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Monday, February 28, 2011

To Be the Greatest

"...But whoever would be great among you must be your servant" (Mark 10:43).

One of the greatest people that I've ever known has truly exemplified to me the secret to that greatness: the humility of servant. It comes at a great cost. You choose to forgo the accolades and the appreciation that so many fight for. In November 2010, I had the awesome privilege of going to a communist nation 90 miles south of Florida to assist a pastor who had been asked to lead a marriage conference for local pastors. He had given me a few sessions to do, thus relieving some of his workload. At night, we were asked to go to area churches to preach. I had resigned myself to going and listening to this man of God that I was so happy assisting. There was one night, however, that he came and said, "I think you should do this one, tonight. It would be my honor to hear you preach." He wasn't concerned with the pats on the back and the appreciation of the people that he would not be receiving. He taught me that the greatest accolades don't come from people anyways, that it comes from God.

It's not hard to see many people's gross hunger for importance, popularity, position, or status. Even in Jesus' own circle, this was evident. His answer was simple, yet powerfully profound. If you want to be great, then you have to be willing to be a servant - the servant of all, willing to be the least, and be the last. If you want to go high, you've got to go low.

What a reminder. Think about it. We've all been called to be leaders, to be influencers in this life. But what we've really been called to do is to serve. Are you serving well? How can you serve better? In everything we do, we must pass it through the filter of answering this key question: "Is what I'm saying, thinking, or doing, reflecting an attitude to be served or to serve others?"

Serving others is what Jesus came to do. He didn't have to have the last word, the best seat, the greatest introductions, or the most fabulous accommodations. He came to get low. And when He surrendered Himself completely to the will of the Father in serving others, then the Father lifted Him up, exalting Him to the highest place of honor. Jesus didn't seek it, but He received it. Don't seek honor, seek humility. When God is the One lifting us up, we have a much greater chance of staying there.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More Than Just Words

"And He said to them, 'This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer [and fasting]'" (Mark 9:29).

"You look so nice today." "Have you lost weight?" "I was just thinking about you." "Yes, I will be praying for you." Ever said any of those things? Sure you have. We all have. But the BIG question is, have you ever said those when they weren't necessarily exact, accurate, or even true? Again, I'm sure we all have. Christian or not, after a while, we begin to know how certain words affect certain circumstances. We see this in homes with parents and children. It's easily seen at the workplace between bosses and employees. It's even seen in churches and within our relationship with God. Though not always intentional, we sometimes resort to going through the motions, saying the right words, because we've gotten used to them.

Jesus addressed this to His disciples concerning the power of prayer and fasting. A man had brought his son to the disciples to be healed. The boy had been greatly attacked by an evil spirit, yet the prayers of the disciples seemed inadequate. The "right"words aren't enough. The "right" motions aren't going to be enough either. He was telling them that they had to be totally emptied, completely broken, and absolutely surrendered in order to see that kind of power. Why? Because it would be the only way they couldn't take the credit.

Take a look at your life right now. How's your relationship with God who loves you so much? Have you gotten used to the routines, the ceremonies, the liturgies, and the like? Not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves. But, has it become a ritual over a relationship? I am so determined to see more of Jesus in Me! But, I have to purpose each moment of each day to be totally emptied, completely broken, and absolutely surrendered to Him. For HE deserves all the glory.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

But What DO You Have?

"And He asked them, 'How many loaves do you have?' They said, 'Seven'" (Mark 8:5).

Have you ever noticed how negative we can be? I know, I'm sure you're a positive person, but seriously. There are times when I realize that I play "devil's advocate' a little too well. Whether in conversation with others or with God, Himself, if there is a negative to find, I just might be the one to discover it as though it is something of value to anyone else but me.

Jesus was facing the same thing with his disciples. Jesus had asked this question to His closest friends - friends who had recently watched Him as He had fed over 5,000 men plus women and children with 5 loaves and 2 fish. And now, when there are less people (4,000 men plus women and children) and 7 loaves and some fishes, they respond to His directive with, "we can't - we don't have enough." So He asked them, "what do you have?" He didn't ask what thy didn't have, but what they did have.

One area that this has hit pretty close to home, has been with finances, although its application goes beyond. Up until a few months ago, I had gotten very use to saying, "we can't really save money, because we don't make enough to save." Now understand this. We are a tithing family and have never lived on credit cards. And, there is A LOT that we have been blessed to do on one income. But, there are some pretty audacious goals that we have and began to realize that at our pace, we're not moving very aggressively. But God began to ask me the same question, "What do you have?" When I began to surrender that completely to Him, I began to see Him do even more of what I could only do less.

My wife and I began to work through the "Financial Peace University" by Dave Ramsey. Not that I agree with everything, but his practical advice, and strong Biblically based counsel showed me what I already knew to be true. God can do anything. Instead of looking for all the reasons it couldn't work, I began to see how faith and trust in God could see that which looks impossible be even more than possible - it could be reality!

Whether it's finances, relationships, time management, or when your boss offers you a suggestion that you don't initially like. Instead of going straight to why something couldn't work, begin to allow God to show you how it can!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fool's Gold

"You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8).

In the late 1840's, the Gold Rush was in full swing. Everyone was eager for the certain riches and wealth, prestige and success that would come from discovering the life-changing powers of gold. What many people found, however, was not gold, but was pyrite, knows as "fool's gold." They found this with excitement, abandoned their search any further and went about to trade this "treasure" in for the life-change they were dreaming for. To their great disappointment, they found that what they had only "looked like" what they were really seeking. They had settled for a fake.

The Pharisees, like many in our current society, were more focused on the the disciples of Jesus did not fit into their traditional and "acceptable" mold. They had traded seeking the face of God, the true gold, for seeking the praises of men, and judging every man against the standard of appearance. They judged Jesus' disciples' hearts based on how they followed traditions, rather than how they followed God. They equated godliness with appearance, ritual, and tradition.

It is so easy to get caught up in the trends and styles and leave the commandment to worship God alone. He IS the true gold. Everything else is a fool's copy. Styles are not my god. Traditions are not my god. Opinions of people are not my god. Jesus IS my God. I live my life to honor Him. He is the One who matters to me and how I live each day.

If we live each day this mindset, we will live blessed with Jesus. He is more valuable than gold, silver, and precious rubies. Our minds and hearts must be set on Him. Be encouraged today to seek Him, not to settle for anything less than the One, True, Living, and Loving God!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Tight Grip

"...and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well" (Mark 6:56).

The summer my daughter was almost three, we found out something very important and very quick. We have a pool in our back yard. It's an above ground pool that's 4 feet deep. She was so excited to go swimming for the first time in our pool. I put on a flotation type bathing suit, lifted her over and put her in the water. In less than 2 seconds, she began to scream! "Daddy!! I'M WET!!!" Ok, so much for the water. Later that summer, I was able to get her in the water, but this time I went in with her. She gripped so tightly to me that I thought I might pass out! But, she was OK...she was holding, clinging to, and fastening herself to Daddy.

Mark 5 gives us a similar picture. People had heard the testimonies of how others had touch Him, even the edge of His clothes, and power was released to restore them. This word touch was not just a mere "touch and go." The word "touch" here describes this idea of clinging, fastening, gripping hold for dear life. They implored Him, cried out to Him, begged Him, pleaded with Him. They were desperate to grab hold of this life-changing man who was Emmanuel - God with them!

It's not enough just to be in His presence. We're always in His presence. We can't escape it (Psalm 139). But, we need to be in a constant attitude of desperation to reach out, press in, and grab hold of Him. THAT'S WHEN we will truly experience the release of His anointing, His healing, His restoration, and His revelation. And, as we live each day, testifying to how grasping hold of Christ is changing our lives, others will be compelled to implore Him and to grasp hold of Him, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rejected

"And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region" (Mark 5:17).

Do the right thing and good things will always happen. Right? If only that were true. Sometimes doing the right things gets you exactly what you were hoping wouldn't happen...at least for now.

Jesus had just set a tormented man free. This man had been a danger to many others. He had been roaming free in the cemeteries, terrorizing any who were around. Many others had tried to subdue him, even with chains, but to now avail.

Jesus had brought to this community was was needed. It intimidated them. It overwhelmed them. They weren't ready to have that kind of powerful presence and authority in their midst. So, they asked Him to leave. He was rejected, and not welcome there.

Have you ever felt that way? I'm sure you have. You do what you know is right, maybe even what God has told you to do, or to say. But, those that hear it or see it, become overwhelmed , intimidated, and convicted by the presence of God, so they reject or distance themselves from you. Don't take it personally! Easier said than done. Instead, allow it to break your heart for those who don't realize what they're actually choosing. But, even still, choose to love. Jesus has never stopped loving you...or them.
"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Identifying Expectations

"'Listen! A sower went out to sow...and other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty fold, sixty fold, and a hundred fold'" (Mark 4:3; 8).

Have you ever felt like a complete failure at whatever it is that you do? Even when you know in your heart that you're not, don't you ever battle discouragement when the goals you had are so far beyond what you actually achieve (if the word 'achieve' can even be used in that particular context!). Sometimes the expectations we are living under are the wrong ones. Perhaps they are expectations we've put on ourselves, or misperceived expectations from another.

In Mark 4, Jesus speaks to this. He told a parable to challenge His listeners, but also to encourage them. The sower went out to sow. His goal was that there would be growth. Jesus never speaks of the expectation that every seed would root, but that the sower would do what he was called to do. And, some would produce grain.

As a Christian, sometimes I can get discouraged that not everyone I reach out to responds positively to Christ. But, I have to realize that He never gave me that expectation or responsibility. I'm responsible for casting out the seed - sowing see - planting seed, but some will reject. But, others will produce. What I have to do is to concentrate on and celebrate the growth.

It's the same in every area of our lives. We have put an expectation of performance perfection on ourselves. Then, we become greatly discouraged when we don't measure up. Yes, Jesus has called us to be "holy and perfected," but that's something we will never achieve on our own. We are to do what we know to do, and celebrate the victories rather than focus on the defeats.

God's greatest expectation on us is not performance, but obedience. Do you love Him? Are you seeking Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are you putting Him first in every area of your life? Are you seeking to honor Him with every decision and choice? These are His expectations.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eyes Wide Open

"And whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they fell down before Him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God!'" (Mark 3:11).


Sometimes I wonder how often I get so lost in my own world of "everything I think I need to do," that I miss the bigger picture of just loving Jesus.

In this verse in Mark, Jesus is doing what He came to do. He's healing, restoring, and liberating those who desire to be free. Here, even the evil spirits succumb to the power of the presence of God. They recognized His presence, responded to Hi power, and raised their voice in proclamation of who He is.

Even the evil spirits! We must be choosing to live in a way that does more to honor God than do the evil spirits. It leads us to ask the question about whether or not our eyes are wide open, or are we living in a state of spiritual blindness...even as believers! I find myself checking my own spiritual temperature by asking questions that relate to this passage:
Do I recognize His presence?
How do I respond to His power?
Am I raising my voice to proclaim who He is?
Here is a prayer that I have found myself praying more and more. Maybe not the exact words, but a heart cry that sounds something like this: "Thank You, Jesus, for YOU being in my life. I do acknowledge Your presence and desire Your intimacy in my life. Help me to live the life You have called me to live, as I choose to declare the goodness of God all the days of my life! Amen."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Reaching the Heart of God in Worship

From CrossWay Church, 2/20/11, Sunday Morning Sermon:

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker" (Psalm 95:6).

I love my GPS. I identify where it is I need to be, and it calculates for me HOW to get there. And, when I make a wrong turn, it RECALCULATES so that I am still able to reach my destination.

Spiritual growth is very similar. God has a destination that He has called us to reach, and the Holy Spirit is our GPS. He shows us HOW TO get to where we need to be.

We are called to reach the heart of God in Worship.

1. Worship is Primary. Each of us was created for worship. Everyone worships something. It's how we were wired. He is our maker. We were created with a need and a desire to worship something. Our life's goal is to identity Christ as our reason to worship. Not, just because of what He's done, or is capable of doing, but because of who He is!

2. Worship Focused. What we focus on becomes the object of our focus. Again, we were created for worship. When we focus on Him in worship, He also turns His focus on us. He desires to bless those who would live the life of worship they were created for.

3. Worship is Responsive. When we live in response to all He is and all He does, worship is only natural. There's no other response that is adequate. And when we fail, repentance becomes our song, and that is our purest response in worship, to bow down at His feet in brokenness and sweet surrender.

Our only real response to who God is, is worship. We worship Him with our lives. Our lives ARE our song of intimate worship. We sing it completely and totally surrendered to all He is.

One of my favorite songs expresses it like this:
Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
Worship is not just a song we sing. It's what we're called to live.



CrossWay Church (2/20/11): Reaching the Heart of God in Worship

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Beneath the Surface

"And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5).

It's amazing how we sometimes marvel at something that we think is so incredible, only to find out that it paled in comparison to the true wonder. I'll never forget, on our honeymoon to the Bahamas, my wife and saw the most beautiful water we'd ever seen. We were on a small boat out in the ocean that was taking us to a spot for a little snorkeling. We were so captivated by the beauty of the water! But when the time came to jump into the water and look beneath the surface, we realized that what we were amazed at was nothing in comparison to what was really available!

In this verse in Mark, Jesus saw a need that was bigger than the need they brought to Him. They sought a fix to a temporal need. Jesus met a need that held an eternal impact, but one that would be an even greater benefit in the "here and now" than that which they sought. Jesus touched the heart, healed the soul, and restored joy. For the paralytic, having legs, but with no hope, would be no life worth living.

It's OK for us to seek God for the needs in our lives, but we also need to be more aware of what we really need. We need Him. We need His touch. We need His restoration, and His forgiveness. We need to rely on Him to meet the deeper needs within our hearts and souls. That will effect how we journey through everything else in our lives.

Be challenged today to look beyond what you think your need is. Look beyond your need for finances, or for your marriage. Look beyond your need at your job, in your home, or even within your own heart. Look beneath the surface and see that what you need, what you really need, is more of Jesus in your life. He can touch the surface of your life, but if you allow HIM to work in you beneath the surface, you will be changed. Working from the outside in isn't nearly effective as allowing God to work within us from the inside out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Desperate for Change

"And a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, "If you will you can make me clean" (Mark 1:40).


There have a been a few times in my driving career that I have become very aware of my own desperation. Driving without directions, lost, but seemingly the only one that doesn't realize it. At some point, I had to come to the realization that I needed to acknowledge that where I was headed was no good, and that I needed something to change NOW.

This passage speaks to that need of personal acknowledgment. This was a leper. He was ceremonially condemned. He had no authority or rights to approach Jesus. It was against the Law. But he did. He was desperate. He knew there was something about Jesus that men an emptiness in his life. He implored Him, acknowledging his own desperation; he kneeled, acknowledging who Jesus was; and he spoke confidently, acknowledging the power of expectant faith.

We must come to the same realization as this leper. We, too, are lepers! No, maybe not in the same way, or even a physical way, but we are desperate for God touch our lives. Unfortunately, not everyone lives with that awareness. We need to consistently acknowledge our desperation so that we don't somehow fool ourselves into thinking we don't need Him as we do.

We also must humble ourselves, acknowledging that it is we who live for Him and not the other way around. And when we pray, we need to be more confident in His Word, believing He will do exactly what He said He would do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For Those Who Cannot Speak...

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 30:8-9).

Triage was the policy in World War II by which doctors color-tagged the wounded indicating the degree of medical assistance they would be given. Red tags were placed on men who appeared to be hopeless; blue tags indicated a soldier would survive only if medical attention was given immediately; and a yellow tag meant a wounded soldier would survive even without rapid treatment. A soldier named Lou was brought in for medical review and quickly tagged with a red tag, indicating the hopeless manner of his condition. "After all," the doctor said, "his legs are so badly blown apart that life would be excruciating." But a nearby nurse, noticing that Lou was still conscious, began to talk softly with him so he would not face death alone. The moments of conversation spanned to an hour. Finally, because of the relationship that had been built between the two of them, the nurse simply could not allow Lou to die. What did she do? She replaced his red tag with a blue one, making possible the medical assistance that saved his life (Jeanne Mayo).

How many times do we "tag" people without really knowing what's going on. We don't realize the people we walk past each day. The hurts they hide, the desperation they deny. SO many people are poor and needy for the loving God to do do something so real, but they "can't." They don't know how - they're overwhelmed. They need someone who will come along and speak up for them - to help them fight against the enemy - to know that they can have victory.

This is who God has called us to be - people who have surrendered their lives to follow Jesus. Jesus laid His life down for those, for us, who deserved to die. We needed someone to speak up for us. We can't ignore. We can't walk past people as though they don't exist, or as though their pain doesn't exist, or their fear, their concerns, their past. We have been called to come along side them, to speak to them, into them, and for them. We'e been called to help them to see and know the realness of the awesome love of Jesus and what He can do in their lives!

This verse calls for us to open ourselves up. We have to be open to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to everyone, regardless of how they appear. And, you'll be surprised that the one who is changed the most might not be "them." It might just be YOU as you are reminded again that the love of Jesus knows NO bounds, NO depths, and NO heights!

So...who is God showing you today?

Stirring Up Anger...

"For as churching the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife" (Proverbs 30:33).

I love reactions! There's such an excitement in seeing "cause and effect"! For instance, you place a tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of vinegar and instant volcano! My favorite, is to take Mentos and put them in a diet coke. Watch out...explosion is inevitable!

It's all about cause and effect. If this happens, then that will be the result. All three of these instances in this proverb have to do with force and pressure. These words form the cause and that cause will always produce an effect. So, when people continue to push the buttons of other's emotions, and there is a reaction of strife and controversy, there should be no surprise.

We need to not just be more aware, but more apt to apply this awareness. It's not to difficult to tell when a discussion is getting a bit heated. Instead of going in for the "win," we should, rather, let up on the pressure and stop forcing those "buttons" down. A gentile answer is still capable of turning away wrath.

Just as twisting noses, churning milk, and playing with Mentos and Diet Coke will always produce a noticeable and inevitable result that should never come as a great shock, so it is when we stir up anger; when we continue an argument when "reason" has ceased to exist.

Here is a prayer that I find myself praying often. Maybe it's a prayer that you can pray with me, and together we will see less strife and more peace overwhelming the relationships in our lives: "Father God, I need Your guidance and Your strength. Help me to use holy restraint in keeping my mouth shut instead of bracing for cause and effect. Help me to purpose every word that comes out of my mouth to be that which honors You. I want to enjoy a "cause and effect" that involves peace, calm, joy, love, and grace. In Jesus name, amen!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where There Is No Revelation...

"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 29:18).

One of the greatest tools that we have in this country that we so easily take for granted, is our ability to get information. In a matter of seconds you can find out just about anything you want by turning on the tv, googleing, tweeting, or sending out quick messages over facebook, myspace, or text. If you want to know something, you can find out.

The people in the Old Testament depended upon the prophets of God in order to hear a word from God. Through dreams and visions, God would speak to the prophets, and they they would relay the message or instruction to the people. Without this revelation, they were more apt to casting off moral restraint, exposing the nakedness of their sinfulness, leading them to death. But those who would listen and apply the words of truth would live lives that were truly blessed.

What a responsibility the prophets had. They realized that people needed to hear from the LORD, and so they had to be passionate in pursuit of being in His presence to receive that word. There were people depending on them to do so. There are people that are depending on you and I, people that we may not even know yet, that are depending up us to be who God has called us to be. We must be in the presence of God, seeking His face.

Something that God has really been showing me in this verse particularly, is the importance of staying close to Jesus, staying open to His revelation, and being quick to share that revelation.

How has your closeness with Jesus been lately? Have you been seeking Him for that life-changing Word? Not just for "church-work," but for "soul-work." Do you realize how desperate you are for that Word from the Lord...just one Word from the Lord. In that Word is life, healing, change, restoration, and so much more. Blessed is the one who keeps this truth, who holds on to it, protects, and lives it out. I want to be that one.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

...As Bold as a Lion

"The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1).

There was a house that my family lived in in Texas when I was in the sixth and seventh grade. It was a small house in a pretty quiet neighborhood. It had a detached utility room where we had the washer and dryer. You had to go out into the carport and then over to the laundry. Many times, I would have to do this at night. Sometimes, fear would get the better of me, and after I'd finish with the clothes and turn out the lights, I'd run like crazy to get into the house and lock the doors.

It's amazing how easy it is for many people to panic over a variety of things: news, circumstances, or even just thoughts of fear, worry, or stress. They reach and sometimes overreact to something that has become bigger in their minds than in reality, and definitely not bigger than than God.

But, the righteous are bold as a lion. The words here also paint a picture of a city, well-fortified with walls, where there is a confidence and security. It doesn't matter what it look like "out there," because in here we know that God is on the throne of this city!

We do not have to worry. God is in control! We don't have to give into the wicked thoughts of defeat, when our God is much greater than our giant! We must choose to be bold, confident and trusting, because we know who our God is - He is faithful, eternal, overcoming, victorious, and great!

As Water Reflects A Face...

"As water reflects a face, so man's heart reflects the man" (Proverbs 27:19).

Growing up in North East Texas, I spent a lot of time in the summers going to the lake. Different family friends had boats, piers, or sometimes just sitting on the side looking in. I loved seeing the reflection of my face and everything else in the water. How amazing! And, being the daydreamer that I am, would find myself relaxed and lost in great thought.

No matter what calm water we look at, we'll always be able to see ourselves in it, because virtually all water is the same it it's makeup. Muddy, clean, green, blue, or clear, water will reflect. So it is the same with People. God has made us all to bear similar qualities. As we look at others, we can usually see something of ourselves. It's easy to get angry, upset, or even critical. What we need to do is question whether or not we see some of whatever rubs us the wrong way in us. More than do we see it in us, does God see it in us?

I continue to find that the reason that certain people frustrate me easily, is because there's a flaw in them that I see in me, and when I see it, it causes me to withdraw. We need to allow this to truly affect us: In seeking God in dealing with that issue; in being more patient with the one struggling in similar areas as me; in not being so quick to judge or criticize them when I'm actually speaking that same judgment on ourselves.

What is also interesting, is that the closer you get to the water, the more you can see yourself...even in the mud. The closer you get to people, no matter what may irk you, the more you may find about yourself. When you grab hold of this, it really helps with how you see yourself, others, and how you see God. We all need His love, grace, and mercy in our own lives, but also to be lived through our lives.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

...Who Lacks Self-Control

"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control" (Proverbs 25:28).

The walls of a city represented strength and security. When they were broken down, it represented both vulnerability and shame. They were more open to attacks and further destruction, because their broken walls robbed them of their ability to be full alert and aware.

So it is with self-control. Self-control is a strength. It is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It's definitely one of those things that sometimes I wish wasn't available. Sound strange? Well, think about it. How many times have you ever said, "I couldn't help it!" or "you made me so mad"? Being that self-control IS available and NOT optional, those statements are no good!

When we choose to live outside of self-control, we find ourselves in greater trouble. Whether it has to do with eating, time-management, relationships with people, our money, or the words and tones that come out of our mouths, we are at a much greater risk of destruction when the walls of self-control are not strongly surrounding the city of our lives. Therefore, we must be alert and aware, and continue to strengthen that wall and not allow anything to compromise the integrity of that strength.

So, how's the wall? Ask God to help you in that area of self-control. But, be prepared to face some "testing exercises" that He will allow in order for you to be stretched and strengthened!

Friday, February 11, 2011

...After That, Build Your House

"Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house" (Proverbs 24:27).

One of my children's favorite books is a Winnie the Pooh story about Pooh planting a pumpkin seed and immediately wanting to see the pumpkin. Rather, he waited and waited...and waited. He really wanted to see that pumpkin, but instead, he saw a vine, then a flower, then a small green "ball." That ball grew and grew, until finally, sometime later, it became that pumpkin. For Pooh, it was well worth the wait!

The "problem" with building things is very similar to Pooh's dilemma with the pumpkin. We want it done now. We want the product without the process. We like to see the results, but don't necessarily like to do all that's required before solid, visual results are possible.

Before building, you have to clear away - you have to do the outside work. And, you have to prepare the land for expansion. You build to accommodate the growth you're believing for. And THEN, build the house.

Perhaps you and I are not so different. I like to see immediate results. I want to do something now and see the exponential evidence now. I like drive-thrus, microwavable popcorn, and instant hot water! I'm beginning to better understand that God wants to bless us and multiply that blessing in our lives. But, if we haven't prepared for that, then why would He grant an increase that may prove to be more of a hindrance to His Kingdom than a help?

So, maybe we need to do some "outside work" in our lives; prepare for the big picture; allow God to help us to clear away the obstacles that are standing in the way of all God wants to do. And then...BUILD!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

As a Dog Returns to His Vomit...

"As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).

One of the worst feelings of sickness that I ever face is being nauseous. Because for me, I usually know what's coming next. I know the Bible speak of the Great White Throne, but being bent over the great white porcelain just doesn't seem to measure up! Throwing up is disgusting. The very idea of it is nauseating. And when it does happen, I am quicker than the speed of light to make sure that it flushed, cleaned up, or whatever necessary to get that moment in time as far into the past as I possibly can.

It's bad enough the humiliation of something disgusting happening the first time in our lives, but to return to it again is even more disgusting. The term for "dog" was used as a humiliating description of reproach, also referring to the disgust of a male prostitute. this proverb equates all of that with the idea of a fool returning, repeating, or duplicating a choice of stupidity, silliness, and foolishness.

How disgusting and humiliating it is in the eyes of the Father to duplicate or return to those habits or cycles that He has sought to free us from. We need to see them as disgusting, as reproachable. We must not ever try to justify or compare our sins and struggles with something that looks "worse." In God's eyes, it's all foolishness and to return to it makes us a fool.

But be reminded of this truth: Our God is a gracious, loving, and forgiving God. He is bigger than your struggle and He will not only give you the strength you need, but if you let Him, He will be the strength you need. We don't want to return - but to advance in the direction God has called us to.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

By Wisdom a House is Built...

"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures" (Proverbs 24:3-4).

Let's be clear about something. I am not a builder. Well, that's not true. I can build a pretty awesome house. OK, that's with my son's Lincoln Logs. So I'm not the handiest guy out that there. And that's pretty important to know.

In order for anything to be built, it takes wisdom, which is defined in this context by the word "skill." One can't just run ahead an begin to build without skill or wisdom, without disaster being the result. You've got to have some "know how." Then, that "house" is established, faithful to continue through understanding (able to see both sides, to reason out not just "how" but "why"). It is then knowledge (being aware, clever, cunning) that fill the rooms, accomplishes and furnishes them with more than enough of all God has intended.

Have you ever wondered why some things just seem to work out better for certain people? What we need more of, is not just a better strategy, but a better attentiveness to the wisdom of God. As we seek His wisdom, the dream is built. As we depend up Him for understanding, we will be able to discern, and with diligence, continue through ever obstacle. And by being constantly and dependently aware, we will see God furnish and accomplish everything He desires for our lives - no matter how small or how big!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If Your Heart is Wise...

"My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right" (Proverbs 23:15-16).

When I was younger growing up, I found myself learning a vice, not a very good one, but one that I have seen learned by even my own children. I'm sure you've seen it and quite possible, and this I'm sure, even lived it at one time or another. That flawed vice is learning how to say the "right" things at the right time, even if it's not in your heart. I learned how to say "sorry" if that would bring a quicker end to what ever situation I had gotten myself into. It wasn't in my heart, but it sounded "right."

To please the Father should be the ultimate goal. Not by just "doing" the right things, but by "being" right. If we grab hold of wisdom in our heart - the very core of who we are - it will be evident all thought our lives. By being right, we do right, and THAT causes God to be glad and rejoice at the very core of His divine existence.

Not growing up with a father, I remember an evening in college, while living with a family that became a very intimate part of my life. The dad, who I would later refer to as "Dad," once told me that he was disappointed in me. It cut me to the core. He was right. I had made some choices that were wrong and he knew I could be better. I wanted to make him glad. I couldn't just say the right things. I needed to be right. But in being right, I did right. It wasn't so much about earning his approval as it was the joy in his heart when I realized the changes that needed to be made in my life.

Perhaps you, like me, would want this to be your life's cry each day: "Father God, I want to be right in your eyes, do right in your eyes, and make You rejoice at the core of who You are! Give me the wisdom to know what to do, and the strength to follow through and do it!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Sincerity

"As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'I tell you the truth,' He said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on'" (Luke 21:1-4).

This weekend was an incredible weekend. I knew it would be. No, I'm not trying to be prideful. There were so many "little" things that were going on that seemed to try to take the focus away. But, as we sought the face of God with great SINCERITY, His presence was so evident!

I preached a message concerning the "unnamed woman" that Jesus spoke of. This was a woman of great desperation and great sincerity. What does it take to have a sincere desperation?
  1. Don't compare yourself to other people. If people are your standard, then your standard is set pretty low. Don't seek to please people. Don't compare yourself to them as though they were created by God to be a step higher than you. Focus on Jesus
  2. Focus on YOUR worship. Don't be so distracted by everyone else's relationship with God that you forfeit your own blessing. Worship Him alone...without the distractions of everything and everyone else. Be like David, willing to get even more undignified as you celebrate before the Lord...not people.
  3. Live out that desperate faith. The widow gave out of her deficiency to the One who was her All-Sufficiency. She didn't give what she could afford. She gave all that she had. David said it best, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which cost me nothing."
Are you living out that desperate faith of sincerity? Check yourself with the 3 T's:
  1. Time. Are you giving your time out of what you have or sacrificially?
  2. Talent. Are you allowing God to use you on YOUR terms, or on His?
  3. Treasure. Are you tithing and giving based on what you know you have, or based on being obedient to His Word...because your are DARING to live out that desperate faith?
If you missed out this weekend, please feel free to listen here. Have a great week!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Humility and the Fear of the Lord...

"Humility and the fear of the Lord brings wealth and honor and life" (Proverbs 22:4).

Have you ever noticed that you can't be on the internet for too long without seeing a popup telling how you can make millions of dollars without ever even leaving the comfort of your own home. There are so many that think they've got it all figured out. There are so many books, CD's, DVD;s, motivational speakers, and infomercials that proclaim they know the truths and secrets that lead to happiness.

The truth is simple: to get anything of great value starts with God. We humble our whole selves to Him - standing in HIS presence with a sense of awe that is overwhelming, because we begin to realize who He really is. He is God. There is none like Him. Keeping that attitude will lead us to true wealth, great honor, and refreshed strength.

We have to remember that we can't full attain the 2nd part without committing to pursue the 1st part. Humility must be a defining factor of our lives. We have don't have to push any plan or strive for anyone's good opinion or fight to be right. We must choose to meek, to always seek a greater awareness of how great, awesome and powerful our God is. When we truly that that in, humility becomes our only option with great promise!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To the Cries of the Poor...

"Whoever shuts their ears to the cries of the poor will also cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13).

Most of us have seen people standing on street corners holding signs that say "Will Work For Food," or something like that. And, most of us at least once or more, have walked right on by. We justify it, usually, by thinking that they are just scammers out trying to get a quick buck. But what about the others. The ones you work with, go to school with; the ones you live with or live near, or even go to church with? They're hurting, they're in desperate need of somebody to notice, and sometimes, we walk right by.

It's easy to think that shutting out either makes it "not real" or "less real," or at least lessens the responsibility people feel to respond. The Proverb mentions the "poor." In Hebrew, this means one who is weak, thin, and more properly, it means one who is "dangling."

In the busyness of our lives, is it possible that there are those who are dangling on the edge of hope, joy, peace, etc...and we pass by? The condition here implies that those over-lookers will find themselves overlooked, unanswered (not paid attention to).

It's so easy to see and not really "see." There are people hurting, weak and worn out, dangling on the edge. We don't have to understand it all, agree with it all, or even know it all. We just need to hear and respond to that cry. Not just so that we'll be heard later, but so that whose who find themselves "poor" will also find themselves rich in Him, finding out that He really is all they've ever needed.

Take some time to look, listen, and then live out this love of God that has changed your life. Most of us know what it's like to feel over looked. Ask God today to help you see people as He sees them.

Friday, February 4, 2011

EHCA Students Only!

Well guys, what an awesome week! I so enjoyed spending time with you, praying with you, worshiping with you, and hopefully challenging you. I especially enjoyed seeing you pursue God with EXPONENTIAL intensity. Since we missed a day because of snow, we got one day behind with what I believe God gave me to speak...so, here it is. Don't worry, much shorter here!!!

An Honor to Avoid Strife...

"It is a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel" (Proverbs 20:3)

Ms. Baxter's pre-calculus class in high school. I'll never forget it. Not because math made such an impact on my life. I assure you, it didn't. But, I remember after Ms. Baxter would teach, give the assignment, and we'd complete it, the fireworks would begin. Billy, Deann, Tina, and myself. We were the four that could argue about anything. Religion usually. We'd fight it out pretty good. Years later, I begin to realize the futility in those arguments. I for one, wasn't really interested in hearing their points of view...just to make my own point louder and last. It took a while to begin to realize that the honor I was seeking, was the honor I was forfeiting, because it's never found in pride.

What is so common, and accepted even, in our society is to push through a debate until one's argument has been "victoriously" made. But the Bible says that it's a man's honor - his splendor, his value, his worth to avoid strife. This simply means the one who rests form chiding, contention, and controversy. It takes a lot more honor to rest from being "right" than it does to push through and attempt to prove being right while creating or continuing an atmosphere of conflict in the process.

Like with all people, one of my greatest strengths is also one of my greatest weaknesses - my mouth! I am a natural arguer. I love to debate and am fairly good with working with words. And, like many, I like to make my point and am not a fan of being proved wrong. However, what God continues to show me, is that honor, TRUE honor, is found in victory. But, we haven't pursued the real victory. That victory is mastering our mouths, our methods, and our motivation.

Today, vow before God to be a person of honor; to avoid strife; to NOT get the last word in; to trust God to sort it all out without you having to prove the point. In THAT, there is great honor!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Desire Without Knowledge...

"Desire without knowledge is not good - how much more will hasty feet miss the way" (Proverbs 19:2).

Some time ago, I learned a very valuable, yet costly lesson. I knew that we needed groceries, and I had some time to do that, so I went to the grocery store. I had a great desire to bless my family, and to bless my wife by doing the shopping. Quite frankly, it was a GREAT idea! However, I hadn't really paid much notice to the fact that I hadn't eaten lunch, and it was getting closer to dinner time. I was hungry. What started off as a great idea ended up costing much more money, because in my hastiness to pursue a good idea, I bought to my stomach's content. It bruised our budget, and taught me a lesson. Just because something IS a good idea, doesn't mean it's the RIGHT idea at this time.

Good ideas don't always translate into good timing. It's so easy to take a good idea, give credit to God, and then run like crazy with it outside of His purposed timing. "Hasty" also means "to press." Pressing too hard and too fast on an issue will easily, and many times, inevitably, lead to a misstep. So much better is it to wait on God for His knowledge and an awareness that He desires to give, so that the direction He leads will be most productive and we will encounter far few trips and falls.

Maybe you're like me. I'm a dreamer. It is so easy for me to have a "great" idea, and then run 90 to nothing (that's "fast" for those of you who don't speak southern), to try to get it done, troubleshooting along the way, and hoping to luck out with a great result. I am learning important lessons with this. Most of my troubleshooting could be done on the front end as I am seeking God for His knowledge and awareness. And, I don't believe in luck. Just because you have a great thought and maybe even a great team to carry it out, if you don't have the timing of God, then be careful of missteps.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One Who Is Slack...

"One who is slack in his work is brother to on who destroys" (Proverbs 18:9).

Think about for a minute. You've decided to get a way for a few hours outside of your familiar atmosphere, away from the office, time out of the house. So, you're driving down the road and decide to go into this coffee shop that recently opened up, because you hear they had free wi-fi. But, as you go in, you begin to get a very different impression than the expectations you had just held. The floors have are gritty, no one says "hello," the coffee was lukewarm, and a bit stale. You go over to sit down, and the table top is sticky and you can't get a connection on the "free" wi-fi. With an overwhelming amount of negative thoughts about this place, you get up, leave, and vow never to return. You're definitely not surprised to hear a few weeks later that the coffee shop just didn't make it.

It really is the little things that make the big difference. So many people don't realize how destructive it really is or can be when they don't put forth excellence in what they do. "Slack" or "slothful" means one who ceases to give it all they've got. They coast, get by, do "just enough." Though this has become common in our culture, it still contradicts the truth principles that in everything we do, we should do it unto the glory of God.

So, are you challenged yet? If you are, you're not alone! This is a challenging reminder that everything we do is to point back to His glory. If we really do believe this, then it will effect every aspect of our job - how quickly we respond to calls & emails, how we keep our desk, how we show up on time, our attention to details and deadlines, and so many other ways.

One who is slack is brother to one who destroys. In other words, when we don't put forth excellence, it's as if we are communicating that we don't care as much with our heart as we say we do with our mouth. OUCH! Let God help you today in how you manage your time, respond to your boss, and just how you reflect HIS glory in everything you do!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

But The Lord Tests the Heart...

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart" (Proverbs 17:3).

My wife LOVES jewelry! I remember when we were just dating, I had asked her about what kind of jewelry she liked. She said that she liked silver, but that it had to real. The fake stuff, she explained to me, would give her a rash. Now I must tell you, that at first, I thought she was making the whole thing up just so that I would give her the "good stuff." But sure enough, she was right!

The value of precious metals is what further makes them desirable. The master of those metals would do whatever was necessary, not just to maintain, but to increase the value by testing the purity. This would be done by a process of melting and purging. All the impurities would wise and would be scraped off the top - all possible because of the increase in extreme heat.

God does similar with our hearts. It is more valuable to Him than precious metals, and He's most interested in the "good stuff", too. He will test the purity in the crucible of life. The process is sometimes intense, but the product is priceless.

Whatever you're going through right now that may seem so unfair, be sure to understand something. It's not that God is necessarily mad at you. He love you. So much, in fact, that He's willing to do whatever possible to bring out the stuff in you that needs to be removed, so that the integrity of your value increases! You are worth it!