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Monday, October 16, 2017

Becoming an "All-In" Man, 1: Courageous Men


Question it: What makes you want to give up & move on, rather than waiting for the right thing for the right reason?

Read it: Acts 2:1-4 (NIV) 1  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Understand it: THIS was the beginning of the Church. The Holy Spirit was showing up just like Jesus had promised. In Acts 1, Jesus told them to go to Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise that was coming. He told them to wait. He spoke to them with authority, but also with expectation, knowing what was coming if they did what He had said. He knew their inclinations to move on when things didn’t go their way, or in the timing they expected.

All of the disciples had been told many times what would happen to Jesus, even though they had their own ideas of what Messiah should be. They wanted to political rescue, but Jesus came to restore an even greater Kingdom & purpose. They deserted Him in prayer. They fled when He was taken captive. They denied Him when questioned. All but one was absent at the cross. Peter resorted back to what he had known before. He turned back to a previous occupation.

Knowing all of this, Jesus told them to wait. He knew they’d be challenged. He knew they’d be tempted. He knew their inclinations to fix things, and if they couldn’t fix it, to abandon it. But He knew what was on the other side of the waiting.

Men are created & called of God to be courageous, to wait & believe, even when all else is calling or pushing them away. From the beginning in the garden, Satan has attacked the purpose & leadership of men. He uses those closest to them, thus causing them to question their own leadership, value, and influence. When they give into those questions, it’s a lot easier to turn & go.

God has called each of you as men to stand up, courageously, in Him. When you are weak, He is strong. When want to go, know that the enemy has gotten wind of something great on the other side. Don’t give up what God has for you, even before you see it & receive it. Wait expectantly. Trust completely. Stand confidently. Be courageous.



Study It:

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV) 16  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Galatians 6:9 (NIV) 9  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Revelation 2:3 (NIV) 3  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Acts 26:22 (NIV) 22  But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen--

James 1:2-4 (NIV) 2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.



Live It: What will I do with this?

1.    Where in my life am I tempted to back up, sit down, or even quit?



2.    What is it about waiting for things to happen that is the hardest for me to accept?



3.    What has God taught me through the moments that I’d have rather called it “done”?



4.    How is my faith & trust in Christ evident when I am faced with a situation, even close to home, where my buttons are pushed?



5.    How can I stand courageously when it feels like I’m attacked & beaten up in the “world” I’m trying to lead?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Beleive for Your Breakthrough.

"And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon" (Philippian 2:24).

Have you ever been around people who seemed to be stuck in some cycle between prayer requests and complaining? They complain about all that is going wrong with just about everything, but do it in a way that puts the burden of their answer on you to pray. There's a lot of facts of what's going on, but not a lot of faith to really believe it can change. Have you ever done the same?

Paul wrote to the Philippian church while in chains, healing from torturous wounds, while sharing his love and concern for them. He shared about his own chains, but not for the purpose of getting their sympathy, but of joining together in faith. 

Paul wrote, "...and I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon." He was determined that his own breakthrough was coming soon. He didn't just think it or feel it. He was confident of its imminent reality. His confidence wasn't in fate or feeling, but a faith that was deeply rooted in the Lord. He didn't expect people to believe anything more for his life than he was already confidently believing for himself.

It's difficult for people to believe for a breakthrough in your life UNTIL you become confident that a breakthrough is coming! Stop complaining. God won't give you something you can't believe for. Everything you receive, you receive it from God by faith. Be encouraged in where you are and what you're facing. BELIEVE that God has a breakthrough moment for your life. Even in the cell of your circumstance, be confident in the Lord that you are coming out! You don't have to know how, when, or why, just know that it's soon. "Soon" is according to the perfect timing & purpose of God. But what you can have NOW, is the assurance that He is with you.

The peace of God works in faith, not in forcing people to feel the pain you feel. Breakthrough is coming when your confidence is in HE who brings it, not just in THEY who are praying for it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Success through Humility.

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name..." (Philippians 2:9).

Success, honor, power, and position are words synonymous with first world culture. One can't watch cartoons without being indoctrinated with the concept that bigger is better, rule over people, and only the strong survive. Yet, Jesus showed strength in a form very different from that people had experienced or expected. It was and is a strength that continues to challenge those who long for success.

Jesus, who was and will always be God, chose to surrender the application of His deity, His "God-ness" while He was on earth before His crucifixion. He humbled Himself as a man, to all that men and women would face. He did this for many reasons, but one in particular to show the greatest strength is not found in wielding power, but in yielding to a Greater Power. Jesus humbled Himself before God the Father.

Jesus' success was found in the "lowest place." He came as a baby and lived as a servant. He was found trustworthy in His humility. He was the Son of God, yet lived as a son of man. He went to the cross of crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for the generations that might never acknowledge Him and for the untold multitudes that would. He excelled at the lowest place and therefore, by God the Father, was lifted up to the Highest place.

When you find success at the lowest place, God can trust you with success at any place! Humility comes before honor. Ambition and drive are great elements to embody, but never at the expense of humility and surrender. If you want to rise to a higher place, how are you doing at the "lower" place? Are you modeling excellence at the level God has for you now? Are you doing ALL that you know to do where you are? Are you surrendered to the authority and leadership you have? 

God has designed you for where you are so that you can learn all there is to learn, SO THAT He can raise you up. You can't go to the next level until you have exhausted every lesson God wants you to learn at this level. It's not because you're not good enough. It may be because you've not yet let Him be GOD enough.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Python of Fear.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).

Fear has the power to wrap itself around you in such a way that doesn't even seem noticeable until you find your self trapped within its grip. It squeezes slowly until the look in your eyes knows that there is no way out. Panic sets in and you begin to fight in an erratic manner that only seems to strengthen the hold. There's now way out.

God spoke the words of Isaiah 41:10 to a people who had found themselves in the same hold of the same python of fear. They had given into their fears and their erratic behavior had led them into exile, away from the promised land God had miraculously provided. 

But now, here, He speaks to them words of truth and power that have the potential of greater influence in both their present and their future. "So do not fear, for I am with you." Fear has no power in the presence of God. God is love and perfect love drives out all fear, just as flipping the light switch sees the power of light instantly driving out the influence of darkness.

"I am your God." When you know who He is and where He is, you will find what He has for you. He is right where you are. He is your God, and He has all power, strength, and courage for where you are and for what you now face. He holds you in the palm of the strongest hand one could ever imagine. The same hand that holds the world in perfect orbit is holding you.

Don't give into the panic of the python. Fear is real, but the reality of God is more than real. Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes focused on who He is, where He is, and what you have in Him. When you are confident in who you are in Him, the power of the python is broken. Fear cannot withstand the power one has when they know the authority they have in having the mind of Christ! No fear.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Pattern is the Problem.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2, NIV).

Have you ever found yourself deeply conflicted by what you want and what you seem to get? You see people around you and it has become second nature to look at them and identify all they could do to change and how that would positively impact you for the better. There are times it seems easy to point the fingers at what others, especially those closest to you, need to accomplish, and how they will better please God at the same time. But then, you slow down and begin to realize, why do they all seem to have peace and I'm the one with the pain?

Many times, the conflict you are experiencing isn't so much between you and another person, but between the Spirit of God in you and the patterns of your own mindsets. Patterns are strategic. They are habitual. They look a certain way and they feel safe. There is definition to a pattern. Patterns give a sense of security and normalcy, even though that pattern may be based on a wrong reality. 

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Romans. Paul knew something about wrong patterns. As a Pharisee, Paul was religious, strategic, and passionate about what he believed. He knew the Scriptures, he was accustomed to the Law, and He was proficient in articulating what needed to be known. And yet, none of that brought him the full peace that only came when he surrendered his mindset patterns to be renewed by Jesus. 

Here's a fact. Your present will not change until the pattern of your mind is changed. You may be in the Word of God, but until the Word of God is fully in you, and you apply it by faith beyond your feelings, there will be no change. Your mind has to be renewed from the patterns you have been used to, that have given you the definition that makes you feel safe. They aren't safe. You don't have peace. Let God's truth RENEW your mind. Don't just let read the Bible. Let the Bible read you. Let it show you what you need to know. Let the Holy Spirit reveal the truth of what your feeling, the truth about why you're feeling it, and how you can surrender the patterns of your mind to the reality of His presence. When the pattern is surrendered, the pain can be healed.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Say So.

“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets’” (Luke 5:5, NIV).

These were the first words recorded in Luke’s gospel from the man who would have much to say. Peter was a living paradox. He seem to live and speak from polarizing extremes, and yet would find such a place of influence in the mission of God’s heart for the world. 

These first words were sounded with what appears to be “defensiveness.” Jesus had asked him to do something that would have never made sense to a sane and experienced fishermen. Fish don’t live at the tops of the water during the daytime. They rest in the depths as to escape the heat of the sun.

Peter was defensive and then descriptive. He explained to Jesus why this would never work. It had been tried when conditions were right and still failed. Doing it again now would accomplish nothing better. 

“But because you say so…” Peter surrendered all that he knew, all that he felt, and all that he saw. There was something different about the words Jesus had spoken. Little did he know at that moment, but he had heard and was responding to the voice of God. That voice would change his life forever.

When God speaks, don't let a defensive reaction rob you of His divine invtervention. It’s tempting to argue why something will not work, how you’ve tried it time and again, and how futile doing another time would be. But as Peter chose to do in his moment, learn to do in your moment. Trade your “say so” for His “say so.” Because HE SAYS to do it, you will do it. Because HE SAYS you are strong, then you are strong, even when you feel weak. Because HE SAYS you are called, then you are called, even though you feel unqualified. Because HE SAYS keep trying, then you will keep trying, even though it seems that your efforts are useless. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep your ears on His “say so,” and continue to respond to His word with all obedience.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nexus, 11: Slow Down.

"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.  So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves" (Romans 14:20‭-‬22, NIV).

You know that feeling, right? The one where you know that you are right, the other person is slightly off, or maybe they are completely off. If they would just listen to one more point of reason they would get where you are coming from. Have you ever thought that, only to find that the one more point only led to more "one more points" that became the gateway into an argument that became defensive and divisive? Working too hard to prove a point can become a nexus breaker of gigantic proportion. 

Such was Paul's point in regards to those who had a conviction not to eat food that had been considered unclean, yet others felt free to do so through what Christ had accomplished and had God had spoken to Peter. Jesus had fulfilled the Law, but some were not yet there in their faith or understanding. Others chose to continue to oberseve certain aspects of the Law out of their own conviction. The temptation to turn personal conviction into a fight to prove a point is opposite of who Jesus is and what He came to do. 

Where the Bible is as clear as crystal, let there be no doubt. WHere the Bible is as clear as crystal through YOUR INTERPRETATION and PERSONAL CONVICTION, slow down. Study and understand what the Bible is saying. Listen to those you are in connection with and try to understand what they are saying. You'll never earn the right to be heard if you never take the time to listen. Making your point at the cost of destroying relationship isn not why He came. If you want to prove a point, be sure not to cancel it out with a wrong attitude, with harsh words, or a motivation that is more about you than it is about Jesus or others. The devil is out to destroy nexus, and he specializes in using those who are inside the connection to do it. Resist the temptation to prove your own point and you deny him the pleasure of his sinister plot. Take time to listen to others and you will find time to be heard.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nexus, 10: Unity Takes Effort.

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:19, NIV).

Doing "what leads to peace" has nothing to do with comfort or convenience, yet everything having to do with calling and conviction. You cannot truly hear or pursue with integrity your calling to do anything if you are neglecting and rejecting the call to "make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification." Mutual edification is a phrase that should remind you that as much as you need or desire to be encouraged and valued in what it is you do, and more importantly, who it is that you are, so do those around you. 

Think about it. God has placed you right where you are so that you can be a catalyst of change in bringing His voice of purpose and value to the ears and lives of those around you. Choosing to be more of a megaphone for the faults and elements of another that you don't like can have a deep and destructive impact in the nexus God has designed. Ask God to show you who people really are, beyond the impressions and feelings you have in regards to them. Personality differences will always exist. The likeability factor is real, but at the same time irrelevant when it comes to speaking value and purpose in the lives of others. 

If you want people to see the value in you, then ask God to open your  eyes so that you may see it in them. Satan came to destroy the purpose in others by attacking their sense of personal value. Think before you speak. Refuse to let him use you in fulfilling that goal. There is a time to address the conflicts and choices that contradict God's truth, but there is a way to do it that doesn't point the finger back at you. Deal with people, not just problems. Seek to protect the connection, so that hell doesn't have a reason to get excited when division takes another strike at unity. Let God's love for you be the motivation for loving others. Unity takes effort, but the reward for it far surpasses the results when no effort is taken.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nexus, 9: Keep "Little Things" Little.

"Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval" (Romans 14:16‭-‬18, NIV).

Have you ever heard stories of churches that have split over the choice of carpet colors, whether or not to switch from pews to chairs (and then what color), or what kind of music to play or songs to sing? Sounds silly, huh. What about marriage. How many divorces have listed "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for final seperation? Or, friendships and connections that have ended because of this text, that facebook posts, didn't get invited to that event, or any number of instances that often times get blown too far from reason or rationale?

Focusing on what seperates us will keep us from seeing JESUS. If you identify as a believer in Jesus, keep your focus on Him. That doesn't mean you don't have feelings or that you're not hurt when your opinions seem disregarded. But keep in mind that it is Satan who came to bring division and destruction to what God created. He created Adam and Eve, not just for reproduction, but for reflection. What they had together was a reflection of the unity God had with Adam and what was experienced in the Trinitarian relationship of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). 

It was Jesus who came to HEAL US & to UNITE US. Let Him start it in you. Major on what is non-negotiable, but keep that list to a minimum. Be careful not to allow emotions to morph something that should be minor into something major. Your feelings should be disqualified from making that decision. Use more than just your heart. Use God's heart. Let Him guide you through the feelings and restore the connections that He has purposed for you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Nexus, 8: Let Love Lead.

"If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:15, NIV).

When you believe that God has brought you to a certain place or "level" in your relationship with Him, you want others to come and know Him in that same way. Here's a word of advice. STOP. Let God continue to work in you. Unless you know that you know that you know, don't try to start working the same thing in someone else that God is working in you. Let HIM do it if that's what He wants to do. You are NOT called to change others. You are called to LOVE others. The Holy Spirit will work that change in the lives of others through the love that you show and live.

The change God works in those around you may NOT look just like what He's working in you. Don't judge. Don't intimidate. Don't manipulate. Love. Trying to get someone to change and become more like you, especially when it is the "gray areas" of personal conviction and not absolute truth, does more to lead them to push back than to press on.  Love them where they are and let God meet them there. Most of us are never pushed closer to God. We are drawn closer. Showing love will keep the conversation going and the relationship between you and the other growing. Let love lead you in your nexus with others, rather than your disappointment in where you expect them to be in their relationship with God.

Love leads you to care more about where someone IS than where YOU want them to be. Love them there & let God work. As God is not finished working in you, He's not finished working through you or in the lives of those around you. When it's black and white, love them enough to point it out, show them love, and help them to work it through. If it's not black and white in the Scripture, even though it feels black and white, full color, high definition, and three dimensional to you, slow down, back off, show love, and let God work. Or, acknowledge that where God has them may be different than where God has you. Don't allow judgment or jealousy to have a foothold. Keep loving and growing stronger in your connection with God and with one another.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nexus, 7: What Arguing Does.

"I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean" (Romans 14:14, NIV).

Plain and simple, not everyone is going to agree with how you see the Bible. Yes, there are many things that are clear cut and black an white. There are other areas where the Bible is a bit vague, and requires you to be dependent on the Holy Spirit to know what God is saying to you about a particular situation. If God has given you a peace and a freedom about something and it does not contradict His word, then hold on to it. If God has given you a "hold on, wait a minute" in an area, hold on to it. But in never use what God has shown you as an equivalent with His unchanging truth for other people.

Many relationships and connections are stressed and damaged because of arguing about what the Bible says, what it means, and how it should be applied. Don't ARGUE what the Bible says. KNOW it. LIVE it. Let others SEE it. TEACH it. Then let Holy Spirit CONFIRM it. Arguing about the truth of God will keep you focused on what what divides and destroys and not on living it out with honor and integrity. Jesus spoke it, lived it, and let others see it in Him. The best argument for the Word of God is letting others see the irrefutable evidence of change in YOUR LIFE.

Arguing is generally began as a discussion with a pure intention. You want to share with another of a differing view what you believe in why. Of course, you feel that if they would just listen to all of your well thought out points of reason, they would abandon what they had previously held onto and adapt to your logical manner of thinking. And when that doesn't happen, emotions begin to ramp up little by little until the argument is no longer about WHAT is right, but WHO is right. When you are no longer able to reason with someone, let it go, at least for the time. Arguing will not lead you closer to truth, only closer to a more divided atmosphere. It's not about truth, but about who's in control. Let God be in control and let Him heal you when you feel like you're losing control. Hold on to what is true, but be careful not to hold others to see or value all that you hold to the same regard. Aside from absolute truth, God may be dealing with them in different areas and in different ways. Let the arguement cool and let the nexus heal.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Nexus, 6: Confronting Hurt with Honesty.

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister" (Romans 14:13, NIV).

You were created for nexus, for connection. You need it. You long for it. It may look different than the way someone else looks for it, but everyone searches to belong in one form or another. Some find that connection with a tv screen or a movie, some in an office, on the golf-course, in the community, or at a bar. Others find it in a community of faith. One of the biggest roadblocks to nexus is when one person begins to misinterpret the actions or inactions of another. When one feels they are trying to connect and assumes another is not. Rather than engaging with honesty, they turn inward and judge.

Hurt is a powerful obstacle to overcome. Hurt doesn't need to be real or intended, but only perceived. Hurt will lead you to think in a direction that reality never traveled, but will allow you to "feel" it as real as though it did. You begin to make decisions based on that perception. You share the pain of your perception with others. You begin to withdrawl and remove yourself from being further subjected to such treatment. The break in nexus, or connection, that could have been confronted in healthy and open communication, has now become the stumbling block for you and for those from whom you seperated.

Relationships, friendships, and connections must be discipled. They go through a process. Don't stumble on your emotions nor allow your reactions to your emotions to become a stumbling block for others. Choose to be a part of the solution to every relational problem you encounter. Choosing to react to your emotions without calmly considering all sides is more destructive than it is in getting your point across. Be willing to discple others, to work with others, in helping them see who you are, how you feel, and how to continue in a way that honors each other, honors God, and honors the purpose in which HE crossed your paths. Be a discipler, not a destroyer. Stop misjudging and start joining together. Judgment blocks. Joining together breaks through.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Nexus, 5: When Self-Focus is OK.

"You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ”   So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God"  (Romans, 14:10‭-‬12 NIV).

Before you get too far into this, let's be clear. When the Bible says "Judge not...," it doesn't mean what it is many times misinterpreted to mean. "Your're judging me" is generally a statement used by someone who knows they're wrong and just doesn't like that it is being pointed out. The Bible does call us to observe, evaluate, and to assess a situation so that we can respond in a manner that honors God.

With that being said, "Stop judging people!" Huh?? I can only imagine the confusion at this point. No worries. Let's simplify. One big reason people sometimes do feel judged or overly analyzed, is because the amount of attention that you might be placing on them seems misplaced to them. "If you spent half as much time on dealing with you as you spend focused on me, we might get out of this conflict a lot sooner." When your fingers are more concentrated on pointing out the faults in another person, are you really able to see what God is trying to reveal in you? Or, is focusing on the faults of another a way of coping and avoiding dealing with the responsibility of your own?

Spend more time allowing Holy Spirit to reveal your faults to work through rather than pointing out the faults of others. Yes, this does mean releasing the conflict to God and not being in control of how it goes. As long as you hold onto it, God will not resolve it. Resolution cannot be accomplished without surrender. Focus on letting God work IN YOU. Let the Holy Spirit speak to others by how they see HIS change through you. You will become more of who He has designed you to be and you will be more of what others need you to be. True nexus is strong when we focus on Jesus as the answer than trying to insert ourselves as the answer. Let Him focus His truth and grace in you.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nexus, 4: Let God Be the "Why."

"Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:6‭-‬9, NIV).

I have a tattoo. For most who don't know me, you could probably care less. Others might be turned off as to why or how I could possibly violate God's Holy Word in Leviticus, "You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD" (19:28). Understanding this verse in its proper context that it was in regards to idol worship and the like, will never satsify some. I have sinned. It is easy to look at people's bodies and rush to judgment as to why people do what they do, but the question could be asked easily of the one rushing to judgement. "Why are you quick to assume?" 

In everything you do, the Bible calls you to do it for the Lord. Let God be the "why." Yes, my tattoo represents that very passion. I decided once upon a time to have my wedding ring tattooed to my finger. Most people will never see the ink. I wear my ring on top of it. I got the tattoo to remind myself of the permancence of the covenant I have made with my wife and God. I didn't get it to bring attention. I did it to direct attention from me to God. Why say it here and now? It is a reminder to me and to all that in everything we do, do it for the right reason. God has not called you to live life going through the motions. One who gets a tattoo for the wrong reasons of directing attention to themselves is no different from the one who takes Holy Communion with no regard for who or why it celebrates, but mindlessly goes through the motions. 

Do what you do as unto the LORD, not as unto religious obligation or public self-righteousness. Grow closer to Jesus. THAT is the call God has placed within you. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in the distractions that take you off track from pursuing Jesus. Before assuming why someone does what they do, ask yourself this question. 'Why do you care so much?" Let your REACTIONS be worshipful to God as you observe and question worship-nature of someone else's actions. If you can answer that is the "why" for all that you do, don't be quick to assume differently for others who also identify with Jesus. If it is a matter of real sin, bring it up. If it is a matter of difference of opinion, go ahead and put it down. Focus on what brings you closer to Jesus. Let Him be the "why" for what YOU do. Leave the rest to Him.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nexus, 3: Don't Get Stuck in the Gray.

"One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind" (Romans 14:5, NIV).

What matters to you matters to you. And it SHOULD matter to you. Understand WHY it matters to you. As you grow in your relationship with God, there will be things that He will show you that will be paramount in your spiritual growth. Learn what God is showing you, but know the difference between His direction for you and His truth. Direction is specific and may not apply to everyone. Truth is absolute and does not change.

In Romans 14, Paul addresses those who have begun arguing about invidual convictions they were passing off as absolute truths. What was important to them caused them to become offended when others didn't share their level of importance. When people don't see important what you hold as valuable and sacred, it is easy to feel invalidated. It is possible for people to understand for you, but not agree for themselves. There are those who feel it is a sin to go out to eat on a Sunday, while others see it as a time to share and build relationships in the name of Jesus. One might judge the other, but should be cautioned to keep their eyes on Jesus and what He has spoken to them.

Some things aren't a matter of morality and absolute truth, but of personal direction and conviction. Hold fast to what is important to you withoutt passing judgement on others for holding on to theirs. Continue to seek truth from the Word of God. When it's black it's black and where it's white it's white. Don't get stuck in the gray areas, and don't attempt to darken or lighten the gray areas in your own interpretation. After all, when judgement or cycnism creeps in and begins to take over your attitude, you have slipped from gray into the black and white. Focus on where Scripture is clear and trust God to guide you where it seems a bit gray.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nexus, 2: Judge NOT.

"Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand" (Romans 14:4, NIV).

"Go in to all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." These words of Jesus have been dubbed "The Great Commission." They've been spoken, quoted, preached, and by many, misunderstood as to what this means, how it should be applied and how misapplied, it does more damage than good. Jesus said to make disciples. He never said to reproduce your interpretation or point of view. A disciple is one who learns, but they must be able to learn truth from their perspective. This doesn't change truth, but it might change the pace they learn it or the angle from which they appoach it. Trying too hard to get someone to agree with your point of view puts the focus on you more than the focus being placed on God. Know when to release.

Be paitent when people do not see things the same way you do. It is ok. It doesn't mean they are on the fast track to hell. It doesn't mean you have to use every ounce of spiritual muscle or mouth muscle you have to push, poke, prod, or press them into your way of thinking. You are not the judge. You will be judged on your part, so do your part, but only do your part. Present truth in the love of which truth origniates. Be bold and confident, but also be gentle, kind, and patient. Humility will be the key to you being hearable and believable. Arrogance and force will get you switched off quick and in a hurry. After you've presented truth, leave it alone and let the Holy Spirit of God do HIS work. If they choose to hear or not, is between them and God. In the meantime, it allows the Holy Spirit to work in you. Isn't it possible that you didn't have it all exactly right either?

When in relationship with others, when you have a different view, opinion, or reason, share it, but let it go. Why be argumentative? Trying to be the judge in the lives of those around you will eliminate you from having any real influence as a friend. They already have a judge. Don't worry about proving yourself right in their eyes. Focus on being right in the eyes of God. Don't forget. HE's your judge.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Nexus, 1: Love Doesn't Condescend

"Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them" (Romans 14:1-3, NIV).

Satan's greatest goal is not the individual acts of evil that you see, read about, or hear about. Every evil act is a result of something even more diabolical that began even before the beginning of time. His greatest goal is division. He came to seperate. He seperated from, became disconnected from, broke the "nexus" he had with God. He then set his sights on the first two physical creations that God placed His very breath within, to bring seperation between them and God and each other.

Look around. Seperation and division can be seen in the everyday as close to home as those around you. It's not wrong to disagree. God created you with a mind that dreams, thinks, comprehends in ways that are different than those around you. The purpose was never for division, but for diversity and creativity, so that you would know how incomplete you are alone, but complimented by those that think in ways that you don't. Sometimes, the disagreements will be such that you might never see it the same way as another. That is OK. You CAN agree to disagree without being condescending. Proving someone WRONG in an UNLOVING way isn't showing them Jesus. It only serves the further the goal the devil lives to achieve.

Agreeing to disagree isn't to compromise truth. It is to LIVE TRUTH and let the Holy Spirit of God work that truth through you. Becoming condescending only serves to contradict the love of Jesus and the truth of God you say you believe. Rely on the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to prove His love more than your point.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Intimidator is Not Your Focus.

"Say to them, 'This is what the Lord says: When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit, they refuse to return. I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle'" (Jeremiah 8:4-6, NIV).

Leadership isn’t meant to be intimidating nor is it effective when easily intimidated. Leadership is only as effective as is the leader who knows who they are, where their authority is founded, and is willing to back up their decision and follow through with their directives. Having worked with many parents over the years as a pastor, youth pastor, and kids pastor, and of course as a parent, myself, I have seen much when it comes to those who parent their kids either by intimidating them, or being intimidated by them. Intimidation is nothing of what or why Jesus came from Heaven to earth. It is an abuse of power and a perversion of authority that demands its own way and seeks to tear down more than it builds up. It is “leadership” that looks for power to fulfill an insecurity by forcing others into following by lording over others with titles, position, and rank. 

On the other side, as ineffectiveness is always found in the extremes, is the intimidated leader who makes decisions based on a desire to please and appease. They have seen a conflict blow up out of proportion or have encountered their own authority being threatened, challenged, or delegitimized. They begin to question their decisions, second-guess their directives, and lose sight of the vision to which they have a passion to lead. They want to avoid being the intimidating leader to such an extent that their own pendulum swings from one far side to the other. They lose their edge on dreaming the big dreams for where God has called them to lead, as they have allowed them to be replaced by the one who intimidates. What the intimidated leader (the parent, the volunteer, the pastor, the boss, the director, etc) must understand, is that to be who God wants them to be, they must be willing to do and say as He directs, not as the potential responses of the intimidator may dictate. 

Jeremiah was a leader who spoke what needed to be said even though he knew it would not be well-like or well-received. He was a prophet of God during a time when the people of the nation he loved were blind to the truth of God and were more focused on fulfilling the passions and lusts of their own desires. They sought to intimidate with the vitality of their own passionate stubbornness. Jeremiah, however, was a leader who was secure in who he was, because he knew of whom he served and would answer to. Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” He was unafraid or unashamed to show his emotions. He loved his nation. He tried to get the message of repentance across, though he was rebuffed and rejected at every turn. Even when they dropped him in the cistern or had him locked up and held captive, he continued to lead in the strength and courage of God. It has been said that a leader who leads with no one following is not really leading, as they are only taking a walk. The challenge to this logic is simple. Legacy. Jeremiah may not have seen those follow him or his lead in that time, but many have been the benefactor in the generations following. He was a leader who was determined to be God’s mouthpiece at a time when making friends would have been more attractive.

You are a leader. God has breathed divine influence into your life. Don’t allow intimidation from others cause you to stand down or to forfeit that influence. Yes, listen to the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. Consider them, but never accept that listening to the input of others requires you to always defer the ideas that are inside of YOU. Be willing to lead. Be willing to confront what needs to be confronted. Trust God to give you the wisdom to identify those things that are wrong, not right, or need to be tweaked. Don’t allow the enemy to work anxious thoughts in your mind of what might happen if you challenge something. Pray it through. Seek the wisdom of God. Act on that wisdom in the right heart. If you heart’s desire is to follow God, He will lead you. Trust God to give you the strength to carry out that wisdom. It might mean making a decision you know will be unpopular. Follow through. Don’t assume that the motivation of the one you see as an intimidator is to intimidate. The devil is a master manipulator and works wildly in the thoughts and imaginations of those who aren’t watching. 

All in all, be the leader, the influencer, that God has designed you to be. Be it with humility and grace, but be it with boldness and confidence. The Bible is full of many leaders who led despite the intimidators that lined their paths. They kept their focus on God. When your eyes are on your liberator, you will not succumb to the power of your intimidator. Seek the face of God. Let Him pour his wisdom and counsel in you. Stay humble before those you lead. Let them know you value them. Lead with integrity. Lead with grace. Lead.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Upheld.

"Here is my servant, who I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations" (Isaiah, 42:1, NIV).

Imagine the scene. It is a Friday evening at a local mid-scale restaurant. You are out with friends and associates celebrating a recent achievement. It may not be the fanciest establishment, but the entrees and appetizers on the menu certainly appear to add up and guarantee the server a decent tip for the night. The place is somewhat packed with a steady stream of patrons coming in and filling the waiting area. The food and drinks are ordered and you and your party are enjoying the appetizers and friendly conversation when it happens. The meals are brought to the table by the server who has been great so far. She’s been friendly, attentive, and has seasoned the time with the right amount of conversation. As she places the plates in front of each one, she has no clue what is about to happen. It’s the one guy in the party who cuts into the steak and doesn’t find it to his liking. 

Rather than mentioning it to the server so that she can return it to the kitchen, he becomes frustrated with the server and makes a point in front of the rest of the party. “This is NOT how I wanted this prepared. I’m not eating this and I’m not paying for this. Please go and get done right.” And with that, he dismisses her as though her personal value has been tainted by what has been perceived as her own personal failure. She takes the steak and returns to the kitchen. Though she had nothing to do with how the meal was prepared, she took the criticism on the chin and continued to serve with humility, grace, and determination. 

Everyone wants to be identified as a servant until they feel they are being treated as one, or at least, mistreated as one. Even in the Bible times, servants were often seen as in a class lower than others. The very word “servant” is the word translated from bondservant or slave. In many cases it was more of an arrangement than a forced situation, it was still one in submission to the other. Servanthood does in fact call one into a life of submission. The work is not about the server, but about those being served. Their purpose is to ensure order in the midst of chaos and carry out the will of the one in charge.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks of Jesus, but in a manner that can be applied to everyone that would identify with Jesus. “Here is my servant, who I uphold…” As in the case of the server in the restaurant, it doesn’t take much for someone to use your servanthood against you, to entice you to feel less than who you really are, or to lift themselves up at the expense of stepping on and over you. God says of His servant, “…I uphold…” The word used is one that means to grasp, to clasp the grip of His hand around that which is the object of His hold. It means to hold up, to retain, to sustain, and to see it remain. This is God’s eye and heart on those who choose to serve. When you feel as though you are taken advantage of, stepped on, not valued, and overlooked, keep your eyes on the God who loves you and has called you according to HIS purpose for you. He will uphold you. He will sustain you. Your value is not in those you serve, but in the ONE who called you to serve. Let everything you do be done in service to HIM who has called you.

When you know who upholds you, you can respond from the grace that He gives rather than from the wounds that have been inflicted. When Jesus came from Heaven to earth, He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He didn’t always receive the honor that He was due. He was overlooked, underestimated, attacked, betrayed, mocked, spit upon, lied upon, shamefully paraded with the intention to humiliate, and was ultimately executed. Yet all in all, He responded, not out of His pain, but out of His purpose. He loved. Even on the cross, He spoke life and restoration to the thief beside Him, grace to the disciple who left Him, and forgiveness to all who had forsaken Him. In His darkest moments, Jesus still served. So, don’t let the emotions and humiliation drag you down a road of quick responses. Those who mistreat you and cannot change what they did not create. Your value is divinely authored. Respond out of who you are, not out of how you feel. Even in your darkest moments, know that you are called to serve, you are divinely valued, and you are upheld.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Nothing Wasted, 13: Control Problems

“Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15, NIV).

In a world of digital planners, apps that schedule everything, strategy sessions, and the constant pressure to live with long-term goals, it is not always easy to let go of control. There are many tempting and inspiring philosophies that compete for the attention of the above-average go-getter. “Seize the Day!” “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” “It’s time to take the bull by the horns,” or even, “…sometimes you just gotta honk your own horn, or else ain’t nobody gonna know you’re coming!” Although there is a truth and a determination that can teach great lessons from each of these mantras, it can easily feed into a desire within each of us to control every situation. If you are in control of every decision you make, what place does that leave God?

James addresses those who seem to have it all planned and all together, yet God has not been included in the process. He speaks to those who already know and have prepared for what they will do “tomorrow.” In a season of great division, rampant persecution, and an early Church that was living to thrive beyond survival, God could NOT be relegated to an after-thought. James countered that each believer should live with a life’s theme of “God’s will.” God had given them all ideas. They were created by the Creator to embody creativity. But their creativity and ability to design, devise, and design was never intended to render God ineffective or irrelevant in their lives. James challenged them to have a “Christ-centered” mindset in everything they were about. “If it is the Lord’s will…” The word “Lord” is one that defines mastery, authority, one who is chief, supreme, in charge, and in control. It was a reminder for who they were, who they were intended to be, who they were NOT, and who God would always be. 

I am not in charge. This is something I live to remind myself on a regular basis. I may have a position of authority, but my authority should always be lived in reflection of His authority. Life is not about me. It is not about my will, my agenda, my dreams, or even about my destiny. My life is about living out HIS will, HIS purpose, and HIS destiny for my life. I have been designed with great strategy and intention. I will not live the every day of my life as though God is an after-thought or a convenience. I will live intentionally to pursue His will for my life in both the short-term and the long-term. I will plan and strategize as I look forward to the future, but will pray for His will and His guidance before and always. If God is not in what I want to do, then I don’t want to do it. I know that there is no plan I could ever create in my limitations that is greater than what God has already crafted in the limitlessness of His divinity. 

Living in the reminder that God is in control will be a constant release in my life from fear, anxiety, stress, and disappointment. These are elements in life that I inevitably have to face, but was never intended by God to live in their control or by their influence. I begin this day by releasing this day to Jesus. THIS is the day that HE has made. I release it. I rejoice in it. I submit myself to His leading in the every second of this day. As Paul reminded us, I will “pray without ceasing” as a means of living in the constant reminder of who is really in control. When I live with that confidence that HE is in control, I will not slip into the fallacy that attempts to convince me that I’m in control. If God is not it, I’m convinced that I don’t want it. I surrender all of the “wasted” moments of my being in control where I have been left more empty that satisfied. It is in THAT surrender that I know that nothing is really wasted. 

Lord Jesus, I pray that You would remind me that every time I call You “Lord,” that I think about and understand what I’m saying and why. You are not just Lord by title, but You are Lord by definition. You are the chief and supreme authority in my life. I live today in renewed submission and surrender to You, Your will, and Your plan for my life as a whole, but also my life as of TODAY. I need Your wisdom for today. I need Your direction in living according to YOUR will and divine strategy for my life. Lord, I don’t want to live chasing plans and goals that are not in the process of the equation You have already perfected for my life. I need You. I want You. I need Your strength. I recognize once again, today, that You are God, You are in charge, and that You are in control. I thank You for Your faithfulness and Your love. It’s in Your Name that I pray and live this out today. Amen.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nothing Wasted, 12: Pride Problems

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV).

There is no doubt about it. The Apostle Paul was a man who had been undeniably changed and lived a passionate and shameless love for Jesus. Writing a great portion of the New Testament and being responsible for much of Church and Christian theology, it would be easy to see Paul as almost perfect. And yet, Paul was human, imperfect, flawed, and struggled through much of the same emotions and circumstances as those to whom he was writing. Paul was honest about himself and about the issues that were within him that he continued to face off with, even while on the journey of his own faith and ministry. Verse 7 shows that Paul was inflicted with some variety of pain. Scholars continue to debate whether it was physical, situational, or emotional. But what is more important than the ‘what’ he faced, is the ‘why’ he faced it. “So that I may not become conceited…” Paul recognized that in his own life, the life of a missionary, preacher, apostle, and early church father, there were areas where pride still attempted to lurk and live. Rather than a repeal of the circumstance, Jesus replaced the potential fear with a perpetual grace. Paul responded to that grace in delight. 

Grace is a reminder that no matter what you face, you do not face it alone, nor do you face it unequipped. Grace is a continued reminder of the life you have in Christ even when it feels as though the very life is being extracted from your being. It was the grace of God that gave Paul the confidence that he was not alone, that he could continue in the call in which Jesus had placed on his life. He knew that with every pain of weakness in himself, there was the grace and strength of Jesus to carry him through. Paul’s pride was a potential roadblock to the destiny calling to which Paul was called. God used the “Nothing Wasted” moments of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and the pride that tried to hide within him, to showcase the life-power of His grace.

As I look through the pages of my own life, even pages found much closer to the present, I can relate to Paul’s prayer and plea for God to change certain things. There are prayers that I have prayed for provision that have not been answered in the way that I have preferred or expected. There are breakthroughs in my family that I have not seen come to pass in the timing that well serve the cries of my comfort. There are inward struggles that I have cried out for God to eradicate or change miraculously that still exist. But what I have received, and am reminded by this window into Paul’s world, is the grace of God to lead me where my pride would rather distract me. God knows me better than I know myself. It is why he has placed the people in my life, even those that seem to delight in rubbing me the wrong way. I thank God for them. It is them that God uses to challenge and confront the pride that hides and lurks inside of me. I may not see it, but I know that Jesus does. 

The love of Jesus for me is so great that He allows moments that I would rather pray away to remain and to do a work under His close supervision. He will use what Satan has crafted to be the tool of my destruction in order to repeal the pride and replace it with a greater knowledge and awareness of His grace. I will continue to pray for miracles and breakthroughs, but I will continue to look to Him for the grace and strength to continue even when I don’t see or receive the answers I thought I had wanted. What I want more than anything is His grace to be revealed in me and through my life. I know that there is nothing wasted in Him. His grace IS sufficient for me. His strength IS made perfect in and through every weakness, failure, disappointment, discouragement, and missed expectation. 

Lord, I thank You that there is NOTHING that is too big for You. I am still forever convinced that You are the God that hears prayers, answers prayers, and performs miracles. I also recognize that You are the Sovereign God. You hear what I don’t hear, see what I don’t see, and know what I don’t know. I thank You that You are above both my understanding and the limitations of my understanding. I continue to call out to You and to trust You. Thank You for Your divine and timely grace. Lord, I know that I can trust in You in all things. There are times when what I pray to see is not what You choose to let me see. But in all things, my greatest desire is to see You. My flesh prefers to see You in the miracles, but I know Your desire is for me to also see You in the mess. I know that You are with me. I will choose to trust and rely on You in every circumstance regardless of how I see or interpret Your answers to my prayers. You are my strength. Your grace IS my confidence and my life. I thank You, Jesus. In Your Name, AMEN.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Nothing Wasted, 11: Addiction Problems

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” (Psalm 107:15‭-‬16, NIV).

Addictions come in all shapes and sizes, but the one common denominator is the addiction to self-desires and self-will. People have become addicted to doing what they want to do regardless of what they know is right or wrong. Yes, there are those who struggle in ways that are beyond the struggle of others, but everyone who comes to that fateful “door” of “do not enter,” has the same choice in choosing between right and wrong. Once that door is opened, all bets are off. THIS was the story of the Israelites. They knew what to do and chose not to do it. They had encountered great success with God, but they had experienced great pleasure without God. They became addicted to their own will. They became blind in the moments of their pleasure what consequences their choices would render. They walked through doors that appeared as entrances into a domain of even greater pleasure, only to discover them as the gateway into a prison of their own consequence. 

“Let them give thanks…for He breaks down gates…and cuts through bars…” There had come a time when the weight of the chains caused them to open their eyes and see the reality of their existence, and they cried out to God. God heard the cry and the life and opportunity that had seemed to be all but wasted, was now an opportunity for thanksgiving and praise. What they had been through was now the testimony of their break-through. What had been their stain had now become their story. What the enemy tried to use to keep them bound and imprisoned, was now their open door into the lives of others to tell the story of God’s grace, His love, and His power. Their repentance and recognition of their own state gave God the access He had always wanted into their prison to break the chains that bound them from living the destiny for which He had created them.

I have never struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol, or most of the other “big ones” you hear discussed. But I have struggled with an addiction to my own pride, my own secrets, and my own way of doing things. I have sat in the prison of shame and regret, feeling bound and restricted by an unseen force, not knowing how to change how I feel. But one thing I have discovered, is that when I continue to stay humble before God and cry out to Him, I am rising above everything I have allowed to weigh me down. There really IS power in the Name of Jesus…TO BREAK EVERY CHAIN. Every chain that is broken is another “Nothing Wasted” opportunity in my life to shout out what God has done in delivering me from all that was holding or has held me back. My addictions to self, sin, and shame are broken. I will not sit and meditate on past mistakes because there is nothing I can do to change them. I will call out to Him who is listening, who is able, and who is never changing! I will give thanks for how He has broken chains in the past, because I know that He is the unchanging God. If He broke them THEN, He can still break them NOW. I will live to tell others who struggle that there is a God who lives and who can break every chain that would hold them back from the life of destiny and deliverance He has designed them to live. What has been my stain will be my story. I am not ashamed and will live the testimony of Jesus’ work in me.

Father God, THANK YOU for hearing my cry. Even when I didn’t realize I was praying, You heard the cry of my life. You heard my desperate plea for something to change. You knew what I deserved, but desired to give me the grace that was needed to see the focus of my life changed. I thank You, Lord, for the change You have spoken and performed in me. I know that I am nothing without You and can DO NOTHING  apart from You. Lord Jesus, help me to recognize Your presence in the everyday of my life. Help me to NOT become distracted by the things that I cannot change. Help me not to look back and dwell upon that which is past. Open my eyes to the opportunities that you have preordained for me to share the story of the sounds of chains breaking so that others will know that there is POWER in YOUR NAME to BREAK EVERY CHAIN in their lives, too. I thank You for all of these things in the NAME that is ABOVE EVERY other name. JESUS. Amen.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Nothing Wasted, 10: Hopelesness Problems.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:17‭-‬18, NIV).

David’s father never thought he counted when the prophet Samuel asked to see “all” his sons as he was preparing to anoint one of them for something special of God. David’s brother did not thing very well or very much of him when he came out to the battlefield bringing food and news from home during Israel’s conflict with the Philistines. King saw didn’t see much or think much of David when he was brought before him with a determination to what everyone else was intimidated to consider in facing the giant who dared to defy the God and the armies of the God of Israel. The giant, Goliath, certainly had no positive thoughts in regards to David, but perceived nothing more than a little boy coming to face a man on the battlefield, meeting him with insults and mockery. 

The list is even longer of those whose thoughts of David were bent more towards his demise and his destruction, underestimating his value, and dismissing him as useless. Yet, David had learned in the loneliness of the pasture that the God of all grace and hope was with him, and had always been with him. There would be many in his life that would speak against him, think ill against him, and even attempt evil against him. Any of these could work to produce a sense or feeling of hopelessness in the heart and the life of David. David, however, in a moment of “nothing wasted,” chose to see himself through the eyes of God. “How precious to me are your thoughts, God!”

It wouldn’t be too hard for me to allow my overactive imagination to go the way of imagining what others might think of me, about me, or towards me. If I allow my mind to go to such a place where balance doesn’t exist, there will be a greater potential for hopelessness to take over my focus on Jesus and HIM as the hope of my life. The fact is, there will always be people whose thoughts of me are not aligned with the thoughts that God has for me. That is ok. I do not live my life with the thoughts of others, good or bad, as my motivation or my standard. Thoughts and opinions about me, what I do, how I am, what I dream, how I respond to life, will change, because I change, and because people change. I will keep my eyes on Jesus who never changes. I will keep my mind focused on the hope-filled thoughts He has for my life, because they, too, will never change. 

I will stay reminded of all the many times David was overlooked and underestimated by the thoughts of actions of those in his life, yet remained focused on the One who called him forward. My hope is not for sale to those whose thoughts are not for my good. It is God’s thoughts for me that will contribute to me living in the hope of God’s destiny for my life. When faced with discouragement or hopelessness in regards to the thoughts of others, I will keep my thoughts on HIM who is thinking HOPE over me.

Lord God, I thank You for the HOPE I have in You. Your thoughts of my life and the purpose you have for my life are so great and numerous I could never live enough days to count them. Forgive me for all the times I have wasted dwelling on, becoming worried in, reacting to, and losing hope over thoughts, whether projected or perceived by others in my life. I will focus on You, for it is YOU who have created me. It is YOU who have called me. I thank You for the strength I have in Your hope. Continue to remind me when I am in situations where I am tempted to wander off on paths led by my imagination. Call me back so that I may return to the path of Your thoughts for my destiny. I thank You Jesus that in You, I have the mind of Christ. I thank You that in You, I can take captive every thought and imagination that would try to lift itself up over the knowledge of who You are, and who I am in YOU. The hope I have in this life is because of You. Help me to live out each moment of everyday remembering that hope and living out my response to that hope. I ask and pray all of this in YOUR NAME, JESUS. Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Love Leads.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you" (Psalm 32:8).

The key to leadership is not the loudest voice or the best idea. It is a heart that is focused beyond a person and beyond a moment. Many influential leaders have often quoted the phrase, “You teach what you know. You reproduce who you are.” Leadership is the influence within you to see a change around you become more than just an ideal, but real. 

David’s heart was to see care and to see people grow in the potential of the influence that had been divinely placed within them. He was a product of someone seeing in him what no one seemed to see or cared to see. He was overlooked by his size as a boy and his status as a shepherd. God, through the prophet Samuel, saw something different. Samuel saw a heart that was teachable with a potential that would be unstoppable. David saw something very similar in the lives of 400 outcasts that infamously became known as “David’s Mighty Men.” They were the rejects of society and yet were instrumental in the conquests of Israel’s greatest king before Jesus. 

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.” David cared about the subject of his writing. He saw the potential, but he also saw the problem. The solution to the problem was guidance and leadership. Someone needed to be willing to speak like, speak truth, and help show the way. David couldn’t expect someone else to know what he knew unless he was willing to reproduce that knowledge in them. So often, we become frustrated with others for their performance, or their lack of performance, in an area, but we fail to see the opportunity for the disappointment. Take time to teach what you know and reproduce who you are in the lives of those around you who are desperate for leadership. It’s easy to complain, but God has called you to counsel. It is quicker to disparage, but God has called you to disciple. 

Think for a moment. Who are the people in your life that are products of God’s divine placement? Where are they going? What lack do you see in their life that God has given you insight from experiences in YOUR life? Be willing to share it. Be open to being a voice and an ear in their life. Be willing to speak, but also to listen. Talking is good, but when words are spoken without really hearing the heart of someone’s reality, those words are either misfired or misplaced. Be humble. Let them see the imperfect humanity that lives in the same need of the grace of God. 

“I will counsel with my loving eye on you.” David chose a loving eye rather than a sharp tongue or an iron fist. In a world where people are quick to feel judged, be focused on letting them know the life-changing power of God’s love in you and through you. Yes, truth still needs to be shared, but truth without love is not truth at all. Love is defined as patient, kind, never rude or selfish, forgiving, hopeful, persevering, and never failing. Determine to speak into people’s lives with this heart. “…with my loving eye on you…” Look for the best, not just expecting the worst. Speak as though you see the best, just as in Christ, God saw the best in you. Romans 5:8 reminds us that “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were the worst, His love saw the best. Live to reproduce in others what Christ desires to reproduce in you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

These Things.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).

Imprisoned when he wrote this line in a letter to the Philippian church, Paul’s message couldn’t be any clearer. He was a man who had experienced much, but refused to allow his experience to change his reality. Prison wasn’t his reality. Jesus was his reality. Prison was only his situation. He had been beaten and bruised with his personal freedoms violated and removed. After having served God faithfully and without complaint for many years, he was being treated and presented as one of the deviants of society. If anyone had had a justifiable cause to become bitter, angry, or even resentful, Paul would have been a prime candidate.

“Think on these things…” Paul wrote that each individual, especially those who have surrendered their souls, their minds, hearts, wills, and emotions, to Jesus, had a choice in HOW they faced or responded to what they experienced. As a man who had become more than familiar with the pains of injustice still chose to think on things that were pure, true, noble, and the like. He wasn’t about to allow a soldier or a sacrilegious Pharisee distract his focus on all God was or had been in his life. Jesus was still on the throne and his thoughts were top evidence to that truth. If he had allowed it, he could have easily complained, protested, stirred up much emotion, and called for a revolution. He had gripes to air, bones to pick, and scores to settle, and yet he encouraged every reader that would ever set their eyes on this letter to consider the greater truth. 

You have a choice in everything you face. Even when all freedom is taken away, how you respond in your mind will always be a choice that only you can make. Paul continued, even in the midst of his own persecution, to discover any and every aspect of his life that would bring honor to God, rather than focusing on the negative. What you focus on will always be reproduced in your attitude. Paul didn’t ignore what he was facing, he only chose not to allow it the power to control how he faced it. He chose to honor Jesus and to trust God in every situation. He showed that by how he responded. 

Trusting God in every circumstance will be evident in your life by how you respond when things go against the grain of your expectations. Are you easily riled up? Do you have to fix everything that seems, at least in your mind, to be wrong? Are you quicker to jump to assumptions and conclusions than you are to pray, release it, and see the best in those around you? Is it easier for your to point out all that is wrong rather than to see anything that is right? If the answer is yes, then your definition of trusting God is less than compatible with the example shown by the imprisoned Paul. 

When faced today with any situation that would try to wrangle your focus onto something that serve as the battle cry to your emotional responses, choose to set your mind fully on Jesus. Let His word of truth be guide that leads you. If Paul could find the positive in the worst of situations around him, isn’t it possible to see the best in what you’re facing? Never allow the enemy to take away a peace and a joy that God has given you, especially with those people He has divinely placed in your life. There will be things that you cannot change, but don’t let them change you. Let God use those things to bring about a change in you that reflects His love, His grace, and His presence. Think on THESE things.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

‘Be It’ Before ‘Do It.’

"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).

Parenting has taught me a lot about life! Many of the lessons I have learned have been through at least as many mistakes as success, if not more! I remember one day in particular when I had an overwhelming encounter of conviction with the Holy Spirit. One of the areas we have always battled as parents in insuring that our kids have kept their rooms clean. “Is your room clean?” would always be the question when they wanted to run off and do something of their own choosing. “Yes, Daddy!” would come a pretty rapid reply. “Is it “Daddy clean?” was my response to insure that a rush job wasn’t being used to achieve the “technical” requirement of my question. “Daddy clean.” Hmmm. Well, that got me one day. By “Daddy clean,” they understood that to mean ‘thorough, complete, and almost perfect.’ The Holy Spirit spoke to me during one of those “clean your room’ exchanges. “Is YOUR room ‘Daddy clean?’” I was stunned and stopped in my own tracks. I had been expecting something I was not emulating. What credibility do I have as a dad to parent what I’m not producing? Needless to say, that day began a renewed discipline in my own life. No matter how busy I am or think I am, picking up after myself, and contributing to my own room being ‘Daddy clean’ became a priority as I modeled to my children the importance of BEING before DOING.

Ezra was a priest and a scribe, a man God had used to live and to tell the story of redemption and restoration. The temple was to be rebuilt in a city that had been destroyed because its inhabitants had been more focused on DOING the people of God rather than BEING the people of God. They had DONE the actions without having BECOME intimately connected with the God in whom they actions had been dedicated. Their actions were a result of OBLIGATION, not TRANSFORMATION. Ezra refused to allow history to repeat itself through his life. He “devoted himself” to the BEING of the work of God more than the DOING of the work of God. His desire was for everything he would DO to be an overflow out of all that he would BE.

“…to the study…” Ezra wanted to know God. He didn’t want to rely on what he had heard, but he wanted to hear it for himself. He wanted to hear the same voice of the same God who had tried to speak to so many with deaf ears. He wanted to learn from the mistakes of his relatives before him. He wanted to know the God that others had chosen not to know. You will never BE who you were intended to be if you do not KNOW the God who always was, is and will be. He created you. He formed you and crafted an original purpose for your life. Study. Get to know Him for who He is. Go to church and be a part of community, but never rely on a once or twice encounter with a preacher or a teacher to be the extent to which you are exposed to the reality of God. Let God be the start and the greatest part of your everyday life. Who you are will become much more clear to you when you discover more and more who He has always been.

“…and observance of the Law of the LORD…” Knowing would never be enough for Ezra. He knew the great failures of the past had to do with knowing what to do and what was right, but neglecting the application. Without application, information will never lead to transformation. Ezra didn’t just study it, he practiced it. He allowed what he studied to transform who he was. He meditated on it. He let it have more than just headspace, but heart space. God desires to move and work in your life well beyond the shout of an ‘amen.’ Do it. Allow Him to transform the being so that you live that transformation through the doing. Do what you say you believe. If DOING it doesn’t follow the SAYING it, it will be unbelievable that you are BEING it. Let the credibility of your integrity be evident in how you apply what you say you know.

“…and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” What Ezra studied and practiced, he also taught. What he required had been exemplified and modeled in his own life. His greatest and most believable lessons were taught out of the pages of his own examples. He taught what he lived, because he lived what he believed. Anyone might have argued Ezra’s theology, but they could never effectively argue his “life-ology.” He learned it. He lived it. He let it be known through his own life. When you have been changed by the power of God and who He is, you want others to know the same. If you aren’t passionate about seeing others changed by the power of God, the question becomes “have you really been changed?” Has YOUR being been changed? 

The most effecting DOING will always be a result of a transformation in the BEING. Start there. Ask God to change you from the inside-out. When God grabs hold of a surrendered being, what He does is more than unbelievable. It is undeniable. 

When Pride Rises.

"Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel" (1 Chronicles 21:1).

Trusting God can feel like a pretty easy thing to do when we are at a place of desperation and know that we incapable of doing anything without Him. But what happens when we start feeling good about ourselves, overly comfortable with our own abilities, and start listening more to the compliments and accolades of those around us than to the voice of God? David was a man who had learned to listen to God. He had cultivated an incredible intimacy with Him while in the pasture overseeing the sheep. Think about it. Sheep didn’t talk to him. They didn’t tell him how good he was. They didn’t ask him about anything. They didn’t verbalize any care for him at all. He had to find his security and purpose in something greater than what he did. He found it in God. He knew who he was and what he could because he had grown close to God in the exile of the pasture. But THAT is where he discovered that he was never alone.

After years of struggle and then years of success, David’s desperation for the Lord began to recede and be replaced by his security in himself and his own accomplishments. He began to look at what he had done more than what God had done in his search for confidence and assurance. He dispatched his general to gather a census of all the fighting men. David’s action was not the sin, but rather the motivation of the action. “Satan rose up…and incited David…” Satan had observed the potential pride in David’s life, the insecurities and buried inadequacies that had not been fully surrendered to the Lord. He exploited the hidden secrets within David’s heart and lured him into making a decision that would replace God’s protection with his pride.

There is not a person alive who has not struggled in some way with the potential destructive patterns of unfettered pride. As God is watching to protect you, the eyes of the enemy are also on you with the intention to exploit you. He is looking for some area of insecurity, inadequacy, or inferiority that has not been identified and surrendered. He is looking to breathe upon those embers of self-pride so that your actions will be cause you to step outside of the shadow of the Almighty and into the open exposure of your own self-centeredness. Recognize where that potential lies in you and refuse to allow Satan and his minions to enjoy the satisfaction of tripping you up and those who follow you. Surrender those areas to God and allow Him to work His humility in and through your life. 

Humility is one of the greatest evidences that God is at work in your life. When someone sees pride, they see you. When they see humility, they see Jesus. Pride never dies easy and when it does, its many nasty relatives come out of the woodwork to come and try to take its place. Be on your guard. Once you think you’ve licked it and it’s over, you might be close to being licked yourself. Stay on guard and keep your eyes on Jesus in all you do and in every response. Let humility be what redirects the focus off of you and onto Jesus.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hope is Your Miracle.

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD" (Psalm 31:24).

The power of hope is very much a phenomena of unexplainable proportion. It is what can drive someone who is at the end of their rope to go one more mile. The absence of it will drive another to throw in the towel. Hope is the miracle that gives those who depend on it strength & courage when the odds appear stacked against them. David was a shepherd boy turned mighty warrior turned famous king who was keenly aware of the life-giving power and miraculous intervention of hope. 

Hope kept David believing in the calling and anointing that God had placed on his life. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for one so young to believe he would actually be king when so many people seemed against him. His family didn't seem to be in his corner. The king had tried to kill him. Mutiny was attempted in him several times once he became king. His kids tried to have him killed. Yet, hope was what kept him alive and moving forward even when he was trapped in a cave of darkness, isolation, and many questions. Hope was the miracle that reminded him that his purpose was never in how he felt, what he saw, or what others thought. His hope was in the One who had spoken purpose over his life and over his future. That purpose gave him hope. That hope gave him life. That life gave him legacy.

"Be strong..." The prophet Isaiah would later pen the words that have become the anthem of hope and the support that has held many a person who has travelled and travailed through the "impossible" seasons of life. "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." When strength seems to fail you, hope is there to lift you. Be strong. You are not done. You are not finished. Satan wants you to believe that there is a vacuum of hope and that what you are going through is no longer worth it. If he can blind you to the hope, he can blind you to the purpose. Be strong. Remember who the Lord God is. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. What you are feeling right now may be very, very real, but there is nothing in this world that is greater in size, power, or purpose than God. He is your strength. His purpose is your strength. The hope you have in Him is your strength. You will mount up on wings as the eagles, whose feathers are ready to meet the winds that can destroy, yet use them to climb high. Be strong and climb high.

"...and take heart..." In other words, take courage. Hope and courage go hand in hand. Hope is the "what you have," while courage is "how you will keep it." The phrase "take heart," which translates to courage, literally means to hold onto or to continue. It is to be firmly established in such a way that no matter what comes your way, you are not letting go of what God has given you to hold. In fact, He has given Himself through Jesus. Your courage comes from not only you holding onto Him, but from the awareness that He is actually holding onto you. Satan wants you to believe that you are doing all of the work of holding on. If you believe that, then it is easy to feel the fatigue setting in when the weariness of holing on begins to overwhelm. But when you begin to see that your holding on isn't why your staying up, because it is HE who is holding onto you, strength from within begins to rise up. That is the power of hope. You CAN do this. You can stay even longer. You can go even farther. You may feel as though you can't hold on any more, but you are not the reason you are still up. Rest in the arms that are holding you. 

"...all you who hope in the Lord." None of this is possible merely because you can muster up the inner-will to keep going. That might take you a bit farther, but you will find the same result. True hope comes from the One who was there before the beginning and will continue after the "end." The One who is the author of all life is also the keeper and giver of all hope. The word "hope" is a word that means "to trust in, to wait on, and to expect." It's not a "wishful thinking" concept, but one that is built on something very real. If you are believer in the love of God, in which Jesus came to not only die for your sins, but to BE your hope for all that you will ever face, then you can KNOW that you will make it beyond where you are right now. Your hope in Him is your trust in Him. It means you are willing to put the entire weight of who you are, what you're going through, and who you care about in His hands and at His feet. It means that you are ready to wait as long as it takes to see Him do what He has promised to do, even if it looks much different from what you had imagined or thought. Your love for Him is bigger than your control for things to be done in a way that meets your own feelings or desires. It means that you have a faithful expectation that is unshakeable to believe even when you don't see or feel. When your focus is on the LORD, the One who always was, is, and will be, He WILL BE the hope that gives you strength and sustains your courage.