Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Oreo Factor

Luke 18:29 – 43

In business there is a concept called the Oreo factor. It is used primarily when discipline or correction needs to be given. The idea is simply this; you compliment the employee, encourage them with what they are doing right, thank them for their hard work ad show them they are appreciated. The next step is to bring the correction, share the hard thing that needs correcting. Finally, you give an encouraging word. Everyone at one time or another will need correcting, if done correctly, hope will be the outcome of the correction..

Jesus is doing this principle with the disciples. They still believed he was going to establish an earthly kingdom. They had sacrificed all to follow him and were about to suffer from a short-term disappointment.

He expressed to them their sacrifices would not be in vain anyone who give up all will be given even more. Jesus then explained to them, in not so many words, that he was going to suffer and die, it was going to be a rough time but they needed to get it. Finally the good news, when all is said and done, he will rise again and this will establish His kingdom forever.

Discipline can be hard to take, a rough pill to swallow but if we want to grow in whatever we are doing we must be willing to change. What is the Lord asking you to change today? If you really love the Lord in order to become more like Him you must decrease and He must increase in your life. It is never easy especially when the things that need changing are not bad things but good. The disciples where not bad guys, mostly, but good ones who had given up all to follow Jesus. The true enemy of God’s best for you is what is simply good enough.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Get real!

Luke 18:1 – 28

I was raised in a Christian home. I am a second generation Christian; it has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantages; that we should be able to easily pass our parents in their faith because they have gone before us and dug up the ground of our faith. We also have seen the struggles and failures of those who have gone before us and should be able to avoid those problems and failures. Some of the disadvantages; we can become complacent, resting on our parents faith, or we build false ideas of what God wants based not on reality but on what we think God wants.

Jesus begins this passage with two examples of prayer. Both of them are about being real with God.

How many times have you been told something similar to this, “It must be God’s will that’s why you are going through what you are going through.” Some times the Lord does walk us through hard places but we need to know it. We should never give up, or accept anything as God’s will for our lives until we have heard from God for ourselves. The woman wants justice, an answer from the judge, she could have given up but instead she would not rest until she got an answer. God is not badgered by our looking for Him or an answer from Him. He wants us to seek him with all of our heart. He wants us to get real, to let him know how we feel and to not give up and until we are satisfied that He has spoken to us. Never give up until you know you have heard from God.

The next example Jesus gives is of two different attitudes; one real and one religious. The Pharisee was praying so that all could hear how righteous he was, he was not communicating to God but to the people around him. God knows what we have done, we don’t need to rattle off our grocery list of achievements, don’t get me wrong, there are times the Lord wants us to remind him of His promises and what we have done to place ourselves in a position to receive those promises. For example, Malachi says for the Lord if we tithe God will open the windows of heaven. If you are giving at least ten percent of your income to your local fellowship then God says test me and see if I won’t open the windows of heaven. If the windows of heaven aren’t being opened for you that take that to God. The Pharisee’s attitude was all about him telling God how great he is. He did not need God. The tax collector’s attitude was simple “God I need you!”. It is not that God needs to be needed but that when we are trying to be all that we can, if we realize we can’t do it without God then God is blessed and He makes it happen. We are not our own gods! “God is God and we are not”, as the song says!

God really loves us. He knows all about us, therefore nothing can be hidden from Him. So don’t try to be fake in your relationship with Him. Get real! I believe God enjoys us just being who we are around Him and then we know what needs work and we know He will do the work in us.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Live a life that is ready.

Luke 17:22 - 37

Did you ever wait for a plumber, roofer, delivery person only to give up get ready to move on and at that moment they showed up. It can be very frustrating, you wait for the promised time and it seems to have come and gone and nothing is accomplished, you feel as if you have wasted your time but then what you have waited for happens.

Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. I hate waiting. If someone says they are going to meet me, they had better show up. Not very patient am I? I see it as a point of respect but there are times when lateness can’t be avoided. The early Christians became frustrated with waiting for Jesus return. Jesus tried to warn them even before his crucifixion, to always ready.

Jesus waiting for his return is not to drive us crazy but because of his love for all of mankind. He wants every man, woman, and child to know how much He loves them. He is willing to wait until everyone has the choice to follow Him or reject Him. He is not slow in His coming but loves so much.

Our job is to always be ready. Our job is to help bring His return by sharing His love with everyone around us. Not to be impatient, not to try to run out of this world, to escape but to be Jesus hands extended to the world.

Things on one hand will seem very normal. People will be working, marrying, and celebrating, and things will become more evil and when everyone has heard, then Jesus will come.

You can join in helping to eliminate our waiting. Perhaps The Lord is calling you to share the love that God has given you, with others! God will bring people to you that you can reach, people you can touch, and people that will understand you, they are the ones God has called you to help them hear about God’s love. Look for them, while we have the time!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Intentional Impact

Luke 17:1 – 21

So much of what we do everyday seems random and mundane, we get up, have breakfast (the most important meal of the day) and go off to our daily routine of work or care for the family. God wants us to realize that we need to live our live intentionally, that every thing we do we realize is either preparation, doing, or the cool down from what the Lord has called us to do.

Everything about Jesus life was intentional, nothing was random, and everything He did had purpose. We don’t have recorded everything that He did, however he knew where he was going what needed to be accomplished and was focused on getting there from here. That does not mean He didn’t take time to smell the roses or laugh with his friends but enjoying the all the gifts the Lord has surrounded us with is also part of intentional living.

In this passage Jesus was intentionally about hugging the little ones around him, kind of unheard of for an adult male in this society. If it were today he would have been teasing them, hugging, them “high fiving”, fist pounding and generally laughing with them. Children were important to Jesus, they representing the future and the innocents and trust we should have as followers of Jesus. He was intentional about being around them. He didn’t need to; He was popular and powerful and didn’t need to stop for the children. It is easy for us to hang out with the people we want to and that we will benefit from but Jesus intentionally would choose to be around people that would not benefit Him at all but who need to see the Father’s heart in Him.

Jesus intentionally went through Samaria, a place where, as a Jew he was not welcomed, appreciated, or celebrated. He knew they needed what He had. It is so easy to become offended, our flesh needs to be celebrated and welcomed, but the message we have will not be celebrated until people are able to understand it in a way that impacts them. How can they hear this message or reach the Father’s heart unless we are willing to be intentional. The good thing is when we choose to do things like that God shows up. It is His heart to reach everyone with His great love. Notice that Jesus intentionally made a way for miracles to happen.

Who is the Lord sending you to? Where is He calling you to be intentional? What miracles are waiting for you today?

Friday, September 24, 2010

God knows where you are!

Luke 15:20 – 32

Very simple this morning, we are all familiar with the story of the prodigal son. If you have been in church or around the church for any length of time you have heard the story. There is really only one part of the story I want to stress this morning.

In verse twenty the narrative says when the boy came to himself, he decided to go home. As we continue to read, something is said that we could easily miss the whole impact if we are not careful. “When he was still far away his Father saw him and had compassion on him and ran to him fell on his neck and kissed him”

We don’t know how long the boy was gone, could have been months or years. It was long enough to squander the fortune his Father had given him. Regardless of the length of time he was gone, the Father was still looking for him. Can you imagine the Father’s heart ache day in and day out knowing what the world had in store for his son, yet having to let go and allow his son to make those mistakes. Our heavenly Father is still doing that today.

Notice the Father never moved. When the boy was ready to come home, he knew exactly where to go, the Father stayed where He was. We too can easily find our way back when we stray off of the path. God will be there just where we left Him.

The most important part, how did the Father see him coming? He was always looking, hopeful that His son would return. When we stray, God does not turn his back on us in fact the exact opposite is true, He is always looking anticipating our return. The Father day in and day out keep looking down the road until one day his anticipation was fulfilled, when he saw a familiar figure off in the distance. He did not wait for his son to come to Him but he ran to him to bring him home.

We can never go so far away from the Lord that he does not know where we are and is waiting lovingly for us to return. We often believe like the young man in the story that our Father will never completely accept us but God is always there waiting for us, longing for us to return. He knows the pain in the world; He felt the cruelty of this world through Jesus death. He wants us to avoid this pain, but when we choose to follow after it, He is always waiting for our return.

This story is a love story, a story of God’s patience and grace. You may feel at times, as if you are far away from God but this story shows us of His great long enduring love for us. I hope today you realize a little better how much God really loves you and that you are never too far away.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

99 verses the 1

Luke 15:1 – 17

Does God really value everyone? That is a question that we make an intellectual ascent to say “Yes” of course God values everyone. If He does and we are His followers why don’t we? When you go into a convenience store, do you look the clerk in the eye and think about how valuable they are to the Lord? When the elderly person or the woman with numerous children in front of you takes longer to do their task that you would like do you take the time think about how valuable they are to the Lord? You get my drift; I could go on and on. I have challenging experiences like this everyday.

Jesus was challenging the Pharisees in a similar way. The Pharisees take a bad rap in much of the Gospel for their stubbornness, religiousity, and arrogance but remember Jesus kept after them because He loved them too. The Pharisees looked at those outside of their circle as bad, evil people, sinners! That is often the way we look at ourselves, while others may look at us that way as well, Jesus does not.

There are a couple of things we need to understand about what Jesus is saying here.

He notices when we are lost. You can not escape the Lord’s eye he knows where we are physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally and he still pursues us!

He knows we don’t know how to get there from here. No one wants to be lost. Depression hits, anger or fear overcome us, or wounds bind us up and we find ourselves lost with no way out. Jesus knows where we are and will lead us or carry us out of our lost place.

There is no one more important to the Lord than you! He notices when we are lost, He knows you can’t get here from there, and he is willing to leave everyone else to come after you. Often the enemy of our souls will get us to believe that we are not that important. To a group of the most self-important people in Israel, Jesus said if one of these that you deem unimportant is lost, I will leave all of you to go get just one. It doesn’t matter how lost we may feel Jesus sees us as important.

Two things from this devotional; first, who do you see that is lost? Begin to recognize them as valuable, second no matter how lost, hopeless, worthless you may feel Jesus knows where you are and will come to you. Let Him pick you up on his shoulders and bring you back to the place where you belong

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice!

Luke 14:1 – 34

The Bible has many deep truths but it also as many truths that are just simple and right. The people who followed Jesus where a collection of all types and groups; Jews and non-Jews, management and labor, the wealthy, the middle-class, and the poor all had their place as Jesus disciples. Jesus reached across boundaries of finances, position, and religion. On the other hand we tend to get locked into being around one type of people. In this passage Jesus is trying to help us with a very practical example of how we can cross those boundaries.

A wealthy man is having a party so he naturally invites all of his wealthy friends, the people just like him. Every excuse his friends give is a “good” excuse but still an excuse. If it had been you or me we may have simply gone into a “funk” because our friends would not come to our party. Jesus wants us to see what is important, we need to break out of our mold some times and be open to touching the lives of others. The poor are important in the kingdom, but so are all the people we presently reach and those we do not. Jesus is stressing our need to love the way that He loves, all people even those with whom we are uncomfortable.

Who is the Lord using to stretch your life? Is someone stressing you perhaps the Lord has brought them into your life to help you become more of who you are called to be. God loves you, your friends, and your enemies. Embrace how the Lord is stretching your relationships today!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Got the rules but missing the heart!

Luke 13:1 - 34

We all have them in our lives, legalist. The movie Santa Clause 2, with Tim Allen is an excellent example of this. The premise is this; Santa Claus has other work he must get done so he clones himself. The “other” Santa reads the rulebook and decides to do everything the book says, which is normally a good thing except his interpretation of what the book says verses the heart of what the book says are two different things. The result, no child is good all are bad; no one deserves presents all deserve coal. This is an excellent example of legalism, no child is going to be perfect, if you stick by the rules; children who do bad things get coal then all deserve coal. Apart from Christ, religion is just like that, all of us deserve hell, we all have sinned and deserve eternal separation from God. With Christ, we have all been extended grace and mercy because of relationship.

Jesus life on earth was devoted to showing people that God was not about a set of rules trying to make us all perfect. He is about a love that gives us the freedom to overcome sin through God’s grace, mercy, and love. Anything or anyone that teaches another Gospel is different than Jesus.

This passage is an example of Jesus overcoming religious by love, dealing with the hypocrisy of religion. The religious of the day kept their lives in line through legalism, don’t blame them too much because we all gravitate to something for security and if our relationship with the Lord is lacking we will gravitate to religion. It can be a religion of family, sports, work, or any number of things. Jesus said the greatest commandments were, “Love God and love people!” The new one that He gave to us before He went back to heaven was, “Share that love with people, everywhere, show them how to be true followers of Me!” In an effort to be religiously obedient to God, the leader of the synagogue wanted to keep the rules as he read them, not necessarily as God had intended. We all have to be careful of this; it is easy to look at life through “me” colored glasses rather than the heart of God. The Lord is for people to know He loves them.

Healing a woman who struggled for 18 years was a love thing! The leader could only see that Jesus violated the rules. We all have our weaknesses; we all see God at times through the “me” glasses. When you do, correct it, fix it, apologize, do whatever it is that you need to do to act in love. If you do, you are less likely to repeat the same type of mistake. Even greater, you will defeat your own religious nature with His love, by doing so you find more of His heart in all that you do.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Transformation by fire

Luke 12:40 – 59

I apologize for this being so late today but sometimes life happens:)

Do you ever get frustrated when people aren’t hearing what you are telling them? I know many wives feel that way about their husbands. Men often, only half listen making assumptions about what their wives area saying, leaving them to miss the point. I don’t know if Jesus ever really got frustrated, if he didn’t this may be the closest he had gotten.

Jesus is obviously upset with the religious leaders who say they are godly, yet are not looking for the real messiah. They continue in their religious way ignoring the relationship that the Lord wants with His people. In Luke 3:16 John the Baptist says that he baptizes in water but Jesus is coming and will baptize with fire. The fire, as I mentioned Sunday morning in my teaching, is the Holy Spirit’s power to transform, not just change, not just wash clean, but to completely transform lives. We will tend to fall to the lowest common denominator if we are left alone. We tend to mediocrity if we do not have a hunger for the Lord burning in our hearts.

The division Jesus is talking about happens when people who begin to allow the Holy Spirit to transform them. When we begin to become whom God has called us to be it goes contrary to the world system. Add to that, people desire for all of us to not “rock the boat” thus we naturally engage in a battle. The really sad part is that the Lord does have great plans for us and He is constantly drawing us nearer to Him, if we accept His drawing then we cause division with those that choose to live a life of mediocrity but we also begin to fulfill our destiny and find the real joy and peace the Lord has promised.

God can do whatever He wants to do but He chooses to use us. There are so many lives in the balance, lives the Lord has called us to impact everyday. Unless we allow the “fire of the Lord” to transform us they will never be reached by us. We not only lose the impact through our lives but also potentially lose the fulfillment of all we are called to be.

Change is never easy. Staying where you are will never get you to where and who you want to be. The interesting thing is even if we do not want to change we will. If we do not listen to the Lord and allow Him to change us our hearts will change, they will continue to grow hard toward the Lord and it will become harder and harder to hear Him.

Allow the Lord to change you today. Allow His fire to transform you into who you are destined to be. It is not easy but it is worth it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

From the negative to the positive

Luke 11:29 – 53

I have quoted it and I hear it quoted often, “God makes all things turn for good for them that love God and are called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28. This is one of those passages. It seems like at first glance that Jesus is really being harsh but the truth is, He loved them enough to bring correction into their life.

I like having people who will speak the truth to me. I hate it when people will smile at my face and then talk behind my back. For some reason people feel that is a Christian response, “let’s not make waves, let’s just tell him what we think he wants to hear.” There is no love in that at all. Even if your attitude is wrong and you “truth” is wrong it is better to tell someone you love what you think the truth is than to gripe and complain behind his or her back. That being said, I hope you understand better what Jesus is doing here! What sounds negative is really a positive.

Jesus loves all people, however both the people of Israel in general and the religious leaders specifically have had numerous God encounters and still walk around prideful and arrogant.

His challenge is simply this:

1) You are wondering what is God’s plan and purpose, read the scriptures you have been sent the prophets of God over and over again why don’t you listen to them to get your answers.
2) Don’t play “Christian” be a Christian. Keeping the rules and making a show of it may impress people but it does not impress God. Start living and intentional “Christian” life where you live God’s love. (I know the Pharisee’s were not “Christians” but you get the point here.)
3) Don’t burden people with your sense of holiness. Too many times the Lord convicts us of something that he has not convicted others of and we feel we need to place that burden on others. Or we have burdened ourselves by coming under some legalist point of view that is not “Christian” and because we are in bondage we help to bring others under the same bondage.

Jesus did not come to begin a formalized religion but a relationship with God the Father through Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Any one of us could easily find ourselves in these categories so it is important that we check ourselves daily. Paul said, “I die daily” Best way to check is to measure yourself by Jesus life and also look at your own life to see if love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control really rule your life.

It can be a struggle to be who we really need to be. The Lord will disciple us at times if are hearts are really sold out to Him. If you really love your kids you will discipline them, if you really love your family or friends you will speak loving words of correction into their lives. God does the same to us. He wants us to walk in freedom, strength, power, and love, in a real relationship with Him. Allow the correction in your life. Don’t look at it as a negative but a positive. “Who the Lord loves he disciplines!” Hebrews 12:6

Thursday, September 16, 2010

God would never say, “Don’t bother me”

Luke 11:1 - 28

Have you ever felt like no one was listening to you? You talk, especially when you feel you have an important point, it seems as if nothing is getting through? I have felt that way about prayer. Either my prayers aren’t getting above the ceiling or there is some kind of shield between me and God and he just doesn’t want to hear, he doesn’t want to be bothered. When I feel that way I go back to Psalm 139 and remind myself of God’s love and promise to always be looking after me.

The disciples wanted to know how to get through the shielded ceiling, through prayer. Jesus gave them an outline that we call the Lord’s Prayer. I believe it should be called the disciples prayer, Jesus was teaching the disciples how to pray. I believe the Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17. Check it out if you have some time today. Jesus gave them a simple formula to establish the right attitude in prayer. Start by recognizing who God is, thanking Him, and asking Him to be in control. Staring with that attitude, you are in a position to ask for what you need in all aspects. You are also in a position to receive forgiveness as we are reminded to forgive others. So we don’t wind up in trouble, feel free to ask for the guidance and protection you need to keep you on the straight path.

This type of prayer is all well and good but sometimes when we do them, we don’t get the answers we are looking for. We get the feeling that God is saying, “Don’t bother me”. Jesus went on to say (in the Tim Burgan translation), “If you need something and your neighbor can help, won’t you keep bothering him until he does?” “Expect the same from God!” “Don’t give up until you get an answer!”

The words Jesus uses in the passage for “ask”, “seek” and “knock” are all meant to be interpreted in English as; ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking until you get an answer. Don’t give up God doesn’t mind and really is never bothered!

Our praying is part of our relationship building. It shows our trust or lack of trust in God. It keeps us focused on who is in charge and humble at the same time. God will answer our prayers; sometimes immediately and sometimes it takes a while but it is all about trust. He is your loving friend and Father. He will not jerk you around. He loves to be with you. It is never a bother for you to talk with Him!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Character is who you are when no one is looking

Luke 10:25 - 42

A priest, a Levite, and a lawyer all walk into to bar…. Or so a joke would go. In this passage a lawyer ask a question, “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?” The Bible says he was testing Jesus so He threw the question back at the man, “What do you read in the scripture?” The Lawyer answered, “Love God heart, mind, soul, and strength and you neighbor as yourself!” Jesus said, “Do this and you will live!” emphasizing that this is really the truth the lawyer is missing in his life. There were certain people all of the Jews hated; the Samaritans were one of them. Jesus never fooled around with a teaching moment He went straight to the heart. “Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asked. Then the story begins!

I believe this to be more than a simple story about generosity but one of the heart of true faith. True disciples of Jesus allow love to rule their hearts not their preconceived religious ideals. Don’t get me wrong, traditions help us to remember why we do what we do, they are not wrong in themselves but when they get in the way of serving Jesus and being Jesus to people, they have become our god!

Priest and Levites were in the service of God. If they were to touch a dead body they would have become ceremonially unclean. They would not be able to perform their duties in the synagogue. It seems like a legitimate excuse but which do you think is more important to God, a ceremony or touching someone with love. The ceremony is meant to point people to God and be a representation of His love. The actual caring for a wounded person would have really been His hands extended. The people at the synagogue could have lived another day without the ceremony. The man on the road could not.

It is nice to get the accolades of man. It is nice to get the pat on the back, the “atta boy”, but what God is looking for is, “Who are you?” We are who we are, not when everyone else sees, but when we are faced with a private problem. Our reaction in private reveals our character. The Priest and Levite, if they were living the life they espoused, would have responded to the heart of God rather than the tradition. We all have our weaknesses, we are often defined either by what we do or the relationships we have, both of those should be defined by who God is in our lives. It is great to be the pastor, teacher, usher, worshiper, servant, they are all very key roles in the church but if we forget why we are doing it we need to go back to our first love.

If you have failed a test of character like the priest and the Levite, don’t panic! As humans we will do that from time to time. Our humanity gets in the way of our Christ-likeness. We need to look at it as God revealing something in us that needs correcting. In the follow up story, it happened to Martha. She got so caught up in the service that she forgot the love. Keep your relationship fresh with the Lord everyday. Keep His heartbeat in your heart and you will always know what the right thing is. Your character will be revealed both in the light and the dark as the same. Don’t be afraid when the Lord points things like this out to you. Embrace it as something the Lord is doing to bless you and help you become who you are called to be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shake off the dust and believe!

Luke 10:1 – 24

I don’t know about you but there seem to be a million things going on in my life right now, all of them good but still a million. However, if with a million good things going on, all it seems to take to mess things up is one bad thing. Does that ever happen to you? As humans it is easy for us to focus on what is wrong rather than appreciate the things that are right. Bad things are going to happen but as men and women of God two things really always occur. More good things happen than bad and second God can turn the bad things to our good if we will trust Him.

In this passage, Jesus is giving some great instruction to the disciples. Go heal the sick, cast our demons, and do all kinds of miracles! Boy I would love for him to say that to me! (Oh right, He did say it to me in both the end of Matthew and Mark!) These men were out there doing it, the sick were being healed, miracles were taking place, and demons were being cast out. Despite all of these great things, some cities were rejecting the disciples. Can you imagine anyone rejecting miracles? (I am saying this sarcastically; millions in the church and outside of the church today reject the idea of miracles) There will be times when you pray for people and you will not see the miracle immediately. There will be times when people will reject you because you believe in miracles. We want affirmation, every person does! When we are rejected it can hurt and cause us to give up.

When we think of the disciples, we tend to put them on a level above all things. We need to keep in mind that these guys were just normal people, fisherman, business owners, and soldiers - normal people. They had normal feelings but were called to be supernatural people. When they were rejected it hurt. Jesus warned in advance that they would get rejected. He told them shake the dust off of your feet and move on!

The enemy wants to stop God and God’s people from doing great things. He will use whatever means he can to get us. Rejection has been a key tool of the enemy for a long time. It causes us to go into depression, doubt our call, our God, and ourselves. Jesus knew that for the disciples before He sent them out and knew that for us today. He said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but I have overcome the world!” The minute we allow rejection to grab hold, is the minute the enemy wins.

I have seen many men and women of God wiped out, leave churches and/or ministries, just because of a bit of rejection. They made a choice to believe a lie of the enemy over a promise of God.

People have been rejecting God’s plan and purpose for millennia, but His purpose will not be stopped (Job 42:2). The next time your call, ministry, or purpose are rejected, shake the dust off of your feet and believe God and His promises!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The challenges to following Jesus!

Luke 9:45 – 62

At first glance this passage seems like Jesus is an insensitive jerk. Three guys say they will follow Him and He shuts all three of them down. (57 – 62). Jesus is making a point here to show us the cost of following Him.

I have a friend who just went into the military. Before boot camp they showed him a film of what boot camp is really like so that everyone knows what they are getting into before they go. In this passage Jesus is showing us that we have to know what we are getting into and set out priorities correctly if we are going to follow Him.

The first guy is all excited about following Jesus. While we need to love the Lord with all of our emotion (heart), it must be balanced by a full commitment of every aspect of who we are, intellect (mind), drive and passion (soul), physical being (strength). An initial enthusiasm is not the basis of long lasting discipleship there must be more. Jesus explains to him, I know you are excited but can you really live on the road the way that I do?

The second guy wants to follow Jesus but wants to do it on his time. Jesus ministry only lasted a little more than three years. This man wanted to wait until his Father died, then bury him, then follow Jesus. It sounds noble and right the problem is Jesus call to follow him is a “now” call. There are so many things; even good things that can distract us from follow Him. We tend to procrastinate and Jesus is saying to this young man’s procrastination choose who you want to follow the dead or life. Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life. The man had to choose to follow life or death now.

This last one seems like a reasonable request as well, “Let me go home and say goodbye to the folks, then I’ll follow you!” Jesus response sounds somewhat cryptic but he is saying this, “No half-hearted disciple will ever really have an impact.” If you are going to follow Jesus you can’t be mixed in loyalties. The interesting thing is, if you are willing to walk away from the loyalties and place them in His hands, then He becomes Lord of those loyalties and takes care of them and generally strengthens them better than anything we could do on our own. It is all a matter of trust.

Do you struggles with any of these today? Did you have a heightened enthusiasm for following Jesus but then lost it due to “life”? The Lord can restore it. Has the Lord called you to do something and you feel like you missed it because you procrastinated too much? God can restore. Have you given your loyalty and priority in one direction and have found your walking hurting because Jesus is not the priority of your life? God can restore!

It is pretty simply to have your relationship with the Lord restored and renewed. First, simply ask for forgiveness. Tell the Lord you have blown it.

Second forgive yourself. Often we beat ourselves up over the things the Lord has forgiven us of a long time ago, but we still hang on to it.

Third, live like you mean it. The best way to show that we have changed is to live our lives like we meant what we said. This is true repentance.

If you choose to do this, you will see a life change. Your true destiny is in your decision to follow the Lord 100%

Friday, September 10, 2010

Faith again?

Luke 8:36 – 59

This passage has a verse that has helped me get through more difficult times. Standing on God’s promises is easy when things are going well. It is easy to believe God will supply when you have a good job, that he will take care of you when your health is good, or that He is really in control of everything when your life is smooth sailing. If any one of these areas or others is touched by difficulty or worse tragedy, standing on God’s promises begins to be a challenge and takes real faith. When we choose to stand we see God is faithful to His promises.

Two actions of faith completely different but both desperate.

The woman had spent all that she had, gone to every doctor she could and no one would or could help her. She had nowhere to turn. I wonder how many Priests, Pharisees, or Sadducees she touched before she touched Jesus. To get to Jesus she had to fight through the crowd but what was even more difficult was she had to fight with her doubt. She had to push through to believe that this would be the time, this is the man, “I am going to receive my healing!”

How many times have you prayed and not received your answer? How many times have you prayed and things have gotten worse? This woman battled hopelessly for 12 years yet did not give up. We don’t know why it was a 12 year long battle but what we do know is that she fought the fight and won. Paul wrote, “Do not grow weary in well doing for in the end you will reap if you do not grow weary!” How long do we wait, fight, or persevere? Until we get the answer! God is always faithful the question is, are we?

Jairus had an only child, a twelve-year-old daughter who was dying. He was an official in the “church”. He too was desperate, desperate enough to lay down his reputation and pursue a radical teacher from the nowhere place of Galilee. Sometimes are pride can get in the way, sometimes the lord wants to correct our theology to remind us that it is not about what we do or who we are but about faith and trust in “whose” we are! Jairus had placed his reputation and position at risk to go to Jesus for help only to have his hope destroyed when the servant announced his daughter was dead. God’s love and faithfulness are every lasting and amazing and Jesus proved it right here. He knew the sacrifice and the faith it took for Jairus to come to him. What pleases God? Faith! Jairus had it. Jesus turned to him and said five very powerful words, “Don’t be afraid, only believe!”

Faith moves mountains, heals the sick, feeds the multitude, and raises the dead. Faith opened blind eyes and deaf ears and it held kept Jesus pushing on toward the cross. Faith in what is the question. Our faith is to be in God and his promises and Word. I often get the question how do I know God is going to do this thing? This is when relationship with God comes into play, when press on believing until God answers with a miracle or a clear, “I am not going to do this, I have a better plan!” Either way we have learned the Father’s heart better and to hear his voice more distinctively.

What are you believing for today? What miracle do you need? God will be faithful! “Don’t be afraid, only believe!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where is your faith?

Luke 8:14 -35

Now that’s an interesting question. It sounds very “holier than thou” if you heard it from a friend or family member but Jesus was asking the question of his disciples.

Here is the back-story. Many of the twelve closest to Jesus were fisherman from Galilee. All of them were familiar with the lake and the way the weather would quickly turn. These guys had seen what happens when a boat is caught in one of these quick storms. I have family in Oklahoma. When the sky turns a certain color and the winds are a certain way they head to their tornado room because they know what is about to happen, a tornado is coming. They have seen homes completely destroyed. Lives placed in ruin due to the weather. The disciples understood similar things about the storms on the lake so they were probably busy doing what they could to preserve their own lives, they were in effect running to their “tornado room”, a very natural response to such an event.

Jesus had just made a very interesting proclamation, “those who hear the word and do it are my brothers and sisters.” He had told his disciples, let’s get in the boat and go to the other side. He did not tell them their was a storm coming He simply told them they were going to the other side. When God says you are going to get there we need to believe we are going to get there! There will be storms in our lives, there will be trouble, but God is faithful to His word and he will get us to the other side. His question about their faith was more like, “How many miracles have you seen?” How many lives have we touched? How many times have you seen the Father’s hand on My life? Yet you still don’t trust that no storm will stop me from completing my task in and through you too?

I have to ask you today, “Where is your faith?” Our faith can be in our understanding of the situation and its probable outcome as in the tornado and the tornado room or it can be in the one who says, “We are going to the other side!” Faith in faith doesn’t really work many have tried and their faith has become presumption. Our faith is to be placed in our heavenly Father and His Word. What has He spoken to you? Can you trust him for your future despite what you know about the economic or health forecast of your life? Can you trust Him today for your marriage despite the impossible situation you are walking through? Can you trust Him for your kids despite what you are seeing in their lives right now? Jesus says we are all going to the other side. We will go through storms along the way but rest assured we will get there!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Everyone is important!

Luke 8:1 -13

It would be easy for me to focus the devotional on the sowing of the seed. Perhaps tomorrow I will but there is something in this passage we could miss if we read through it too quickly.

Luke takes the time to list three women Mary, Joanna, and Susanna. Why is this significant? In this culture at this time women were second-class citizens. Not considered very important. We don’t know how old they were, however we do know that Joanna was most likely well off because of her husbands position. Luke breaks all protocol and gives them a significant mention in this passage.

Why is it important that Luke mentions them actually a few of reasons. First, the Lord wants to break down the barriers. All of us are created in God’s image, all have value so no matter what your sex, race, or heritage we are all equal in the sight of God and should be equal in the sight of man. What has been misunderstood and abused is that while we are all equal we each of different functions in our relationships to each other and it is not that one function is more important than another they are simply different. God is making it very clear that women and men are equally important in the sight of God and valuable with their own unique function and person due to sex and gifts.

Secondly, it is alluded to here that these women and others played a significant role in keeping Jesus’ ministry going, “they gave out of their substance”. It is noted that they were playing a significant role as well with keeping the entire ministry that Jesus was doing going. Everyone who gives to a ministry receives part of the blessing of that ministry, every life touched or changed is done by everyone who supports, “give a cup of water in the name of a prophet and receive a prophet’s reward!”

Third, Mary’s life was a mess before she came to Jesus. Often we can allow our past to control us, secretly thinking, “What do I have to offer, I have messed up so much?” Anything the Lord redeems has great value. God does not hold back opening the door for every gift skill and talent to be used. He gave them to you and expects you to use them. We can’t look at our past and allow it to control us. Paul used his past as a reminder of how far he has come and to keep himself humble but did not stay there. Mary did not allow her past to keep her in bondage either. She became one of the most important women in Jesus earthly ministry, a tremendous woman of courage and faith.

You are important to the Lord, your family and your church family today! You are an extremely valuable person. Does your past have messes in it? Most likely! Is God surprised? No! He knows all about you, loves you and called you to a high calling. All we have to do is trust him enough to believe that He does love us and wants to use us to change the world! How will you change the world today?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You will never win trying to please everyone, please God!

Luke 7:21 – 49

On one hand, I am a people pleaser; I like to see people happy and enjoying life. I enjoy seeing people at peace with themselves and what they are doing. My people pleasing way end when I see someone going in a different way than God’s way.

John did not care about pleasing people at all. He was a child of the wilderness 100% sold out to God. His call was one that took a very tough skin to accomplish. Many loved him because they could see the honesty, integrity of his heart. Those who should have supported him the most, the religious leaders, hated him. He knew his call. He was more concerned about pleasing God than the people and because of that completed the call on his life.

It is very easy to allow other people to become the “god” of our lives. Whenever you care more about someone else’s opinion rather than God’s you have made them your “god”. When ever we allow someone else to stop the dream that God has given us then they have become our “god”. As much a blessing as our parents can be in our lives, if they become the controlling voice in our heads rather than God they can become our “god”. Failed past relationships or any failure can become the controlling voice. God calls us to please him not be controlled by all of these other things.

John would never have gone to a party, but Jesus was different. People have different callings and functions. John’s call was to be this standard outside of the lives of people. Jesus cal was to be a standard among the people. The people needed and still need to see that the Lord wants them to know Him personally. Jesus came to show us that God is not only the judge and king but the friend as well.

Can you imagine the religious leaders rejecting Jesus because He was not God-like? They had built in their minds a god that was created in their image and missed the true God of the universe and Father of us all revealed through His Son. They wanted to please people with their propriety and piety but God wanted them to please Him by being real and loving people the way that He loved.

How are you pleasing God today? Pleasing people is only a sin when it takes the place of pleasing God. Be who God has called you to be! Live the life He has called you too. Love God, love people, this is the whole of the Gospel!

Monday, September 6, 2010

We move God by our faith

Luke 7:1 - 20

How many times have you begged God for some thing? Perhaps you have tried to bargain with God about some thing. All that happens in that kind of situation is frustration. God is a god of love not manipulation. He will not manipulate and will not be manipulated.

This story is particularly interesting because Jesus had made the statement that He had been called to the household of Israel yet it is a Roman centurion that He is going to help. Romans were the occupying force in Israel they were for the most part arrogant. They did allow for a certain amount of autonomy. No matter how benevolent a dictator is they are still a dictator. Yet Jesus decided that He would go to meet with the occupier and heal his servant. Why?

We must understand that our whining, fear, anger, frustration, nor begging move God, His desire is to be believed! Faith in Him and His word are the things that move Him. He wants to be believed.

The centurion loved his servant and longed to see him well but that was not the start of his faith. His faith began when he realized that there was more to this world than what He understood. He was kind, loving and respectful to the Jews. He was generous. He recognized and was accountable to a “God-consciousness” even before he knew who Jesus was. When Jesus appeared in his world, he was immediately able to see the hand of God. When people are seeking, with an honest heart, they will find the Lord. The centurion asked for Jesus to come to heal his servant, he recognized Jesus ability to heal, he simply believed.

He did it humbly. The centurion was a powerful man; he was over one hundred of the toughest, bravest soldiers of this era. To achieve his rank, he had to have been very brave, seen many battles, and been an intelligent leader. His attitude could have been, “I will command this carpenter’s son from the nowhere region of Galilee to come and heal my servant.” He didn’t, he asked humbly for help.

“I recognize your authority” those are the words he was saying indirectly to Jesus. Jesus had no earthly authority, He was a slave in an occupied country, He was a carpenter’s son, He did not possess wealth, power, or title. This centurion recognized something, by faith, that most of Israel missed, Jesus is God and can do anything! He simply believed and Jesus responded to that faith.

What are you looking for today? Can you walk it though by faith? Can you believe today that God still has the ability to move things in your life, to heal, deliver, encourage, and bless? Take the risk today! Faith is really spelled R-I-S-K! See what the Lord will do. Put your faith in action and see what God will do

Friday, September 3, 2010

Been seen with anyone “despicable” lately?

Luke 5:22 – 39

For some of us judging people is never really a temptation for others it is a constant battle to distinguish between right judgment and being judgmental. We see someone that is not like us, either in color, economic status, heritage, or ethnicity and we begin to make judgments about what they are like, where they came from, and their motivation. Are we to care bout these things? The answer is a very clear; yes and no!

Jesus calls Levi (Matthew’s given name) a tax collector to follow him. Tax collectors and sinners seem to always be lumped together in the scripture. They either by vocation or morality have placed themselves outside of relationship with God’s people. They were in this culture considered “despicable” people. For Jesus to go to them angered the religious leaders of the day. These people were sinners, they deserved hell and no leader of any quality would hang out with them.

Let’s bring this up to modern terms. Should good Christians be seen with drug addicts, alcoholics, gang members, lesbians, or homosexuals to name a few? The answer to that is given by the answer to another question, “How good of a Christian are you?” This is why the first question in the article has the answer, “yes and no”. Jesus was questioned about his hanging out with these “people”, His answer is the tell all, “the well have no need of a physician”, “…I call the sinners to repentance.” Should we be seen with “these people”? The short answer is, yes! What we must ask ourselves is what are we doing with these folks? If we are letting them see Jesus in us, loving them, encouraging them that God has a plan for them, however we are also salt and light. We are not to compromise or become like them. Their life choices have bound them to darkness and hopelessness, and in many cases a life without Christ. Can you love them without judging them? Can you hang with them without their life choices changing you? They are in need of a physician. If you can’t then pray for them and when they come into your circles, love them and encourage them. Don’t make judgments about those who are being the physicians, healing the wounds, and binding up the broken hearts of those so deeply rejected.

If you can, take time to hang out with some “despicable” people. They are in need of a physician. They are all part of the harvest the Father wants in heaven. We have been blessed with so much love, grace, and mercy can we share it with others? We are not to become like them but to become like Jesus!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One act of obedience can change the world!

Luke 5:1 - 21

Everyday we are making hundreds of decisions. What will I eat? Where will I go? How will I react to this situation? All of these are decisions. All of them affect how our day will go and they will have a progressive affect to the rest of the events of our day. The right response can change your world and the world of others.

Peter and Andrew were experienced fishers. From the time they were old enough to walk they probably were out on a fishing boat with their father and uncles. They knew Galilee as well as anyone and when the fish were not there, they were not there. This region was a small town area. Everyone knew everyone and any kind of news would spread quickly. Jesus was news, so when He showed up and asked for the use of their boats they knew who he was, this extraordinary Rabbi, who talked like he knew what He was talking about. Out of respect they “lent” Him their boat.

When you give something to God or when you do something he instructs you to do, He always will bless, encourage, and strengthen. When we lay done our lives for Him, He raises us up to new levels. Peter and Andrew did just that, tired from a night of fishing they ministered to Jesus by lending him their boat. Their giving enabled hundreds to hear a message of hope. In return they got to be closer to Jesus than anyone. That was only the beginning. Having fished all night and caught little to nothing, once again fishing is their area of expertise, Jesus, doing only that which He sees the Father doing, says to the men, “fish now”. They knew better, they could not possible catch fish now, but at the same time they wanted to trust the Lord at his Word.

Trusting the Lord is always rewarded. Peter and Andrew caught an abundance of fish. They were not only impacted by the abundance but so were their friends, James and John. They were also rewarded, because of their obedience, to fulfill their calling and destiny. What if they would have said, “No” to Jesus when he asked to borrow their boat? They would have missed their calling! Peter’s mother-in-law may have died of her disease. Others would have been used to fulfill the calling.

Lending Jesus the boat was a simple request. Going fishing when they “knew” better was more of a challenge. What simple thing is the Lord asking you to do? Forgive someone, give to help someone, make a phone call to give a word of encouragement, or maybe simply to remind someone that you love them and believe in them. When you do the simple thing, which opens the door for the greater challenge and then the greater reward. What are you asking the Lord to do in your life? Perhaps it begins with something simple. Perhaps today, that one decision will change your world!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Miracles are OK but don't tell me the truth!

Luke 4:22 - 43

As long as Jesus was entertaining the crowd with the miracles they loved Him, “they marveled at His gracious words”. He loved them enough not to leave them there. He tried to show them that they could not be selfish and self-centered. His comment about “physician heal yourself” is saying they would have him stay in this region and just take care of His own clan and people. Jesus response was listen we can’t just be focused on ourselves; there is a whole world of need out there. Many people will respond, God loves the whole world.

He left Nazareth region and went to Galilee and the same thing happen, they wanted to keep Jesus for themselves. He healed everyone, set people free from demonic control.

People all around us are hungry for what is right, good, and powerful. Programs like Ghost Whisperer and Medium had long runs on television primarily because there is a whole section of our culture that is desperate for the supernatural. What will they find when they look at our lives?

The other question we have to answer is are we allowing people, for the sake of not making waves, to live in their sin? Do we love enough to speak the truth in love? When I say speak the truth in love, I really mean in love. Sometimes as Christians, we can become “righteously indignant”. The Bible tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags. People are also desperate for real love and real relationships. Jesus loved people enough to tell them the truth and not worry about the consequences. People will not always want to hear the truth but we are responsible for being “truth-bearers” to the world.

Where are you today? Are you going along with the crowd, people enjoying your company yet they are slowly destroying their own lives? Ask the Lord to show you how to love in a way that you can share Jesus in a way they can understand. Sometimes we must be brash and bold but more often than not the Lord will simply use our personality traits to reach people. All we have to do is recognize the need around us and ask the Lord for help. He’ll do it! He love you and He loves them.