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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Original Idea

"Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people" (John 18:14).

How funny it is, when we think we have come up with an original idea when it involves the plans and will of God.  Caiaphas was the high priest at the time of the life of Jesus, and was ever so eager to find a way that would see to it that Jesus was destroyed, and that he wouldn't be blamed for wrong doing.  Caiaphas, thinking himself so clever, suggested the benefit of having one man die for the people.  Though his motivation was devious, his idea wasn't quite as original as he would have liked to have taken credit for.

Before Caiaphas thought it was a good idea for his reasons, the Father had chosen Jesus to come and die for the people long before time had begun.  God had a plan.  He thought of it first!  And, He though it all the way through!  He set things in motion in order that Jesus would do exactly what He came to do.  It didn't matter that Caiaphas though he was calling the shots.  He, though he knew it not at the time, was actually being used as a part of God's plan!  He was only playing into the hand of the One who was holding it all together.

You can trust that God's got it all under control on your behalf as well.  When the enemy of your soul attacks, he's only playing into God's sovereign plan.  No, it's not God's plan for the tragedies and troubles to be a part of your life, but He will use everyone of them for your good and for His glory.  No weapon formed against you will prosper!  What the enemy would use to destroy you, God will turn it for you good, because God work all things together for your good.  God thought of it first!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Equipped

"Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:17-18).

As a veteran in the United States Army, I have a deep appreciation for all of our men and women who have served and who are serving now in our armed forces.  I remember very clearly in 1996 when I enlisted in the US Army.  I traveled to South Carolina to engage in the "best of times and worst of times" of basic training in the mugginess of basic training in the summer.  Of the many lessons that were "drilled" in us, one continues to resonate withing the caverns of my mind: "Always remember the equipment you have been given.  Being well-equipped could mean the difference between life and death."  That lesson far surpasses serving in the military.  It is a lesson that helps us in our everyday lives.  It's also a lesson with great spiritual connotations and significance.

In the same way, God never sends us out to do anything without making sure He has equipped us with everything we need.  Before He sends out His disciples to carry on the mission He has begun, He asks the Father to sanctify them - to purify, consecrate, and to make them holy - with the Word of Truth.  Jesus understood that the disciples would never be ready to "go" if they first weren't "going" to the Word - to be challenged, convicted, cleansed, and changed!

The same is true with you an I.  If we're not in the Word of God on a consistent basis, then we are too ill-equipped  and unprepared, and will be ineffective to be sent on the mission that is closest to God's heart.  It is important that we don't allow this truth to escape us.  Busyness is not excuse for not being consistent in maintaining a daily, healthy appetite for the truth of God's Word.  Everything God has called us to do and everywhere He has called us to go will only ever be effective if we remain diligent in studying the applicable truth of the Bible.  His Word is "a lamp" for our feet, and a "light" to our path.

As you begin or continue your day today, take some time to read again the truth of God's Word.  The Bible says that we are to hide His word in our hearts, that we might not sin against Him.  Life is a journey with a path that leads to the will of God.  But understand this: we can go where He sends when we know what He says.  In His Word, we are equipped.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Guiding Light

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you in all truth.  He will not speak on His own He will speak only what He hears and He will tell you what is yet to come" (John 16:12-13).

It is so easy to get overwhelmed when you begin to realize how big the gap is between what you do know and what you need to know.  Jesus was being sensitive to the growing concern of the disciples, that perhaps they were not ready to continue on in this pioneering journey that He had been preparing them for.  he was comforting them.  Even though He was leaving this earth, and even though there was still so much more they needed to learn from Him, He would send the Holy Spirit.  He would never leave them "high and dry."  The success of the mission He was investing in them depended upon Him fully equipping them, thus investing in its very success.

The Holy Spirit would guide them in all Truth.  He would be the "headlights" that would illuminate the path as they journeyed through spiritual landscapes they hadn't yet fully known.  Because of this promised Comforter, they would never have to feel lost, alone, or overwhelmed.

Each day, it is so easy to reminded of that great chasm that separates us from where we are and where should be; what we know, and what we have yet to learn.  And, though the temptation to give into the emotions that overwhelm like the crashing of a wave, we can stand tall with confidence and filled with a peace that passes all understanding.  Because, if His Spirit lives in us, then we have access to everything God wants us to know at just the time He's like us to know it.

Don't allow yourself to become overburdened with all of the things about God that you "should" know, but you don't.  Don't allow those thoughts in your mind that seek so hard to convince you that it's just too much, it's all made up, or, you'll never be able to "master" this anyway.  Rather, continue to run to Him, rest in Him, and depend upon the leading and guiding of the light of His Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Live It Out Loud!

"'And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning'" (John 15:27).

Jesus emphasized to His disciples that the time they had spent together was never intended to be a private for exclusive club.  This was never meant to be a "secret society."  They had a responsibility to testify of all they had seen and learned since the beginning of their journey with Him.  They "jury" would be ready to hear the testimony.  They jury would be every person that they would interact with in life.  They would be observed, heard, and a judgment call would be made based on that testimony.  Silence would do nothing to solidify their belief in who Jesus was and is.

What Jesus has done in our lives was never intended to be isolated, hidden, or private.  He uses us to declare His glory, and to tell the story of how He's come through in our lives; how He's been there when we've been all alone; and how He's helped pick us up and hold us together when we've felt as though everything was falling apart.  Our lives are to be living billboards.  We are to live to proclaim.  We are to search out opportunities and recognize those that God searches out for us.

Our call is to "live it out loud!"  It's not an option.  It will cost us: comfort, friends, opinions, and more.  But, God has done too much in our lives, whether we realize or admit it or not, from the "beginning" for us not to tell.  For many of us, He's rescued us, accepted us, been a Father to us.  He's been our hope, are provision, our way-maker and so much more.  It should be our privilege, but it is also our duty to share it with others what we have seen Him do in our own lives.

So, let me ask you: what has He done in you?  Has He ever gotten you through something so incredible, that you look back and know that He was right there with you?  Has He forgiven you?  Given you a fresh start?  Your life is a living billboard.  What does it say?  What does it tell others about Jesus?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Hardest to See

"Jesus answered, 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?'"
(John 14:9).

In 1972, there was a song that was written for Patti Labelle, in which she passed it over.  It was then given to Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring the late Teddy Pendergrass.  The song, though recorded in the 1970's, has been re-recorded and covered by other artists, and has had a following in every decade since.  The infamous lyrics are those that find there way lingering in one's mind, being sung over and over again, though the rest of the song just fades away.  Those lyrics?  "If you don't know me by now...you will never, never, never know me..."

How amazing it is that we could ever be in the presence and company of someone we love, or say we love, and still miss who they really are.  In John 14, Philip was asking Jesus a question in regards to "seeing the Father."  Jesus had just told them that if they had seen Him, then they had seen the Father, yet Philip still asks Jesus to show them the Father.  Jesus responds by challenging all the time He had poured into Philip's life, and yet Philip didn't "know" Him?

Is it possible that we can spend time in our relationship with Christ and still be missing what He's trying to show us?  Everything is not always so black and white, as we seem to understand it.  Sometimes the hardest things to see is what is right in front of our eyes.  In our relationship with Christ, we must seek to get to know Him in ways we've never known before - to pursue constant and passionate intimacy with Jesus.

Our time with Jesus should mean something; to be so close to Him that we think like He thinks and talk like He talks.  Let your focus be to learn from Him, to pick up the "little" things He's showing you.  Don't miss out on anything that should be part of the fruit of intimacy He longs to have with you!  Take some time, even now, to talk to Him.  Tell Him what's going on.  Yes, He already knows, but as you open your heart to Him, He will begin to show Himself more to you!  He will comfort you, guide you, challenge you, but show you how to move on.  Open the Bible, and the let the words that were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God inspire you, too.  Learn from His Word.  Develop a love for His truth.  Choose to live it out.  Don't miss what's right before you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Close to God

"Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  Simon Peter there motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He [Jesus] spoke.  Then, leaning back on Jesus' breast, he said to Him, 'Lord, who is it?'"
(John 13:23-25).

Oh, how many are the times that I have heard the seemingly ageless cliche', "It's not what you know, but it's who you know!"  As much as I have despised that phrase at different points of my life, I truly do understand it to have a solid basis in reality.  And, when you think with an eternal perspective, "what" will only get you so far, drop you off, and let you fall.  But, "who" will pick you up and take you further than you could have ever accomplished while riding solo.

This was the relationship that the Apostle John had with Jesus.  It wasn't based on ceremony or obligation.  It wasn't ritual.  It was relational.  How awesome for John to be so close to Jesus that he could actually feel the beat of His divine heart!!  And, Jesus did not mind.  It can easily be concluded that Jesus welcomed this closeness.  This intimacy was recognized by the other disciples as Peter asked John to ask Jesus for clarification on what Jesus had just spoken.  Jesus had just made a comment in regards to the one who would betray Him.  So, Peter, seeing the closeness John had with Jesus, questioned him for answers.

This is the type of relationship that God desires for us all.  To be so close Jesus that we are living in the rhythm of His heartbeat.  Is this the intimacy that you desire with Jesus?  Our desire for intimacy with Jesus is that it be so overwhelming in our lives that its evidence spills over.  Don't ever be satisfied with the ritual of religion, but seek the closeness of relationship, which should be the focus of religion.  Each day, we need to live with a purpose to pursue and to enjoy that intimacy with Jesus.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Maintaining Focus

"You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me" (John 12:8).

There once was a man who had won rewards coupon to a large home improvement store not too far from where he lived.  As a homeowner, he had come to learn very quickly that the list of projects to be done seemed as endless and infinite as sometimes God, Himself!  Every time one project was crossed off the list, three more found there way to replace it.  So one can only imagine the excitement of this homeowner to receive "free" merchandise from a store that would help him to accomplish these projects.  However, the man just couldn't decide which project he wanted to tackle first.  Would he buy paint for kids' rooms?  Perhaps that new power washer he'd been eying for quite some time?  Or, he could replace all hardware on the kitchen cabinets, or build those new shelves for the family room!  The more he wrestled in his mind over what, he failed to look at the "when."  By the time he had decided on new tools for the garage, the store clerk had the unfortunate deed of informing the man that he had waited too long and the reward had expired.  He had focused on the wrong detail.  The benefit of the coupon was no longer.

Jesus was addressing the fact of His physical human presence on earth, not His omnipresent existence.  He is still, now, everywhere and all the time.  He was also pointing out how his disciples were missing what was most important.  Jesus responded to the one, Judas, who would soon deceptively betray Jesus, but with an answer that still applies today.

There will always be the "poor" among us.  There will always be things to do, people to see, and places to go.  There will always be opportunity to do "good and noble" things.  But, when the "good" takes our focus off of God, we are headed for great emptiness and missed opportunities.  Our focus is to worship Him and out of that we live out our lives.

How's your focus?  Isn't on Him?  Is it on the One who gives you breath, who loves you in spite of the mistakes and failures?  Or, is it on the details in this life that will one day matter no more?  Take some time today and focus or refocus your day, your life on Him.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Matters Most

"'If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation'" (John 11:48).

It was suppose to be about Him!  He had been prophesied about and promised!  It was supposed to be about worshiping Him, loving Him, accepting Him, and learning from Him.  But yet, they seemed more inconvenienced by Him and were more concerned what He might cost them.  Even today, there are many who put more focus on their customs than their Christ.  Standing up for Him, His kingdom and His righteousness is too costly.  So...they don't.

I am a Christian.  I love Jesus and I accept His Word as absolute truth.  If you are at that same point as I am, then you have also come to know this truth as well: It's going to cost something.  No, I'm not being heretical in the belief that you have to do something to earn salvation, but to say that it doesn't cost you something is just wrong.  It will cost you...well...YOU.  We have to lay our whole selves on the line, surrendering all to Him.  You will find that HE is more valuable in your life and to your life than anything or anyone else could be.  Choose to live each day as though He is the only one who matters.  Because...He is!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Called to Point, Not Perform

"...and many people came Him.  They said, 'Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.'  And on that place, many believed in Jesus" (John 10:41-42).

Have you noticed that irritating feeling of discomfort that comes when you hear people talk about sharing your faith with others?  You feel a pressure in your gut that reminds you of what it was like to eat the wrong thing late at night.  Then, you begin to feel a guilt for not jumping out there and becoming the "Billy Graham" of your generation!  Perhaps those feelings are based on perceptions that we have derived from a great mis-characterization of the responsibility we are to have as Christians.  No, you don't get off the hook that easy.  We do have a responsibility, but it tends to grow in our mind until it becomes so big that we talk ourselves out of it!

The Biblical example of John the Baptist is one that sheds great light on the more accurate expectation that we have.  John never came to the savior of anything or anyone.  That wasn't his responsibility.  His entire ministry was focused on preparation and pointing.  He prepared the hearts of people and then pointed them to Jesus.  He declared that he had to decrease so that Jesus could increase.  It never was about John, yet he continued to preach and point.  He didn't point to himself, but to Christ.  And, because he had done so many found that what he spoke of was true and they believed in Jesus.  John didn't need to perform.  He only needed to point!

The pressure comes when we believe the lie that we somehow have to perform.  We here so much that we to be "Jesus with skin-on" that we forget that there is only ONE Jesus, and we're not it!  We are to reflect who He is, not recreate who He is.  We don't have to perform.  We are not to live to be accepted or applauded by people.  What we do is not to be for our glory, but for the glory of God.  Our purpose as a believer is to live this life LOUD, and with purpose, preparing the hearts of people, and then pointing them to Jesus.  We can't push them, but we can show them, encourage them, live it out ourselves, and then leave the rest up to God.

Go ahead and take a deep breath.  You don't have to BE Jesus.  But, let HIM be Jesus IN YOU!  You be the pointer, the one who's life shines with the love of Jesus, showing people the way.  So, the challenge is simple.  Our lives must be lived in a way that points to Him, not to us.  Take a moment and consider the motivation of your heart.  Are you living your life to perform?  Are you on the stage, trying to accomplish the acceptance of others?  Or, are you living your life to point?  Are you convinced that there is One greater?  One that you need?  One that will increase in your life ONLY as you decrease?  Be free from the pressure to perform!  Just POINT!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Changed

"His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, 'Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?'" (John 9:8).

In 1996, a young woman, age 18, surrendered her life to Christ.  It wasn't in a large stadium with a gifted evangelist.  There wasn't even an altar call.  She surrendered to a call that was much greater.  It was a call to a changed life.  She had lived in the emptiness of drugs, alcohol, parties, pressures of fitting in, and a life that was lived only for herself.  But, in that moment when she came to the brutal reality that her life was going no where fast as long as she was in the pilot's seat and turned it over to Christ, her life began to change!  Six years later, that young lady would become my wife.  She would become a pastor's wife.  God would use a life that was going nowhere fast, to be a living and loud example of the power of HIS change upon a surrendered heart.  THAT is change you can believe in!

Like butterflies in radiant beauty that were once "only caterpillars", change is evident.  People notice something different when change is obvious.  An "out loud, on purpose" change doesn't even have to be introduced - it's obvious.  John 9:8 speaks of a man who had been born blind, had been touched by the powerful hand of Jesus, and it through the entire community into chaotic wonder!  The difference was so stark that they even questioned whether or not it was even the same man!

Never underestimate the power of our loving God!!  He can take a life that has become one with the muddy bottom, resurrect it and transform it into a glorious work of heavenly wonder!  No matter where you have been or what you have done, God's power is greater!  You are NOT beyond change.  Your situation is NOT beyond the touch of Jesus.  Where you have been is NOT greater than where God desires you to go!  Though people may not believe it, accept it, or admit it, the change God can do in you, through Jesus Christ, will for His glory and for your good!  Let the awesomeness of the love of Jesus change you.  And if you have encountered that change...LIVE that change!  Allow that change to be OUT LOUD and ON PURPOSE.  Don't be afraid of it, ashamed of, or intimidated by it.  Live it out and let it live through you!  All the while, giving glory and honor to "He who has begun a good work in you, and is faithful to complete it..."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Last to Leave

"At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there" (John 8:9).

This woman had been caught in an act that was illegal, immoral, and indecent, and grossly unethical.  She stood condemned on the spot in an open court of public opinion.  This jury of biased and hypocritical peers were about to carry out her sentence of death until Jesus stepped in.  He stood up for her.  He spoke for her.  He stayed when everyone else had turned and walked away.  She didn't deserve His presence, but Jesus showed her a love in that moment that she had never been able to find on her own.  When the last one of her accusers had left, Jesus was still with her.  She was not alone.

You are not alone.  You may "feel" alone.  But, you are not alone.  You don't stand alone.  You don't cry alone.  Jesus is always there with you.  When other turn away, and they will, He remains.  When public opinion is unfairly bent against you, Jesus stands up, speaks up, and stays up with you.  He's not intimidated.  And, with Him on your side, neither do you need to or have to be!  He longs to be your Lord and the Light of your salvation.  Whom shall you fear or be afraid of?  No one and nothing!

Surrender every hurt, every fear, and every failure to Him.  Don't worry about the opinions of others.  There is not one of us that is without sin.  The sins we hold against each other, in like measure, will be held against us.  We are ALL in need of Savior!  Allow Him to free you today, to release you from the bondage of what everyone else thinks.  When it's all said and done, where are they?  They are gone.  They can't stand blameless in the presence of Jesus.  They've all released their stones of judgment and walked away.  But Jesus is still there.  Trust Him with it!  He's right there with you!

Monday, May 16, 2011

i [Am NOT] Robot

"'No one ever spoke the way this man does,' the guards declared" (John 7:46).

Back a few years ago, there was a movie that literally invaded the box office called i.ROBOT.  It was an exhilarating film that showed the "advantages" of a world where robots would replace humans.  In a different sense, I have thought at various times of my life as a child and now as an adult, what would it be like if we were just robots.  Think about it.  Programmed correctly, we would never worry about doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, or having a wrong thought.  As a matter of fact, we wouldn't really be capable of any thought...at least not one that wasn't already programmed.  What trouble we would certainly avoid.  Decisions would easier, mistakes would become a thing of the past, and all pain could be avoided simply because it wouldn't be in the design of the program.  How amazing.  How tragic!

In this passage in John, religious leaders had instructed the guard to arrest Jesus, to form and pass a judgment on Him.  This "judgement" would be based on the word of someone else.  They were to do nothing more and nothing less than follow orders.  But, when the guards heard Jesus speak, and actually listened to Him with both their ears and their hearts, they began to judge for themselves.  They were not robots.  They were capable of making an informed decision on who this man was and who He was not.

SO many people form opinions for or against Jesus based on other people's biases, passions, prejudices, or traditions.  The purest position is one that is made based on a personal decision that resonates from an open heart, and that seeks the truth for themselves.

I don't serve Jesus because I was raised to.  I don't worship Him because I was born into it, or because of what my relatives may or may not have done.  I was raised to know Him, and was told about Him, but was has changed my life, is that i have heard Him, personally, speak to my heart.  For me, it's not just a position.  It's personal.

God did not create us as robots, because a robot cannot choose.  If a relationship is to be real and authentic, it must be based upon choice.  Choice by it very nature, is based on free-will.  So the question is simple:  Why do YOU worship Jesus?  Why do YOU NOT worship Jesus?  Is it because of what people have said or how you've observed others?  Though influences are important and they matter, don't be persuaded or dissuaded based on people.  Ask Jesus to show you Himself!  He will.  And THEN you will find that He is the peace, the joy, the fulfillment, and everything that you've always needed.  You're not a robot.  You have a choice.  Your choice?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Alone With God

"Then Jesus went up on a mountain side and sat down with His disciples" (John 6:3).

Have you ever noticed how jam-packed and full everyday life can get?  Sometimes it gets so full that it's a like the garbage bag that you try to get "one more thing" in, only to try to get even one more in, just to find out the bag can only stretch so far.  Now, you have everything you thought was contained all over you and everything around you.  There are days when that is life!

The disciples of Jesus began to grow in a deeper knowledge and understanding of that same truth.  Life is full, and not always of the "good stuff."  In this verse we find that there was a great crowd of people that had been following Jesus and the disciples.But, before they engaged in the ministry to the people, they first went up to the mountain and spent time with Jesus.  The ministry would wait.  The people would wait.  The opportunity would wait.  The disciples had determined to make spending time with Jesus, whom they would call Lord, Master, and Teacher, a priority that would become a non-negotiable.

Spending time with Jesus would prepare them for all that He wanted to do before them, through them, and at the same time, in them.  Nothing could ever replace or compare to that mountain-time.  How silly the disciples would have been if they had rushed in to do the "right thing" without spending the "right time" with the "right One?"

We can never let "life" get in the way of spending time with the giver and redeemer of life!  There is no job, meeting, event, ministry, or hobby that we will ever do that will be as valuable as what Jesus wants to do in our lives, as individual, when we set aside time just with Him on the "mountain," sitting at the feet of Jesus , and allowing Him to pour His truth and guidance into our lives, refreshing us with encouragement, and preparing us further for the road He has set before us.

You may not be able to get up to a mountain top, but the reality still exists that, each day, you need time alone with God.  Take some time to read His Word.  Think about it; meditate on it.  Pray.  Take the time to begin a dialogue with the Creator of the entire Universe, all that is within it, and all that is beyond it.  He is available, approachable, and awaits you!  Allow Him to embrace you, prepare you, and to walk with you as you purpose to spend "mountain time" with Him.

Shine!

"John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light" (John 5:35).

John was a lamp that shine and gave light.  He lived out what he was designed to do.  He showed the way to Jesus.  His light was not to shine on himself, but to illuminate Christ.  We are called to be and to do the same.  We've been called to shine - not to be so worried about being seen as eccentric or fanatic, but to shine; to give off a light that leads other to Jesus.  There's supposed to be something that makes us different - and we are to shine!

We are to be like a match in the darkness.  As we burn with a passion for Jesus, our light shines.  Everything we set our hands to do should be an extension of that light.  Every word we speak to anyone should be a personification of that light.  Who we are and what we do are one and the same.  They cannot be separated.  Jesus called us "the light of the world," as He also is the "Light of the world."  We were not called to hide, and not asked to be stars, but to shine like stars, reflecting the light of Jesus to a world darkened with doubt, discouragement, depression, fear, anxiety, and so many other chains that hold us back from all God desires us to be.  We are to shine His love, grace, power, and glory.

Does your life shine in a way that illuminates Jesus?  Take a moment today, right now, and ask God to forgive you for the times that it hasn't, and to give you the strength to pursue an even greater intimacy with Him, that every moment of your life would be like that match that shines, illuminating the awesomeness of Jesus!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ready Now!

"Don't you have a saying, 'It's still four months until harvest?'  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest'" (John 4:35).

Later.  It's a word that seems like magic.  Say this simple 5-letter word, and immediate responsibility begins to melt away like ice cream in the summer.  We apply this word to so many things.  We'll pay that bill later.  We'll clean out the garage later.  We'll spend more time with the kids later.  We'll get that paper done, finish reading that book (or start reading that book)...but we'll do it later.  Oh, and people that we know we should share with about the most amazing and transformational journey that has led us to Christ?  Yes.  It's important.  We should do it.  But, we have time.  They're not ready.  We'll do it...later.

Jesus addressed this timeless mindset in His own day.  He used an illustration that He knew they'd understand.  There would be a great tendency and temptation to be so routine, that they might even miss something as great as a harvest!  Jesus was speaking in regards to those society had prejudiced, but yet He had already proclaimed the love of God for the whole world that "whosoever" would believe could receive.  This was the story of the woman at the well.  She was one that society prohibited Him to talk to.  He, however, saw something deeper.  He saw a longing and a true "thirsting" for something more real than she had ever known.  This woman was ready.  Her community was ready.  But, the harvest being ready to be received demanded the same from those to receive it.

The harvest is ready now!  Why should we be intimidated?  Open your eyes and ask the Lord of the Harvest to let you see what He sees.  We must not depend merely on the latest strategies, statistics, tactics and processes, but on a faith that God is drawing people by His Holy Spirit to receive the greatest transformation in their lives that they've ever known.  Don't miss that.  It is now.  Are we ready?  Are you ready?  Determine even now that you will see the harvest in your family, in your workplace, in your school, in your community!  Who is God placing upon your heart, even now?  The harvest begins with the one!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Look Up

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him" (John 3:14-15).

As a kid, one of the hottest places to be on a Friday or Saturday night was the local skating rink.  This is how you dated as a 5th grader!  You'd call a girl, or slip her one of those "check yes or no" notes and agree to meet at the rink so that you'd be sure to have someone for the "couple's skate."  Another popular element of weekend skate was "Limbo."  It was an honor to be able to get past the first few rounds, attempting to skate under the pole, balancing looking cool and not falling down.  The phrase that you always heard in the song that was played was "How low can you go?"  What always intrigued me, was that when I fell, going as low as I could go, my immediate reaction was to look up.

In life, I have found it to be the same.  It's amazing that sometimes we have to get pretty low before we will finally look up.  In these verses, Jesus was drawing a powerful and compelling analogy between Himself and someone His audience knew of very well: Moses.  When, on one occasion in the wilderness, when the people were being bitten by serpents and dying, Moses lifted on up.  Anyone who would lift their eyes to that snake became whole again.  Jesus said that He, not a serpent, but a Savior, would be lifted up.  Anyone in this world dying because of the destructive snake-bite of sin, would turn and lift their eyes to Him, they would be saved, healed, and made whole.

You and I are not immune to the struggles and sins of this world.  We still depend on the grace of the lifted and risen Savior.  We still have to purpose to look up from the struggle to the Savior; to depend upon Him, rest in Him, and be restored by Him.  Do you need healing today?  In your body, in your mind, in your soul?  Are you overwhelmed, over-burdened, overworked, or feeling just plain "over"?  Look up!  See Jesus.  Allow Him to make you complete, whole; to restore you and to refine you; to affirm you and to assure you that He is MORE THAN ENOUGH.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

God & Mom

"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and now, I am sure, dwells in you" (2 Timothy 1:5).

What an encouragement it is to have Godly mother's, grandmothers, and other women that God has brought into our lives, to encourage us, to love us and nurture us, like only a mother can.  Being a mom is hard-work, time consuming, and can become very discouraging.  No, I don't know this from first-hand experience, because well, I'm not a mom!  But I have had the privileged opportunity to see God use some incredible women in this truly unique role.

From my own mother, to whom I am forever thankful for and grateful to, to several other women that God has used to love me, shape me, and challenge me, and further on to my wife, who is the greatest blessing a child could ever hope, wish, pray for, or imagine!  They are encouragers, yet at times, whether they ever realize, notice, or admit, also need encouragement.

So, as a mother's day blessing, I pray that you join me in this word of encouragement to all of the mothers in our lives; that God would continue to greatly encourage them...


...with His PRESENCE.  Mom's can't be everywhere at all times, but God is.  He is with you when you are crying out for peace.  He's with you when you wonder if anyone really notices all that you do.  He's there with you early in the morning when you are spending time with just Him, and He's with you throughout the day until you close your eyes for the last time.  And even then, He's right there beside you, holding together all of the things that you feared my fall a part.


...with His POWER.  Though it may seem this way, mom's really can't do it all.  It's OK, you were never meant to.  His power is great and more than able to strengthen you for every task that He has called you to do.  When you are weak, He is strong.  His strength is made perfect in you weakness.  You can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you!

...with His Peace.  Mom's get discouraged, too.  It happens when you give in to the busyness of the day, when the "to do" list seems so much greater than the "to done" list.  It occurs when those you love really do begin to go down their own path, and good or bad, you worry about them and hope that you really did all that you could do.  Don't worry.  Give them to Him.  He loves them more than you ever could.  And He is the God of ALL peace.  A peace that passes all understanding; a calm that doesn't make sense.  Rest, today, in the peace of God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Believe

"What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which HE revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him" (John 2:11).

Jesus had disciples.  They had chosen to follow Him.  They had given their lives to being invested in by this Man of great mystery.  Yet, it was NOW that they believed in Him.  And though Jesus knew their hearts and their doubts concerning Him, He didn't reject Him.  His security in His purpose wasn't dependent upon whether or not they agreed, understood, doubted, or even rejected all of His points of view.

In spite of their questions and skepticism, Jesus saw an openness and a hunger for something real.  As they spent time with Him, connecting with Him, they began to see more than just the surface.  He was real.  He was authentic.  He was patient.  Though God's love is instant and unconditional, discipleship is a patient and persevering process.

I remember once in Cub@ while I was waiting for my driver to take me to a church for me to speak, I was sitting in the parlor of a small hostel talking, as best as I could, with the young owners.  They spoke little English, which was far better than my Spanish.  As we were talking, I asked them about their beliefs in Jesus Christ.  She responded that she was Catholic, but that her husband did not believe.  He followed up by admitting to being an atheist, not believing in God.  My immediate thought came flying out of my mouth without fully being processed in mind.  "But He believes in you."  The God we serve doesn't need to be believed by us in order to love us.  We can love Him because He first loved us.  And if we don't, it doesn't change the fact that He already did.  He is patient and loving.

The more time you spend getting to know who Jesus is, the more curious you become, the more you realize just how authentic He is.  The question is, are you committed to growing closer, knowing more, and showing a greater dedication to Him - believing in Him and believing Him.  When He speaks, trust Him.  When you don't understand, stand close to Him with eyes wide open as He continues to reveal Himself to you.  Just believe.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Judged

"'Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?' Nathanael asked.  'Come and see,' said Philip" (John 1:46).

 In 2009, the world was swept away by an odd woman of Scottish residence.  She walked onto the stage of a Britain's Got Talent audition, told the audience, one that would extend around the word, that she aspired to be a famous singer.  She didn't look the part.  She was frumpy, messy, and had an personality that could best be described as "odd."  The audience laughed at her, and the judges had rendered there verdict before the music ever began.  But when she opened her mouth to sing, the world according to YouTube would never be the same again.  No longer was she an unknown from Scotland.  She was Susan Boyle.  Judged.  But the verdict didn't stand.  She had made her mark.

Jesus, Himself, faced stereotypes, prejudice, and bias.  Here, he was being judged on a preconceived first impression.  Before Nathanael even took the time to consider who Jesus actually was, he had already formed a biased opinion.  Philip's response was contrary to what has become so natural today.  He did not get defensive, sarcastic, upset, or resort to name-calling or futile arguments.  He simply said, "come and see."  He didn't try to explain it all.  As a matter of fact, he was just trying to know more, too.  He didn't get offended or upset.  "Come and see."  He made Nathanael curious.  And, that's all it took.

Did you know that you don't have to debate and argue your belief's?  Nor do you need to try to convince someone as to why they need Jesus.  That's never been your responsibility!  Your goal is that your life would make them curious, no matter the stereotypes that may be formed against you or about you.  You want people to know that there is something good (honorable, reputable, distinguished) about Jesus.

Choose to live today and each day in a manner that invites, "come and see."  "Come and see what Jesus has done in me.  I may not completely understand Him, nor be able to adequately explain Him, but nevertheless, 'Come and see.'"  Though you may be judged by public opinion, stereotypes, and first impressions, know that the only responsibility you have in Christ, is to BE one that Christ lives IN and lives THROUGH.  You will either live to be judged by people's pride, or live to be judged by God's grace.  The choice is yours.  Live it out and make them curious.  And after they've heard you "sing" your lifesong to Jesus, the world, one person at a time, will never be the same.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Powerful Love

"And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deeply love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never full understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God" (Ephesians 3:18-19).

This boggles my mind - that people, myself included at times, can't comprehend the love that Christ has hown us. If people could only understand how real it was...and still is. How He loved us, even as we were (or are) still sinners. Paul is saying here that if we could first understand that we might then experience that love, and that then we would be filled with a power that comes because of that love.

If you truly thought about or tried to more fully understand the depth of His love, how would that empower you to live differently? Would you be more compassionate, more patient, more sensititive, more understanding, or even a better friend, husband, or wife? Let His love be power that guides your life today!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Guard

"Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).


Jo M. Guerrero tells the following story: My five-year-old daughter, Barbara, had disobeyed me and had been sent to her room. After a few minutes, I went in to talk with her about what she had done. Teary-eyed, she asked, "Why do we do wrong things, Mommy?" "Sometimes the devil tells us to do something wrong," I replied, "and we listen to him. We need to listen to God instead." To which she sobbed, "But God doesn't talk loud enough!"

Peter couldn't be more clear: WATCH OUT!!  PAY ATTENTION!!  DON'T GET DISTRACTED!!  What we don't realize is that there IS an enemy.  He's more than just a figure or symbol of evil.  He is evil.  He has been studying our weaknesses for the entirety of our lives up to the present.  He knows and seeks out our struggles.  We can not walk blindly through life hoping and wishing that we'll skate on through and be OK.  We have to be listening...to the right voice.  We have to be alert and aware of where we are weak.  We have to come to the hard but real truth that our own will power is never enough.  We must depend upon the strength of a Mighty God, and stand up underneath the shadow of His all encompassing wings.

No matter how intimately close you get in your relationship with Jesus, never get to the place where you think that you have no struggles, or that you think that you have become immune to temptations.  Yes, God is powerful, but unless you continue to remember every area of your life is in need of Him, and surrender those areas to His power, you become a sitting target for that hungry lion!  Remember this: You and I are both sinners saved by grace.  We are still desperately dependent upon His grace, His strength, and His shelter.  Oh how we need Him!  Stay focused on Him, aware of your weaknesses, and confident that He is able to strengthen you.  Stay on guard!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Gift Within You

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms" 
(1 Peter 4:10).

It may not be the Christmas season as you're reading this, but let's go back in time or fast forward a bit until you're there with me at Christmas time.  There we are in a shopping mall that's hustling and bustling with people that have waited until the last minute and are scrambling for both the perfect gift and the greatest deal.  As you walk through the highly congested sea of humanity, you pass by the great Christmas Tree that is set up right outside the food court.  Underneath it are scores of Christmas presents, all shapes, colors, sizes that are imaginable; each with ribbons, bows, and cards attached.  As a child, you may have wandered what was inside?  Who was it for?  Did one of those gift tags have my name on it??  But of course, as you matured (or maturing), you discovered that those beautiful gifts were nothing more than empty boxes smothered in paper, glue, tape, and ribbon, all to give the appearance of something great.  Yet, all it offered was emptiness.

Here's the truth.  God didn't create anyone to be a an empty box with pretty wrapping on the outside.  Each of us were created with something inside.  Something useful.  Something desirable.  Something great!  It's a gift given to you, but not just for you.  It's God's investment in you for the purpose of turning that around and investing it in the lives of other people.  Whatever the gift is, there is a purpose behind it.  We honor God when we use that gift to benefit and to bless other people.  How we serve others reflects the beauty of the grace of God.  When we hide it, horde it, or waste it, we sell short that grace and the confidence we have in that grace.

God has gifted you with a purpose.  Don't forget that.  It was on purpose and for a purpose.  When you realize that and when you use that gift, you are actually sharing that awesome grace of God.  Let that truth sink in and motivate you all the more.  You have been called to "be still and know that He is God," but not to be still and not be used by God.  He has gifted you, because He knew that you would have what someone might need.  Your obedience in heeding that call is what truly reflects your heart in regards to how you value, not just the gift, but the giver.

What has God given you to give to others?  What experiences, talents, hurts, accomplishments, dreams, tragedies, or special skills has He given you or allowed you to encounter?  You're not an empty box that is meant to be for display purposes only.  You are high-valued and have something great to offer, to use, and to benefit others.  Don't hold back.