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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Contagious Intimacy

"While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping, and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites - men, women, and children - gathered around him.  They too wept bitterly" (Ezra 10:1).

One of the cheesiest and catchiest musicals I have ever seen was the first installment of High School Musical.  Though I enjoyed it, I've never been able to bring myself to watch any of the later productions!  The one scene that really intrigued me, although I am perfectly aware that it was theatrics and not reality, was the last musical scene of the movie.  They are all in the gym, the drums begin play, the music starts, they begin chant, and the two stars perform their solos.  And then..."We're all in this together..."  Each time the chorus of the song is sung, more and more people come out onto the gym floor, to sing, clap, and dance to this "spontaneous" song!  It was, well, contagious.  And, sitting in my living room watching this movie, I had such an urge to get up and join them.  I'll leave it to your imagination!  The question that really began to burn in my own thinking was this: "What if we prayed, worshiped, and lived out-loud for Jesus Christ in the same way that is depicted in this film?"  Perhaps they wouldn't quickly join in, but they would know the passion, the unity, and the love that we have with Jesus, in Jesus, and because of Jesus.

Ezra's act of repentance, prayer, and worship wasn't just between him and God.  It was noticed.  It was obvious - out loud and on purpose.  It was contagious.  It was caught.  It wasn't just a few people that came to peek in at what was going on, but it was a large crowd.  Not only did they come to see, but they joined him.  They saw the intensity and the determination of his passion for God.  They didn't have that, and they wanted it.

When we are unafraid of the crowd and focused on Jesus, people take notice and begin to long for that kind of connection.

The everyday challenge is to answer the question: "Do people see you get intimate with God?"  No, it's not about you showing off and trying to be noticed.  But, it is about a commitment to live for Jesus in such a way that is not hidden, secret, or private.  Jesus called you the "light of the world."  You have been called a light, and a light shines!  Refuse to be so private that it would allow people to question where God is in your life.  Desire and determine your passion to be an example in worship, prayer, confession, and repentance.  Let people see your love for Jesus!  You may be the only one they're seeing it in.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Stay Mad, Start Praying!

"Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God...and prayed..."
(Ezra 9:5).

It is so easy a temptation to give into boiling anger, frustration, and hurt when people you pour yourselves out for "just don't seem to get it."  You've tried everything you know.  You've bent over backwards.  You've gone the extra mile, and sometimes, the extra mile upon the extra mile!  At times it feels that nothing you seem to do is making any difference, and that all of your effort, your heart, and you passion has been rejected.  And you get mad.  You get mad at them for not listening.  You get mad yourself for not doing enough, or perhaps for doing too much.  And, how many time do you allow your emotions to direct your next efforts to complaining and giving in to an angry, negative mindset that is nothing more than a venomous trap that keeps you bound up from experiencing the joy and the blessings of God?

Ezra, too, had experienced much of the same thing.  He had heard disturbing reports about the sin of the people.  In spite of all that God had done in them, for them, and even in spite of them, they had persisted in their disobedience.  They continued to marry across the lines that had been permitted by the Law of God.  More than a matter of race, it was a matter of intertwining their passion for the One True God and their lusts for those who followed other "gods."

The emotion that Ezra inevitably encountered upon this news moved him to brokenness and to cry out to God for intervention.  He didn't just get angry.  He allowed his anger to motivated him to reach out to God for his people and for his nation.  He resisted the temptation to resort to name-calling, temper-tantrums, and "cut and run."  He fell on his knees, spread himself out, and cried out to God.

It is easy, too easy, to get mad when you see people living in contradiction to what you know is best, or at least better, for their lives.  It can become very angering whey you know that they know, but that they are choosing to live out of alignment with the will of God for their lives.  But, how much time do you spend staying mad?  Complaining?  Becoming bitter?  Rather, how much time do you spend really crying out for them in brokenness?  Not just a prayer, but really crying out, and regardless of whether or not you see any change?  Challenge yourself today to commit to crying out to God for those in your life, relationships, families, your job, your nation, your leaders.  God's intervention will always be more beneficial than our anger!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Speak God, I'm Listening!

"There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children with all our possessions" Ezra 8:21).

Ezra recognized that what they needed in this pivotal moment in their journey was much bigger than what they could do in the natural.  They needed revelation from God.  He called a fast in order that they might come to the end of who they were and become more open to hearing the voice of God.

They sought the face of God for three main areas in their lives.  They sought Him for direction on their journey, for their family, and for the physical details of their lives.  They longed for God's revelation in regards to His presence, His protection, and His provision.

Your life and your needs are not much different than those spoken of here in Ezra.  You, too, are on a journey.  God is constantly desiring to take you further and further, deeper and deeper, and closer and closer to the destiny, the promise, the future, and the plans He has for you.  This is why Jesus came, died, was resurrected, and lives and reigns today!  And, you, too, have the opportunity to seek the face of God, in the mighty name of Jesus, for these pivotal moments in your life.  Seek His face for His direction for Your life.  He knows the plans He has for you, so...get to know Him, cry out to Him, and wait and listen to Him.  Pray for your family, your children, and those that are closest to you.  Pray for their safety and for God's hand of guidance upon their lives.  And, pray for the details of every day life.  God is your provider.  He is your sustainer.  Call upon the name of Jesus.  He is right there with you.  Seek His face, be still and silent, and listen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Digging Deep

"For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel" (Ezra 7:10).

For instant peace and quiet for myself and hours of entertainment for my children, I have learned the secret.  They don't give you this good stuff in seminars.  You won't read it in a book, and Dr. Phil has never revealed this truth on any of his programs...or at least, so I've heard.  Give a child a bucket, a shovel, and place them in a pile of sand, dirt, gravel, or mud, and you are set!  They instantly become pirates earnestly digging for buried treasure.  They will dig tunnels, build castles, bury dad...yes, yes...bury dad.  As long as they are digging, they are happy, content, and feel accomplished.

Ezra was faithfully committed to the call God had placed upon his life.  He was devoted to digging also - studying, tunneling through all of the Law of God - searching it out, inquiring of its meaning, wringing out all the truth that he could.  He was committed to observing the Law - doing it, living it out, putting feet to his faith and method to his mouth.  And, his dedication followed up with his commitment to teaching the Law.  It wasn't just about him, for he had a responsibility to teach what he knew and to reproduce who he was.  This wasn't just his job.  This was what he was called to, dedicated to, and committed to living out.

This is what you are called to, as well.  Grab hold of the realization that you need to study; to dig deep into His Word, to receive the revelation that He so much desires to speak into your life.  This truth will remind you that He is with you and will shine the light on areas that He is calling you out on and to deal with.  Follow it up by doing it.  Don't settle for just knowing His truth.  DO IT!  Live it out.  The blessing of His Word is not just in the collection of information, but in the intimate knowledge of interaction!  Then, allow your life to be a living example to others that are desperate to know the life-changing power of the love of Jesus.  Let it be real within you!  No, you may not be perfect, but as you continue to dig deep, you will awaken a desire in others to do the same!

Dedicated to the Presence of God

"For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel"
(Ezra 6:17).

 When my wife and I were both single people, seeking the face of God over the future of our relationship with each other we had the opportunity to board a ship in the Baltimore harbor for her college's spring banquet.  She was majoring in elementary education at a small college between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and I was completing my Biblical Studies degree outside of Philadelphia.  I made the almost 3 hour journey on a Friday afternoon and stood outside her dormitory building awaiting the descent from her second floor room.

As I stood there, there were other guys that joined me as we all waited patiently for our dates to grace us with the beauty of their presence.  One by one, these guys that had come to the landing well after me departed with great joy as the doors opened, and the gleam in their eyes were met by the smile of their significant other.  I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited some more until I was standing as I had begun, alone.  As my patience was beginning to tire, the door opened, the sun shown even brighter as this picture of Heaven's glory strolled into the cathedral of creation!  All of the time she had spent in preparation for this moment was not lost.  It was worth it.  I was thrilled!

Ezra also speaks of great detail being taken as the Jews endured great passion, preparation, and perseverance in sacrifice in the dedication of the temple they had believed for and were now seeing with their very eyes.  It wasn't an after-thought, a routine ceremony, or a mere tradition.  They didn't just "go through the motions."  It was worth so much more to them than that.  They desired this temple to be a place where the presence of the LORD would one day inhabit.  It meant something to them, and they followed that up with their lives.

The Bible says that we (you and I) are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  Let this challenge you and provoke the question of how do you measure up to this kind of dedication.  How is your passion?  Your passion for God can't stop at an emotion.  When the emotions are low, on empty, or non-existent, the passion must remain.  Does your passion lead to preparation?  Are you willing to let something in your life die - be killed even?  What is it in you, that God is calling you to lay down at His altar of sacrifice.  And, what about when it seems so tiring and overwhelming?  He never promised it would be easy.  But you are His temple.  Are you willing to keep going, keeping in mind that this is part of your dedication of this temple, your life, unto Him?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Standing Firm

"But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received" (Ezra 5:5).

The Jews, who had been given permission build the temple of God were, again, facing opposition.  They were receiving threats, accusations, and baseless rumors reported about them.  They were notified of a letter that was being sent by a governor of a neighboring province to the king of the realm.

God, however, was not taken by surprise  by this opposition they would face, but now was the time that God's plan would be carried out.  The elders did not have the responsibility of trying to figure it out.  They didn't have to help God or become overwhelmed with how or why this was now happening.  They stood on the promises of God, that this restoration effort would succeed, and they would not back down.  Their only responsibility was to trust God that He, in His strength and sovereignty, would handle the rest.

There are and will be times that God will call you to do something that will challenge you at the core of your faith, and it will involve great opposition.  It is not your calling or your responsibility to figure it all out.  Take a deep breath and relax.  You don't have to be God.  You only need to stand firm on the promises of His word and trust Him to watch over you as you live out your obedience to Him.  Oh, and don't forget this very essential truth.  He will give you the strength to stand.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interruption

"Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia" (Ezra 4:24).

It was the end of summer in 2008.  I had recently taken a position as the senior pastor of a church about 45 minutes from where we had lived the last 3 years.  As excited I was about making this move into a new area of ministry, I was somewhat caught in a paradox of balancing my faith to believe in spite of what seemed impossible and the fact of what seemed impossible.  We needed desperately to sell our house and purchase a house within the community that we believed God had called us to.  Many had told us to just wait it out until the economy recovered, as the housing market was in the process of tanking and houses just weren't selling quickly, at least not in a way that would give us the finances we needed.

At the end of that summer, with our house on the market for about five months, many lookers, no offers, and building discouragement, I had a moment with God I will never forget!  I saw the house I wanted, and believed in my heart that it was the one God had for us.  The house was in short sale and would be going into foreclosure in a weeks time.  Once in foreclosure, I was told it could take upwards of 2 years before becoming available.  I was convinced that my house would go under contract within that week, we'd submit an offer on the "new" house, and the house would be ours.  I walked around that property many times that week praying, and believing in my heart that this was the house.  That week passed quickly without even a call to come and look at the house we still owned.  I was disappointed and more than a bit confused.  But, I had surrendered to God.  Thirty days later, I received a call from my agent advising me to drop the selling price of my home, because the house we had looked at was coming back on the market priced down nearly $30,000!  We lowered it, bid on the other one, and both houses went under contract within ONE WEEK!!  What seemed like an interruption was an opportunity for me to see a God who was still at work, regardless of what things appeared to be!

So, what happens when there is an "interruption" to the plan and promise of God?  Why would God start something, only to allow it be stalled?  God's people have faced this crossroads since the beginning.  Even within the truth of this verse, you can see the great fulfillment of the promise of God.  "It came to a standstill until..."  Whenever there is an "interruption" in the plan of God, there's always an "until."  God's not finished.  In fact, it would seem the interruption isn't that at all, but rather a test designed to assess our ability to persevere, be patient, and trust.

Are you trusting God in spite of what may appear as an interruption to what He's already promised you?  Be reassured in the great purpose that God has for your life.  His plan, though it may seem interrupted, has not been terminated.  He may be allowing a time in your life for testing, seeing how ready you are to continue on the journey He as planned that holds His promises for you.  Your praise, perseverance, and passion should not be any less during the interruption.  Hold on and have faith that your God preparing you for your "until!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Focus On What's Ahead

"But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy" (Ezra 3:12).

One morning while taking a drive through the winding road of Facebook, I took a little pit stop at the page of one man who quoted this on his page: "...when a defining moment comes along, you either define the moment, or the moment defines you."  As I allowed that thought to simmer in my mind like a thick steak in a marinade, I began to think of the life-changing power that this simple truth holds.

There are so many people that live life through the rear-view mirror.  There are moments of mistake, failure, regret, missed opportunities, and bad decisions that changed the course of what could have been our futures.  These are all defining moments.  The choice we have is whether we will be defined by those moments, or if we'll allow God, in His loving forgiveness and restorative power to define those moments in our lives as moments of strength in His weakness, forgiveness in His grace, and 2nd chances in His redemption.

Ezra 3 recalls a similar story in the lives of those who remembered greatly the rear-view mirror of success in days gone by.  The elders of the community had seen the great days of God's blessing in the former temple and were hanging on tightly to the old memories and present-day regrets.  Others saw it as a new opportunity to get back on track, viewing God's grace and His restoring of their purpose in the windshield of their future.  Haggai, the prophet, would speak that the former temple they mourned over would pale in comparison to the latter temple not yet built.  This foundation for the "present" temple would also outshine the former, because Jesus would walk within its courts.  The time for mourning and regrets was past-being over.  It was time to embrace what God was doing NOW!

Choose not to live in the past.  The past regrets and mistakes seek to rob you of the future and its blessings that God has for you.  It seeks to define you by your shortcomings, your trials and errors, your repeated failures, and your insecurities.  Know that you can't drive forward while staring into the rear-view mirror.  God will use your past to shape your future, but He will not direct you forward by focusing on the former.  Don't revel in what "could have been."  This is a new day.  Rejoice in what God is doing in your life now.  Look forward, gaze in awe of the journey and the purpose that God has for you today!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Holding on to the Promises

"Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each tot heir own town)" (Ezra 2:1).

It had been promised of God that the Jewish people would be a nation and have a land.  It was even prophesied that the Jews would be exiled, but also prophesied was their return.  When promises something, He always comes through.  No amount of destruction or devastation is enough to prove God a liar.  He always and always will come through as He stand firm on the foundation of His own Word.  Our response is not to try to figure out the "how's" and the "when's."  Our call is to trust and to hold on to His promises.

As a young boy growing up, being raised by a single mom, I longed for what so many other boys had.  I desired a dad.  And, even at a young age, I begin to pray and believe that God had given me a promise that was based on His Word, but that He was making personal to me.  I sensed that God was speaking to me that He would "turn the heart of the father to his children."  So, I prayed that promise and believed that promise.  However, year after year, I saw that promise go unfulfilled.  The disappointment of rejection seemed almost unbearable, and most definitely unfair.  No matter how hard I tried in my efforts to reach out to my dad, all I ever got was unreturned phone calls, birthdays that never went acknowledged, and the constant reminder in my heart that I was a kid without a dad.

But, God had made me a promise.  He didn't promise when, but He promised what.  I hung on to that promise.  I believed that promise.  I endured and persevered during the desert moments of that promise unfulfilled.  Then, there was a day when that promise began to come to pass!  The last six years of my dad's life were spent getting to know each other, reconciling, and rebuilding what was lost!  On the day I preached my father's funeral, I was reminded of the promise that God made me as a young boy, and was reminded still, of the faithfulness of God to fulfill when we hold on to His promises.

There will be times in your life when there is a gap in between the promises of God and the fulfillment of those promises.  Don't underestimate what God can and is doing in the midst of that gap.  He is in the process of preparing you.  He's preparing every detail surrounding the fulfillment of that promise, and He's preparing you to receive it.  Don't tamper with God's preparation process!  Continue to hold on to His promise, and trust Him!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

God Still Touches Hearts

"In the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing..." (Ezra 1:1).

How awesome and powerful is the sovereign hand of God that He can touch and turn the heart of a king.  Cyrus, a king that was open to the universality of all religions, was moved by the hand of God, thus fulfilling a prophecy spoken before his reign.

Never should we underestimate the power of prayer and the power of God when concerning the lives of leaders and of others in our lives.  Instead of becoming or remaining in anger or bitterness, we should allow that passion to be turned to praying for their hearts to be turned.  This is not accomplished by our own agenda, but the be the mighty hand of a loving God.

Rather than becoming discouraged by the decisions and directions of those around you, pray for them.  Be confident that the God who creates hearts is the God who touches hearts.  Though there is still the responsibility of personal choice, God, in His loving power, can still use the situations, people, places, and things around them, to touch the heart.  Resist the temptation to give up on people.  Remember how God has touched you.  Pray for your family.  Pray for your leaders.  Pray for those around you.  God still touches hearts!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Confidence in Contentment

"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

In the first year of marriage, my wife and I decided it was necessary to purchase a second car, one in which she would drive.  This was quite a decision, as she was a full-time college student and I was working part-time as a youth pastor in a church an hour away, while driving school buses part-time to help make ends meet.  We had saved up enough money to pay $3000 cash for a black 1996 Chrysler Concord.  It had leather seats and my wife LOVED it!  However, paying for it in cash meant that we had less than $10 to get us through an entire week.

As the week drew to a close and Sunday morning was upon us, I realized that we didn't have enough money to get ourselves to church and back.  To understand this better, you must remember the one hour commute, but realize that commute took us about 30 miles east on the Pennsylvania turnpike, costing us, at the time, $2.25 one way.  We had enough change to get us there, but not back.  We prayed and knew that we couldn't just not go to church.  I was on staff and had youth ministry responsibilities that night as well.  We trusted God, allowed no fear, worry, or anxiety to rob us from the privilege of worshiping Him, got in our "new to us" and fully paid for car, and drove to church, spending the last of the money we had to our name at that time!  After the morning service and before being treated to lunch, one of the sweetest and most humble women I have ever met came over, hugged me with a loving embrace like that of a grandmother, shook my hand while slipping in a $20 bill!  In our contentment, God has provided, doubling what we had had to get us through the week!

In this last part of this letter Paul wrote to the Philippian church while he was still in prison, he spoke faith, but also by fact.  He testified of his seeing how God had come through in his life in tough circumstances.  He had learned the power of contentment, being confident and at peace, konwing that His God would meet all his needs.  Paul had come to know this as a result of the passionate intimacy he shared with God.  He gave of himself without worrying and giving into concern of his own needs.  God not only would be His provider, but also His provision.

Be reminded and confident that God is more than able to meet all of your needs.  When you are living in obedience to His, which also leads to a deep and loving intimacy, you do not have to worry, fret, or be anxious.  He is your God and you are His.  He will take care of you.  Trust Him and take Him at His Word.  Be content and celebrate what He has done for you, what He is doing now, and that He is and wants to be your peace.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Celebrating the "Thus Far" Moments

"Only let us live up to what we have already attained" (Philippians 3:16).

"Perfection," at least as we understand it in our cutthroat culture of corporate competition, high-stress pressure, a zero-tolerance for mistakes of any kind, has become an infectious cancer to the spirit of true success.  No, I'm not suggesting that there are "no losers," that "everyone's a winner," or that "it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."  Nor am I suggesting that you have to "win at all cost," that "there's no such thing as second place, only 1st loser," or that "if you're not on top, then you don't really matter."

Life is stuffed complete with challenges, roller-coaster ups and downs, and chock-full of successes, failures, achievements, and disappointments.  Paul, writing from the confines of imprisonment, speaks about things yet to be achieved, not looking back to the past (good, bad, or indifferent), but pressing on towards the goal of what lies ahead.  He gives a grand caution in this short, but powerful, one-liner: "don't lose sight of how far you have come and the victories that you have taken hold of.  The phrasing he uses is equivalent to saying, "you need to keep in step within the boundaries you have already come - don't lose sight of where you are."

If we let down our guard in the victories we've already moved into, we risk "going back" - keeping further away from where God wants us to be.  We can't begin a race in which we desire to win, but have already been defeated within our mind.  Winning in losing is fulfilled in our actions, but it begins with our thoughts.  There are lessons to be learned in our victories and in our defeats.  Rather than becoming discouraged with how far we still have to go, we can celebrate to where we have come "thus far."

Let this be a challenging, yet encouraging reminder to you to hold on to where God has brought you thus far.  Don't become so relaxed and comfortable that you being to ease up and move backwards.  Celebrate the victories.  But, understand the truth the iron-clad that God still has more for you and desires to move you forward.  The question you are challenged to ask yourself is, "am I marching in lock-step with Him right where I am?"  "Am I living up to where He has brought me?"  Ask God to show you whether or not you are in alignment with His desire and will for your life.  And, if not, ask Him to show you what needs to change in your life to get you back on track.  Celebrate the "thus far," but know that God desires to you advance you "further still."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living Out the Lessons Learned

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete, by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (Philippians 2:1-2).

I remember a few years ago my wife and I were traveling through Dallas, Texas and decided to have lunch at a national chain diner where someone we knew was working.  As we were searching through the menu, my mouth began to do what has become second nature...watering over the visual appeal of the foods that I have grown to love!  It didn't take long before I saw one of my favorites...NACHOS!  This heaping mound of tortilla chips was loaded with shredded cheddar, topped with tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, black olives, guacamole and sour cream.  As soon as I laid eyes on it my stomach had spoken and I knew what I would order.  I was so excited when the waitress brought me the plate that would hold this treasured pleasure...until it actually got there.  It looking nothing like what I had seen in the menu.  The picture and the delivered entree looked as though it was from two distinctively different establishments.  What a disappointment.

The greatest proof for anything we believe is in how we live it out.  Paul made this point crystal clear.  "If you've gotten anything out your encounter with the life-changing power of Jesus, then live it out!"  Hearing about it is not enough.  Knowledge, though essential, is grossly inadequate when not coupled with the application.  God has called us to more than just to receive from Him, but to reflect what we've received with action.

Are you as quick to live out what you believe as you are to speak what you believe?  This is a truth worth getting hold of.  When you believe it, and allow this truth to root deep with in you, it will dynamically transform how you interact with people.  Are you reflecting and representing the what you say you have received?  This is a daily challenge, but it's one that has the potential of making a "forever" difference!  So, what has God shown you, taught you, blessed you with, or brought you through?  Live it out!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Winning In Spite of the "Why's"

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).

"Why does this always happen to me?"  Honestly, most of us have either said this or felt this during the midst of some moment of the crisis.  It's during those seasons where we are overwhelmed with the "why's" of life.  "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  "Why does trouble always find me?"  "Why does God keep letting things happen to me?"  "I'm trying to do the right things, but the wrong things keep coming.  Why?"

You are not alone!  Paul was in prison when he wrote these unlikely words of inspiration.  He wasn't complaining or whining about the "why's" and the woes.  And, if anybody had any reasonable justification for doing so, he sure did!  Imprisoned for standing up and doing exactly what God had called him to do, he could have chosen to sulk, complain, and wallow in his own swamp of self-centered pride and pity.  Notice that he didn't try to explain why this was happening, only to say that God was using this circumstance in his life in order to advance the message of the life-changing power of Jesus!

The enemy of his soul must have been rejoicing.  Paul was in prison.  He was unable to get the message out.  He was isolated.  He was immobile.  But, he was inspired, impassioned, and ignited with a purpose to perseveringly stand up and live out who He was in Jesus!  Satan thought he was winning only to find out that it would have been better for him and his devious plan to have never messed with Paul in the first place.  God was using Satan's plan that was intended and fashioned for devastation and destruction, as a tool and a cause for celebration!

In your life, are you going through something and unsuccessfully searching aimlessly for the reason of "why?"  Though it surely weighs down your heart with great discouragement, you have landed upon a divine opportunity to place your trust and hope, in the midst of this season of being tried and tested, upon Him.   This is when you need to throw your hands up and say, "Lord, though I don't understand why, I trust You.  I ask You to use me and this situation to reveal who You are to others that are observing me now."  In spite of the prison that you may feel you are unjustly in, look to Jesus, that He might use this for your good, but for His glory, that those around you might see Him IN YOU.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Quiet Mind

"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  he will take great delight in you.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Have you ever had one of those days that was filled with such a variety of stresses, struggles, conflicts, and situations it felt like more like an overstuffed Stromboli that's unable to contain all that's inside?  You go to bed at night, physically tired, but your mind is racing faster than Lance Armstrong on the last mile of the Tour de France.

Even in the midst of trial and turmoil, God is with those who are faithful to Him.  What a great reminder during those times, God's power, favor, His peace, and His love is very much still with us.  When we begin to change our focus from what has overtaken our day to He who has created our day and has a purpose for our tomorrow, realizing that it is He who holds us in the palm of His strong, capable, and tireless hands, we can rest.

There are times when your mind feels stretched and stressed and races at high speeds, yet goes nowhere at all...at least no where good.  However, that it your opportunity to remember the love of God is more than enough to quiet your mind.  Let it remind you to be still and to know and remember that He is, always has been, and always will be God.  He is in control.  When you grab hold of that truth, and apply it, your mind, no matter what you're facing, will be have quiet, peaceful rest.