Monday, January 31, 2011

Relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean you are perfect!

Acts 8

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 are certainly growing stronger, more like Jesus and sin less. 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 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 comes 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.

Tomorrow Acts 10,11

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The defense of the Gospel

Acts 5+

I know we are reading Acts 6, 7 today but I felt as if I needed to discuss the end of Acts 5 today. Please bear with me. We also begin two hours each day with the Lord for the final ten days of our fast. I know for some this has been a struggle and spending two hours/day is going to be even harder, if you must, divide the to hours into two-one hour segments.

Please continue doing your best. We are finding how so many other things control our time and many are finding a deeper relationship with the Lord and a richer knowledge of the Word. Some have even seen miracles already. God is good!

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.

Tomorrow Acts 8,9

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Deception and Trust

Acts 5

There is so much in this chapter; I couldn’t talk about just part of it. Also the story of Ananias and Sapphira is so hard to grasp I felt I needed to focus on it for today.

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 had stood to the public persecution in Jerusalem at this time bowed to deception. Ananias and Sapphiras’ 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: study 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 was 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 and they were thrown into prison. 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, namely 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, is so important. 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☺

Friday, January 28, 2011

Time for a fuel stop

Acts 4

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 led 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.

Tomorrow Acts 5

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What do you have?

Acts 3

I love this story; it is one of my favorites. Peter and John see this man born lame, the lame man has one thing in mind but God has another. I don’t know if that has ever happen to you, but there are times when I have been like the lame man. Not that I couldn’t walk but I have had a limited view of what God could do! The lame man was only looking for a little change when the Lord wanted to change his world.

There is so much the Lord wants for us. He has given you amazing gifts and talents. He views your life through the fullness of joy and abundance. He has plans to prosper you and do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all we could hope or ask. We ask God only for the crumbs from the table. I am not talking about a new Lexus in every driveway or a million dollar income. To be honest, God does have plans to prosper some of you that way, if you can handle it, but I am talking about real joy; the type of joy that is with you despite the circumstances of life. The kind of people you want to be around because they are always full of life. Real abundance, going through life without worrying about any need because you know God will never fail you. Always having what you need to take care of you and your family and enough for every good work, worry free and anxiety free. Isn’t that so much more than where most of us are right now. God wants the whole world to know He is Lord. That is going to take time, energy, and money to make that happen. Where is that going to come from? You and me, as we look to God for all that He has for us, rather than just the scraps from the table.

The second part of this story is Peter and John. They said, “such as we have we give…”, As Christians we can only give out what we have inside. Do you have hope, love, joy, and peace? Then you can give out hope, love, joy, and peace. However, if all you have to offer are insecurities, doubt, anxiety, and bitterness then that is what you will give out. The positive and negative is that we always give this out, either the good or the bad, whether we plan to or not.

Here is the challenge, what do you have? If it is positive, then ask the Lord for more for you to give. If it is the negative stuff, ask the Lord to change your attitude and heart and make you a person of faith and strength. You know what will happen if you do? God will do it! He loves you and wants you to have the fullness He has planned for you. Don’t sell God short or settle for less than He has for you. Don’t allow your limitations to limit you, allow the limitless God to set your limits.

The lame man was lame! He lived lame and felt lame. God is greater than our feelings and our past. He sees you walking, so today, expect to walk!

Tomorrow Acts 4

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fruit makes a difference

Acts 2

I am sure that this is a very familiar passage for you so I am choosing today to not dwell on the obvious parts of this passage but instead on a couple of things almost hidden.

This small band of 120 faithful to Jesus, where in the hub of all the activity, a great festival was taking place and God showed up in the middle of it all. Think for a moment being in Dallas on February 6th in a small backroom of a hotel when God shows up. In that moment, a boldness overcomes you and you go right to the stadium as people are being seated for the Super Bowl, grab the microphone and begin to preach. Basically that is what Peter did on this day in Acts 2. Can you imagine doing that? In Peter’s case it was not his zeal that sent him to preach but a push from the Holy Spirit, the response was overwhelming 3000 people repented, were baptized in water and the Holy Spirit that day.

One of the key blessings of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit being activated in powerful ways in our lives. Like anything else in our spiritual maturity we have to allow Him to have His way in our lives. The first disciples did seem to struggle with that as much as we do today.

There is almost a side mention here in verse 47 that I don’t want us to miss. They had “favor with all people”. You know the list of the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, meekness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control. Some of these come easy others not so, but the fruit gave them favor with “all people”. The outsiders saw their love for one another, their care and compassion, the way they were always together celebrating each other and the Lord. They saw the way the walked humbly and were always open to learn from their leaders. It was the true fruit of the Holy Spirit being active. The world back-bites, gossips, gets easily offended, lies and so on but these people were living a different way and because of this many were saved. Notice it doesn’t say they preached the Gospel. They were living the Gospel, people saw it and wanted it. Our challenge is to live in such a way that when people see us, we have already preached to them without words. We have lived the Gospel before them. Our fruit is good fruit. The love, joy, peace, and all the other fruit is alive in us.

I know many struggle with the “daily-ness” of life. It is not always easy to live a “Christ-like” life. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit you do not need to work it out as much as allow Him to work through you. Trees don’t work hard to produce fruit it is a natural outcome of who they are. Allow the Lord to bear fruit in your life, fruit that everyone can see. This way you be always sharing your faith with others. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Tomorrow – Acts 3

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The mentoring is done time to get to work!

Acts 1

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 so 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. Jesus is telling them, you will have been given enough by me. 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!

Tomorrow – Acts 2

Monday, January 24, 2011

God guides us to figure things out!

Luke 24

I remember studying for tests in college. I had two general methods, one was to cram and just learn the vital information to get through the test and the other was to figure out the “hows” and “whys” so that I could give application to what I was learning. The cramming method got me through the test and generally a decent grade on the exam; however, the figuring out the “hows” and “whys” enabled me to grasp the concepts and hold onto them. There are concepts, (some useless now) I understand today because of learning them over thirty years ago. They are stuck in my head because I had to figure them out.

Jesus wanted the two men on the road to Emmaus to really get it! I believe He purposely hid Himself from His uncle Cleopas and the other disciple because He was establishing a teaching moment. He wanted them to figure out the “hows” and “whys” so they would really get it. They were so depressed and disappointed. They had viewed Jesus as the Messiah but then doubt came into their hearts when they saw him crucified (they were describing Jesus as a prophet rather than the Messiah). Rather than simply revealing Himself, He went through a study of the Messiah for them so they would have it securely, line upon line, in their hearts, who Jesus is! When He broke bread with them, they connected the dots and all of a sudden it was real and unshakable. They had the courage, even though it was night, to travel the road to tell the disciples Jesus was alive and to explain it to them line upon line. The Lord is always about the business of speaking to us in the best way we can understand it.

The Lord is always there! He will never leave us or turn His back on us. Some times He does guide us through an understanding of things so we will really grasp them. It is an “Ah Ha” moment, when the light bulb goes on and we see the light. When He has guided us through it, then we really get it, it sticks.

What are you being “guided” through right now? Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, don’t lean on your own understanding, acknowledge Him in all of your ways and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

Their own understanding caused them to see Jesus as a Prophet; their ultimate acknowledgment caused them to see Him as Lord and Messiah! In your difficulty, how are you seeing Jesus today? Let Him be Lord over every situation. Trust Him that He will guide you through whatever you must do. He will make your path straight!

Tomorrow - Acts 1

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The right attitude

Luke 23

It is easy for some people to always have the glass half full mentality. I can do that most of the time but if I am tired or simply worn thin a bit it can be nearly impossible to maintain a good attitude. I can’t imagine what the two thieves were going through on their crosses. They were simple human beings who were getting Roman justice meted out to them. They had not been beaten as severely as Jesus, yet the nails though their hands and feet were just as real. I don’t blame them for being mean, resentful, and vengeful. They were tired, had extreme blood loss, and were in intense pain. Yet their attitude made the literal difference between heaven and hell.

All of us go through stuff. Sometimes it may feel like a crucifixion, a painful agonizing death. I have been with people who have watched their loved ones both young and old suffer and die. The anguish families feel especially with a drawn out illness, is tremendous. I have walked people through divorces and I have walked them through forgiveness of a failed spouse, the pain with both can be overwhelming. The pain is not the thing that I fear for people, it is the attitude that worries me.

Job lost everything, his fortune, his children, his home; all he had left to his name was a wife that wanted him to curse God and die. Job’s response was a very simple, “Though He slay me, yet I will serve him!” God saw his heart, helped him through his grief, and restored everything that was stolen from him.

For the thieves on their crosses, they were getting what they deserved as punishment under Roman law. One in his pain and suffering decided to continue to lash out at others. Because of his pain, rejection, and spiritual agony he refused to see that his deliverance and peace were right beside him. The other thief, in the exact same circumstances, took his eyes off of his problems and looked to the Lord for his answers. One ended the day in paradise, one in hell!

Everyday we face the same choices. We all struggle with things from minor difficulties to major catastrophes. With each struggle we have a choice to have the right attitude which allows the Lord to bless us and get us through our struggle or to gripe, curse, get angrier, become vengeful, or any one of hundreds such response that pull us further away from our joy, peace, and communion with the Lord. Attitudes can make the difference between going through heaven or hell in our situation.

The Lord taught me many years ago, circumstances do not determine God’s will, people do not determine God’s will, things do not determine God’s will only His Spirit determines His will for our lives. When we create an environment for His Spirit to move in our lives, by choosing to trust him despite our circumstances, His perfect will is accomplished and we have joy regardless of the situation.

What about your circumstances today, are you going to be fearful, angry, vengeful, or are you going to be trusting and look for the Lord in the middle of what you are going through.

Tomorrow Luke 24

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Lord knows what's going on!

Luke 22

Do you ever question the statement, “the Lord knows what’s going on!” or “God has everything under control!” I really wonder about that sometimes, I don’t think it is as much control as He knows always what we will do. He does not cause wars, murders, or rapes; He is not in control of those things. They are human, free will disasters. However when we choose to really trust Him and follow Him, He makes the miracles happen and moves the mountains. He has a purpose for us, when we decide that we love Him more than our own lives and choose to follow Him; He will move heaven and earth to see the purpose for why He created us come to completion.

How do I know this, I have seen it in my life and the lives of others and I read it in scripture. Why did a shepherd boy become King? God had purposed him to do it and the boy surrendered to that purpose. How did a Jewish boy become confidant to three different kings of his enemies? He surrendered to God’s purpose and three ungodly kings became rulers for God.

I know those are very big radical things, but God is in the small things as well, the details. Jesus sent His disciples into Jerusalem to find a room for them to have their last Passover meal together. They didn’t have a clue how to find a place, so He gave some very detailed instructions. Remember, Jerusalem would be a bustling metropolis during the Passover. The population would have at least doubled. It would be like Time Square on New Year’s Eve, it was the place to be!
Every room would have been taken, it should have been another, “no room at the Inn” scenario for Jesus, but He knew what was going on. He knew they needed a room; He had it reserved!

With the population of Jerusalem over flowing, how would they ever find one person carrying a water pitcher? God knows what’s going on! In those days men did not carry water, that was the work of the women in the household. For a man to be carrying water was a very clear sign. When we choose to follow the Lord, if we really take time to listen, His instructions are very clear. As we get to understand His heartbeat, His instructions become easy to follow. The disciples found the man with the water pitcher and the purpose of God was fulfilled.

We need to understand something else! Jesus could have easily gone into Jerusalem and found the room Himself, but He chose to use the disciples. The disciples were able to see their faith in action, watch it grow, and deepen their trust in the Lord. To me, that is more of what was going on here than anything. Jesus could have celebrated Passover anywhere, but instead He chose to allow His disciples one more opportunity to grow, see that Jesus does love them, and press into their gifts a little more.

When you find yourself in questioning times, the Lord really does know what is going on! Look for an instruction from the Lord that will lead you to the right place. When we serve the Lord, He will always lead us to the place where we are completely fulfilled. Are you walking and looking for the man with the pitcher? Or are you afraid that you will get lost in the big city? God knows what you need, where you are, and where you need to go. Trust Him, listen for His instruction, and then by faith follow Him. You will fulfill you destiny!

Tomorrow Luke 23

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why worry?

Luke 21

There is so much we can worry about. Watch the news for any length of time and you will certainly have more than enough to worry about. Jesus, as the Prince of Peace, was always working to bring people to a place of peace.

In this first story we see that Jesus is hanging out by the moneybox in the synagogue. He is watching the people with their giving. Many walked by giving their due but then one woman caught his attention. A poor widow walked slowly to the moneybox and gave what was nothing in this culture, the equivalent of five cents today. What can anyone do with five cents? It was not about the amount, but the heart. She gave everything that she had; she gave not caring for her own life but only for the love of God. Jesus made a point of her giving to remind everyone that when you trust God, God notices! Early in this book, Jesus made it very clear to the disciples that if you give all to God, He will bless and meet all of your needs. Want to stop worrying about your finances, job, and/or future? Learn to give!

Nearly everyone is interested in the end times. With the discussion of apocalyptic events regarding 2012 especially, many of those who do not know Christ are discussing the end of days.

Jesus begins to layout what the last days of this earth are going to be like. The end of days is a series of horrible, traumatic events that will literally shake the world and all of those in it. War, pestilence, and famine all over the world are some of the highlights we can look forward too. Please notice what the Lord says about those that are His, who are going through this time of trauma. We will go through some real difficulties but ultimately we are the ones who win every battle, we will change the world. God will give us the ability to have the right words, the strength, and the courage to go through any trial. Lives are depending on us to stand firm and allow the Holy Spirit to live through us.

Whatever you are going through, worrying will not change your world for good. Fear, worry, and anxiety will limit God's influence in your life. You will be enclosed in your own life, your own desires, and then limited by them. When you choose to believe God at His Word, your limitations are only limited to God's limitations. Trusting God completely means you have no limitations. If we believe Him then why worry!

If you are still worrying about the end times, Matthew 24: 14 gives us the sign to look for.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

With today’s technology it could happen in an instant. However, nearly 1/3 of the world’s population still does not have a witness of Christ. Pray for people to share the “Good News”

If you notice both stories are really the same theme, they both are dealing with a matter of trust. Do we trust the Lord with our finances, our struggles, our difficulties and our very lives? It is a daily walk. It is most likely that none of us are there yet. As long as we are growing in our relationship with the Father, we will get there. It is one step at a time.

Tomorrow Luke 21

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So much love!

Luke 20

There are lots of questions people have about heaven. Hollywood would have us to believe that we are all on clouds playing harps, wearing white robes with wings. Sounds very boring to me. That is not the way the Bible describes heaven, when we reach other passages I will talk about what heaven is really like.

Jesus gives us a glimpse here of heaven, I’m going to attempt to explain a concept that is not easy to understand. The Sadducees, who don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, are asking Jesus about it. Jesus knows they are playing a con game. He does not allow them to continue to deny the resurrection but forces them to understand the resurrection and what heaven is really like.

If heaven is limited to a human understanding of existence than the Sadducees could have easily brushed it off as a simple story to placate the masses. Jesus took it a big leap forward.

What is marriage really about? Finding that person that compliments you, finding a love that is continuous that will never give up. It is about surrender of yourself to another so completely that you become one, the result being; a life of great joy, love, hope, ecstasy, and fulfillment. At least that is what marriage should be! A great marriage is the closest thing we can have on earth to heaven. Paul used marriage as an example of the relationship God has with the church (Ephesians 5:22 – 32). Heaven is a place where the blessings and benefits we receive from marriage are all around us. Everyone else compliments every person, we are all one, and we are completely fulfilled in everyway. The love that we have for the Lord and each other would be too much for our minds comprehend if we were limited to human understanding. It is what we would consider ecstasy 100% of the time. Don’t misunderstand you will know and love your spouse, however the benefits of marriage will be felt by everyone. Marriage is a sign of God’s relationship to us.

Jesus was trying to help the Sadducees to understand something about heaven that would give them pause to think about the resurrection and heaven as a reality.

What do you think of when you think of heaven? Can you imagine billions of people who love, honor, and respect, one another? Heaven is a place of complete security, love, joy, hope, and never a fear, worry, or anxiety. A place where each of us are completely fulfilled, know we are absolutely and unconditionally loved and everyone knows and believes in us. A place where we finally are with the one who loves us the most and has always loved us the most. What a great place! What a love! So much love we will only grasp fully in heaven.

Tomorrow Luke 21

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Looking for Zacchaeus

Luke 19

New year, big change? Many of us make some kind of vow to change with the new year; “I’m going to lose some weight”, “I’m going to earn a promotion”, “I’m going to spend more time with my family”. Whatever the challenge, we use major events like a new year to make a change. How much we have changed is the way we can measure if we have kept this commitment.

Zacchaeus didn’t know it, but when he met Jesus, he was going to be a changed man. Like many in our culture Zacchaeus was a hard working guy. He had worked so hard and done such a tremendous job that he had been promoted to be the top in his field. He was the “chief” tax collector. He did whatever it took to become the best: maybe in an effort to get over his height limitation, “he was short in stature”, maybe to insure that he would never be made fun of, or maybe he was simply gifted with numbers and shrewdness and used it to his advantage. He was a thief and a cheat; I know, sounds rough, but look at the result of his life.

We should not be upset when ungodly people act ungodly. They do not live by the same moral code that we do. In fact if ungodly people act godly it should be shocking. It is very important that we show them, through love, patience, and grace, the better way.

Zacchaeus had made it to the top of his career and was still looking for more. Nowhere do we see that he expected Jesus to come to his home. Jesus saw, what we need to see in ungodly people, the hope that God has, that everyone can come to repentance.

Jesus didn’t ask Zacchaeus to make everything from his past right. Jesus simply wanted to be with him and allow him to see God’s great love and grace for him. Zacchaeus got it! Proof of that was that he could not enjoy this new freedom knowing he had cheated and stolen from others. When he understood the love God has for him, he was looking at life through the eyes of love. Not only did he make it right with those he cheated, but the eyes of love gave him a giving heart.

By giving away his wealth, Zacchaeus became wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. No guilt, condemnation, or bondage to money in anyway. He was a free man possibly for the first time in his life. He was a lost sheep that Jesus went out of His way to find.

To be honest, there are certain types of people with whom I just can’t relate, the Zacchaeus’ of this world. I can normally size them up fairly quickly. Regardless of whether I can relate to them or not, God loves them. I have asked the Lord to help me to see them through His eyes. Through my eyes I may see a cheat and a thief or worse but through Jesus’ eyes I see a future brother or sister in Christ. Perhaps God sees a future children’s church teacher, pastor, evangelist, elder, deacon, or simply a future great husband or wife, Dad or Mom. God sees what I do not see. I pray I will see through His eyes and with His heart every day.

Does the Lord have a Zacchaeus in your life? Is there some impossible person who the Lord sees as a world changer? Ask the Lord the help you to see your Zacchaeus’ through His eyes and change their and your world today!

Tomorrow Luke 20

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Get Real!

Luke 18

Get real!

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 surpass our parents in their faith because they have gone before us and tilled 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 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 prophetically speaks from 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 home church, 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 then take that to God. The Pharisee’s attitude was all about telling how great a Pharisee he was, rather than singing the praise of God he was singing his own praises. 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.

Tomorrow Luke 19

Monday, January 17, 2011

Intentional Impact!

Sorry I thought this posted at 5:33 AM.

Luke 17

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 life intentionally, that every thing we do 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. Jesus 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. Enjoying all the gifts the Lord has given us is also part of intentional living.

In this passage Jesus was intentional about hugging the little ones around him, 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 enjoying being with them. Children were important to Jesus, they represented the future; the innocence, and the 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. He didn’t need to stop for the children. It is easy for us to be with the people just like us, people from whom we have something to gain. Jesus chose to be around people that would not benefit Him at all, those who needed to see the Father’s heart in Him.

Jesus didn’t need to go 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. 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?

Tomorrow Luke 18

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Being wise.

Luke 16

Wisdom is one of those gifts that are not easily acquired. It is a gift from God. When you first read this passage it seems as if Jesus is condoning stealing or under-handed dealings but that would be inconsistent with the rest of Jesus’ teaching. Instead what Jesus is doing is giving us a valuable teaching about life and the kingdom.

A manager is going to be fired. Knowing this he decides to secure his future by reducing the debt of all of his boss’ accounts. He recognizes the value of his money management. He secures the future for himself and all of the accounts.

Jesus is not condoning the stealing but the wisdom and shrewdness of handling finances. God has given all of us gifts. He expects us to use them wisely. We also need to understand how to use the money and resources of this world with wisdom. Monetary wealth is temporal and nothing of eternal value; however, what we do with it can extend the kingdom and touch many lives.

The long and short of it is this; if we can not be trusted to wisely use the resources of this world, if we waste our time, energy, and money, how will God ever trust us with the things that are eternal? He who is faithful with little will be given much!

The size of the wealth is unimportant, it is what we do with what we have been given that makes the difference. The story of the rich man and Lazarus further emphasizes this point. What made the difference between these two men? It was how they used what they have been given. Lazarus had great faith, even though he had nothing. How do I know? He ended up in heaven. He had nothing but faith and because he used the gift he was given to its fullest he was trusted with the eternal. The rich man was judged with the same judgment and failed. He could not be trusted with the eternal, he squandered his life, he had no real relationship with God. It cost him his eternity. This is not something that happens over night. God is constantly drawing us to Himself. If we continue to ignore His call, our hearts begin to harden, we waste time, energy and money on our own selfishness, and relationship with God becomes at best superficial, and at worst non-existent.

It is wisdom to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh. It is wisdom to daily give our lives and gifts over to the Lord. It is wisdom to respect the Lord and desire Him above all. The reward is success in this world with the worldly gifts and spiritual gifts and eternity in the Kingdom.

Choose wisdom!

Tomorrow Luke 17

Saturday, January 15, 2011

99 verses the one

Luke 15

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, do 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 than you would like, do you take the time to 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! How often do we look at ourselves that way? Others may look at us that way as well, but 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. 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. 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 and outsider? 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.

Tomorrow Luke 16

Friday, January 14, 2011

Luke 14

In Chapter 14, Jesus is helping us to always trust God rather than circumstances and people. There are always going to be challenges in our lives. We are always growing so we will be covering new ground all of the time. The world acts like the world so there will be challenges. It is not our job to worry but to trust.

The lowly place is a hidden place. It is a place where people who are hurting broken and rejected stay. Jesus’ encouragement is spiritual in the sense that as people who know who they are, who love God, and have experienced His grace; we should find ourselves in a position of always being where there are people in need. This passage is often thought of as a focus on humility but if you look at the context of the other stories, a consistent theme develops.

Notice that when Jesus speaks He shares parables of which people can easily relate. The good news is not that complicated and should always be easily understood. According to Romans 1, God is easily revealed even in nature. While the depth of God’s nature and character may take a lifetime to grasp his message and love for us are simple to understand.

Back to the chapter!

We all enjoy being with our friends. There are few things more comfortable than being with people you love and who love you. The challenge Jesus presents is break out of your comfort zone. Everyone is invited to the table. Anyone can enjoy their friends, however the good news we have and the love we know must be shared with others. We have been so blessed we need to stretch ourselves to build relationships with those that may not be just like us but God has placed them in our lives to help them see Jesus.

This view of our lives and calling will challenge all of our relationships. Once again it is comfortable to hang out with our friends and family. But is we love them more and that comfort more than we love God then we aren’t really his disciple. When Jesus says, “hate” in verse 26, He does not mean, “hate”, as we would think. A more accurate translation would be, “love less.” God loves all of mankind and desires for everyone to come to a real relationship with Him. Enjoy times with your friends and family but bear in mind God has surrounded you with people who He trusts you to reach.

Trust the Lord that He opens and closes doors. Trust Him that He is surrounding you with people that are willing to follow Him if they simply understood how to do it. Statistically, 80% of people said they would come to church if they were invited. People are hungry for truth. They know there is something missing in their lives. God has placed you in the right place. Look around you today and take notice of the people God has brought into your life. Each of them is another child who Jesus gave His life for. You don’t have to be an expert evangelist, take Jesus’ story literally and invite them to dinner. Spend time with the people the Lord has placed in your life. Allow them to see Jesus in you.

It is a leap of faith to trust the Lord that He has placed the people around you. He has! You may be in a job you hate or a neighborhood with the most miserable people, but guess what the Lord has placed you there!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Got the rules but missing the heart!

Luke 13

Got the rules but missing the heart!

We all have them in our lives, legalists. 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 rule book 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 religion 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 desires for everyone 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.

Tomorrow Luke 14

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Balancing our attitude toward God

Luke 12

I hope everyone is safe and warm after our mini-snowstorm. If you power ever goes out and you are in need give the church a call we will do what we can to help.

This passage is not an easy passage. Jesus has just been very direct and critical of the leadership (remember our talk about judging). They said they love God but their actions prove they love power and prestige more. Because of this hard line many are crowding in, almost riot-like to hear what Jesus has to say.

Our challenge as followers of Jesus is to follow Him regardless of the cost. “Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body but he who has the power to cast you into hell” It doesn’t get much more direct than that.

Remember that you are important to God he knows you in everyway and loves you but there are some things we must battle of which we need to be aware:

1) Don’t be satisfied in yourself and forget God. Being wealthy is not wrong. Having what you need to accomplish the task God has called you to is not wrong. The farmer in verses 16 – 20 simply became satisfied in himself and forgot od had blessed him with everything and did not remember how very important everyday is. We are only given today; tomorrow is in God’s hands.
2) Don’t worry about tomorrow (you can plan for it) know that God will take care of you if you trust Him. You are the most important of all creation, trust that God cares more about you and your future than you could ever imagine. You are greater than the flowers or birds.
3) Always be vigilant. It is foolish to think, well I can do this sin and no one will notice. God is always there and expects His children to act like His children. It seems like some harsh statements that Jesus is saying in the last third of this chapter but our relationship with the Lord can become sloppy. When begin to develop a too familiar attitude with the Lord. I want you to know and understand the Lord as your friend but we must always be aware as C. S. Lewis wrote in Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan (Jesus) is not a tame lion but a ferocious one. While He is a loving God who knows the hair on our head, He is also a righteous and holy judge and king.

For so long people had an intense fear of God that was not a righteous fear but an unholy one that kept them from relationship. The pendulum has swung the other way where at time we have too casual an approach toward God. We must strive toward balance, know that God really loves us and cares about us but also knowing we must live righteous and holy lives before a righteous and holy God. I believe that is the lesson of chapter 12.

Tomorrow Chapter 13

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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

Luke 11

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. At times I have felt ether 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. Starting 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 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!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shake off the dust and believe!

Luke 10

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!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Having Jesus' heart.

Luke 9

The Bible reveals to us how much God loves us and helps us to understand His nature and character. The Gospels give us to opportunity to see how, ‘God in the flesh”, Jesus reacts to situations revealing what is truly important in God’s eyes. Throughout history men have interpreted the Bible to fulfill their own needs or to fit into the culture. Negatively these interpretations have given us the crusades, Salem witch trials, and the inquisition. Positively, we have the pilgrims, John Hus, the reformation, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and any revival or renewal.

Theologically there are major differences among people of faith. One key example is predestination. To simplify this concept, some believe that God chooses only certain people to make it into heaven. He has “predestined” them from the beginning of time. There are scriptures that can be used to support this belief. AlI Presbyterians believe this way and so do many Baptist, Lutherans, and Episcopalians. I believe this theology to be in error. I believe that Jesus did for everyone and that we choose, not God. Whether we will spend eternity in heaven. God knows who will make the right choice but Jesus died on the cross for every man woman and child. That being said, I have many friends who believe in the doctrine of predestination who I love, believe they are people of God. They are not limiting God’s power to save they simple believe they know who will receive Jesus.

I don’t believe that anyone standing before the Lord is going to here God say, “great theology!” I believe, as Paul said, we all see through a glass dimly. As long as our theology has multiple strong scriptural support and our application does not deny the basics of our faith then we can stand on it. It is called loving with grace.

Jesus is addressing that in this chapter. In verses 46 – 56 Jesus is challenging his disciples way of thinking. Childishness is not condoned in the kingdom but childlikeness is! Jesus is saying be as loving, kind, humble and faith-filled as a child. They trust that you as the authority in their life, they love you just because you are you not for what you do; they believe you at your word. They do all of this until you teach them otherwise. When we are looking at others and talking with or about them we should act as a child, loving, trusting, kind, humble and faith-filled.

A group who are not part of the “Jesus group” apparently heard Jesus or His teaching and began to apply it. Because they were part of the “Jesus group” directly the disciples wanted to shut them down. We do this! If someone doesn’t act exactly like we do, talk like with do, align their theology exactly like we do we tend to shut them down in our hearts and minds. This is were grace comes in, I don’t mind people having differing opinions about non-essentials but I will take the time to discuss with them why they believe what they believe and will want to understand their interpretation of scripture. What has happened today is many make theological decisions based on their feelings or experiences rather than God’s word. In this case, Jesus wants all to come to know Him and the disciples “felt” they were protecting Jesus and His word. They misunderstood Jesus’ heart for the world.

Jesus next challenge for the disciples to understand His heart came in the form of prejudice. The Jews hated the Samaritans, so when they rejected Jesus coming they “felt” doubly justified in condemning them. Often we will hear about some one and make immediate decisions about them not based on the truth but misinformation, the on darkness of or hearts (we often make judgments about people based on our own sin issues or pain), or a lack of the full truth (the Aesop story of the blind men and the elephant, each describing the elephant based on the part they are touching). It is part of our sinful nature to always want to hear the worst. Watch the news or listen to talk radio to prove this point. Jesus saw the hearts of the people. He ended up spending quality time among the Samaritans. He understood some needed to hear in a different way and some need more patience than others. Love hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things, is patience…(for the rest go to 1 Corinthians 13)

It is easy for us to get on a spiritual “high horse” if we are not in the Word or spending time with the Lord. You might argue, the disciples were doing all of that and they still missed Jesus heart. You would be right! They did learn the lessons, look at their lives after the crucifixion. We will make mistakes along the way, that is part of learning. Simply learn the lessons well when they come along, learn Jesus’ heart and you will, as the disciples did, “turn the world upside down”!

Tomorrow - Luke 10

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Healing: body, mind, and soul.

Luke 8

It is easy for us to believe that God can heal one of the three. For example, most Christians have no problem believing that Jesus can easily “save” a soul but when in comes to setting a mind free or healing a body, some place limits on what God can do today.

Luke is a doctor and his desire is for us to understand exactly who Jesus is and how much He cares for us. In this chapter he takes us on a healing journey to show us that nothing is too hard for our God.

Luke begins with Jesus parable of the sower. God’s desire is for everyone to receive the “seed” but as the story explains not everyone will. Just as the sower is casting seed everywhere God’s love is not sectarian, nor prejudice and it goes out to all. It is our choice. The “healing” occurs to the soul (spirit) when we accept the gift of the seed. Once again the acceptance of the healing, the seed, salvation, is in our hands God has made a way but we must choose. When you are praying during this time for the salvation of your family and friends realize that it is even more God’s desire than yours that you loved ones come to Christ. When you are praying for their salvation you are praying exactly God’s will (2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus had sent the disciples across the lake. In His physical weariness from ministering He fell asleep in the boat. A storm arose, you know the story, the part we miss is that Jesus said to them, “Where is your faith?” It may seem at first to be a little rough, especially that most of the disciples had grown up on this lake and they new how dangerous these storms could be. The “faith” was simply Jesus, the God who created all things, had shown them many miracles including His power over death; He had given them an instruction to go to the other side. Jesus question about their faith was simply, If I am God and I told you to go to the other side don’t you think I know we will make it? How many times do we allow fear to creep in even though God has given us a clear instruction? How many times have we doubted who He is, because we have doubted His direction for our lives?

Back to the healing!

It is interesting to note that once they made it through their storm the battle was not over their was another who needed to be set free. Did the enemy want Jesus and the disciples to give up and turn back? Has this ever happened to you? You face a struggle you turn around and possibly miss out on what God has next? We are a people called to advance not retreat (except to get rest)!
On the other side, a man with a mind out of control is set free. According to other passages, he had broken many chains and terrorized people. However, in a moment of time Jesus set him free. This impossible mental condition was brought under control in a matter of moments. Into his craziness, manic, out of control state, just like Jesus did to the waves and winds, He spoke, “peace”! There are few in our culture that are this out of control, but many suffer from severe bouts of depression and anxiety. Other fears are rampant and unhappiness is almost epidemic but into this insanity Jesus can still speak, “peace be still”. Do you know someone who is in mental torment and anguish? Jesus is still speaking, “peace”, today! Perhaps you are battling some fear or depression; allow Him to bring peace to your life today.

The last two miracles mentioned here, are physical restoration. Both instances required faith. The woman who had been abused by doctor after doctor until all of her resources where gone. As an act of desperation, she reaches out to Jesus and the power flowing through Him heals! Peter had a similar thing happening, people would sit and wait for his shadow to fall on them in hope that even his passing shadow would bring healing to them. Jairus was a leader in the church. his daughter was ill. No one could help. He came to Jesus. Some times (not always) like these two situations we have to lose all faith in everything else before we grasp the full measure of faith we need to move the mountains in our lives. If our hope and trust are still in the herbs, vitamins, medicines, doctors, or anything other than Jesus we may miss our healing. God certainly can use all of these things and more, but our faith must first be in Him to heal, then whatever way He chooses to heal is totally in His hands and not ours. Our faith is first and foremost in Him.

Jesus has compassion for all people. His ability to heal is not limited. He is still healing in all these ways and more today. I hope this encourages you to trust Him to heal you, your friends or family soul, body, and mind!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Trusting God at his word!

Luke 7

There is so much good insight and information in all of these chapters it is very difficult for me to simply choose what is necessary to highlight. I am spending a lot of time in prayer so that I choose wisely so I hope all of these are having the correct encouragement to you.

This chapter opens with Jesus having a conversation with a Roman. Part of Luke’s motivation for writing his Gospel is to let us know that Jesus came for everyone, so he highlights various relationship from all avenues of Jesus’ life. In this chapter we have the Roman, and old woman, and a “sinful” woman, someone no religious person would have any relationship. Jesus met them all at their point of need.

Back to our Roman friend!

A centurion is a leader of men, normally 100, thus the name “centurion”. It was a responsible and dangerous position. They were expected to train and discipline their men. They fought along side of them often the first on the charge. They were respected for their leadership and feared for their discipline. They were strong decision-makers. Good ones were willing to die for their men and their legion new it!

When this centurion came to Jesus that is the background he had; strong and respected leader who loved and disciplined his men. These personality traits would carry over into their home life as well, thus his heart for his servant. He probably fought many battles where in a moment of decision failure was turned into victory. He knew the power of determination and authority.

He was also a fair man and humble before authority. The Jews brought his case to Jesus and as a man of faith felt unworthy to see Jesus but expressed his faith through his friends, You say the word and my servant will be healed!

Jesus response, “I have not found such great faith in all of Israel!” What was Jesus saying? Just as Jesus had stood on God’s Word when facing Satan in Luke 4, he was recognizing the centurion’s willingness to stand on just a word from Jesus.

Faith is humbly walking before the Lord and believing Him at his word. That is the exactly what the centurion did. What word has the Lord spoken to you? Have you stood firm. The servant could not have been healed apart for a God word, it was an impossible situation and the centurion simply trusted in God’s word. It is difficult, especially in tough places to trust God but what is the alternative, worry, fear, dread, or panic? It is always our choice. God is always willing to be a “very present help in time of need!” We must choose to trust, sometime in spite of the circumstances. Choose to trust Him today in whatever you are facing.

Tomorrow – Luke 8

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are we to judge or not?

Luke 6

Thank you so much for all of your kind responses. I am very pleased that so many are fasting with me during this time, and that the Lord has already been meeting so many as they spend time with Him. If you haven’t been very successful yet, don’t waste time beating yourself up simple start today. God still wants to meet with you.

Judging is one of those controversial subjects that not only confuses but gets so many into trouble. Jesus is very clear in this chapter that Jesus is condemning of hypocritical judgment. But if all judgment and condemnation are wrong isn’t He, by making such a statement, being hypocritical? That would be the the thinking if you simply interpret this scripture in light of itself. True judging is about loving with pure motives and speaking the truth in love. Jesus did it all the time as we will see as we continue to read Luke.

As Christians we must have a clear right and wrong. If there are no moral absolutes such as; murder is wrong, adultery is wrong and so on, then there would be no reason for prisons, no reason for life long commitments in marriage, or other mores or folkways that help keep society together. We must be able to judge what is right or wrong based on God’s word, interpreted by God’s Word not our opinion. If you have questions, think about the book of Judges in the Old Testament. While a judge ruled Israel and held the people accountable to a righteous walk the people lived godly lives and prospered. After the judge died “each one did what was right their own eyes”, the result chaos, slavery, societal degradation.

As Jesus was preparing to speak about judging he set it up this way, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” He was telling us what you do must be motivated by love. What parent, who loves their child, allows them to consistently act out of control or disrespect people. What friend would allow their friend to abuse their spouse or alcohol or drugs? If you really love you must judge, but you judge out of a heart filled with love, wanting your child or your friend to become the best they can be rather than allowing them to live well below their God-called potential. To do anything else is to not walk in the truth.

How do you know you are judging out of love? Jesus answers that question as well. We check our own hearts our own motivation, “Brother let me remove the speck out of your eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye.” In other words, check to see why I am responding with judgment. Am I responding because I truly love this person or out of some wound, rejection, or fear? Am I jealous of this person or do I want the best for them. The truth is revealed when we look at our own heart motivation.

Without loving righteous judgment of our own hearts our lives would be in chaos. If we do not judge others challenging them to walk the walk we really don’t love. It is the motivation of our hearts that Jesus is talking about here. If we are hypocritical then we are merely religious trying to raise ourselves up at the expense of putting a brother or sister down.

We all judge people many judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else could judge us. The question in both cases is what is your motivation? Do you love enough that you are willing to lay down your life for the person? Or are you simply beating yourself or others down with false judgment? It is funny how many people I talk with who are more harassed by the thoughts in their heads about themselves that what anyone could possible say to them.

In both cases, take this time of fasting to ask the Lord to help you to have a pure loving heart, to see the way the Lord sees and to love enough to speak the truth our of a heart of love.

Tomorrow - Luke 7

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Lord knows what we need!

Luke 5

One of the lies the enemy tries to promote is that God doesn’t really care about us, in the scheme of things that we are not important. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Jesus died on the cross because we are important to God, He knows us by name, sees all that we go through, and even has the shafts of hair on our heads numbered. I think that makes us pretty important, God values even the minutest detail of our lives.

In this chapter four people are shown that God knows and loves them. First let's look at Pater, Peter does not see himself as a good man, he sees himself as a grunt, a cog-in-a-wheel. He is a fisher who gets by and that is it. This carpenter comes along and tells him how to fish not to reduce his worth or value but to increase it. Sometimes God creates miracles for us so that we will see accurately who we are and how God sees us. When Peter obeyed, the catch was overwhelming, Peter realized just how far from God he was. Jesus took the opportunity to help him to see himself the way the Father sees him, not as a sinful man but as a man who can change the world. He is a fisher of men!

The leper in verse 12 had a slightly different problem he wasn’t necessarily battling his sinfulness but a sense of unworthiness. He was saying to Jesus, “I am so unworthy. Being a leper, he was plagued with the guilt of I must be cursed of God, I must be lower than lower, God must love everyone besides me because I am cursed with leprosy. Jesus healed his body but more importantly healed his spirit and mind as well. Jesus showed him that God loved him and that his leprosy did not stop the love of God for him.

The paralytic seemed to be bound by his legs not working but in reality it was something else. This man had friends who genuinely loved him, men willing to rip the roof off of a house so that he could get healed. From the outside, he must have seemed like a happy guy. People generally don’t want to hang around miserable, whiney people. He had a secret. He had done something in his past that he felt was so horrendous that he could never be forgiven. Jesus knew that and went right to the heart of the matter. Jesus said to the man, “your sins are forgiven!” The man did not even have the faith to believe that he could be forgiven, but Jesus saw the faith in his friends and moved with compassion went to the root of the matter and set the man free, through forgiveness.

Tax collectors were most hated in Judea. They were Jews who served the Romans. They were considered sell-outs and thieves. They were rejected by all but the other “rejects” of society. What Matthew needed was to know he was not a reject but that he was loved and accepted. It is not people’s opinions that matter but God’s. Jesus simply said “follow me” which said to Matthew, I love you and accept you. Jesus sealed the acceptance in Matthew’s heart by going to his home.

Where are you today? Is there something that is stopping you or those around you from knowing you are valued and loved? If it is you allow the Lord to show you in your place of need how much He loves you! If you are seeing it in those around you, ask the Lord to show you what they need, from Him and you, to show them they are loved and accepted by God!

Tomorrow – Luke 6

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Luke 4: The three battlegrounds

January 4

After Jesus was baptized by John, he is immediately led out into the wilderness to be tempted. My friend Francis Frangipane wrote a book about this temptation “The Three Battlegrounds”, it is very good reading, I recommend it.

1 John 2:16 outlines these three; “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Jesus is called the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45 – 49). The first Adam failed in these three areas. The second “Adam” overcame in this passage.

Sin Adam - Genesis 3:6 Jesus (2nd Adam)

Lust of Flesh “tree was good for food” “command these stones to be bread”

Lust of Eyes “it was pleasant to the eyes” “showed Him all the kingdoms”

Pride of Life “a tree desirable to make one wise” “thrown yourself down”

These three sins are at the root of all sin and Jesus overcame each one so we might overcome them.

Notice what he did, He did not rely on conventional wisdom but spoke the Word and then stood on the Word. With each onslaught from the enemy, he gave us an example of how to stand against our own battles and temptations. The enemy’s first strategy was to attack Jesus physical weakness, in this case, His hunger. Jesus quoted the scripture and would not back down. The enemy knows our weakness and always attacks there first. We do not have the strength in ourselves to overcome our weaknesses we overcome by faith and grace relying not on our own strength but on the Lord.

The second attack the enemy used a different strategy, logic. It would make sense to Jesus that all the authority was given to Satan because of the fall of mankind in the garden. Many times we sin because we rationalize it to “just make sense” at that moment at the time it does seem to make sense so we do it. It doesn’t matter what the temptation, sin is still sin no logical rationale can justify it. Once again the Word is our truth and our defense.

The third attack the enemy used God’s word against Jesus. Twisted enough, God’s Word has been used to justify all kinds of sin. The letter of the law kills but the spirit of God’s Word brings life. We must not only understand the words but must be able to interpret them in light of the whole of the Gospel message. Many times one or two scripture have been used to justify anything from adultery and fornication to murder. We must stand on God’s Word and allow it to be our strength always.

What temptations are you facing today? What sins have you been battling over and over again? Are you justifying them in some way? Making excuses for why you have to do them? Do a search in your Bible about the sin and then ask the Lord to cause you to overcome! He will enable you to overcome if you ask. He will give you the scriptures to stand on and the grace to have victory if you will allow Him.

Tomorrow – Luke 5

Monday, January 3, 2011

Luke 3

January 3, 2011

As we begin Luke 3 we see that Luke is verifying the time and key individuals so that anyone can check his facts. The 15th year of Tiberius was the first year of Pontius Pilate’s governorship of Judea, 26 A.D. We must remember the Monks who designed the calendar we use today miscalculated. They were attempting to match Jesus birth with date “0” but were off by 4 years. In 26 A.D. John was 30 or 31 and Jesus 30 (they were 6 months apart). By the way, for those that are concerned about the Mayan prophecy about 2012, according to true calculations we are already in the year 2015.

Continuing on with Luke’s verification of prophecy, he quotes Isaiah 40: 3 – 5 regarding John’s ministry. John ministry was a transition ministry, it was a blend of the Old Testament, in your face confrontational style and the beginnings of a grace walk that Jesus firmly introduced to us. John strongly resist the religious people who are depending upon their tradition for righteousness rather than the fruit of true righteousness.

It is important to notice how John handles the soldiers and the tax collectors. Often we think that someone needs to leave their profession if it is considered borderline by some in the faith, John doesn’t push that here. There are some in Christianity who feel it is wrong to fight or join the army, John doesn’t tell the soldiers to leave the military he simply tells them to be fair and kind and to do their duty as soldiers. To the tax collector, one of the most hated professions in the Bible, he challenges him not to leave his profession but to do his job well and fairly.

What is your job or profession? God does not call us all to be professional pastors, evangelist, or missionaries. He has given each one of us different skills. Your skill is to be used to help you to earn and income or support your family in other ways and to build up the church. Your gifts are just as important to the Lord, as a professional minister. Your gifts open doors to touch lives. Never belittle the gifts and skills the Lord has given you. Every gift, talent, and ability is from the Lord and if we give it back to Him it gives Him glory and blesses us.

Last thought about Luke 3. Luke includes Joseph’s genealogy to prove, even though Jesus was not blood related to Joseph, that Jesus came from the line of David on both sides of the family.

What are your skills? What do you find fulfilling in your day-to-day work? Whatever that is take the time today to offer it back to the Lord? Allow Him to guide your work and watch how much more effective the Lord will help you to be in all that you do. He will also open more doors of opportunity and as daily give your skills back to Him!

Tomorrow - Luke 4

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The danger of a familiar walk with Christ.

January 2

Luke 2

The title today my seem strange because I am constantly “pushing” people to have a better relationship with the Lord, spending time in prayer, in His Word, and with His people. Like any relationship our relationship with the Lord can be taken for granted, we can become too familiar.

Anna and Simeon are two who were constantly seeking the Lord. They kept their relationship with the Lord fresh. They were always looking for the Lord. Our lives are so daily it is very easy to get used to depending on ourselves, to forget about the Lord and just do our own thing. We don’t do it with a sense of malice normally it is because of the busy-ness of our lives distracts us from taking the time to wait on and look for the Lord.

Joseph and Mary exhibit some of the familiarity that we should be concerned about. Just a few years earlier angels had announced His birth, wise men and shepherds came to worship Him. Joseph and Mary had experienced miracles as no one had experienced before yet they took it for granted. Jesus took advantage of the rare trip into Jerusalem to meet with the religious leaders. Joseph and Mary did not understand, they had forgotten or were neglecting who their son was and thought about him like any other boy of his age.

How does this apply to us? It is easy for us to forget all the great things God has done for us. It is easy to belittle them or make them so familiar that we don’t see them for the amazing gifts that they are. The next time we need a miracle because the last ones were so familiar, we panic first, we worry first, we hesitate with faith rather than seeing the Lord for who He is and what He has done for us.

God is God! He is all-powerful and amazing. We need to remember the miracles in our lives for what they are, God reminding us of His love and care for us and that we are His children.

It is very easy to think of God’s miracles as coincidence rather than a miracle. It is easy to take them for granted or to think we had something to do with them. The Lord wants us to keep our relationship fresh.

Remember His love, mercy, and grace and continual. Keep it fresh, never take His love for granted. Always look for the Lord active in your life. He is your loving heavenly Father keep your relationship fresh with Him always. The reward is seeing Him active in your life everyday.

Happy New Year

January 1

We want to begin this new year right by spending a little time each day in the God’s Word! God’s word is not just a collection of historically and spiritually accurate accounts but is His love letter to us. It is a series of events and insights that help us to understand how much He loves us.

For the first 40 days I will be blogging every day with devotional insights as part of an annual fast. After that I will return to a devotional blog only on weekdays.

During this first 40 we will go through Luke and Acts. Showing the acts and ways of Jesus and the acts and ways of the apostles.

I will not be able to cover every insight each day but will give brief insight into some of the things I am seeing that I believe you may need for today. I am praying through each passage to find what is necessary that I believe the Lord would like me to highlight each day.

Luke 1

The Lord gives us what we need for the task He calls us too. In this chapter we see three lives being turned “topsy-turvy” because of the call of God! Mary, Elizabeth and Zacharias are all being challenged with a new call on their lives.

As we begin a new year and you are studying the Word perhaps for the first time you may find the Lord calling you to some new things. We are a people of faith and our lives should reflect faith always. God does not leave it to us to figure it out; He always gives us what we need.

So what do a young unwed mother, and her much older pregnant cousin and cousin-in-law need; God with them always, leading, guiding, protecting and speaking. When Mary agreed to be open to the hand of God, facing the possible rejection, ridicule and even death and when Elizabeth and Zacharias in their later years found they were going to have a baby the Lord gave them what they needed, His continual presence. Mary was over shadowed by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth, was filled when Mary came to visit and Zacharias once John was born.

God always gives us what we need when we say yes to Him. Think about what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. If you are, are you allowing Him to lead and guide you in all that you do? If you are not, ask the Lord if it is something that you should be open to?

God only wants the best for us and as we seek Him we will find all that He has for us!
Tomorrow: Luke chapter 2