Monday, February 28, 2011

Middle East uprising could be a miracle in the making.

If you are looking for today's devotional please look at the directory on the right and click "Is Jesus who He said He is". My heart is so heavy this morning for the Middle East I am asking you to consider this please.

I am not a Middle East expert however having spent more time there than the average American and having spent much time with the average Palestinian, Lebanese, Israeli, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Iraqi I have had the opportunity to see the hearts of the people.

Every person I met has had a hunger for the Lord at some level. They desire the same things we do, to be loved, have a relationship with God and to do better for their children then their parents did for them. I don’t understand fully the source of the uprising. Some say Al-Qaida is behind it others, the Muslim brotherhood, and others a democracy movement. I don’t know. What I do know is that Jesus died for all people of the world and that He desires for none to spend eternity in hell but all to come to the Father.

At this critical tipping point in history, I believe our prayers can and will make a difference in what takes place in the Middle East. Please do not be a simple spectator on history instead become a history maker. Jesus said men and women of faith can move mountains. Pray for all the people of the Middle East to have the same choices we have, to hear the message of the Gospel and to make a decision based on a clear understanding of who Jesus is. It will take a freedom of mind and politics to enable all to hear and be able to respond. Our prayers can change the world.

My good friend, Sam Childers is a Christian soldier who physically fights to save hundreds of lives through his type of warfare. I am grateful for his willingness to lay down his life in that way. It is easier for some of us to do that than others, however, if we will lay down our lives by spending time everyday praying for God’s will to be accomplished in the Middle East millions can be saved. It is more powerful to pray and yet easily over looked. More wars have been won by prayer than by guns, swords, or knives. Sometimes it takes both. Today you and I can’t go to the Middle East and physically fight. If we could how would we know which side to fight for. Through prayer we can fight the Princes of the Air one of which Daniel spoke about, the Prince or Angel over Persia. The battle was won through prayer and fasting and an entire nation was set free, millions were released through prayer.

Please pray! You know how,! You are called! You can change the world!

I have been blessed to see that many from the Middle East region are reading this blog. Please know I am praying for you and I would appreciate any insight you might give. Please feel free to comment on this or any other post you may read.

Is Jesus really who He said He is?

There is always a challenge to believe something when it takes faith. Faith is an action that goes against our natural mind and thought process. Jesus death on the cross was something necessary for our salvation. It takes faith to grasp that one could die so that all of mankind might live, but that is exactly what Jesus did and is reported in John 19. The great thing for us is that on one hand it does take faith but on the other there is enough scriptural evidence to point to all that Jesus did that we can prove He is who He said that He is; God in the flesh.

Thousands of years before Jesus birth, Isaiah, the Psalmist, and others prophesied events that would take place regarding the Messiah. Today I want to point out a few of them that tie into chapter 19 of John.

Isaiah chapter 53 is the prophecy of the Messiah and His suffering. John 19 aligns with the idea of Isaiah 53 and with the details.

John 19:6 states that Pilate found no fault in Him, He was guiltless. Isaiah 53:9 states the Messiah will have done no violence neither had any kind of deceit come out of His mouth.

John 19:18 states that Jesus was crucified with two criminals. Isaiah 53:12 states that the Messiah will poured out to death as He is numbered with transgressors as bears the sins of many.

Chapter 19 verses 38 – 42 show us that Jesus was buried in the tomb of a rich man. Isaiah 53:9 also states that Jesus would be at His death with the rich. The implication here is also that the Messiah had to die. There are many who believe wrongly that the Messiah did not need to die. Jesus death was imperative to our entrance into a relationship with the Father. God could have no sin in His presence and without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness of sin. In other words, it was an ultimate act of love, “greater love has no one that this that He should lay down His life for His friends”, that enables us to come into an understanding of a real love relationship.

That shedding of blood came through crucifixion. Psalm 22:16 states that the Messiah was surrounded by the wicked and at that time they pieced His hands and feet.

Yes, it does take a certain amount of faith to believe that Jesus is whom He said He was, however there are enough scriptural prophecies that point to who He is. I have touched on a few and I am no scholar but I am told there are thousands of scriptures that Jesus fulfilled in His life and there are yet a few more that will be fulfilled on his return.

Despite all that is going on in the world, I hope that this encourages you that God really is in ultimate control. He knew what would happen in the beginning and He knows what will happen in the end. What happens to you each day is influenced by decisions you make. God is faithful! If you are you will see His hand leading and guiding you each and every day.

Tomorrow John 20

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome to the club! You’re going to die!

John 16

That is not one of the best mottos I have ever heard. Chapter 16 starts out with that theme and ends with this theme. It is filled in the middle with encouragement.

If we are from a different mindset then the world, if we have a different set of goals and purposes than the world, then it is natural that we will be a conflict with the world.

The world system is based on short term goal of selfishness, I will get what I can and what I want regardless of the cost to myself or others. The world system is also driven by Satan’s desire to kill, steal, and destroy. He doesn’t necessarily want worship He is simply so full of pride, jealousy, and envy that He doesn’t want God to have any children who will spend eternity with Him.

The battle can be intense. In places like North Korea, Iran, Somalia, and Eritrea, Christians are literally being killed for their faith. In other places, you can be rejected from a job, promotion, a home because of your faith. The attacks of the world system and then enemy aren’t always as blatant. Sometimes he will simply bring division between, a leader and a follower, a friend and a friend, a husband and a wife, or a parent and child.

What does this have to do with this passage? Part of the reason for the Holy Spirit being free in our lives is to give us the strength that we need. He shows us the way when we go through difficult places. He will lead you into all truth. What truth? The truth about who God is and what His plan is in your tough places, the truth about the fruit and power you have access to because of the Holy Spirit. He will lead you into the truth about your calling and whom you are really fighting. He will lead you into the truth of the Father’s heart so when you pray your are praying his heart and anything you ask he will cause to happen.

What an amazing thing to think that the God who created everything wants relationship with you. The truth the Hoy Spirit leads you in leads us see the world and our situations through His eyes. It helps us to understand why we go through what we are going through. His truth causes us to stand in the midst of the trial and to stand strong when everything in us says give up. What an amazing opportunity to have the Holy Spirit leading and guiding our lives.

Yes we will go through struggles. Everyone will die eventually. Will our lives have had meaning or will they have been full of selfishness or frustration? The answer to that question is given by whether we have completely given our lives over to the Lord or simply lived them our way.

Where are you today? Are you living a life of worry, anxiety, or frustration? Are you allowing the Spirit of Truth to lead you and guide you? Are you seeing things through God’s eyes? The truth is you are going to die. As Mel Gibson is said to have been quoting the famous Scottish warrior, William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart”, “All men die, but few men truly live!”

This weekend read John 17 (the real Lord’s prayer), 18 (Jesus arrest and before Pilate)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Plugged in to joy!

John 15

Joy is one of those things that I see less and less, in our culture. Everyone is driven so intensely that the idea of a simple joy that brings and maintains a contentment smile to your spirit is not even possible for many. Even in Jesus’ day the intensity of daily living in an oppressive culture had a tendency to rob even those closest to Jesus of their joy.

Jesus plan is for us to have and live in joy. Not only a joy that simply gets us by but one that will come in fullness and help complete us. Everything in this world fights with God’s plan. The second law of thermodynamics guarantees that everything is falling apart and getting worse. As followers of Christ, while this world may fall apart we should grow in grace, love, joy and all of the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus gave us the plan of how to overcome and live in His fullness.

God’s plan is simple. When we come to Christ, know that we are part of the family of God. As a member of this family we must stay connected. Jesus says He is the true vine, Isaiah 5 calls Israel the vine Jesus is saying it is no longer about birthright but relationship.

As we stay in relationship, we are connected to life. Everything that is in the life or plan of Jesus we can be part of. A natural outgrowth of being connected is fruit. The vine doesn’t have to struggle to bear fruit it naturally comes with being connected to the root. If you are really connected, you want to do whatever you can to nurture the relationship between you and the main root because life comes through the main root to you. Jesus, as the main root, wants to give us all that He has. We make the decision to wither and die when we choose to cut ourselves from the main root.

Joy comes from the root. Whatever is in the root is in us. When Jesus said greater works would we do, He gave us the tools to do those things. Coming straight from Jesus is the Helper, the Holy Spirit who will empower us to do great things. As we daily surrender to the Father’s will for our lives, as we abide in the vine, life from God flows through us. Jesus promised us life and life abundantly. We can only have life if we are connected to the root. In that root is the fullness of the Spirit of God, which includes all the gifts, and fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is part of that fruit but in reality it is so much more.

It is a struggle to stay connected everyday. Life is so daily. There are things that seem to be waiting to rob us of our joy. At first staying connected to the Lord can be a real struggle. As we leave a lifestyle that was more about us and less about God it will be a battle to create strength in the new relationship. As we grow, there still will be distractions and things will want to pull us away but it is more natural to stay connected than to break relationship. The Wallenda family are tightrope walkers, I asked Tino Wallenda why he was not afraid to walk the tightrope across Niagara Falls and other daredevil stunts. He said, “I have been walking the tightrope so long it is more natural for me to be on the rope than it is to fall.” Our walk with the Lord should be the same; it should be more natural to walk with Christ, to be connected to Him than to be separated from Him. Joy comes from connection.

Tomorrow John 16

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Everything is going to be OK!

John 14

I like to hear that statement from people that know what they are talking about. It is easy to cry fear. It is easy to be a chicken little and to get everyone in a panic mode about the sky falling. It takes a genuine leader to bring calm into a storm.

Jesus had just told His friends that life was going to change dramatically, very shortly. He challenged them to look at the bigger picture. It is easy for us to get caught up in the moment. Everyday there are miniscule problems that are demanding our attention. Some of these tiny problems can become great if not attended to, they can also distract us for the overall goal. If we keep our eyes on the prize, the big picture, we will always win in the long run. Jesus was encouraging them that it will be OK.

Heaven is real and you will be there one day but you are going to go through some struggles. You won’t go through them alone. A good leader always puts together a plan of succession. Jesus had it all together without the disciples even knowing. In fact, Jesus had two very distinctive jobs to do and when they were completed it was time for someone else to step in. I know you are thinking, what were Jesus’ jobs; 1) Show us what God is really like 2) Lay down His life and rise from the dead so we could have eternal life and know that He is God! So who is this successor? The Holy Spirit!

Christianity is all about relationship. God sent his Son to make a way for us to have relationship with Him. Jesus showed us what the Father is like and made the way for that relationship. The Holy Spirit now keeps us in relationship with the Father and the Son. He teaches, brings to remembrance, guides, and keeps us in peace. Until Jesus death and resurrection the Holy Spirit seemed to be only available to special people like Kings, Prophets, and Judges.

The disciples and we, have a tough job, convincing an unbelieving world that there is a heaven and a hell and the only way to avoid hell is through relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus. We need help, power, wisdom, and a lot of patience, which is all part of what the Holy Spirit does for us. The disciples were facing a scary and potentially life threatening situation. Their leader was going to die. It looked as if there was no hope. Then Jesus resurrected but left them again. What do you do after you have walked away from everything to follow Jesus? You do what we are still doing today, you ask for the Holy Spirit to fill, lead, guide, strengthen and give you all that you need to fulfill the call and purpose of your life to glorify God. Guess what! He will do it!

We all go through tough places. The disciples made it through a seemingly impossible situation; hated, rejected, outcast, their leader left them. They were given a virtually impossible task. Yet as God always does, he gave them all they needed to make it and not only make it, but succeed!

He will do the same for you today if you will allow Him. He desires for you to be successful at whatever He has called you to do. He has not nor will He ever abandon you. He loves you! The storms of life will come, tragedy will strike but you will make it and not just make it but also excel if you will allow Him to work through you. Everything is going to be OK!

Tomorrow John 15

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What would you do if you knew you were going to die?

John 13

Jesus knew that in less than 24 hours he would be dead. On the road to his crucifixion He would be beaten, whipped, spat upon, ridiculed, denied by friends and betrayed by another. What would you say to or do with your closest friends if you knew this was going to happen to you?

Jesus was consistent in nature and character. He ate with them then showed them the way to love each other, serve one another. Jesus began His last night of ministry before His death with a meal, a Passover meal. The Passover was a celebration of the Jews to remember God’s deliverance from slavery. A lamb was slain and his blood poured out on the house so that death might “pass over” them. Jesus was showing He was the final “Passover Lamb” through him, the slavery of death was defeated. His shed blood would cover our sin of this human house; that shed blood gave us access to the presence of God the father so eternal death no longer is a threat to those who follow Him.

Love those who do not love you! Even the Gentiles love those who love them. Those were some of Jesus’ words as he walked with his disciples. After the final meal together, Jesus knelt down as a servant, and washed the feet of the disciples, including the feet of Judas. Would that be your response to someone who betrayed you? Peter wrote that God’s desire is that none should be sent to hell but that all would come to repentance. I believe Jesus’ showed Judas the love that He had for him, in the hope that He would remember that love even after he betrayed Him. Freewill can be a problem. God is sovereign and in His sovereignty He gave man freewill. One had to be chosen to be the betrayer but I do not believe that meant that He was destined for hell. God’s desire is for “none” to go to hell and that included Judas. Jesus lived love before him and Judas rejected it. Jesus cared enough for His betrayer to show him unconditional love in His last few hours.

After displaying acts of love, Jesus was very clear with His disciples as to what He expects from all of His disciples, including you and me. Love one another! He showed us how He expects us to act toward each other, with servant’s hearts. He commands that we live a life of loving one another. Many times we will “share” the Good News with others but Jesus is challenging us not just to share with words but actions as well. People will see our actions and judge our relationship with the Lord by them. If you have children they are judging whether this life with Christ is real or not by our actions and reaction. Do we live at peace in our homes? Do we love others or talk about them? Are we afraid all of the time or do they see that we believe the Lord is in control. Are we nasty and unforgiving or do we walk out forgiveness everyday? These are the things our children and others who are closest to us see in our lives and determine if our faith is real.

Are these the things you would be living and saying if today were your last day on earth? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Live each day as if it were your last. Plan as if you will live another 100 years. Our lives need to be examples to all people all the time, of God’s great love. Jesus gave us that example, even the night before His death, so let’s live it each day.

Tomorrow John 14

Monday, February 21, 2011

Killing your miracle!

John 12

Faith is a wonderful gift and in some ways a muscle that needs exercise. Faith enables us to please God, move mountains, and through our faith in God the sick can receive healing.

We must recognize that we are in a war over faith. Our humanity, our flesh, doesn’t want us to move by faith because it goes against reason and logic. The enemy of our souls, Satan does not want us to move by faith because it weakens his ability to do what he does best; kill, steal and destroy.

There is a controversy about faith. There are even some followers of Christ who will stand against any miracle claims. They say that the Lord will not go against the laws of nature. However, every miracle Jesus performed did go against the laws of nature, water into wine, walking on water, blind eyes opened and the lame walking to name a few. Basically every miracle listed in scripture does go against nature, I believe that is the very definition of a miracle.

Lazarus had been raised from that dead. This was not a natural phenomenon. Supernatural power had raised him back to life. Everyone in the surrounding community, plus, had heard of Lazarus’ death and resurrection. Many were being draw to the Lord because of this miracle. Jealousy and fear began to stir in the religious leaders, so much so that they decided they would attempt to kill Lazarus. What is wrong with this picture? The man was raised from the dead so they wanted to kill him again! It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had they succeeded; would Jesus simply raise him up again thus frustrating them even more? Would the people have rioted against the leadership? We will never know, however the point is; whenever a miracle takes place in your life there are always elements who will want to kill it.

“Death to your miracle!” That is the chant the world, the flesh and Satan are all yelling. If something miraculous happens to you everything ungodly will raise up against you. Friends and family will deny it or try to convince you it is a coincidence. The enemy will either try to embarrass you or try to make you deny it. The world doesn’t want to hear about it.

Miracles demand a response. If a miracle, no matter how great or small, happens in your life, people must acknowledge a greater power in the world. People need to reconcile the miracle and their belief or lack of belief in God. They have to wrestle with issues of faith they have never thought about. You now have a testimony to keep remembering when you walk through the next struggle or trial. Because you have had a miracle doesn’t mean that you won’t need another. In fact, I believe the enemy works harder on those who have received miracles because it is his way of trying to kill their miracle. If he can get someone so depressed or discouraged they will begin to reason away the power of the first miracle and wallow in their suffering.

Think about all the miracles the Lord has performed in your life. Expect more! Know when the attacks come it is simply the world, flesh, and/or the devil trying to kill your miracle. God loves to show up in our lives. He loves for people to know not only by faith that He is real but by, as the disciples put it “many amazing proofs”. Don’t allow your miracle to die. Look for more of what the Lord can and will do in your life.

Tomorrow John 13

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sometimes truth just doesn’t matter.

John 9

As a Pastor and a leader in the church corporate it has been my privilege to share Jesus with all kinds of people; from the powerful and wealthy to the poorest of the poor, from the intellectual to some that were “not the sharpest tool in the shed.” That is the nature of faith; God brings the right people across your path at the right time. Whether they accept faith or not is not dependent on God but on the free will of man.

I remember having a particularly lively discussion with a young man who had just finished his thesis for his doctoral program. After several hours of back and forth debate he made this statement, “You have your truth and I have mine, let’s just leave it at that!” Well of course I could not leave it at that but the long term result was that despite proof and logic he would not be convinced that God was real and he was in need of a savior. Truth didn’t matter he had his own opinion.

A blind man that everyone seems to know was blind received his sight. He had two problems, first the miracle took place on the Sabbath and second it was performed through Jesus. Can you imagine it, the man was born blind all of a sudden he is seeing things he had only dreamed about, colors and shapes sounds that he had only imagined what they might look like now he sees. An absolutely impossible event has taken place, a man who had never seen now does.

You would think everyone would be excited about the blind seeing. I believe most people were, however jealousy is an evil thing. The sad part about the religious leaders jealousy is had that not gotten jealous and embraced Jesus they could have been performing the same miracles. The disciples performed the same miracles and more than Jesus had done. Their truth was controlling this miracle for them, “we don’t care that a man was healed, we must deny it because we didn’t do it” was their sentiment. Not only did the religious leaders hurt themselves by their denial of the truth but also how many of the people chose to follow the leaders rather than Jesus and they missed out on the wonderful works of Jesus because of it.

Jesus promised when he went to the Father that He would leave us a helper. Part of the job of this “helper” would be to lead us into all truth. God is about the business of amazing us all the time if we will let Him. He still heals today. He still performs miracles. More importantly He still love us more than we will ever know. The blind man was healed because Jesus loved him and the world full of people around him, including the religious leaders. The real truth can be hidden if we allow jealousy, envy, or any sins of the flesh get in the way of what God wants for us.

I have found that there are many times when I must ask the Holy Spirit to lead me into the truth regarding things that either I don’t understand or simply frustrate me. I may not like the truth, especially when it is about correcting or discipling me, but when we walk in the truth then we are walking with Jesus. We will know the truth and the truth will make us free.

Allow the Lord to lead you into truth today. There maybe things that you have hidden from yourself or that you have chosen not to believe because it has gone against your theology. God wants us all to be free to be who He has called us to be. Don’t put God in a box. Open the box and allow Him to show you amazing things that He can do and wonderful aspects of His nature and character that you may never have known. He loves you far more than you can imagine. One truth we all need to understand is that He wants us to have life and have it abundantly!

Remember I do not write this blog on the weekends so I will be back with a fresh blog on the 20th. Please read John 10 and 11 on your own this weekend. I will have comments on John chapter 12 on Monday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Looking at God through our own colored glasses

John 8

Everything we do in life affects our responses to people and God. Every experience both for good and for evil creates a frame of reference that we use to relate to God and to others. For example, if as a child, you had been bitten by a dog, regardless of the friendliness of any other dog you may come across, instant caution may rise despite the owner’s assurance to the temperament of the dog. If as a child you had an overbearing parent, it is possible that you may struggle against any other authority in your life. Childhood fears and rejections can carry through life. The good news is we don’t need to live there; Jesus came to set us free.

The religious leaders of the day only saw one aspect of God’s nature, that of holy judge. It is true that God is a holy and righteous judge and perhaps from some perspectives we need to understand that better. He does not put up with our intentional sin and blatant disregard for Him. It is not being a true reflection of God when we hate, gossip, lie, and carry unforgiveness and so on. He is holy and sin can not be in His presence. We must remain humble and keep an attitude of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Remembering Jesus sacrifice helps us understand the love and grace aspect of God’s nature.

The religious leaders had missed God’s love and desire for His people. Throughout Israel’s history He was judge but only for the purpose of calling Israel back to Himself. God’s judgments are true and right. His heart is always to draw people to freedom in His love and give them life.

The adultery was wrong. Jesus was not excusing sin. He knew the woman already felt condemned she did not need any more condemnation but forgiveness. When people are broken and they feel foolish they don’t need someone to push them down but to lift them up. When we recognize our sin, God will not reject us or cause us pain; instead he will draw us closer to Himself, hold us, love us, and encourage us.

The law was established to be a shadow of living for God. If we live only according to the law we remain in darkness. Jesus said in this chapter, who ever will follow Him will not walk in darkness because He is the light of the world. Nothing is hidden in light. In light is life, hope, and in Jesus light, love!

At the end of this chapter Jesus gives another one of the “I am” proclamations. He says to the leaders before Abraham was, “I AM”. The leaders knew exactly what Jesus was saying. He was making two very clear statements, 1) that He was always existent, from the beginning of time He was, before Abraham was “I am”. 2) The “I am” phrase was the phrase God used to tell Moses His name in Exodus 3:14. Jesus was saying, “I am God”! The leaders understood this and rather than embracing their Lord and Savior they picked up stones to kill Him.

The religious leaders had allowed their interpretation of the scriptures to color their view of the Messiah so poorly that they could not even see Him when He stood in front of them. All of the signs of the Messiah were in front of them. They were looking for an earthly king rather than the deliverer of men’s souls and Lord of all.

It would be easy for us to judge these leaders but how many times do we only view God through our own perspective rather than in light of eternity. We get frustrated with God when He doesn’t do things our way and in reality He is working things out for us, but in a way different than we had expected. Trust is a powerful tool to being at peace and seeing the love of God in action. Often we have to take off our own colored glasses and ask the Lord to show us what He is doing without our prejudice point of view skewing what He is doing.

What is the Lord doing in your life right now? What exciting and wonderful miracles is He about to perform? Look for the amazing things in your life. God really loves us. He forgives us! He has lots of grace, wisdom, power, and love to pour in and through us. Trust Him!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taking your relationship for granted?

John 7

The challenge of familiarity is that you can tend to take your relationships for granted. Relationships are something that need constant work. Whether it is a friendship, spouse, child, or the Lord we need to keep our relationships fresh. It is very easy to become so familiar that we miss the wonderful gift that person is to us.

Jesus was familiar to his brothers. He was the eldest. They had known Him their entire lives but because He was their brother, they could not see and nearly missed the gift that He was to the world. (After His resurrection His brothers were listed among the believers.) Sometimes it is hard for us to believe that those closest to us are really an amazing gift. The relationship becomes common and we miss the very value God has in them and for us, through our relationship. It took the miracle of resurrection for Jesus’ brothers to see it. Look around you! Really see the people the Lord has placed in your life. Ask the Lord to show you or remind you of their value and how very blessed you are to have them in your life.

We can take our relationship with the Lord for granted as well. Malcolm Muggeridge, was a famous journalist in the 20th century who had a radical conversation after and interview with Mother Teresa. He made this observation, “There is nothing so deadening to the soul as the continual handling of the outside of Holy things”. The religious leaders of Jesus day had gotten so caught up in serving God that they had forgotten the God they serve. The Lord God Almighty was standing in their presence and they had no room in their hearts to receive Him because they had their religion to maintain.

Christianity is all about relationship. We have and maintain religious traditions to help us to remember the relationship but when those traditions get in the way then what becomes our God? Is God still God or are our religious traditions God. What leads us and guides us, God or our traditions? Jesus was attempting to awaken the religious leaders to the truth. They had become so focused on their traditions that they had forgotten about maintaining their relationship. Understand, God is not about striking people with lightening because they are confused. He is patient and loving. He is the all-powerful God and He draws people to Himself He does not force them. Jesus was gently attempting to open the eyes of the religious leaders.

There are times when we can get so caught up in a belief or tradition that we can’t see God, we only see what we believe. We can fight for a cause so hard that we miss the Lord we started fighting for. I believe that is the histories of the crusades, the reformation, and in modern times we have see that in regard to the abortion issue and issues regarding homosexuality. People have fought so hard to preserve their belief and their desire to honor God that at times they have gone overboard killing people in the name of Christ. Rather than loving the people the way God loves them, they end up driving them more into their sin.

It was popular a few years ago and in some ways has become cliché, to ask, “What would Jesus do?” As cliché as it may be, if you ask yourself that question, it may keep you free of misguided religion and keep your relationship fresh.

There is so much love the Lord has for all of us. It is in our human nature to try to create systems with which we can reach God when in reality He is always reaching out to us. Allowing Him to love you will keep your relationship fresh and remind you of your value to God. Do the same with all of your relationships. Stir up the love again. Giving love always has a great return.

Tomorrow John 8

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Food for thought

February 15

There are a few things around the world that are staples; potatoes, rice, noodles, coffee and tea. Every country of the nearly 100 where I have traveled have at least two of these. One constant is bread. It may come in different forms and made from different ingredients but I don’t think I have been in one culture that doesn’t have some kind of bread. Growing up there were few enjoyments that hit all the senses like coming home to a fresh baked piece of bread. I could smell it before I came in the house, the feel of tearing off a piece from the loaf or bun, the sight of the golden brown crust, but the taste of that fresh piece of bread; straight, smothered in butter or smothered in jam was a little piece of heaven for a growing boy.

Now that I have made you hungry, you may be able to relate to the people who had been listening to Jesus all day in the hot sun without food or shade. John begins this chapter with the miracle of the 5000 being fed. This story and the resurrection are the only stories told in all four Gospels. A boy gives his five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus blesses them, breaks them and the disciples see, at their hands, these loaves and fish not only feed 5000 men but also all the women and children. The disciples also gather more than they started with, they end up with twelve baskets full of food. I believe the little boy who gave his all ended up with the twelve baskets full. Why? When you give your all to God you always end up with far more than you gave Him.

Jesus continues to focus on bread for a while, using it as a common word picture. Bread meant life in this culture. Heavenly bread meant eternal life; the Jews understood what Jesus was saying here. When Jesus used the phrase “I am”, that is the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush. By saying He is the “I am” and “bread of life” Jesus is saying, He has the true life-sustaining power, anything else regardless of its religious significance is an inadequate substitute.

Jesus was not above challenging the status quo. He told them that He was the bread of life and in order to have eternal life you must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Sounds pretty gross, He meant to challenge the thinking of the day. He was greater than the sacrificial lamb that was eaten at Passover. He knew it would divide those with the wrong kind of thinking; those who were only thinking earthly rather than spiritually. The result was many walked with him no more.

While what Jesus said challenged and perhaps even threatened the disciples they had seen too much to turn back. Jesus asked them, “Are you offended? What I am telling you is spirit…” Sometimes to break religious molds or traditions we have to be a little radical. Waking sleeping people is not always an easy thing. Israel had gone to sleep spiritually and Jesus was being radical enough to awaken them. He used an image they could understand and in the process gave them food for thought.

As the bread of life, He is life! He is our hope and our strength. He is our provision. He is always there for us bringing us what we need as we need it. Are you lacking? He will be your provision in any and all things if you all Him. Let that be your food for thought!

Tomorrow John 7

Monday, February 14, 2011

God’s plans are always better than ours!

Have you ever had a time were you were simply frustrated with God? You expected Him to do something or answer a prayer one way and He does things differently or perhaps the total opposite of what you expected? I have had that happen. We tend to expect God to work the way we want Him to work, but God has a better plan.

Jesus came across a man who had been sitting by a pool for 38 years waiting to be healed. In his mind, he believed he could be healed if someone would help him get to the water quickly. There was a level of faith; he believed he could be healed. Jesus saw that in him. Faith wasn’t the issue with this man; God’s ways was his issue. He had locked his mind into the idea that the only way God could heal was through being dunked into the water.

If you want something from the Lord you must listen to Him. Jesus said to the man, do you want to be healed? Sounds like a stupid question to a guy who had been sitting by a pool for 38 years, hoping to get in and receive his healing. Even in pain, it is easy for us to get used to our condition and become more afraid of change than the pain we are in. Jesus asked the question for two reasons; first did he really want healing, and two, was he ready for healing. His response answered both. He wanted healing but couldn’t see any way except being carried into the pool first. Jesus met him there at that place of limited faith and then the man took the leap of faith to stand up.

Sometimes we don’t stand. I can’t tell you how many times I had to talk people through the remembering, the prayer, and the answer. Conversations often go like this:

Me “How are you doing?”
Other person: “Fine”
M: “I thought you would be doing great.”
OP: “Why?”
M: “Didn’t you ask for prayer for such and such?”
OP: “Yes”
M: “Didn’t God do that for you?”
OP: “Now that you said that, yes God did! PTL”

God does miracles all of the time. He heals, brings finances, forgives, encourages, provides relationships and jobs. With many of them, we have to stand, we must take them, go on the interview, work the hours offered, choose to forgive, be a friend to others, some God simply makes happen and lives are changed.

In the rest of this chapter Jesus is explaining His relationship to the Father. You can see in this discussion Jesus’ love even for His enemies (those who consider themselves His enemies). His heart’s desire is for even those to enter into salvation (verse 34). Their problem isn’t that they can’t believe, but they simply do choose not to. They are unwilling to accept Jesus’ offer of life.

Jesus’ love is so great that He offers His love freely, even to those who hate Him. He wants to rescue them from hell. How much more does He love us? If He loves us so much, won’t He spend time with us and communicate with us freely if we will allow Him?

If you are not seeing the miracles or hearing Him, just stop, wait, listen and then believe!

Tuesday - John 6

Friday, February 11, 2011

John 2

John 2

*** I need to warn you, you may find this devotional a little controversial.

I will be reading John 3 and 4 this weekend but not commenting on them. I will return on Monday with a devotional for John 5!

In Israel, there we few celebrations as joyous and exciting as a wedding; it was a time of celebration not just for the bride and groom but the entire extended family and village which in most cases were synonymous. Laughter, dance, food and wine flowed for many days. Everything was placed on hold so the happy couple was completely satisfied. Before I go further here I do need to clarify something. The wine Jesus drank was real wine. Our puritan ethic in America has kept many from drinking wine. Some from the pulpit have condemned drinking wine but that is not what scripture says. Scripture is clear that we should never allow anything to control us except His Spirit so we are not to get drunk. Please do not get me wrong, I do not drink and I am not promoting drinking here, however I do know there are some Christians who drink and as long as they are within the bounds of true faith it is OK. That being said allow me to add this, Paul said we have freedom to do all things but there are some thing which I do not do because of love of the people (Tim paraphrase), Romans 14:14 – 23. I choose not to drink not because I don’t have the freedom to do so but because I love others enough and want to be example to them of living free from anything controlling me but His Spirit. My love extends to the place where I would never want someone to see me drinking and assume that it is OK and he or she intern stumble in his or her walk with Christ. It also goes beyond drinking to the way I control my anger, my eyes, attitude, and my general love for people. All of these things and more are witnesses of our life in Christ. Being a Christian is not for sissies!

Back to the story.

This was an important occasion. God knows what is important to us and regardless how trivial it may seem to others, if we care, God cares. People were starving in places in the world, there were wars, they were gross injustices in the world but Jesus took the time to create new wine for (by all accounts) an insignificant nameless couple. Don’t put God is a box. Are there very critical and important things in the world? Yes! God is big enough to handle the wars and starving children around the world and your problem. He has enough love for it all because He is love.

When God does something it is always the best. The wine Jesus created was not just good wine; it was the best, and most flavorful, full bodied wine they had ever had. When we pray and as we believe, God will make the best happen. Our God is a big God. He is far more powerful and amazing than we can imagine. Our challenge is to always believe him at that level and learn not to settle for anything less.

Jesus won’t have anything man creates stand in the way of people getting to know the Father. The problem in the temple was not the selling of things but that they were selling things that the people needed to purchase for their sacrifice and placing premium prices for second-class merchandise. In Leviticus God set up the order of sacrifice and made it so everyone would be able to give. You see God is not more proud of a large gift than a smaller gift. He is not interested in equal giving but equal sacrifice. A tithe, ten percent of your income is a base level of giving, then offerings go beyond the ten percent and those should be based on equal sacrifice not equal giving. The money changes made the cost for the sacrifice so high or were stealing from people by selling defective merchandise thus making it nearly impossible for the people to come to God according to the law. Jesus anger was over the religious leaders cheating the people from being able to come to the Lord. God set up the rules of the sacrificial giving so the giving was not wrong, but like the wine drinking example above, the love in the process was missing.

Everything Jesus did in this chapter and the entire Gospel was based on love, as everything that God does today is as well!

Tomorrow John 3

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jesus and God the Father are one!

Today we begin the book of John. John was the disciple whom Jesus’ loved; not that he didn’t love the others or all people but there was an open heart from John that the others had to work harder to achieve. God loves us all equally but for some of us it is easier to open our hearts to Him than it is for others.

John wrote his Gospel after the other three had been written. His perspective of Jesus ministry has a different focus than the others. Rather than a lot of parables John focuses on lengthy discourses. John has chosen seven key miracles that he highlights as primary for understanding Jesus’ heart and ways. Key to his book, John gives us the “I am” sayings. The Holy Spirit is given the carefully placed designations of Helper and Comforter. The Holy Spirit’s role and function is defined more clearly in John’s Gospel. John’s broadest hope is that through relationship with Jesus and an understanding of the Holy Spirit we might “have life in His name.”

I am not sure if it can be much more clear than in this opening chapter of John that Jesus and God the Father are one. God created everything and Jesus created everything. Jesus is the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. I am not sure it can be much more clear than that. A number of the cults attack this scripture. Because most in our culture do not read or understand the Greek language, as the cults purposefully twist this scripture to fit their theology, some are swayed by their blatant misinterpretation. The truth is: Jesus is the Word. The Word is God. Therefore Jesus is God!

John goes further to establish a theological point in verses 16 and 17 of chapter one. While we have all heard that grace is unmerited favor from God. John wants us to understand more. Grace, in its fullness, is God meeting us at our point of need through Jesus. This grace includes His power and provision. In other words, Jesus is God. He created everything. He is full of grace. His grace is given to us in fullness. His grace is His nature. His nature is fullness of provision and power. Therefore as we accept Jesus and believe on Him we have His fullness of provision and power. No longer is mankind bound by the limitations of “sin bondage” but we have been given a grace through Jesus that allows us the freedom to have all that we need to change our world. What a deal!

There is so much more in this chapter. If you keep reading with me through John you will be amazed with how much the richness of who God is, is revealed in John. Stay with me and enjoy more of God’s love letter to us.

Tomorrow John 2

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You will complete the task

This is our last day of the fast. I appreciate all who have been able to invest the time and read the daily readings. I know that you have grown and that the Lord is going to do great things. In fact, I would encourage you to expect great things. I also appreciate all who tried and want to encourage you with a word from Paul, “do not grow weary in well doing for in the end you shall reap if you do not grow weary”, Galatians 6:9

In these last three chapters of Acts, Paul really goes through it; rejection, shipwreck, snake bitten, his wisdom and insight ignored. All of his efforts from his salvation and then Baptism in the Holy Spirit can be summarized in chapter 27:24

“Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.”

When God gives us a task, it does not mean that everything will be smooth sailing however it does guarantee two things; first that if we are faithful and keep our eyes open, God will do great and marvelous things along the way. We always need to remember the destination is only part of the call, the journey is just as important. Second, we will complete the task and eventually come to face the Lord and hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into your rest!”

Everywhere Paul went it was another opportunity for rejection and another opportunity for miracles. He was constantly about the Father’s business. His heart was to see people receive the wonderful blessing he had been given. He was misunderstood many times but he did not lose focus. He was determined to complete the task.

Whenever God calls us to do something we can be guaranteed that the enemy and our own flesh will fight us. Family and friends may fight us. This world system will definitely fight us. However, as Isaiah writes, “no weapon formed against us will prosper and every waging tongue we will condemn.” If we are not in the battle we have already been defeated.

For the last forty days you have read about Jesus life and the disciples early life. You have read about the life of the early church. The world was dramatically changed in the first forty years after Jesus’ resurrection. Men and women were committed to God, the church family, and the world that did not have a relationship with Christ. They recognized they were given the gift of salvation and all of the other personal and spiritual gifts to impact the lives of others. So were you! Beginning with salvation, we were all given a task, “love God and love man”. In other words, be Jesus to the world! If we want to grow, if we want to fulfill our calling, like Paul, we must keep our eyes on the Lord, stand firm and go through the stuff of life and not give up. Then and only then will we complete our task!

I believe in you but more importantly God believes in you. He loves you with and ever-lasting love. He will give you all that you need to complete your task. Your job is to stay close with Him, not give up, and do it!

Thank you for making it through. I know the Lord has and will bless as He brings things back to your memory from this fasting time.

I will be continuing the on-line devotionals but only on the weekdays. Tomorrow I will begin in the book of John with chapter 1.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I will follow you!

We sing or hear the Chris Tomlin song by that name all of the time. It is an amazing reminder of what we need to do. It does pose a challenge for us. It is easy to follow the Lord when things are going well but what if they are not or even worse what if we are in a situation that just doesn’t make sense.

Paul’s time under Felix and then Festus must have been very frustrating. Over and over again he is asked the same questions, required to give a defense for his actions, and defending himself from blatant lies. He is imprisoned for no legitimate legal reason. His freedoms are limited. His rights are being violated and all because of lies.

Where is the justice? Have you ever cried that statement or something similar? There is injustice all around us. Most of the people reading this blog come from parts of the world where freedom is guaranteed by government. However, if your freedom is given to you by a government, then that same government can take it away.

As Christians are real freedom comes from the Lord. As we follow Him, we will go through difficult situations; we will be unjustly accused or threatened. We will go through times where we seem alone, as if no one is standing with us. When we are following the Lord we are never alone and His plan will always be accomplished. His plan sees beyond our circumstances to winning the ultimate battle. It does require us following the Lord.

The enemy of our souls wants us to compromise, to give up, and to become bitter. We don’t see any of that in Paul. If we compromise or break our trust in God then the enemy has an open door to bring in hopelessness, depression, frustration and any number of emotions that will separate us further from our heavenly Father.

Paul chose to follow the Lord. He chose to trust God despite his circumstances. The result was he shared the Gospel with two government leaders, their families and households and one King, his wife and all of their entourage. Paul was sowing seeds with his own life. He was willing to follow the Lord not permitting bitterness, frustration, injustice, or a sense of the loss of his rights, take his focus off of the Lord.

Following the Lord, trusting the Lord, and believing Him always is the main thing. We need to keep the main thing, the main thing and keep on following regardless of the situation in our lives. There is a great freedom that no man or government can take from us when we understand this concept; because that freedom doesn’t come from man, it comes from God.

What injustice are you facing? What freedom is being taken away from you? What bitterness or anxiety are you up against? Choose to follow, trust, and believe Him! Put aside all the feelings of injustice, bitterness, or anxiety put it in Gods hands. You may not be in that place now but I am sure you have been there before and if you are following the Lord and maturing in Him you will go through it again. The only one who can take your sense of freedom is the one who gives it to you. Like Paul’s situation, God is bigger than your circumstances. When you are following the Lord, He will at times lead you into difficult places. Trust Him and follow Him! He will bring you into amazing places and impact more lives than you could ever imagine. Follow Him! Trust Him! Believe Him sometimes even despite your circumstances.

I have to say a very happy birthday to the woman who makes my life possible because of her great love for the Lord and me. My wonderful wife, Paige enables me to do all that I do. I am blessed to have her because a long time ago both of us chose to follow the Lord.

Tomorrow Acts 26, 27, 28

Monday, February 7, 2011

God has had a plan all along!

Sometimes it seems like the world is in utter chaos; everything spinning out of control. Job 42:2 tells us that God’s purposes will not be stopped, that is the story of Paul in these chapters.

There are two points in chapter 22 that I need to point out. First, Paul simply uses his testimony to share the reality of who Jesus is. Your testimony of what God has done for you is powerful. People may argue against your theology, they may argue against your interpretation of scripture but your testimony is yours. You have a life experience that can change everything and cannot be successfully argued against. God has done a great work in you. Practice sharing your testimony it will change lives.

The second point is God may have given you important gifts that you may not even realize. Paul was born a Roman citizen. In the empire, a citizen needed to be treated with kit gloves. You could not imprison a citizen without a trial, you could not whip a citizen without a trial, nor could you bind a citizen without a trial. Paul was given a gift from birth that had perfectly enabled him to complete the task God had prepared for him from the beginning of time. You have been given gifts. Some, you are acquainted with and others that will develop or show up in time. God knows what you need to fulfill your call. He has already made sure that you have all that you need.

Do you know that as you are walking with the Lord, being obedient to Him you are in His safe keeping? Isaiah writes in 54:17

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.”

God protected Paul. I found out a long time ago through several threats on my life, we are bulletproof until it is time for us to go home. Paul was not only comforted and encouraged by the Lord that he would complete his task, but God caused even the ungodly to protect him.

What has God called you to accomplish? He will move you or some other way protect you from your enemies. God will not have His plans stopped. He will frustrate men and the devil if He must to make sure His will is established and accomplished. Never give up on a dream, vision or prophetic word you have been given. If it is really God, He will make it happen. Don’t give up on God’s promises to you. He keeps His word!

Just a few more days of the fast, Thursday I will continue on writing these devotionals but only on week days. I still read the Word on weekends but I don’t take the time to write, as I do want to spend as much family time as I can on weekends. Thursday I will begin with the book of John.

Tomorrow Acts 24,25
Wednesday Acts 26,27,28

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Run the race, stay focused.

Acts 20, 21

This fast is partially about controlling your focus. There are so many things that can be a distraction to us, so many things that demand out attention. Sacrificing time away from all of those things and spending it with the Lord always reaps great benefits. As this is the last Sunday before the end of our fast, allow me to challenge you with this: continue spending time with the Lord and His Word. I am not asking that you spend 2 hours per day, if you can give Him one half hour per day I believe you will see a life change take place. I will continue writing a daily devotional on the weekdays. If you want to continue following along you are welcome. Thursday I will begin with John.

Our walk with Christ is very much like Paul’s walk in these two chapters, we need to realize, it is a long distance run and we must keep our focus. Paul knew he was nearing the end of his earthly journey and knew he would not be returning to Ephesus so he gave them some final important instructions (warning this is the Tim Burgan translation) “I walked in humility so you walk in humility, I gave you all, so you give of yourselves to others. I know I am going to Jerusalem to begin my death march, but you have got to understand it is with joy that I do this, I know I have done everything God has wanted me to do, I have disicipled all of you and held back nothing. Listen to your leaders and be faithful to God and each other.”

Two details you should take note of: First, for the last few chapters the writing has changed from Paul and Silas or Paul and Barnabas to “we”. Luke is now reporting first hand of all that is going on with Paul. Second, Christians openly welcomed Paul and his group. They opened their homes for them to stay and they fed and cared for them wherever Paul and his group went. Hospitality was a key gift in the early church as it is today. A giving heart is not only of your finances but your time and energy as well.

It also seemed that everywhere Paul went people were telling him don’t go to Jerusalem you are going to die. He seemed determined to die. Paul did not have a death wish but he did have an appointment with Ceasar and many other powerful people on the way that would need to hear the Gospel. He knew it and was wiling to lay down his life for it. Completing that task, his race would be won and done and he could go home! Paul understood, death is nowhere near the end it is simply a new beginning on the journey of eternal life. If we believe too much in the value of this life, we will fear death and live in a low tremble of death our entire lives. We will be afraid to live life to the fullest because of what the future holds. If as Paul believed, we believe that life on this earth is transient but life after this earth is eternal, death has no hold nor can it create any fear over us.

God has plan for each one of us. All of us will die. Choosing to completely follow God and fulfill His heartbeat for our lives is the only way to guarantee that we will truly live.

By the way if you have watched every Steeler game this year you have given 72 hours to Steeler football. Go Steelers!

If you have spent the time on this fast, you have given almost 61 hours to the Lord.

Tomorrow Acts 22, 23

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Not everyone is going to like you!

Acts 18,19

Not everyone is going to like you!

You are a nice person, I am a nice person, we expect that people will like us. When they don’t, we wonder what is wrong with us or them. We need to remember that as Christians, we are going against “the grain” of this world system. We have the greatest message ever told but in order to fully experience this life we need to live in a way that is contrary to how the world lives. In order to gain life, we must give our lives over to the Lord and others; to get, we must learn to give, to go far, we must walk not by our strengths but by our surrender to God and so on.

Paul had been dramatically transformed. He knew the Jewish text as well as anyone, he felt such joy and amazement at the relationship that he had with the Lord that he was compelled to share it. Think about it. For Paul it was as if all of Israel were in a burning building that was collapsing all around them and he was trying to help them to safety and many were saying, “You idiot, the building is not burning, you don’t know what you are talking about!” In addition to their rejection of his help, they hated him and wanted to kill him for wanting to help them out of the building.

It is that way with you as well. When people reject you for your faith, when they hate you for what you are sharing with them, understand they are rejecting the world’s greatest hope and the only message of true peace and love. Ask the Lord to help you see them the way He sees them. The message is foreign to the world system and it can only be understood through the eyes of faith. Romans 12 tells us that every person is born with a measure of faith; however, some will choose to kill it off or simply not use it.

There are also those, who like Demetrius, believe in only what they can see and have control over. There is no room for self-centeredness and selfishness in the Kingdom. Galatians 2:20 tells us that we are no longer alive but Christ lives through us when we come to Him. Our joy is only made complete by surrendering to Him. Demetrius could only see gain by his own work and his own hand. Through Christ, as we give Him our lives, He gives us His so we not only have life but have it abundantly.

Our flesh hates that concept. Our flesh wants to run our lives demanding its own way. When you, as a Christian, have been given life and life abundantly and come across someone who is living a life of flesh which is leading to death, hatred, hopelessness, guilt, and pain they will have one of two reactions. They will either want what you have and accept what you have to share or they will grimace in pain and reject you and what you have to offer. That is why not everyone is going to like you. The challenge: we don’t have a choice but to pray for them and to ask the Lord to give us the love for them that He has.

Tomorrow Acts 20, 21

Friday, February 4, 2011

We must always be wise

Acts 16,17

James writes in chapter 1 verse 5, if we lack wisdom we can ask and God will generously give it to us. Wisdom tells us when to keep quiet and when to speak. Wisdom teaches us respect for others and grants us the respect of others. Wisdom keeps us from heartache and foolishness. Someone once said, “God has given us two ears and one mouth so we might listen twice as much and speak half as much,” that is part of wisdom.

In Chapters 16 and 17 Paul exercises great restraint and wisdom in three very important situations. The first two took place in the Philippian jail. Due to their praise and worship, their focus on God and His plan and not their circumstances, God literally shook the house. When the doors flew open Paul and Silas could have escaped but God had a better plan. God gave Paul and Silas wisdom to accomplish two major events. They stayed in the jail, that doesn’t sound like wisdom but what was the result? The jailer and his entire household, wife, children, parents, and slaves all came to know Christ.

The second bit of wisdom was in not leaving the jail when asked to quietly leave. It seems almost arrogant of Paul to demand the apology but look at what was done. Fear and respect came from the city leaders for the church. Paul and Silas took the time to go to Lydia’s house to show the city leaders that all of those in this house are family, so you must respect them as well. By staying in the jail, he ended up guaranteeing the protection of the fledgling church in Philippi.

His next part of wisdom came in the way he was able to use the beliefs of the Athenians. When we see people caught in all kinds of things, from the goofy to the Satanic, it is easy for us to get upset and immediately begin to condemn their behavior. Worshiping false gods violates the Ten Commandments and is worthy of death both physically and spiritually according to the law. Paul was one of the finest lawyers of his day; he could have easily preached condemnation to the people. Instead, he found a way to take their situation and explain the Gospel. That is truly the gift of wisdom in action. God never calls us to “freak out”, worry, become anxious, or fearful, but how often do we when we find out something our children have done or come across someone totally foreign in lifestyle to us? Wisdom can bring the people to us rather than pushing them away.

So what is this wisdom Paul used? Simply not reacting to any situation but waiting, praying, listening, then doing what God told him to do. The challenge is…most of us are reactionary by nature. God calls us to be people of love, joy, and peace walking in love and living a life guided by wisdom.

You will be challenged today or if not today, tomorrow. Will you react or will you wait, pray, listen, and then do what God tells you to do. Each use of wisdom advanced God’s kingdom and Paul’s faith. It will do the same for you.

Tomorrow Acts 18, 19

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Same song different dance!

Acts 15

I am trying to keep these devotionals concise. There is so much great insight in each chapter; however, I must pick a point or two to make or otherwise the writings would be too long for you to enjoy.

Have you ever had to learn something and then find yourself needing to relearn the lesson? That is the story of Acts 15. It is the same song (same lesson) but a different dance (different point). Earlier the church was struggling with the fact that Gentiles were coming to faith. “How can this be they are not like us,” was the general attitude. God spoke, the apostles listened, and Gentiles were welcomed into the faith. In Chapter 15 they must relearn this lesson!

As humans we struggle with things that are different. It is very easy for us to get into a routine. As non-routine and challenging, as I like to be, in the middle of my non-routine there is even a sense of routine. I know that sounds bizarre but it is true. We all settle in to a certain comfort zone. The apostles were no different. They were perfectly happy being Jewish and being Christian, and making the new converts fit into a Jewish mold. However, it was dishonest to make Gentiles fit into cultural things that had no meaning or that Christ had fulfilled.

Does a tie make a man a Christian? Does a hat or dress make a woman a Christian? Can you have tattoos or be pierced and have faith in Christ? Is a particular style of music more sacred than another? In context, culturally these would be similar questions to what the apostles faced in Jerusalem. Our lives have been changed by Christ, each of us go through a metamorphosis of sorts as we grow to become all that we have been called to be and to become more like Jesus. Some things like the sins that we stop doing are general for everyone but for others things vary. For example, I have a friend who used to play in a Metal band, once he came to Christ he had to lay his guitar down because it reminded him too much of his life without Christ and yet another friend was just the opposite, he felt called to use Metal music to reach the people who enjoy his style of music for Christ. Was either of them wrong? No! God calls us each to different paths but the same service to Christ. Christianity is all about relationship with Christ and each other. We can’t fit people into our molds, we must help them to become like Jesus. Whether a person wears a suit and tie, polo shirt, has their face or body tattooed or pierced does not make or deny their faith, it is their heart that makes their faith.

In the Old Testament circumcision was a sign of the Jews separation to God. It was an outward sign of a supposed inner work. However, we know from history the outward sign did not always mean that they were Children of God. Paul tells us that it is the circumcision of the heart that is the work and the signs of a true believer, loving others; prayer, reading the Word, living the Word and being the Word to others are the true signs of a believer. Basically that is the conclusion the apostles came to when they sent their letter to the Christians in Antioch.

If we love the Lord, God will always bring people into our lives that are not like us, but they will help us become more like Jesus. Our job is to show people Jesus not mold them into our image. Paul wrote to Titus, “Everything is pure for someone whose heart is pure. But nothing is pure for an unbeliever with a dirty mind…” We must not try to fit someone into what we have been convicted of if it is not a true biblical reflection but a personal conviction.

Part of my call is “pushing” people out of their comfort zone to help them use their gifts, skills, talents, and abilities to fulfill their call in the Kingdom. There may be people not like you but whom you can reach. There may be things you never thought you could do but God has called you to do them. There may be ways of thinking that you have wrestling against that the Lord is challenging you to accept and things you have believed the Lord is showing you are not correct. It is always about growing to become who God has called us to be. We are always being challenged to become more like Jesus. We may hear the same song but hopefully we will do the different dance this time and learn the lesson.

Tomorrow Acts 16,17

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prayer opens doors!

Acts 12

I have seen the Lord do amazing things through prayer. I have seen him open blind eyes and temporarily blind open eyes so I could get past guards with bibles that would be considered illegal. This story is a story of amazing answered prayer.

Peter had been thrown in jail. Herod was on a prideful rampage to please the Jews so he was doing whatever he could to persecute Christians. By this time Peter was a major leader in the church. Due to James’ murder, many were concerned for Peter’s life. The church began to do what it does best, pray.

Peter literally was given an angelic escape, four squads of soldiers, two chained to him, and a guard at each door. That type of security says volumes about who Peter was and how they feared him. Remember, all he was, was a simple uneducated fisherman. With God, we always become so much more than what we are!

Hint: when you pray, don’t be surprised that God answers! Peter went to the prayer meeting at the home of John Mark’s mother. John Mark was the scribe that wrote Peter’s Gospel, the book of Mark. When Peter came to the door, they were surprised and didn’t believe their own prayers had been answered.

Sometimes God answers prayers in ways we don’t expect. I am not sure they were expecting Peter to live; they were in more anticipation that his spirit would appear at the door rather than a living Peter. God always hears our prayers. We need to keep our hearts right and to expect an answer that may be different from our expectations.

God delights in relationship with His people. He likes our communicating with Him, our spending time with Him and answering our prayers. What have you been praying about? Has God already answered and you have not heard or been given an answer you did not expect? Look for the answers. God has great plans for you and He will hear and answer, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Look to see what doors He has opened for you!

Tomorrow Acts 14,15

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Outside the box

Acts 10,11

Thinking outside the box used to be a cutting edge term. It has been so overused that its meaning has become cliché but there is really no other way for me to describe what is happening here.

I have found on many occasions that people interpret things in light of their own understanding. You have probably found this to be true as well. One major example for me has been when I have talked to people about a “Father’s” love. The scripture is replete with stories of God’s grace, care, and patience. He is always pouring himself into the lives of others so they might see Him more clearly. I have experienced sharing this concept with people who have read the Bible through the light of the pain and rejection they have felt from their father, and can only see God the father through that pain. All the wonderful scripture about His love, grace, mercy, and patience are meaningless because of their point of view. One of the challenges Paul presents us in “renewing our minds” is tackling these tough issues; seeing the truth in what the Bible says rather than interpreting it through our experiences.

Jesus had said to the disciples many times that the Gospel was for everyone, “For God so loved the world…” John 3:16 and “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19, to name a few. Some how the disciples had stuck in their brains that the Gospel was only for the people of Israel. They are still thinking that way in Acts chapter one when they are questioning Jesus about the kingdom and are still stuck there in Acts chapters 10 and 11. Their “box” was only being able to imagine God’s love for the Jewish people rather than the whole world. God knows how to reach us.

Peter is taking an afternoon nap when he has this vision of all kinds of animals. God knew what to show Peter that would help him to understand the Father’s heart for all people. For me it seems to be kind of a leap to go from eating animals to sharing the Gospel with people I don’t having anything to do with, but God knew what would reach Peter. In hindsight it is easy to say, “Why of course that is what that meant.” God knows how to speak to each of us in a way that we will understand His meaning. God knows how to get His message across to you. If He wants you to understand something He will either make it very plain to you or guide you to someone who can. He does not desire to torture us or make His ways so confusing that we are frustrated with Him. If you are, the Bible has an answer. “When you seek Him you will find when you search for me with all of your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Back to the story

It took Peter a while to get it, even when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. He still was questioning. After all of this, the rest of the apostles who were living in Jerusalem gave Peter a hard time. It is OK to question things that don’t make sense to you. If they don’t make sense, either you don’t know the whole story, your thinking is wrong, or the thing that does not make sense really is wrong. Be careful about jumping to conclusions too fast. This is really what Jesus was referring to when He was talking about not judging in Luke 6.

My theology has been challenged many times by people, circumstances, and by a deeper reading of the Word. It is good to allow people to challenge your thinking; it forces us to know what we believe and why we believe it and to get all the answers that we need. However, like the apostles, if we have a belief that is incorrect, we must be open to change that is part of the maturing process.

This time of fasting is about changing. Our standard must always be the Word of God, not our feelings or someone else’s opinion. We must read the Word and spend time in God’s presence to understand, grow, and mature. However, we never reach a point where we are not still open to learn. Paul writes, “we see through a glass dimly” in this present world. There will come a time when we all will understand everything, once we are in heaven with the Lord. For now, we should always be open to grow and mature. We must be open to allow the Lord to show us things the way that He sees them. We need to allow the Lord to not just get us out of our box but to destroy our box so we don’t ever go back in it.

A prayer I pray every day is this, “Lord break my heart with the things that break Your heart. Help me to see people, things, and circumstances the way that You do. Teach me to be a man 100% sold out to You.” I don’t pray it in rote but it is fresh everyday for me. I am passing it on to you that it may help you as well.

Tomorrow Acts 12,13