the impact God is expecting you to have.
Jesus stopped to talk with one woman. It is obvious that Jesus had no problem speaking to large crowds. The key is that Jesus always did what He saw the Father doing. It is not about doing big things only; it is about doing what God has called you to do. Obedience is better than any sacrifice you can do. God is not looking for big gestures, but simple obedience.
Jesus could have gone into town and performed many miracles to show everyone he was the Messiah. Instead, He was obedient to the Father, sat down by a well and spoke to one woman. Sounds simple but it was the most important things He could do at that moment. The woman had the greatest impact anyone could expect, the entire town turned to Jesus. One life, a few minutes of obedience turned into hundreds coming to Christ.
What is the one thing the Lord wants you to do today. It may not be something that anyone will see in this life but is exactly what the Lord has for you to do that will impact more lives than you can imagine. Could you be kind to an older person today, would you help with children’s church, or the church kitchen today, maybe it is simply praying with one person. Whatever it is no matter how big or small if you are being obedient to the Lord you will change the world.
Be a blessing today, listen to that gentle voice from the Lord and do what He asks you to do. Whatever it is may change hundreds of lives or it could simply change one that will change hundreds.
Today is you day! Just do it for the Lord
I want to apologize for this being late today, my internet was down.
If you have a relationship with the Lord, you are excited about life, about where you are going and what the future holds. If you came to relationship later in life you understand the impact that it means to everything. In other words, relationship with the Lord has made your life better and you want to share that with others. The question is, “How do we do that effectively?”
Jesus gave us an example in this passage. He had nothing in common with this woman. She was a woman he was a man, she was a Samaritan He was a Jew. she had been married and He was single the difference keeps going from there. Despite there obvious differences Jesus found common ground.
If we want people to know the joy, love and peace that we have come to know we must find a way to communicate that people will be able to understand, common ground. Those of you that know me have heard me say in all my travels I have found three things are universally true and that are common ground for most of us; everyone wants to be loved, do better for their kids than they did themselves, and even the most ardent atheists I have met have hoped there is something more out there than just us! Common ground.
Jesus found common ground with an everyday event, drawing water from a well. In talking about the seemingly mundane Jesus was able to hit on a need the woman had, to be loved. Like most people, she was slightly put off by his pushing her to a deeper level of communication. She tried to deflect the communication but trying to drag Jesus into a theological argument. He would go there or allow anything to distract Him from showing her love. One thing we need to be careful of is losing the heart of the matter through such kinds of discussions. In situations like this people are generally looking for us to give them insight about this topic, they are trying to find out what we believe and are willing to use that to shut down the discussion before it goes to far. Jesus stayed on point. When she saw that He genuinely cared for her, she began to open up. If you are sharing your faith just to add a “salvation notch” onto your belt you are missing the point. Correct theology comes from a deep love and understanding of God. No one’s theology is perfect but our love for people can be!
Most people are looking for relationship with the Lord. A recent survey showed that 60% of all people would come to church if asked. It is simply a matter of common ground. If you have been having difficulty sharing your faith with people, try finding the common ground.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I could have equally titled this, “Do you know what you believe?” Everyone who has ever been to a sporting event has seen and knows about “John 3:16”. There is generally someone holding a sign with that scripture, to be honest we can’t really live John 3:16 if we don’t practice and live John 3:17 as well.
Nicodemus had studied scripture most of his life. In John 2 there is mention of those who believed because of the signs, Nicodemus was probably one of those. He wanted to know what these signs meant. He wasn’t sure what to believe. When we have been people of faith for a while, we tend to develop belief systems. The challenge is not stay there. The closer I come to the Lord, the more I learn about Him changes me and at times what I believe. I learned about how deep His grace is for us. I had been at one time performance based in my beliefs, then the Lord taught me, and I got it, that His love for me is not based on what I do but on who I am. Nicodemus was open to being challenged by God; he wanted to be all that God had called him to be. I have to challenge myself everyday to be open to the Lord revealing new things that I need to understand about who He is, His love for me and for others.
John 3:17 states, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” It is easy for us to talk about God’s love for the world, but for us to overcome an air of judgment is not as easy. All of us have certain sins that we deem worse than others. We all have people that “rub us the wrong way” and we look down on them or with an attitude of disgust. We may not say it openly but our flesh is naturally prideful and self-promoting. Sometimes it is neither of those toward others, but we spend our time condemning ourselves.
John asks the question in his first letter, “How can we love God whom we haven’t seen when we don’t love our brother whom we have seen?” Our job is neither to condemn nor live under condemnation. It is our job to bring the love of God to people in a way that they can understand it. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring conviction to people and draw them to the Father. Ours is to be “Jesus” to the world. The only people Jesus ever openly condemned where the religious, the sinners He forgave and showed the way to freedom. Do we sometimes have that backward? We have mercy on the hypocrites and condemn those who most need to know they can be forgiven and free.
Can I challenge you today to ask the Lord two things; First, is there anyone in my life that I am condemning? Second, am I heaping condemnation on myself? Condemnation pushes people away from God; conviction draws them to Him and His grace. Rely on His grace today, for yourself and for others. Ask the Lord to show you how to be Jesus to others, to believe and live the way that He did. We don’t excuse sin, but as real believers in Jesus we must do what He did. He did not come to condemn but to bring life and freedom. If we simply believe and live Jesus’ way, we open the door for the Holy Spirit to bring the conviction and love that will lead them to the Father. What do you believe? Do we need to condemn or do we need to bring Jesus? I would rather have and bring Jesus!
Monday, October 18, 2010
John 2:1 – 24
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Luke 24:13 – 53
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Disappointment is a thief!
I don't know how you would handle it but I tend to believe that I would be just like the disciples, disappointed about the events of the last few days. Everything had been going so well. They came into Jerusalem as almost rockstars, just a week earlier. Now they are hiding. They had given up everything to follow Jesus and now they have nothing. Their faith as still small.
Disappointment comes because someone or something has failed us. Jesus had predicted his death on numerous occasions. The disciples should have remembered. Jesus promised whoever has given up much to follow Him will be given more, they should have trusted. Jesus raised others from the dead, performed miracles that no one had ever done before yet they did not believe He could perform the impossible now.
Think about your life. Is there someone or something that has disappointed you? Any disappointment can find it's root back to a lack of trust in the Lord! Think about it, whatever you are going through God has the power to supply, strengthen, bless, deliver, or just plain get you through it! We waste so much time being disappointed.
Jesus had risen from the dead yet the disciples totally missed it and wallowed in disappointment for a while longer because the did not trust the Lord. He had risen from the dead, conquered their every fear, proved that He and the Father are one, and that every word He said was true! They missed it!
God has a great plan for your life. You may have read something in the Bible that is a promise for you or someone may have told you something they heard from the Lord for you, all good things, then something happens. Struggles, battles, hurt, rejection happens and it robs of God's promises for us.
Don't allow your promise to be stolen from you! Don't waste any time allowing your joy, love or peace taken away. Jeremiah 29:11 says this "the plans that I have for you, are for a hope and a future, plans for you good and not for your destruction!" If nothing else believe that promise and disappointment will never steal another minute of your life.