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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Choose to Praise

"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice" (Luke 17:15).

"Every blessing you pour out I'll, turn back to praise.  When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will praise...Blessed be the Name of the Lord!"  It's become a very popular song.  It can be heard in the car on the radio, in more than a few mp3 players, and in many churches across the globe.  But, is it more than a song?  Is it as quick to be lived out as it is to be sung?  Unfortunately, there are many, and I am sure that if we allow honesty to prevail, we will find ourselves guilty of the same, that are quick to ask God for a breakthrough, but not as quick to give Him thanks when His faithfulness comes to pass.  In everyday of our lives we choose to praise or to hold back our praise. 

Ten lepers were cleansed, but only one came back to give thanks to God.  Have you ever thought about what happened to the other 9?  But the one - He recognized what God had done in his life.  He returned - he approached the presence of Jesus.  He rejoiced - shouting and praising Jesus for the great things He had done in his "all-but-doomed" life.

Each day, you have the opportunity to commit to being like this one.  Choose to recognize what Jesus has done in you and is continuing to do in your life.  Choose to be the one who "returns."  Approach Jesus in His awesome presence.  Rejoice!  Give Him praise!  Shout with Joy for the great things He has done and for the great God that He is!  Choose to praise!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Trusted?

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much" (Luke 16:10).

Jesus nails it!  So many people have great desire for the big things in life, yet they struggle deeply in their responsibility of what they do have now.  Jesus is saying that how you handle the little we do have now is a fairly accurate indicator as to how more would be handled later.

With this idea in mind, what does that say about you?  It's important to realize that every little thing in regards to who you are and what you do matters.  It really does matter.  How you handle hwere you are now is key as to whether or not God can trust you with even more.  Your daily goal and committment is to leave each day and each moment, and with each hour, making hte most of the time and opportunity God has given to you.

As God sees the faithfulness you live out with however much you do have, He will bless you.  This doesn't just apply to money, but certainly it includes it.  Why would God bless anyone with more of what they don't show to be able to handle?  More never makes a problem go away.  It only enhances it, like gasoline poured over a fire trying to put it out!  For one who struggles with time management, it's not more time that they need, but better use of the time they have.  It applies to time, money, responsibility, relationships, and the list goes on.

What are you doing with what God has given you thus far?  Would you trust you with more?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Authentic Attraction

"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus" (Luke 15:1).

The Pharisees seemed to attack Jesus and use against Him the very reason He came.  They confronted and challenged His living example of what they had failed to follow.  The "sinners," the ones rejected and reviled were drawn to Him.  Jesus was a magnet to people, not because He condemned them, but because He loved them.  He was more interested in getting to know them than pushing Himself onto them for them to know Him.  The Pharisees wanted to be seen.  Jesus wanted to see them, for them to know that He cared, that He could look past all they had done and all the places they had been.  He saw, not who they were, but who they could be. 

He was sincere.  This was His attraction.  He represented something so different than the lives they were living, and different from the lives of those who were more concerned in judging them.  He loved them.  He was complete, secure, fulfilled, and they desired it.  They were attracted.

Oh, to be more like Jesus.  Is this your daily goal?  This is to be your heart's desire.  Ask Jesus to help you to become more like Him.  Those that Jesus loved were drawn to Him.  Ask Him to enlarge your heart and breathe on the fires of your passion for Him, that others would be drawn to the love of Jesus in you.  Resist the temptation to be judgmental, condemning, and assuming.  Choose not to surround yourself with people who serve to further your own comfort or convenience.  Be one who, because of the light of Christ shining within you, becomes a beacon of that light draws, attracts, and connects to those who are longing for that light.  Let your life be that which reflects a peace and fulfillment that you have found and continuing to discover in Him, that they, too, are hungry for.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Selfless: When Love Becomes Our Only Motivation

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed"
(Luke 14:13a).

It was Christmas time.  My family was in a season enjoying the red and green colors of a holiday that involves, trees, gifts, family, and reflections and focus on the coming of Christ.  As we were preparing for our annual Christmas Eve service, I began to sense God speaking to my heart to include and invite someone in our church to be a part of our Christmas Eve tradition.  Oh, it's nothing fancy, but one that I have quite enjoyed over the years, taking me back to my days in high school.  It's simple.  I go home after the service (of course now, I have children, so it's getting them to bed), setting out some wonderful food that I shouldn't be eating, taking out the gifts that have yet to be wrapped (all of them), and sitting down in front of the television to watch It's A Wonderful Life for the upteenth time!

But, there was this man, this quiet man.  He didn't look the same as everyone else.  He kept to himself, and wasn't one for many words, yet God was speaking to me.  I invited him to our home after Christmas Eve service.  He accepted.  He came.  The time we spent together was an education and blessing.  I learned so much about his life, what God had brought him through, what God was teaching him now, and how happy he was just to be alive.  I was blessed by this refreshing approach to so many things that, in the busyness of life, and especially during that season, is so easy to lose sight of.

In Luke 14. Jesus was taking on a cultural attitude that has stubbornly held on throughout the generations.  Jesus challenged, not so much the "who" of their invitation, but the "why."  They were given to inviting people with the hope and selfish expectation of being invited in return.  It wasn't so much of what they could give of themselves in a particular banquet or occasion, but what they might profit or benefit from in return at a later time.  One who was seen as "lesser" in society would have nothing to offer, thus truly exposing the motivation of the heart.  Jesus called them to see beneath the surface of what one physically has to offer.  The blessings and the benefits that we miss out on because of our selfish motivation is great.  Jesus called them to look at those who have also been hand crafted by God in the image of God.

Don't forget that you have nothing offer Him who has invited you into His presence.  His motivation was not based on what He could get out of you.  Romans 5:8 says, that while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you.  This was His demonstration of love.  His demonstration what His motivation.  You are called to the same.  He saw in your what others would not see and what you could not see.  You are worth it.  Purpose to love others in the same way.  As you see in them what Jesus sees in you, you will be blessed (supremely blessed; by extension of the One from whom all blessing originate!).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Don't Miss an Opportunity

"Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as He made His way to Jerusalem" (Luke 13:22).

"I just don't have time!"  Ever said that?  It has become our trump card excuse for just about, well, everything.  It applies to housework, taking time off, doing something extra with the kids, volunteering at church, or even spending time with God.  It is also an all-time favorite when it comes to reaching out to people and sharing part of our faith-story - how we came to know Christ, what God's done in our lives, or just about the peace that we can now live in.  It seems that instead of falling off into the quick-sand frustrations of reinventing the wheel, we should look at what is already in existence.  Jesus didn't have to make time and "find" opportunities to share the love of the Father, He opened His eyes and took advantage of the ones that were right in front of Him.

Jesus had a goal, a destination in mind, but He wasn't so focused on that goal that He missed all the opportunities leading up to it.  It is so easy to get so focused on what is in our sights that we get tunnel vision, neglecting everyone and everything else.  We miss the fact that God may have placed us in the path of someone else for a specific reason and at a specific time.

Don't miss anything on the path He's called you to walk.  It is great to be a person of excellence, to be highly motivated, and to be purpose-driving and goal-oriented, but don't limit God to "that" goal.  There are so many lessons to be learned and lives to be loved along the journey.  Don't get so focused on yours that you miss what God wants to do in you and through you in the life of someone else that God has placed right in front of you.  Where ever you may be, the coffee shop, the office, in the line at the grocery store, or walking to your car after work, open your heart to God, open your eyes to see, and open your life to others.  Life is busy, but don't miss an opportunity to bless the lives of others.  At the same time, you, too, will be changed!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Learning to Rely

"For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say"
(Luke 12:12).

There was a time when I received a call from a close friend of mine who works a job in "Corporate America."  He asked for prayer.  He was to give a presentation to a large group in the company that he worked with.  This man is intelligent, wise, and very talented in many areas.  However, public speaking, like many people, makes him nervous.  As we prayed together, we prayed that the Holy Spirit of God would speak to him and through him.  Yes, even in the workplace, if we rely on Him, He can calm our nerves, speak to our soul, and enable us to speak with boldness in any situation.  This applies to all aspects of our lives whether it's at work, addressing a tough issue with a friend, or reaching out to others and sharing your faith.  You don't have to do it alone.  Rely on Him.

Jesus is speaking in Luke 12 of giving an answer when facing persecution.  But, the even greater truth He is emphasizing is the dependance upon the holy Spirit.  We were never intended, nor expected, to konw it all, have it all, or do it all.  We are dependant beings.  We are to rely upon the Holy Spirit, His wisdom, and guidance.  At the right time, in the instant we need it, He will give it to us.

Even if you're quick-witted and unafraid of speaking in most any situation, your gift is inadequate.  It can never replace the need you have for relying on His guidance.  The moment you begin to rely on your talent alone is the moment you begin to decrease your openness to Him, to His voice, and to His direction in your life.  Be open to learning to wait, to listen, receive by faith, and to apply with immediate obedience.  Grab hold of this truth and you will see the pressures of fear and anxiety melt away.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Followed: Know Where You're Leading?

"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge.  You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering"
(Luke 11:52).

John C. Maxwell, well known author and speaker on the concepts and precepts of all things leadership, once penned this sobering truth: "You teach what you know, you reproduce who you are."  This phrase connects hand in hand with another short quip that hangs on the walls of my mind.  "Leadership is influence.  Nothing more.  Nothing less."  The long and the short of it is this:  we are watched and observed, and the example we set is the model that is learned.  What we do in our private life affects those we influence in our public life.  If we are not open to seeking the face of God, open to being challenged to live according to His righteousness, and not open receiving the Word and Truth of God, then we are depending upon our own selves, logic, and understanding to be the basis of our influence.  God help us.

These "experts" were being charged, not with being experts on who God is or what God was saying, but on their own misguided interpretations that were based on preference, tradition, and personal agenda.  Because they shut themselves off from receiving life-changing revelation, they "locked-up" that opportunity, thus robbing it from others in whom they influenced.  And, for this, they would be held accountable.

"Seek the Lord."  It's a phrase you can't escape in Scripture.  "Seek Him while He may be found."  "Seek the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength."  "Seek first the Kingdom of God..."  If you're not seeking the Lord, and in the fear of the Lord, you will be held accountable by the Lord.  He has a purpose and plan for you that is dependent upon a continual and consistent connection with Him.  Continue to seek the Lord and be intimate with the knowledge of who He is.  This is the key, the foundational principle by which you can truly be an effective influencer, allowing others to enter into that same level of knowledge and understanding.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Commissioned

"'Go!  I am sending you out like lambs among wolves...'"
(Luke 10:3).

I'll never forget standing at the altar on my wedding day.  The doors opened and in walked the most incredible display of beauty I had ever laid eyes on, dressed in white, and walking straight towards me.  My excitement was also mixed with nerves and determination.  The nerves, in addition to the normal feelings and desires to make her happy for the rest of her life, were a result an awareness that the statistics were against us.  My wife and I both come from divorced families.  The thoughts and the fears of repeating history had made their attempts to crash against the strength of the hopes and dreams that I had for a marriage that would maintain its integrity on the foundation of the words, "til death do us part."

Of course, we were aware that there would be challenges.  We knew there would be days when the feelings would run as high as they did low.  We knew that there might even be temptation in our minds to give up if or when situations became more than what we thought we had bargained for.  But, I don't put my trust in statistics, thoughts, or imaginations.  I knew on that day with determination, that God had commissioned me to marry this woman.  And if I believed that, then I was confident that God would provide everything and always for every situation and scenario we might face.  If we would be committed to Him, then He would also be committed to our success.

Jesus prepared His disciples well for the divine task He was giving them.  He had told them what to do.  He said "Go!" - depart, get to it, lead yourself under the authority that I lead you.  He told them what to expect.  He told them they'd be like "lambs among wolves" - it would appear intimidating at times, pointless at others, and sometimes illusion of inevitable defeat.  But, He also told them what to rely upon.  He assured them, "I am sending you" - they weren't going on their own.  They were sent - commissioned on purpose by and with His authority and all the power, presence, protection and provision that would come with it.

Be encouraged!  Right where you are in your life, He is with you!  God has commissioned you.  He's told you what to do.  The only response that results in the accompanying blessings is to do it.  He's told you what to expect.  Embrace it.  There will be moments that appeal to a trace of uncertainty that may try to surface, but be confident in Him.  If you are facing what He said you'd face, then be sure that He has a plan to bring you to victory through it!  He's told you what to rely upon.  TRUST HIM.  He is right there with you, and with Him, all things are possible!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prayer Changes Things: Starting with the One Who Prays

"As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening" (Luke 9:29).

There are many people in the world who have become incredibly disillusioned in regards to the subject of prayer.  They've prayed their hearts out, cried their eyes out, and believed their guts out for situations to be changed, jobs to be saved, sicknesses to be healed, loved ones to be changed by the power of Jesus.  And many times, there is no change seen.  So, why pray?  If there are is no seemingly evident power to prayer in what we see, why pray?

When Jesus prayed, He wasn't merely reciting words.  He wasn't speaking aimlessly or without purpose.  His purposed goal wasn't even to see life-changing results regarding those He prayed for.  His purpose was to connect with the Majesty of Heaven.  All else would be a by-product of that connection.  And as He prayed, what was seen in the natural was being changed and transformed by the Supernatural...starting with Himself.  His being in prayer was noticed, because prayer was changing Him.

Isn't it true, that when you pray, sometimes if not many times, the focus is in prayer is on changing others, changing your circumstances, or even changing God's plan that seems to contradict your own preferences?  Yes, you are to pray for others, and yes you should pray for God to intervene in the situations and things that matter to you.  But, are you changed when you pray?  Is your purpose to see change or to be changed?  If your heart's focus is on connecting with Jesus when you pray, you will always see change, starting in you.  When there is change in you, then there lies the evidence of the power in prayer to see change in others.  When you pray, as you seek to connect with the heart of God, there is power to change.  It starts within you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Seeing Past Where Others Just Stop

"Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?'  'Legion,' he replied, because many demons had gone into him" 
(Luke 8:30).

Here was a man who had become a great factor of intimidation and inconvenience to all those who came across him and who knew of him.  His appearance was grotesque, his behavior was erratic, and his behavior was that of a barbarian.  He had lived chained, guarded, and condemned to live among the dead in the tombs.

Jesus asked him his name.  He looked past all that had become of him.  He didn't recoil at his look.  He didn't cower at the smell.  He wasn't shocked by his behavior.  He could still see the original heart and the purposed and destined identity that had been designed and created in the image of the Father.  Jesus looked past where others just stopped.  He didn't judge him.  He loved him.  He didn't offer him condemnation and rejection.  By asking his name, he offered him a dignity that he had long given up on.  It was the beginning of a moment that change the rest of his life.

Though it's not always easy, don't give into the intimidation that seems to rise from certain people based on their past, background, current behaviors and lifestyles.  Be like Jesus who extended that personal touch by connecting with one's identity.  He didn't condone.  He loved.  He didn't embrace the behavior, but He did embrace the heart.  Never forget that we have been saved by Jesus, the same Jesus who looked past the demonic possession of one who had been left to the dead and saw who he really was, the one created in the image of God, is the same Jesus we are called to represent.  Don't be quick to judge.  Don't be quick to react at the lifestyle choices of others to the point where you distance yourself where the love of Jesus wants to close that gap.  Judgement doesn't bring people to repentance and the life-changing power of God.  But, love does.  It did for me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

People Matter

"There was a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die" (Luke 7:2).

It's not always in our own contemporary culture of corporate hierarchy that those in authority reflect a heart that values those who serve them.  It's not often that you see people show honor, deference, and overall loving kindness to others without it somehow being calculated in regards to how it will benefit them.  We live in a world where it's about do what it takes to make "me" matter the most.  We've become too quick to give into what has become the proverbial cliche of throwing one "under the bus" if that's what it will take to help us to rise to the "top."

This centurion regarded his servant as valuable, which is a Greek word that means precious, dear, and worth a great price.  This servant was as good as dead, yet his master was moved and showed great concern, care, and compassion.  He honored his servant in the presence of Jesus.  To the centurion, his servant's value was based on more than what he could do, but of who he was.  He valued his worth more than his work.  More than a servant, he was a person...and he mattered.

Don't give into the quick-sand trap of selfishness.  Don't allow your concern for yourself to desensitize you to the feelings and the hearts of those around you.  Be sure to understand that people matter more than what they can do for you or what you can get out of them.  They are precious, valuable, and worth great price because they, just like you, have been made, fashioned and purposed in the image of God.

Are you living as though people matter to you, or are you striving to matter to people?  God honors those who are humble in heart, seeking to honor others over themselves, and who don't allow their own pride to become the motivation for the choices they make.  Ask God to show you who, in your life, that perhaps you haven't shown them that they matter.  Give them a call.  Shoot them an email.  Tell them you appreciate them, that you're thankful for them.  Let them know that you value them, even if you haven't shown it.  We usually share our criticism more than our care, and our grief more than our gratitude.  Make the choice today to make an impact on the people that God has placed in your life.  Because, people do matter.