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Friday, July 29, 2011

He Watches Over Me

"I have heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites, who insulted my people and made threats against their land" (Zephaniah 2:8).

Growing up in a less than perfect world has been some of the most fertile ground to be raised in.  The richness of the soil of trial and struggle, though unappreciated at the time of experience, has been proven most invaluable in my life.  Growing up in a single-parent home was complete with challenges that go beyond the struggles of the "average" everyday life.  I remember go to bed at night, nestling in the security of the blankets in my twin-sized bed in a room that was the buffer in between my mom and my sister's rooms.  So many nights, the quiet of the starry sky Texas nights were disturbed by the passionate cries of a young and broken single mom that shared a wall with a very much awake and impressionable young boy.  I would listen intently as she cried out to the Creator of the universe about how she didn't know how He would provide, but trusted Him to do so; how she needed His divine assistance in raising two young children; and how she desired for those children to learn what it meant to trust Him for everything, though they had, too, experienced much hurt, rejection, and fear.  That lesson was well learned.  From that point on, and as I have seen in the more than 20 years since then, that God is not ignorant, but observant.  He watches over me!

When we think that what we're going through is only noticed by us, we are wrong.  God sees.  He knows.  He cares.  There is nothing He misses.  And when there are those who are being abused, taken advantaged of, unappreciated, overlooked, and rejected, it does not escape the attention of an ever-present and all-knowing God.

Yes, there are days when it feels like you may be a human target for everything!  The one things you need to always remember  is that He is still YOUR GOD.  You are His child!  A gather knows how to take care of His children.  Continue to trust in Him.  Continue to find your security in Him.  When you begin to feel as though you're losing control, losing your peace, and losing faith, trust Him.  He knows the amount of hairs upon your head.  He knows your name.  He hasn't forgotten how to use pain for a purpose that is so great that it's unexplainable.  His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over you!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

To Settle is to Stagnate

"At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad'" (Zephaniah 1:12).

"Good enough."  It's a phrase that has imprisoned all of humanity since the time of creation.  For some it represents a fear and insecurity of trying to be good enough.  For so many others, whether we realize it or not, this phrase has become our modus operandi, simply put, the way we do things.  We coast, we get comfortable, and then we settle, doing just enough to get by.  We apply this destructive mindset in daily habits, how we eat, sleep, spend time with our family.  It effects our jobs, our finances, and our spiritual relationship with God.

The prophet is addressing a spiritual issue that has not become lost through the generations.  God is not and never will be satisfied, nor will He settle for our complacency.  He uses the analogy of wine left on its dregs, developing a crust on the surface because it hasn't been disturbed for some time, thus become worthless and without good use.

Our comfort comes at a great cost.  Jesus promised that serving Him would bring great peace, blessing, joy, and victory in our lives.  He never promised comfort as the our culture would define comfort.  We have lived out our own definition of comfort.  Laziness.  Mediocrity.  Satisfaction.  Stagnation.  Spiritual growth and vibrancy, revival even, comes when we allow God to stir up the pot of our lives, to disturb our every day norm.  We can never believe the lie that 'if we're OK with how things are, then God's OK, too.'  Laziness and complacency, and settling for the status quo has never been His standard.

Let this be your challenge today.  Choose not to get comfortable in the areas of your life that matter the most.  Don't settle for what you've always done just because you've always done it.  Especially when it's not yielding you the progress and blessing you really desire!  Be passionate about wanting to see the greatness that God has for your life.  Long for God to disturb everything you think is normal.  Then, get out of the way and let Him do it.  Listen to Him as He speaks to you about the areas in your life that need to change.  Trust and obey when He calls you beyond what has become your norm.  Choose not to settle.  Pray.  Read.  Apply.  Receive. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do You Believe?

"Later Jesus appeared to the eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen" (Mark 16:14).

He had spoken into their lives.  He had shown His power to them - and through them.  They had professed their own faith in Him.  But now, faith and what seemed like fact were in a battle that was overwhelming this once 'overwhelming' faith.  Jesus, now obviously risen, rebukes them for not believing Him.  They believed in Him, but did not believe Him.  Yet, He'd done exactly what He had said.

For so many, it's not so uncommon to identify as a Christian, as one who has 'faith', or as one who believes in Jesus.  Churches are filled with professors of faith.  Cars jam the highways with bumper stickers that declare "Real Men Love Jesus," "Honk if You Love Jesus" or "WWJD."  T-shirts, hats, and other tokens of faith advertisement are great and help to enable to someone to stand up and out for their faith, but the real test and evidence of faith is not what one wears, sports, or has affixed on the outside, but what is blazing on the inside.

Believing in Jesus is very important, but the greatest testimony of believing in Him is to BELIEVE HIM...PERIOD.  When He speaks, do you take Him at His word?  Have you cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you...yet you pick them back up again and worry about them some more?  That's not believing Him.  Do you know that His Word says that He'll never leave you nor forsake you, yet you struggle feeling down, discouraged, depressed, dejected, and alone?  That's not believing Him.  Are you holding on to the past, the hurts, the pains, and the baggage of days gone by, yet you say that you're "giving it all to Jesus"?  That's not believing Him.

Be challenged today to believe Him.  When He speaks, believe Him.  When He shows you His power, believe Him.  When you don't see what you want or anything at all, still believe Him.  Continue to trust Him, believe Him, and be fueled by the faith that is found in Him.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just Motions

"And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes on Him.  Then they led Him out to crucify Him" (Mark 15:20).

One of the most interesting, yet semi disturbing acts I have ever seen is that of a mime.  They are so serious about what they do.  Their precision is crisp, their timing is incredible, and they can make it look so real.  But, what it all comes down to is a man or a woman going through a whole heap of motions, looking like they're doing something, but really, doing nothing.  It's all an act.  It's a show.

Mark 15:20 reveals a very similar act that was portrayed during the final hours of the life of Jesus before His crucifixion, yet has persisted all through time since.  What they had done on the outside, clothing Him in majestic attire, was contradicted by what was on the inside.  Their actions contradicted their motivation.  It was unsustainable.  Therefore, their original intentions were eventually exposed and carried out.  They had no real intentions of honoring Him.  They were going through the motions, appeasing Him, and essentially, mocking Him.

How often do people, perhaps even ourselves if we're honest, do the very same thing?  Going through the motions can become infectious and catastrophic when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.  We mock, play, sometimes even make sport about showing Him honor, but then we remove the purple robe of honor and authority, and again assume "control" over our situations.

God will not be mocked.  He gets the final word.  We have the opportunity now, right now, to choose whether our worship is real or whether it some crafty, skilled work of dramatic pantomime.  We may be able to fool so many others, including ourselves.  But, God looks passed the motions and into the heart.  When He does, what does He see in you?  Take some time today and ask God to search your heart.  Don't be led by feelings and traditions.  Be genuine and authentic about Jesus being Lord, Savior, and King of your life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

God Provides

"The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.  So they prepared the passover" (Mark 14:16).

When Jesus speaks, we should listen, hold on to every word that is strategically uttered from His lips.  As I am writing this, I am reminded, yet again, at the amazing provision of God.  My wife, currently, is serving on a short term missions campaign in Bolivia.  When we heard about this possibility of this opportunity, we began to think of all the reasons why this might not work.  First of all, I was booked for the week of the trip to speak at a junior high youth camp.  You see, we have three kids, and there was no way I'd be able to take care of them all by myself!!  Then, there was the issue of the incredibly large amount of money in a relatively short amount of time.  Now, of course, we could right a check.  I can write a check for any amount.  But, I was pretty sure that writing a hot check to the church for a missions trip probably wouldn't make the "top 10 best decisions ever made" list!

So...we prayed.  We both believed that God wanted her to go on that trip.  In a wildly
short amount of time, God provided every penny that she needed, plus a few hundred to spare!  It was "just as Jesus had told" us.  We trusted Him.  He provided.

Jesus had told the disciples something that might not have made a lot of sense concerning His provision, but they trusted Him.  It happened just as He had told them.  When He speaks, do we trust Him?  It's not a matter of how much.  We either do or we don't.  There really is no in between.  If we trust Him, in spite of what we see, know, or understand, we will, at some point, find out that it will be just as Jesus has said.

Do you trust Him?  Do you trust Him to provide for you?  Someone told me recently of a personal revelation from God that they had had.  It was simply this: Jesus doesn't just want to be your provider.  He longs to be your Provision.  Let Him be everything you need.  And when He is, trust Him to be so.  Learn to hear His voice.  Read His word.  Trust Him.  He will provide!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Watch!

"'What I say to you, I say to everyone: "Watch!"'" (Mark 13:37).

This was a warning to each of us from Jesus.  He told them to "watch" - to be alert, to stay awake.  Basically, He was exhorting them not to fall asleep, get lazy, or to become complacent.  We are to rely on Him and to go full force towards Him and all He has for us.  This will be fueled by faith and not by feelings.  But, We must stay alert and vigilant.

"Don't get lazy!"  This was we have to remember for ourselves.  God has done some great things in  our lives, and has spoken some great promises to us.  But, we can't become complacent.  We can't become normal or routine with the things of God.  He has called us each new day to seek Him.  We need Him each day.  We should wake up and realize that we are, in fact, desperate for Him each new day.  We can't wait for tomorrow.  What God has given us to do, we must do - or begin to do - and do it today!

As you begin or continue this day, ask God to help you to open your eyes...to see what it is He is trying to show you.  It's not that He's hiding Himself or His promises from us.  It's usually that we have fallen asleep at the wheel, still driving, still going in a direction, but we just can't see what's right in front of us.  No matter who you are, where you've been, or what you've been through; regardless of what condition you life is in, whether it be good, bad, or ugly; open up your eyes, be alert, on guard, and watch!

Friday, July 15, 2011

For Lease ONLY

"Jesus then began to speak in parables: 'A man planted a vineyard.  He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower.  Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another pace'"
(Mark 12:1).

Have you ever thought about the differences between owning and renting.  As much as I love owning a home, and am very thankful to God for this amazing blessing, there are some advantages that I remember about the concept of renting.  When I rented an apartment, it was not mine.  It was leased to me.  I was allowed to live there, but I never bore the responsibilities of ownership.  If there was something wrong, I was to call the landlord.  If I wanted to make any changes to my abode, I had to call the landlord.  I could not live as though I owned it.  To do so would be arrogant, disrespectful, and wrong.

The farmers in this parable regarded the vineyard as though the "man" had given it to them.  They acted as thought they owned it, rather than it being leased to them.  It was still owned by another.  How often we live our lives as though we "own" it.  This life is a gift that has been lent to us.  It's on lease.  We are the occupiers, not the owners.  Everything we reflects back on the owner, and should be seen as a credit to His glory and honor.

This is life is not your own.  We you live as thought it is, you are both squandering an opportunity, stealing from the owner of all life.  Rather than squander and steal, choose to surrender: all that you have and all that you are to the One who created you and who holds you up and holds you together.  Take time today to spend with the One who loves you the most - the One who has the greatest purpose for your life.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hands Off!

"When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, He sat on it" (Mark 11:14).

Have you ever noticed that people like to be right?  Sure you have, and I'm sure you've been one of those people.  We like to be in control.  We like to get the last word.  And, when things feel as though they are spinning out of control, we like to grip hard and take control ourselves.  However, that mindset doesn't mesh so well with the idea of trusting God.  The Bible calls us to self-control, which is really another way of calling us to "self-surrender."

Jesus told His disciples precisely what to do in order to facilitate His entry into Jerusalem.  No matter how much sense it did or didn't make, or what kind of ideas they may have had, they did it.  They brought it to Him and gave it to Him without questioning His motives or His authority, and even threw their own cloaks, part of their identity, on it.  His response?  He sat on it.  He took over.  It wasn't about their accomplishment.  It was about Him.

We can't bake what we do for God about us.  It's not about us.  It's not about getting our way, or having to make sense of something before we submit and obey.  We must give it, everything, to Him with the sole of purpose of Him take it, and taking it over.

We must embrace a life-changing truth that can very well be life-destroying if we choose to live in a state of stubborn control.  Life is not about "me."  It's not about me looking good.  It's not about how I am seen in the eyes of the masses.  It's not about my accomplishments, even when it's exactly what God has asked me to do.

You and I are never to cease giving it all to Him.  We are to allow Him to take that dream, that accomplishment, that situation, that circumstance, and that major life decision, and let Him sit on it.  It's about lifting Him up.  It can be no other way.  If I am in control, I deserve all that comes my way.  If He is in control, I will receive more than I can ever deserve.

Former second baseman for the New York Yankees from the 50's and 60's prayed one of the simplest, yet most profound and powerful prayers.  Our challenge today, is to pray this prayer with conviction, confession, and commitment, that it may truly be the cry of our hearts.  "Dear God.  Your will.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Nothing else.  Amen."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

As Was His Custom

"Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.  Again crowds of people came to Him, and as was His custom, He taught them"  (Mark 1:1).

Jesus did not waste an opportunity.  When He found Himself around a number of people, He took advantage of the time and used it to teach them, to instruct them, to impart to them, and to mentor them.  This was His custom.  He didn't need a special event, another reason, or a cause.  He was there.  They were there.  This wasn't by chance.  This was His custom.  It was His mindset to teach and to share His life with those who God had placed around Him.

While walking over to a local McDonald's from the hotel I was staying at in Birmingham, UK, I was met by a man in the parking lot.  He looked tired, and his face spoke volumes of stories of discouragement and the feelings of great disappointment.  He began to tell me of how he was just two pounds away from having the money needed to take a train to where he needed to be.  His car at broken down, he had run out of money, and his day had been spent hearing the discouraging rants and insults by any passerby he came in contact with.  All I had in my pocket was a 10 pound note.  I thought about giving it all, but felt God speak otherwise.  I told him that I would give him the 2 pounds, but needed change, and that I was going in to buy myself a cup of coffee and would like to buy him one as well.  He was stunned, but accepted.  The man by the way, was Muslim.  As we were standing in line, he mentioned his appreciation for giving him the benefit of the doubt.  I looked at him and told him that my faith teaches me that very truth.  I told him that I am a Christian and believe that Jesus loved me so much, that He gave me the "benefit of the doubt," and that I should be willing to the do the same, and to love people as Christ has loved me.  Well...you could have knocked the guy over with a feather!  We received our drinks, I gave him the 2 pounds, and wished him well.

Sharing the truth about Jesus should never be something we leave completely to scheduling and to Sunday mornings.  Opportunities to share what Jesus has done or is doing in our lives should never be left to calendars or chance, but to choice.  Choose to open your eyes to see the hearts and lives of people around you.  Choose to look at those that God has surrounded you with.  Choose to make it your mindset, your way of life, you custom to teach and to share your life, a life that has been touched and blessed by God, with others.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Salted With Fire

"Everyone will be salted with fire" (Mark 9:49).

Everyone is gonig to go through trials that will seem like it takes them to a place that appears to be unbearable.  And this is good.  It seasons you.  It gives you a flavor.  The flavor will either be bitter with contempt for life, or it will be seasoned with dependence on God and perseverance through strength in God.

The choice is ours.  If we want to be the "salt of the earth" as Jesus declared we would be, we are going to have to go through the fire.  And, He promised that He would go with us, and be with us, and that we wouldn't even adopt the stench of the smoke.  Of course, the choice to depend upon Him is ours.  That will be the key that will deliver us from the prison of discontentment, complaining, and bitterness that comes from the need to be in control.

Are you facing challenges today?  Does the road seems a bit long, unfair, or increasingly meaningless?  Allow God to use this in your life!  His desire is to stretch you and to break you, so that He can form you into the man or woman that He has destined you to be.  Your seasoning will give the flavor of God's love during the times of unloveliness, peace during the seasons when life seems out of control, grace when you feel out of control, and strength to persevere through it all.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Process of Faith

"He looked up and said, 'I see people.  The look like trees walking around.'  Once more Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight restored, and he saw everything clearly" (Mark 8:24-25).

When Jesus touched the man, the outward manifestation of his healing was not yet complete, but it had begun.  It was a process of consistent and personal communication.  Jesus touched him.  Jesus spoke to him.  The man responded to Jesus.  Then Jesus touched him again.  And then the man saw much more clearly than ever before.

It was a process of both faith and intimacy.  The man didn't stop or settle with just one touch.  It was better than it had ever been before, but he wanted more of the touch of Jesus in his life.  Never settle for just the beginning of what God has for you.  Desire the continual touch and personal communication and intimacy with Jesus in your life.  He has begun a good work in you, and He is faithful to complete it.  Do not get discouraged when you don't feel completed or when you fail.  You just need to talk with Jesus and allow Him to touch you again by His powerful, yet loving hand.  Then, you will begin to have clear and unclouded revelation from God.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Inside Counts!

"'Are you so dull?' He asked.  'Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?'" (Mark 7:18).

I have a pool!  It's one of the highlights of the summer season.  Seeing my children jump, splash, laugh and giggle in and around the water floods my heart with joy.  Recently, however, the pump that is connected to the pool's filter stopped working.  Although the problem ended up being an electrical problem, it prompted me to do something I have never done in the two and a half seasons that I've run the pool.  I opened up the filter and took out the cartridge.  It was disgusting.  Outside looking at the tank, you'd never guess what was going on on the inside.  It was dark brown, slimy and grimy.  It would never effectively provide for the pool all it was created and designed for until I dedicated some care and attention to that which may not be seen, but is definitely noticed by what it can and cannot do.  So it is with the inside of our lives.

There was so much attention placed on the outward appearance and the acceptance of what everyone else saw.  Jesus pointed out this apparent ignorance among His team.  It wasn't about how well you could dress the outside.  If the inside didn't change, the outside could only serve as a temporary mask that would eventually be removed, exposing that which was never dealt with.

What do people see in you?  What do they think of you?  Who do you feel that you need to impress?  These inevitable, almost unavoidable thoughts and questions, can not serve as the GPS for your life.  You must take a constant inventory of what is going on in your heart.  The inside will affect the outside.  The outside will pass away, as the inside will press on.

What does the inside of your heart look like?  Like pool pumps, cars, and the inside of a refrigerator filled with leftovers, it needs regular maintenance and upkeep.  Ask God, as David did in Psalm 139, to search your heart and to reveal to you what may be standing in the way between where you are and the more complete greatness that He has for you!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Walking In the Authority of God

"Calling the twelve to Him, He sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil" (Mark 6:7).

Recently on a missions trip to the UK, God revealed this passage to our team in ways that only He could.  We traveled from the US to the one of the larger cities in the UK to partner with an awesome church in reaching the city.  We were ready for anything.  Bring on the ministry!  Bring on the people that need Jesus!  Bring on the challenges of reaching the lost!  Bring on the hostel??  Yes.  The place we stayed, for many, was a challenge.  It wasn't horrible (at least not in my opinion), but it did take us to the core of why we were there and what God really wanted to do.  So the rooms weren't ideal, and so we couldn't easily wash our clothes for 10 days we were to be there.  So the agenda wasn't what we had exactly planned.   We had a choice to complain about the accommodations, the arrangements, and our attire, or we could embrace the opportunity to walk in the authority of God.

Jesus had spent time investing in His disciples and now it was time to send them out.  It wasn't about the accommodations.  They had no place to stay.  It wasn't about arrangements.  They had no scheduled events, no planned agenda.  It wasn't about their attire.  They had no changes of clothes.  It was about the authority they had in the One who sent them.  It was a delegated influence that they were empowered with over all powers of darkness.  He had given it, but they had to choose to walk in it.

We can choose to get lost in the details, or in the lack of details in any given circumstance.  But, what we have to remember is, the calling that God has placed in our lives to send us out to affect the world and to be a catalyst of His love.  It's not in the accommodations, arrangements, or attire.  Those things can not ever become more important than the authority He has given us over evil thoughts, imaginations and spirits.  So really, the choice is yours today.  Do you choose to accept and walk and live in the delegated influence of Jesus Christ?