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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Living Bread

"So, since there was no other food available, the priest gave him the holy bread - the Bread of the Presence that was placed before the LORD in the Tabernacle.  It had just been replaced that day with fresh bread" (1 Samuel 21:6).

David was hungry, weak, and tired.  What he was looking for was sustenance.  What he found that day was something of great significance.  Not only was it bread, but it was a bread that symbolized and signified the presence of a holy God.  Not only that, but it was FRESH BREAD.  It wasn't day-old, left over, or partially eaten.  This was the freshness of God's holy presence.  And, it was given to David.  He feasted on the fresh presence of God.

Has God done anything for you?  Can you remember a time that God has come through for you?  Blessed you?  Provided for you?  Encouraged you?  Don't ever forget how the presence of God has impacted your life.  But understand this: we cannot depend on what God has done in our lives to sustain us.  Our past encounters with God have influenced our present, but are not enough to nourish us on the journey towards the future God has for us.  We need fresh bread.  We need to remember that Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Don't be satisfied with the left-overs.  Wait upon God today for fresh bread!  His presence will more than sustain you.  It will give you the strength you need not to just "get through" this life, but to be victorious in this life!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Out Of Control

"Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him.  So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David" (1 Samuel 20:33).

Jonathan couldn't believe that his father was capable of all that David had said.  David had been the target of Saul's anger.  It was an anger that had built up over time, was even a result of issues that had nothing to do with David.  But now, Jonathan was the target.  Jonathan, the one that Saul was fighting hard, even against God, to be the next king, now stood in the cross hairs of Saul's out of control emotions of a rage that was rooted in his own disobedience.  How amazing it is, that we can get so angry against others, when it's really ourselves that is the object of such anger.

When people don't get their anger, jealousy, bitterness and resentment under control, eventually it is released or unleashed onto the people that are the closest and that mean the most to us.  The very thing Saul wanted to protect, his son, was the one he tried to destroy in a fit of rage.

If it's there, deal with it.  Plain and simple.  It's a matter of "life and death."  For me, I refuse to allow hurts and anger and the like to take control of my emotions.  For too many years, I allowed it to build up, fuel my resentment, entrap me in bitterness, and justify my retaliation.  I began to learn something that is still life-transforming to me today.  If I don't control my emotions, then I am making it possible for my wife, kids, and anyone else I'm close to to be exposed to the explosiveness of my lack of self-control.

In all things, especially in dealing with the hurts, insecurities, and anger of our lives, we need to bring it to God, do what needs to be done in the natural, and leave the rest to Him.  He's able to take that anger, replace it with a peace that goes beyond comprehension.  You don't have to be angry.  Anger is an emotion, but becoming angry is nothing someone can make you do.  It's a choice.  I choose to let it go and allow God to be God, to be my peace, and to take control of whatever situation in my life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dealing with Conflict

"Saul hurled his spear at David in an attempt to kill him.  Nut David dodged out of the way and escaped into the night, learning the speak stuck int the wall"
(1 Samuel 19:10).

Conflict is a part of life.  It's not a result of differing opinions, perspectives, or ideals.  It's a matter of pride.  Saul couldn't stand the thought of David being acclaimed more than himself.  After all, he was the king.  He was to be the pride of the people, not this shepherd boy, harp playing, kid.  His pride got the best of his emotions and so he lashed out.  He allowed his insecurity, his frustration, and his heightened emotions to rule where his heart for God should have been in control.

There are times that we will find ourselves in a similar position as David. We will find ourselves hurt, disappointed, let down, betrayed, attacked, and grieved.  At times, we will even feel as though the offense is intentional, like spears being thrown right at us with the intention of bring destruction.  David, knowing he had done nothing wrong, chose to continue of blamelessness.  He refused to allow his pride to justify retaliation in like manner.  He chose not to defend, but instead, to honor a man who had been anointed by God.  He chose to honor God by not taking matters into his own hands.

It's difficult when our emotions, our efforts, or our ideas take a beating, when we fell as though spears are being hurled at us.  We need to look and learn from David's example.  The spear was thrown, but He didn't let it "stick" to him.  He didn't remove the spear and send it sailing back.  He removed himself from the situation.  He responded in a way that honored God.

Be encouraged today to not allow your emotions to take control, or your pride to justify avenging yourself because of the hurt that someone else inflicted.  Throwing spears is not the way that Christ is honored when it comes to conflict resolution.  Don't forget, Saul and David were actually on the same side.  The conflict was within one of them, and David chose not to take that conflict on himself.  Choose to honor God by honoring those you're in conflict with.

Monday, March 28, 2011

With Excellence

"Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully.  So Saul made him a commander in his army, an appointment that was applauded by the fighting men and officers alike" (1 Samuel 18:5).


I will never forget Jeff Rash.  He was my manager for the first job that I ever got at 16.  My job?  I bagged groceries.   "Paper or plastic" became the most popular phrase that came out of my mouth.  Jeff, however, convinced me that I was more than just a grocery bagger.  I was a "courtesy clerk."  My job was not groceries, but people. He would tell me that excellence had to define not only what I did, but who I was.  My uniform had to be excellent.  My attitude had to be excellent.  My work had to be excellent.  The companies motto was simple, "People first, and profits will follow."  It was all based on being excellent.  We were never to talk to one another at work.  All conversations and attentions had to be focused on the customer.  We talked about the weather, children, current events, whatever it took to make excellence the trademark of our customer service.    Excellence matters.

Whatever David was asked to do, he did so successfully, with great skill and understanding.  He didn't take advantage of his position.  He treated each task with respect and put his whole heart and soul into seeing it done with excellence.  David didn't disregard his tasks at hand.  He didn't squander them.  He didn't minimize them.  The product of his work reflected the excellence of his heart.

Is excellence the trademark of your life?  Perfectionism is a trap and not the same as excellence.  Excellence is knowing that you made the most of your time, put your best effort into it, didn't hold back.  It's equating the quality of your task with the quality of your reputation.  What would happen to the quality of our work if we did so with the realization that it reflected who we are?

Personally, this challenges me more than words can express.  I don't want my life to be defined by anything less than the very best that I have to offer.  Everything I do is to be done as unto the Lord.  So, whether it's time management, completing tasks in a timely fashion, returning phone calls and emails, or the level of our effort, our goal is to honor God in all that we do.  To do it with excellence.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Into the Valley

"So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them"
(1 Samuel 17:3).

I have been accused of being a lot of things in my life.  However, I have never, and I mean never, been accused of being a "neat freak."  I'm sure many wish that I were!  Not too long ago, God really begin to show me some things about myself in that area.  My car had become a leading contender for the "Fred Sanford Memorial Museum Award."  For those of you were born after the the 70's and 80's, you might need to ask somebody what that means!  My car was a wreck!!  I knew that it needed to be cleaned.  I was embarrassed anytime someone would come close to it.  I would park farther away, and when it called for it, would hide as much "stuff" in the trunk as I possibly could.  It just seemed like such an ordeal to clean.  The problem was not cleaning the car, but getting started.  It was as if I were on one mountain and the idea of cleaning the car were on the other with this great valley in between.  Finally, I surrendered to God on this area that I had monopolized much of my ability to live free.  I cleaned the car!  Procrastination in dealing with the tough issues of life is something that most people can relate to.

On a different scale, this is what Israel was also facing.  They were on one mountain and the Philistine army was on the other mountain.  God had called them to victory, but they had allowed intimidation to overwhelm them.  They had listened for days and weeks on end from the giant, Goliath, how inferior they were, how defeated they were, and how they would soon become the slaves of the Philistine people.  So, here were two armies standing on opposite hills with a valley in between.  There is a perceived safety on the mountain top.  There is security in knowing that a valley separates you from your opposition.  Rarely are battles fought on the mountain top, and if they are, the momentum is usually with the defenders of that mountain, because it would be an "uphill battle" for the other side.  If you desire victory in your life, you must leave the hillside and trek into the valley, depend upon the God of your salvation, and defeat that giant that has sought to rob you of your victory!

For me, as I'm sure for others, one of the physical battles in my life has been self-control, especially in the area of food.  I had camped out on the hills for too long.  What I had always wanted was waiting for me.  I would never be able to acquire it until I set out into the valley and do what needed to be done.  In the last six months, I have experienced the pains of battle.  The habits of the flesh is an enemy that seeks hard to win, but the God of my salvation, the strength of my heart, strengthens me, and has given me victory down in the valley!

Victory is never going to "just happen."  It will be the result of a battle that is fought and won.  Be encouraged today.  Don't wait for the battle to appear any easier.  It never will.  Your giant is shouting and declaring lies of inferiority, intimidation, and defeat.  Turn your ears to the Lord who reminds that you "can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!"  "You are victorious, more than a conqueror!"  Follow God into the valley today, depend upon Him, and live in the victory that you have been designed for!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

God Looks at the Heart

"...People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart; at a person's thoughts and intentions" (1 Samuel 16:17).

Samuel had a great responsibility.  He was to anoint the next king of Israel.  As he called up the sons of Jesse, he made a judgment based on the outside.  God spoke to Samuel that the outside means nothing if it's not backed up by what's on the inside.  The heart, the seat of all emotions, passions, and desires, is what sets the course of one's life.  The reflection of his heart is the direction of his life.

People judge most everything by what it looks like on the outside.  It can be comical walking through the produce section of any grocery store.  One thing you will certainly find is people picking up fruits and vegetables, turning them over, smelling them, weighing them, and squeezing them. They are doing their best to determine the inside based on the outside.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes they find out that what they were hoping for and expecting was different from what they actually had.

In our lives, we need to make sure that the inside and the outside match.  How is our heart?  Are our thoughts, motives, and attitudes pure?  Everything that we do or say is to be an overflow of our relationship with God.  Because, it doesn't matter so much what people see in us, it's what HE sees in us.  He sees beyond the outside.  He looks past the facade.  He sees the heart.

How is your heart today?  If you're not sure, take a moment to test it.  How are the words that come out of your mouth?  Are they foul?  Are they drenched with arrogance, negativity, or sarcasm?  Are you building people up, or more interested in tearing them down?  What about your mind?  What do you spend your time thinking about?  Is your attitude OK?  Are you doing anything that would be considered a "no-go" as far as God is concerned?  What are you looking at?  What are you spending your time doing?  It doesn't matter what we leave "people" thinking about who we are, what we say, or what we're doing.  What does HE think?  He sees the heart!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Not Good Enough

"He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else.  Saul and his men spared Agag's life and kept the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs - everything, in fact, that appealed to them.  They destroyed only what was worthless or poor quality" (1 Samuel 15:8-9).

Saul, the king of Israel, was instructed by the LORD to defeat the Amalekites, taking no prisoners, and destroying all valuables, taking nothing for themselves. Saul thought he did a good enough job, because he destroyed almost everything.  90% is good for a grade on a test in high school, but when it comes to obeying God, nothing less than 100% is acceptable.  To God, it wasn't good enough.  Partial obedience isn't really obedience at all.  It's an insulting attempt at trying to fool God into believing that we're doing His will.

If we think about it, it's easy to see the similarities between Saul and our own lives.  Consider the distractions in your life.  You know, those things that cause separation and conflict in your relationship with God.  Identifying them isn't so much the hard part, it's how much of it you eliminate.  How easy it is for us to convince ourselves that we're doing the right thing by eliminating most of the sinful habits we struggle with, or doing most of what He's called for us to do.  After all, we're making progress.  In our homes, we never try to get rid of most of the mice, or fumigate most of the termites.  Almost just isn't quite good enough.  We should apply the same standard in our own lives.  What God says to do is exactly what we must do.  Anything less just isn't good enough.

What has God called you to do that you haven't yet done?  What distraction in your life is holding you back from 100% obedience.  The kingdom of Israel was taken away from Saul because he wanted to obey on his own terms.  Obedience is never on our terms.  Obedience is a form of humility, submission, and yielding.  Anything less...it's just not good enough.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dream Big

"'Let's go across to see those pagans,' Jonathon said to his armor bearer.  'Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD.  He can win a battle whether He has many warriors or only a few!'  'Do what you think is best,' the youth replied.  'I'm with you completely, whatever you decide'" (1 Samuel 14:6-7).

So many people have fallen short of greatness because they haven't been able to see past the obstacles.  People need to realize that God can use the unexpected to do the unthinkable.  He calls us to do extraordinary things - some that may not even make sense.

Jonathan was passionate about what needed to be done.  His passionate and confident leadership helped to keep his armor bearer at his side.  Jonathan knew where he was going and wasn't afraid of what he might face or what it might cost.  His armor bearer declared, that no matter what it might cost him personally, he was with his master heart and soul.  He believed in the dream, because Jonathan helped him to see it, in spite of the fact that it was only the two of them that were to be fighting for a victory that appeared to be incomprehensible!

Don't be afraid to dream!  Realize that God has called you to do amazing things.  He created you with a hope and a dream, a purpose and a plan.  Just focus on Him for direction.  You need to be confident in where you're going and be unafraid of what you will face, and ready face the cost.  God will never take you to where He's not able to take you through.  Trust Him.  Follow Him.  Dream BIG in Him.  See the results come to pass because of Him.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going Without God

"...but Samuel said, 'What is this you have done?'  Saul replied, 'I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn't arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle.  So I said, 'The Philistines are ready to march against us, and I haven't even asked for the LORD's help!'  So I felt obliged to offer the burnt offering myself before you came'"
(1 Samuel 13:1-12).


King Saul knew the law.  At that time in Biblical history, there were specific people who were authorized to offer the burnt offerings.  He was not one of them.  He had no rights before God to go outside of God's law.  For Saul, this was a bad move.  It seemed ok at the time, but the motivation was completely selfish.  He didn't trust God to come through.  He didn't trust God's timing.  Saul, even hearing the word of the LORD started seeing the number of his men dwindling.  He was losing control, and felt justified enough to step out of God's will to regain control, even if he had to do it on his own.  Saul would find out soon enough that it's never a good idea to move ahead in the name of God when God is not a part of that move.

Haven't you ever felt like Saul?  I'm sure that you, just like most of us, have.  You've prayed, have had faith, and tried to wait on God to do "something."  And when it didn't happen, at least not according to what you had in mind, you stepped in.  In our thinking, "someone needed to!"  What we don't tend to realize is that when we step in and try to "help" God, we are actually turning away from Him, doubting Him, and going on without Him.  Never has that worked and never will it work.  We are called to depend upon Him, trust in Him, and wait for Him.  We can never do better on our own than we can with Him at the wheel.  He knows where we are, what we need, and how to supply.

Be encouraged today to stand firm in your trusting Him.  Don't forget, "trust" requires faith.  That means it's not always going to make sense!  If it did, it wouldn't require faith!  Let God be God.  Go in the direction that He is leading.  Refuse the temptation to do anything or to go anywhere that is contrary to the will, purpose, and plan of God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't Forget

"...Now stand here quietly before the LORD as I remind you of all the great things the LORD has done for you and your ancestors"
(1 Samuel 12:7).

When we get so focused on how things don't work out the way we want them to, it's entirely too easy to lose focus on how God has actually come through for us.  We get overwhelmed with what we feel God hasn't done that we neglect to remember what He has done.  But, if we would take the time and remember how He has come through, we will never be at a loss for encouragement.  We will be reminded that He is faithful, changeless, and that His love is unconditional.  We will be reminded of His power and how He can use any situation in our life for our good.  We will be reminded that He has never left us nor forsaken us, that He has always been available to us as our source of peace, joy, hope, and refuge.

We must think and remember those times when God has been there, when He has come through, when God has made it clear that He's been there every step of the journey.  We can't forget, because if we do, we might be tempted to pursue what we don't need, because we've forgotten who He has, and that all we need is Him. How true it remains to be, that He does provide, through Himself, all we've ever needed.  God has come through and we must live like we know and believe that He has.

Think about how God has ever come through for you.  How has He provided for you?  Has He ever been that hope for you when it seemed like you had lost all other hope?  Has He ever been your peace when life seemed as though it were spinning out of control, and though you had tried feverishly, there was nothing you could do to stop it.  But suddenly, you relied on Him, and He gave you a peace that passes all understanding. Remember those times.  Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  How He's come through before testifies to how He can come through for you again.  Don't forget!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Qualities of a Leader

"When the messengers came to Gibeah, Saul's hometown, and told the people about their plight, everyone broke into tears.  Saul was plowing in the field, and when he returned to town, he asked, 'What's the matter?  Why is everyone crying?'  So they told him about he message from Jabesh"
(1 Samuel 11:4-5).

It doesn't take much in our society to see how position can change people.  One of the easiest places to look is to the political scene.  There are people, believing in their convictions, having a passion to be a catalyst for change, get voted into office.  After a time, the temptation to do and say whatever it takes to stay into office becomes more than many can resist.  So many have allowed position to change them from who they were that helped get them to that position.  What it takes to get there is what it takes to stay there.  This is true in every area of our lives.  We are all leaders.  We are all influencers.  We are all called to uphold a standard that continues to perseveringly honor God.  For HE is the One that takes us there, and we must depend upon Him to be the One to keep us there.

When the messengers came and gave Saul unfavorable news, he was plowing the field.  He was the king.  He didn't immediately pawn everything off on others because of his position.  He was a servant.  He was sympathetic.  As king, he came a soldier, to fight for the people God had given him.

As a believers in Jesus, we need to remember who we are in Him.  We also must remember who we are not. We are servants - if it weren't for people, our calling as Christians would be ineffective.  Our lives would be dull and empty.  God has called us to each other, to love each other, and to serve each other.  We must also be sympathetic - our hearts must be open  and sensitive to what's going on in the hearts and lives of those around us.  Finally, we are soldiers - it's our calling to stand up and fight on behalf of those around us.  People all around us are fighting battles, but we must determine that they will not fight alone.  We stand with them, fight with them, and sometimes fight for them.

This is what a leader is, and out of that, this is what a leader does.  It's something I reflect on each day.  As a leader, do you see yourself as a servant, or one waiting to be served?  Are you sympathetic, or do you stay so focused on yourself that you miss the people around you?  Are you a soldier?  Are you standing up with those God has crossed your path with, to either fight with or fight for?  I thank God, as a leader, that there are other leaders who are doing this with me.  I can't do it alone.  None of us can.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feeling Inadequate

"So they asked the LORD, 'Where is he?'  And the LORD replied, 'He is hiding among the baggage.'  So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.  Then Samuel said to the all the people, 'This is the man the LORD has chosen as your king.  No one in all Israel is his equal!'  And all the people shouted, 'Long live the king!'"
 (1 Samuel 11:22-24).

Have you ever felt as though you just didn't measure up to the responsibility, calling, or opportunity that you were faced with?  There are people who are called and anointed to do something for the Lord, but are so given to insecurity and fear that they'd rather hide with the "baggage."  Their fear doesn't allow them to see what God sees.  Saul stood head and shoulders over everyone and there was no equal to him in all Israel.  But he couldn't see it, and found it difficult to trust God's calling.

It's interesting to see that, in his inadequacy and his insecurity, he hid behind the baggage.  All the feelings that he had about being the least, about his family being the smallest, about not being good enough...these emotions were rooted in his past.  This had become his "baggage."  When God was calling him forward, he hid behind his baggage.

We must always remember that it is God's calling and God's anointing on our lives that calls us beyond the baggage.  Even when we cannot see what He seeing, we must rust Him.  We can't compare ourselves to others or to our own expectation of what we think we should be.  We must trust His calling and the power of His anointing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Feeling Intimidated?

"Saul replied, "But I'm only from Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe!  Why are you talking like this to me?" (1 Samuel 9:21).

I remember when I was first asked to submit my resume' to a church to be their senior pastor.  I had a similar conversation with God as did Saul with Samuel.  I told God how unqualified I was, how inexperienced I was.  I felt this way, in part, because I saw how BIG the responsibility was.  I came into direct contact with insecurities I didn't realize were even there.  I began to realize, that even at 29 years of age at the time, I had never done anything to qualify myself for any opportunity God had ever called me to.  He has always been my qualifier.  Why was now any different?  It wasn't.

When God has a word of promise for our lives, it often contradicts how we see ourselves or even think about ourselves.  Saul reminds Samuel that he's the least of the least.  God doesn't always use the people who are most likely expected.  He likes to use the least of the least.  This way, the glory is more guaranteed to belong to Him alone.  We are less likely to take the credit for ourselves.

For me, it has been so easy at times to feel like this.  To wonder why or how God could ever use me in the ways that He has.  It's amazing to see what God can do with what He already knows.  He knows my inexperience.  He knows my failures.  He knows my fears.  As a matter of fact, He's already taken all of those irrelevant factors into consideration BEFORE He ever called me!

What we need to do, however, is to stay humble before Him, and to know that it IS by His Spirit and His strength.  Be need to be confident that He has chosen you, in spite of your lack of pedigree, but because of the purpose that HE breathed into your life.  You are made in His image.  You were created by His design for a destiny that surpasses your insecurities.  Trust in Him.  Allow Him to show you what He can do IN you, THROUGH you, and IN SPITE OF you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Even So...

"But the people refused to listen to Samuel's warning.  'Even so, we still want a king,' they said" (1 Samuel 8:19).

Years ago, I had a staffing need that I needed to fill.  I had this awesome idea to give a chance to someone who I knew would love the opportunity.  They had the passion.  They had the desire.  I knew them.  It seemed perfect.  I assumed they were the answer to the prayer I hadn't quite yet prayed!  Something inside me told me that it might not be the right thing.  I simply excused it as "butterflies" and moved ahead.  I had a need for someone.  I wanted them.  This must be God.  So, I did.  Within six months, it became evident that this was not the best decision and there were some consequences to pay.  There was some personal credibility that I had forfeited.  I soon realized that what I mistakenly referred to as "butterflies" was actually the voice of the Holy Spirit.  My response at the time?  "Even so..."

Even when people know that what they're doing is the "right way to the wrong place," they can still be so ever-determined to go ahead anyway.  Israel heard the warning from someone they highly respected, and knew that he heard from God.  Yet, they still wanted what they wanted.  Their stubbornness was so set, that their hearts were hard and didn't even truly hear the warning.  Even so...

How essential it is, that our daily focus is on God, and that we are so devoted to His heart and to His call on our lives that our desires for Him would be stronger than any other desire we would ever have.  Don't be one of those who hears the warning and decides to just say, "Even so..." and move ahead with what we want.

Take time today, even right now, and ask God to guide you, to show you He is directing you, and where you may have gone off course.  Submit your desires to Him.  Determine that HIS ways are higher than yours, and that His desire for you is much better than any desire you could ever have for yourself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get Serious


"Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, 'If you are really serious about wanting to return to the LORD, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth.  Determin to obey only the LORD; then He will rescue you from the Philistines.'  So the Israelites destroyed their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the LORD" (1 Samuel 7:34).


I remember the first time my wife and I walked into the house that we now own.  It was a MESS!  There were stencils in the kitchen of grizzly bears, moose, and cedar trees.  My wife was far less than inspired.  The living room had layers upon layers of soot as the wood burning stove had no smoke stack and was releasing the exhaust back into the house.  Some of the rooms had mold.  The bathroom...now that was a room that helps me to understand this point in 1 Samuel.  The bathroom was all but condemned.  The soot was overwhelming from the kerosene lamp that hung.  The rust, mildew, and mold were a combination that took you back to the days of the "the swamp thing."  The closer you got to the toilet, the more in danger you were of falling through to the basement.  So, what did we do.  We realized that if we were going to be able to move forward as a family, and live effectively and healthily in this house, we had to get serious about the things that needed to go.  In the bathroom, we had a demolition party!  The sink had to go.  The tub had to go.  And oh yes...the toilet had to go.  We ripped down black paneling, and ripped up green carpet.  Then, and only then, were we able to bring that which was once was condemned to a place of beauty and restoration.

So it was with Israel.  If they people had really wanted to receive revelation and the promises of what God had in store for them, then they needed to remove the roadblocks that were standing in the way.  There were things in their lives that were not compatible with His dwelling presence.  They were to get rid of all the things that had become "god" to them, as well as all things that had linked them to the sinful lusts of the flesh.

If we are serious - really serious - about wanting the most of our relationship with God, then we have to be serious about getting rid of everything that is contrary HIS character.  We cannot have priorities that remove Him from being the Lord of our lives.  We cannot be linked to that which He hates.  It all has to be destroyed.

Don't allow anything stand in the way between where you are and where God wants you to be.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Holy God

"But the LORD killed 70 men from Beth-Shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the LORD...'Who is able to stand in the presence of the LORD, this Holy God?'" (1 Samuel 6:19-20).

Even in the their excitement of what God was doing, they no respect for God.  It had been commanded through the generations that they were never to touch the Ark, let alone open it and look inside.  They allowed excitement and emotion to overshadow their fear, respect, and awe of God.  Simply put, they got too comfortable.

Haven't you seen this?  People get "too comfortable" with God that they lose that reverent awe of Who HE is.  Think of the President.  Even his closest advisors must still stand when he walks into a room, address with his formal title, never treating him as less that who he is.  We must never lose that fear, awe, and wonder of God.

In everything we do, we must not get to casually comfortable with God.  Yes, He longs to be in relationship with us, but we are still to remember Who He is.  He is the Holy One.  When we pray, when we worship, when we live out each day that has been given, we must be reminded that He is a holy God.  When we approach Him, we do it boldly and with confidence, but with humility and great fear.  Not fear that He may harm us, but a fear that reminds us all our God is capable of.  Never forgot, He is the One who flung the stars into place, spoke the the world into existence, breathed breath into man He created out of the dust and into His own image.  He is the One who has saved our souls from the punishment of hell that we each deserved, all because of His great love.  How awesome is He...this Holy God!

Monday, March 14, 2011

One True God

"...Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the LORD!  So they set the idol up again.  But the next morning the same thing happened - the idol had fallen face down before the LORD again..." (1 Samuel 5:3-4).

How awesome is the Lord, our God! There's a lot of things you can do to God.  You can reject Him, betray Him, disappoint Him, lie to Him, disobey Him, and refuse Him.  But, You can't take the LORD God Almighty as a captive prisoner.  He came to serve, but He is no man's salve or hostage.  When put in the same vicinity with another "god," the false idol was brought down to it's knees in submission.  To rise again was to be brought down again.

One thing we can be very sure of, is that one day every knee will bow and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all!  We have a choice.  We can either bow down now when it's our choice, or we can bow down later when it's too late.  But either way, bow later or bow now, we're going to bow!  He IS the ONE TRUE GOD!  It's our choice and opportunity now, today even, to bow down before Him, and declare Him to be the Lord of our lives.

For more, I choose not to have to be humbled, because I choose to submit myself to the One who is capable to understand what I cannot and to do what I cannot.  He is Lord!  I don't have to have it all figured out.  There are so many things that render me confused and clueless.  But one thing I know, He is faithful.  He has been and is today my rock, my peace, and my trust.  Nothing will stand against that!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Praying for My Children

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

As a parent, my greatest prayer is that my children will grow up to know the amazing love of Jesus Christ, and that they will live their lives in a worshipful response of that love.  I pray for my children daily.  From before they were even born, my wife and I would lay hands on her stomach and pray.  We'd pray for them by name as soon as discovered their gender.

As they are growing at a pace that I can get extremely uncomfortable with at times, my prayers for them stay focused and strong.  Recently at a Bible study, there were some men that were talking about HOW they pray for their children.  And as they spoke, the Holy Spirit led me to the following points of emphasis that really capture the spirit of the prayer that I pray for my own children.

I pray that my children will...
...always depend on Him.
...determine to obey Him.
...never depart from Him.
...live to discern His will. 
May we always pray over our children, continuing to release them to the Lord, while also asking for wisdom from God as we seek to raise them, disciple them, love them, and speak into their lives in a way that honors God and sets the example for them to do the same.

 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Than A Lucky Charm

"After the battle was over, the army of Israel retreated to their camp, and their leaders asked, 'Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?' Then they said, 'Let's bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies'" (1 Samuel 4:3).

One of the most interesting paradoxes in contemporary Christianity is people who depend upon trinkets, jewelry, outward appearance of "holiness" and other superficial methods as their relationship with God. A cross around your neck doesn't bring you any closer to Jesus.

I remember when I was younger, if there was something I really wanted, I would pray and promise God that I would try harder, do better, and be holier. My actions weren't enough to earn His love, and they wouldn't be enough to strong arm Him into doing anything I wanted Him to do.

Israel had lost sight of who God really was. He wasn't a good luck charm or some other tool that could be used to force their own way. Even now, people try to use GOd to make a point or to force their way. Instead of surrendering to HIM, we try to use Him to get something we want to surrender to us.

Surrender, completely and wholly, is the key. We can't just run ahead and grab His name on our way out and try to use it to manipulate our agenda forward. He is God. He is Holy. He is not to be used. He is to be surrendered to, served, honored, loved, and worshipped.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Learning to Listen

"And the LORD came and called as before, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel replied, 'Yes, Your servant is listening'" (1 Samuel 3:10).

As a father, I have to better understand what has been a reality for many years and centuries. We don't always listen very well! Listening is a process. Listening is more than just hearing, but being able to hear the right things, and to follow up on what we've heard.

Samuel had to get to the point where he learned to distinguish the voice of God from every other voice that he knew. When he recognized who was calling him, he then recognized that he was a servant. it's very easy to move along in our common routines. But, it is essential that we take the time to distinguish His voice and to listen - truly listen, even when what He says is hard to hear.

We need to be purposeful in hearing the voice of God. He speaks a lot more than we hear. Rather than just "talking" during our times in prayer, we need to incorporate more listening. We also need to be willing to hear the tough things and willing, as a servant, to speak the tough things.

Wherever you are in your day, even right now, take some time to listen. Allow the voice of the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Let Him lead you, correct you, love you, challenge you, and encourage you. In the noise of your day, allow His voice, even as a whisper, to be the loudest and most peaceful voice you hear.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Than Strength Alone

"He will protect His Godly ones, but the wicked will perish in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone" (1 Samuel 2:9).

No one will succeed by strength alone. So many people try to make things happen on their own strength, by their own will, and to serve their own passions. They wear out and become discouraged when the results fall short of the intended goal. Our strength was only designed to take us so far. it was never intended to take us all the way. We need something more than just our own ideas, motivation, determination, or will. We need Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit.

We can not do this life on our own. When we try to drive on the fumes of good ideas and good intentions, we will most definitely run out of the fuel of the the anointing of His Holy Spirit and power. We can't focus on strategies, good ideas, and great methods, alone. We must focus on the Giver of these things. We need to surrender ourselves to our source, and to receive His strength for the journey.

Be reminded today of not just what you really need, but who you really need. Because, when you come to grips with that reality, the "what you need" is more than supplied by the "who you need." Don't forget, the WHO is greater than the WHAT. And alone, you don't have even THAT!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is He Enough?

"'What's the matter, Hannah?' Elkanah would ask. 'Why aren't you eating? Why be so sad just because you have no children? You have me - isn't that better than having ten sons?'" (1 Samuel 1:8).

I love the story of Hannah, because it represents so many of our lives. She prayed for something until she wore her knees out, and then she prayed some more. But, she began to allow her sorrow for what she didn't have, to blind her to what she did have. The words of her husband are words that I believe Jesus asks us today. "Aren't I enough?"

It is so easy to become burdened with discouragement over what we don't see happening in our areas of performance. We become consumed in finding our status in our statistics. We give into the taunting and gossip of others with their shallow observations of what's really going on. Al the while, our "Elkanah" (Jesus), is reminding us, "...you still have Me."

Our focus, at times, has become skewed. We get discouraged at how we see our performance. We begin to look at ourselves through the eyes of other people, and begin to assume how they see us. It's amazing that we don't just struggle with judging others through our eyes, but we judge ourselves through other's eyes. We need to remember that above all, we still have Jesus...and He's more than enough! If you have nothing else in your life, but you still have Jesus, then you have all you'll ever need.

"When Jesus is all you have, then Jesus is all you need." - Jeanne Mayo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Everywhere

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm 139:7-10).

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms. In it we are reminded that no matter what we do or where we go, God is always there. Think about it. When things are going great, He's there. When things are going somwehat less than ideal, He's still right there beside us encouraging us; reminding us of His never ending presence.

What are you going through right now? Be reminded that whatever it is or wherever you may be, He is right there with you. Rely on His strength and His power and His everlasting love to pull you through!


Fear Not!

"And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid" (Mark 16:8).

Even though Jesus had told them that this day was going to come, they allowed fear to close in on them. The death of Jesus had been foretold, and He had not been silent about it either. This was to have been no surprise. Hadn't they trusted Him? Hadn't they believed Him? And if so, why now were they giving into a fear that contradicted that faith? They were instructed by the angel in the empty tomb of Jesus to go and tell what they had seen. Yet, fear had crippled them, keeping them from saying anything. Where was their trust?

Don't we do the same thing? Hasn't God told us that He'd "never leave or forsake us"? Or, that He will "provide according to His riches in glory"? Don't we sing songs about surrendering all and standing on the promises? Yet, in our moments of weakness, chaos, and confusion, we give into the fear that seeks to unhinge our faith.

If we trust Him, we will expect Him to do all that He has promised to do. He is the Lord, and when He speaks, it will come to pass. We must trust Him, and choose not to be taken by surprise when God does do what He said. Often, when God does something spectacular, we have an almost automatic response of, "O WOW! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!" If we truly trust Him and believe Him, that statement begins to lose its credibility. He is who He says He is, and He does what He says He will do. I don't have to figure it out, understand, or agree. My responsibility is to trust. He is faithful.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Message @ CrossWay


God has not called us to live lives of isolation or loneliness. He has called us together to live a life of relationships.

Relationships are Modeled. The Trinity of God is the greatest example of the purity of relationships. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working and living infinitely together. Jesus was "eager" to spend time with His disciples, even on the night of His betrayal. Relationships were a priority to Him, and He modeled that.

Relationships are Reflective. We are called to mirror the relationships that are modeled. We are better together, and our relationship with God should be so passionate that it spills over into our relationship with each other. How we love each other will show others how we love Jesus...and it will show them how He loves.

Relationships are Strategic. Solid relationships don't just happen. They are ON PURPOSE. We are called to be strategically involved with those that God has crossed our paths with. It's not about going to church, but being the church. We are to be ONE as Jesus and the Father are ONE. We can't be one, if we live in the mindset of being two. When we choose not to engage in relationships, actively pursuing to be a part of the family of God, we not living as one, but as two. God has called us to more.

On the cross, Jesus gave Himself because of His love. We are, too, to give ourselves to one another out of that same love. And love...it really does change everything!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Easy Way Out

"So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified" (Mark 15:15).

This was the day of judgement for Jesus. Pilate could find no fault in this man of love that seemed to be hated by so many. But this man of the government had a way out. It was custom for him to release a prisoner each year. This year, he would narrow the choices down to just two.

Pilate tried to make it easy for them to choose Jesus by offering them the worst possible alternative. Barrabbas was a brutal killer and Jesus had only done miraculously great things. But, they chose Barrabbas over Jesus. Jesus brought conviction and responsibility along with blessing and promise. They desired, instead to hold on to temporal at the expense of the eternal. They chose to take the "easy way out."

We have done similar. Haven't we? Think about it. We've chosen something else in order to avoid the conviction or responsibility, but at the same time forfeiting the promise and blessing - only to pay an even greater price later.

We must purpose each day to choose that which honors God over our own desires - no matter the temporal cost. The easy way out usually leaves us with greater hardship later on. Many times, it's the tough choices that get us to where we need to be. Sometimes it's facing those negative attitudes head on; recognizing the pride that still lives within our hearts; exposing the secrets that lurk in the crevices of our mind. Taking the "easy way out" will only lead us to greater pains head on.

Don't allow "Barrabbases" in your life to go free. They will do again what they've always done before. Allow Jesus to be set free to be all that He wants to be in your life. Allow Him to do in you what only He can do. Don't restrict Him, don't hold Him back. Refuse to take the "easy way out."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Priceless

"There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that?" (Mark 14:4).

This verse is part of a powerful passage that speaks to the great compassion and mercy of Jesus. It's about a woman who had developed a reputation of being anything but reputable. She was a disgrace to the highly inflated standards of their culture. She represented everything that they believed to be wrong with society, while at the same time sitting there drenched in the stink of their own hypocrisy. This woman comes and breaks open a costly, priceless bottle of perfume and begins to pour it out on Jesus. There are comments, criticisms, mockery, and resentment that is shared in the open.

They couldn't understand why this woman would "waste" this costly oil. Or, why Jesus would allow such waste. But, what they couldn't see was what this oil had really cost her - all of the pain, the humility and humiliation, the rejection, the being seen as devalued, dejected, and disdained in the eyes of the people. This oil had cost her much, and she was pouring it out on Jesus.

There are many things that God has allowed in my own life. Many of which I could never understand how a loving God would allow. But, I have come to a place in my own life to thank Him. Because, He hasn't wasted one thing that He's allowed in my life. He has used all of these things to bring me to where I am, and will use those things to take me on to where He wants me to be. God doesn't waste, He uses.

Satan has a plan for your life; to destroy you, to lie to you, to harm you, to mislead you. But, God has always been at least one step ahead with a plan that is so sovereign, that it takes into consideration every failure, tragedy, misstep, mistake, and betrayal. But, God can use it. Don't ever feel as though what you've been through defines who you are. No. Let God redefine what you've been through. What Satan meant to harm you with, God's not only going to bless you, but bless through you! So, go ahead. Thank Him. Not just for the circumstance, but for what He's going to do in spite of that circumstance. God doesn't waste anything. It's priceless.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rock Solid

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mark 13:31).

There is so much trust that is put into things that will not last. Marriages end over "things." Relationships face ruin over "things." People build their lives based on "things." Things will pass away. Work will pass away, success, dreams, and ambitions will pass away. Even families will pass away. But, there is something is, indeed, rock solid that has, does, and will stand the test of time. The Word of God, the Truth of God, the Promises of God will not ever, ever, ever pass away.

We can hold on to His truth. It's His truth reveals who He is. It reveals who we are, because of who He is. The promises of His Word are yes, amen, and forever. He is not a man that He should lie. His very nature is Truth. God cannot change His nature. When Jesus spoke a word to the people of that day, it was a word that they could count on, build upon, trust in.

What have we really to fear? His Word is true. When He speaks to us, our response must be to receive and believe. Nothing less. We can't allow anything, fear, worry, stress and the like, to rob us of what God has said. Of two things we can count on: 1) Everything in tis physical life will pass away, and 2) Every Word of truth out of the mouth of God will stand.

Spend time in His Word. Trust Him at His Word. Live OUT His Word. It is life-changing, never-ending, and rock-solid. His Word is ALIVE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God & Government

"Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at Him" (Mark 12:17).

The two things people say that you should never argue about are...yes, I'm sure you've already thought the answer before finishing reading this line: religion and politics. No, I'm not going to try to tell you what party Jesus would be in, or which candidates are "really" Christians, or that all of one party or the other is going to Heaven, Hell, or some place in between!

In this verse, however, Jesus does present some hard-hitting truths that become easy for many of us to lose sight on. Though in our nation we have the separation of Church and State, you can't separate God and Government. Why? Jesus responds to those who were trying to trip Him up by acknowledging the need to render to the government that which they were responsible and held accountable to do. The same is true today in our lives.

So many people, Christian and non-Christian, spend much time debating, arguing, complaining and mocking those that are in leadership. Somehow we think that because we did not vote for someone, or because we disagree with them that we are allowed, if not obligated, to do show our contempt. The Bible calls us to a higher standard; to honor our leaders; to respect those who are in authority; and teaches us that NO ONE comes to a place of authority without God's hand involved.

As a great lover of political history, and a pastor, I enjoy wrestling with the tough political and theological issues of the day. But, at the end of the day, I have to remember that in everything I do, I am called to honor God. And, I am to render to "Caesar" what is due him. God says that I am to obey the laws of my land, honor and respect my leaders, and be a light that shines the name of Jesus. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's.

I encourage you today to take some time and pray for our leaders. Wherever you are reading this in world, pray God's intervention, His guidance, and His blessing on those that have authority over you. When your leaders are blessed, then so are you blessed! Would you join me today? "Father God, I pray that you bless the leaders of my nation. I ask that You reveal Yourself to them in ways, perhaps, they've never known. I pray Your wisdom and Your guidance would be given to them, received by them, and lived out through them. I thank You for the freedoms we have. Lord, may our heart always be to honor You as we honor the leaders that You have allowed us to have. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And God Said...

"And they told them what Jesus had said" (Mark 11:6).

"Because I said so." I cannot begin to even express to you how many time I have heard that phrase in my life, or how many times I promised that I would never use it. I can also not begin to tell you how many times that I have used it as well!

Serving in the United States Army, one of the first things I learned to do, was to obey without question. There is a time for questions, and then there is a time for trust. Trust is only trust when it is followed up by obedience. If I was told to do something, I did it. Why? What if I didn't understand? What if I didn't agree? Those questions, though valid, did not measure up to the fact that there was something that needed to get done, I was the one to do it, and I didn't need to understand. I just needed to do it. Because, after all, I was told.

The disciples were doing something here, that could have potentially caused great conflict. In preparations for His entry into the city, He had instructed His followers where there would be a young colt, what they were to do with it, and what they were to say to anyone who questioned them. Jesus had told them what to do and what to say. So, they did it. They told the people what Jesus had told them to say.

It's not always easy to speak to people the message that God has for them. It's a risk of relationships and rejections. But, we cannot worry about how people may or may not respond. We must be willing to share what God has instructed us to say. Our goal is not to please people, but to please God.

Be encouraged and challenged today to listen to His voice. Don't just listen, but commit to obey Him. If you trust Him, then you will obey Him. He will tell you what to do, where to go, and how to respond when questioned. You don't have to understand it all. But, you can trust Him. The big question is, "do you?"