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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quiet Time: I Looked for Sorrow and Found Hope

I Looked for Sorrow and Found Hope


Read: Hebrews 10:32-39

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. – Hebrews 10:35

This verse brought me comfort after the elementary school tragedy yesterday, in Connecticut, Friday, December 14, 2012.

My daughter, Candice, keeps her large study bible on my book shelf in the extra bedroom. After a long and restless night, I wanted to hear what God had to say about sorrow. So, I grabbed Candice’s “Application” study bible. As I flipped through the pages I unexpectedly came across the passage in Hebrews.

So, although I never located the application for “sorrow” I did find one for hope.


“Faith means resting on what Christ has done for us in the past, but it also means trusting Him for what He will do for us in the present and in the future.” – Application study bible notes





Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quiet Time: Dig Deeper

Dig Deeper

Job 26:13-14


13 “By His breath the heavens are cleared;

His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.

14 “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;

And how faint a word we hear of Him!

But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”



I had a professor in college who insisted we study nothing but poetry in his class. No classic novels, no inspiring biographies, and certainly nothing written prior to the nineteenth century! My first essay garnered a low “C” grade and I soon discovered from fellow classmates that my grade was high.

So, I decided to find out what the prof wanted since obviously none of us students knew. I began by first keeping copious notes listing everything that he thought was important with the piece of poetry we were studying. Next, I highlighted every passage that he chose to camp on and wrote his key words and phrases regarding these passages in the margins. Finally, when the day came for the class to write another essay, I made sure to include the professor’s thoughts, I parroted his key words and phrases, and quoted the highlighted passages within the body of my essay. The result? I never received a grade lower than a “B” for the remainder of the class.

Of course my fellow students wanted to know how I turned things around. So, during one of our mid-class bathroom breaks I called them all together. “Listen”, I said, “This guy doesn’t care what you think. He wants you to know what he thinks. And, he wants to know, that you know. So give him what he wants and you’ll get what you need to pass the class.”

Like poetry, the bible can be tough to understand. But, that fact shouldn’t keep us from digging deeper. And it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to find out what others have discovered when we’re not sure about a passage. There are so many commentaries and bible helps available these days that there is no excuse for any of us being tripped up or confused. And, sometimes, we may find that it’s OK to simply say, “I don’t know what that means.”

The point is this: Dig deeper. Your Professor wants you to know what He knows.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Song Series: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

Song Series: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go


Sometimes I worry that I’m not being all that God wants me to be. Sometimes I wonder if I’m as fruitful as I “should” be and I feel the need to be more - do more for Jesus.

But, then, I remember that it is God Who is at work in me both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13) and that Jesus tells me to simply abide in Him (John 15:5) and He will use me to bear fruit for Him as He sees fit. In other words, the best fruit I can produce on my own is fake fruit. It's good for looks but not much more.

I like what one pastor says on the topic of abiding and fruit bearing, he says, “You know who wants fruit a lot more than you do? God does. And you can't do one thing to get it.” The great news about abiding (remaining) in Christ is that He will not let us go until we grow. Simply submit to His embrace and trust that He is at work in you.

George Matheson, best known for the hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,” wrote another song titled “Ignored Blessings,” in which he looks back to “the road gone by.” It was by looking back he could see that his heavenly Father had led him all the way.

O Father of light and leading,

From the top of each rising hill

Let me cast my eye on the road gone by

To mark the steps of Thy will. —Matheson

Jesus will not let us go until we grow



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quiet Time: Delightful

Delightful


Read: Psalm 37

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:9

Last week our worship team focused on Psalm 34:9 and wanting what God wants us to have when He wants us to have it. Continuing along that theme I see that God wants us to find our delight (pleasure, happiness) in who He is: His character, attributes, words, deeds, and yes, His, desires and designs for our lives.

Like a child who finds pleasure in pleasing his parent, we too must develop our relationship with Jesus to the point that we are always looking for ways to please Him. When He becomes our passion, God the Father will so position our mind, will, and emotions through the power of the Holy Spirit, that the very desire of our hearts will change to that which pleases God. This in turn will fill us with the joy of the Lord and His desires will become ours (Nehemiah 8:10).

This fact I know: God will never refuse His children, that which He wants them to possess.

Here's a take away for our team: The bible says to let the joyful sing praises (James 5:13b). If we are to effectively lead praise and worship with His people, we must be joy filled.

We will never experience or express true joy until we find our enjoyment (delight) in Him; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Here's a link titled "Cat and Dog Theology" that helped me wrap my mind around the concept of delighting in God:  http://www.operationworld.org/files/Cat%20&%20Dog%20Theology%20sample.pdf

Here's a link to the ministry's website for Cat and Dog Theology: http://www.catndogtheology.com/





Saturday, September 8, 2012

Quiet Time: I Will

I Will


Read: Psalm 101

I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.


3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;I hate the work of those who fall away;It shall not fasten its grip on me. – Psalm 101: 2b-3

I love the part in the movie “Fireproof” where the main character trashes his computer with a baseball bat. He so wanted to turn his back on the bad stuff that he allowed into his home through the computer, that he took drastic measures to insure it got out and stayed out. I suppose just about everyone has had something that they kicked out of their life at one time or another. The psalmist had a better approach.

Between verses 1 and 5 he says “I will” at least seven times. He was committed to keeping the bad stuff out before it had a chance to get in.

That’s a good move, don’t you think?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quiet Time: No Want

No Want

Read: Psalm 34:8-14

O fear the LORD, you His saints;

For to those who fear Him there is no want. – Psalm 34:9

I know God is in control but I’m not sure that I always like it.

You see, the thing is, I want what I want when I want it, but God often seems disinterested in my wants or my time table. He seems intent on my trusting Him – sloooooooooowly, steadily. It’s almost as if God is trying to get me to stop trying. You know what I mean, right? Like He wants me to get to the point where I want what He wants when He wants it.

I read a biography titled George Muller of Bristol. Muller was a real prayer warrior and was mightily used of God to help thousands of orphans in Great Britain during the 1800s. Muller knew what it meant to fear God and not fear want. Psalm 34:9 was one of his favorite bible verses and he often taught that, “He who would work with God must first wait on Him and wait for Him.”

I don’t think the book is in print any more (mine is an antique)

Here’s a link if you want to read more about George: More stuff about George

Prayer: God change me. I want to want what You want in my life when You want it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Song Series: Our God Reigns (Free Indeed)

Our God Reigns (Free Indeed)


Read: John 8:34-38

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36

We’ve already discussed the chorus of this song in a previous Song Series blog (Our God Reigns: Sing Strong); this time we’ll focus on the bridge.

The bridge for “Our God Reigns” is almost verbatim, John 8:36. Here we see Jesus telling the crowd of mostly Jewish listeners, that He is the seed of Abraham and the true Son of God’s house (Gal. 3:16). In order to understand this reference we need to drop back to verse 36 where Jesus points out the difference between a slave and a son (John 8:35) .

The crowd fully understood the difference between Ishmael, Abraham’s slave son and Isaac the son of promise; heir apparent to all Abraham owned.

Remember the sad story? Ishmael was thrown out of the house along with his slave mom, but Isaac was the son who "belonged" and therefore remained in the house (Gen. 21:8-21). The correlation: without Jesus, the Son, you are in sin and in danger of being cast out.  The question: Were they like Ishmael, or Isaac? The issue was not physical genealogy but spiritual kinship through Jesus.

Now, let’s look at verse 36 in this light. Jesus is the true Son. He remains in the house and is over it (Heb. 3:6). People can become truly free by becoming sons of God by faith in Christ, the Son (Gal. 3:26).

Remember, the issue is not genealogy, or, in our case as Gentiles, how good we are compared to the next person. It doesn’t even matter if we’ve understood the message of Jesus being the Messiah, because it is possible to grasp the message of repentance without actually repenting and coming to Christ (John 8:31-32). So then, how do we know if we’re saved? We know because first, we trust in Him alone, not our good works or anything else for salvation. Second, we have a desire to walk in His word daily, thereby experiencing the freedom of a life lived with not against His will.

Frankly, I see no way to be confident in our position in Him without being consistent in walk with Him (John 8:31-32).

We are free indeed, let's live in the joy of this freedom!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Quiet Time: Loving God Out Loud

Loving God Out Loud


In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. - Matthew 5:16 (NLT)

So, you love God and naturally you want to please Him. This desire leads you to read the bible regularly. Before long you begin to notice verses like “do your work heartily as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23), “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19-20) or “let no unwholesome word proceed from out of your mouth” (Eph. 4:29). You’re struck by the practicality of it all and think, “Here’s something constructive that I can begin to do. It’s in the bible, so, I know it’s what God wants me to do, and something God will actually like.” Next, you pray asking God to help you walk in the light of this scripture. God being Who He is “Faithful and True” strengthens you through the Holy Spirit to actually do what the word says to do. That’s what I mean by loving God out loud. Your love is seen not just heard.

Before you know it, someone may notice your attitude at work is different. You’re actually happy to work hard at the stuff co-workers avoid. Or, your family members begin to recognize that you’re a better listener. You don’t interrupt them as much and you are able to hear them say stuff that you don’t agree with, without getting angry or saying something you later regret. That’s walking with God and that opens a door for you to share the practical side of your walk with Christ.

Doesn’t this sound feasible? For example; someone may ask, “Man, what’s gotten into you? Why are working so hard lately”? To which you can reply, “I read something in the bible the other day about working as unto the Lord. It motivated me to do my job as if it matters to God; as if God gets a kick out of watching me work for Him. So, I figure, if He likes it, then it must be a good thing to do, right?”

Who knows, this “loving God out loud” thing may even give you an opportunity to share how Jesus is a personal and integral part of your everyday living. If nothing else, it’ll offer you a chance to give the glory back to God; and that’s a good thing!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quiet Time: Wise In The Word

Wise In the Word
Reason Reboot

Read: 1 Corinthians 14

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. – 1 Corinthians 14:20


Neither ignorant nor intimate of evil need I be. Wise in the Word, now that’s for me!

Christians are often derided for being simple minded in the things of this world. Sometimes I wonder about this, because I know so many of us who are pretty good at being bad! Frankly, I think we should be simple in worldliness. What are we missing, really? However, I think its shameful when a Christ follower is simple minded in the things of the Word.

We simply must spend time allowing the Word to wash our minds (Ephesians 5:26). Don’t we get plenty of a humanist world view daily to require at least a small amount of time with Jesus so that He can reset our thinking?

It may not be a bad idea to have a quiet time with the Lord in the morning, then another at lunch time, and one more sometime in the evening.

Come on Brother Doug, that’s just too much - too over the top? May-be. I just know that when I miss my time with Him, I miss a lot and life just isn't the same.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Song Series: All Because of Jesus

All Because of Jesus
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uui-jUS8a4A


Read: Romans 6:8-14

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:11

“While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.” Dr. David Platt, Radical. The first time I read the book “Radical” I thought to myself, “This guy’s a mega church pastor?” I guess I questioned Platt’s position based on what I’ve seen over the years. It seems to me, that most of us American believers are content to live life in what I call the Goldilocks continuum. You know what I mean not too bad and not too good, just right. Kind of lukewarm, hmmmm.

Paul shatters this lifestyle in Romans chapter 6. He says that as Christ followers, we no longer have to listen to sin tell us what to do and that we can discover the joy of listening to God tell us what to do. Before Christ, we used to live our lives oblivious to God’s grace and walk according to our own will and way. However, now that the Holy Spirit lives within our hearts we have a growing desire to please God. We look back on our former way of living as fruitless, meaningless, and containing memories of nothing for which we are proud.

I want to live in newness of the life Christ offers. I want to follow the goal of the gospel. I want to make much of God, because it is “All Because of Jesus” I’m alive. (2 Corinthians 5:15)



And it’s all because of Jesus I’m alive

And it’s all because the blood of Jesus Christ

That covers me and raised this dead man’s life

And it’s all because of Jesus I’m alive

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Song Series: Rooftops (Be a Conspicuous Christian)

Rooftops - Be a Conspicuous Christian
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU3mOzEgfB8


Matthew 10:26-28

What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops - Matthew 10:27

Roof tops are conspicuous places. In my old neighborhood where my wife, Deseri, and I had our first house, many of the housetops were metal. About every other year these roofs needed to be painted with reflective aluminum coating or they’d begin to rust. I remember driving past a house where an absent minded home owner carelessly walked backward off the side of the roof he was painting falling several feet to the ground. A small crowd quickly gathered to make sure he was alright, and yes, he was, but I thought, “How embarrassing!” I don’t think this kind of attention is what Jesus had in mind when He told His disciples to proclaim from housetops.

What I tell you in darkness: Jesus taught His disciples one on one; privately. Do I give Jesus a chance to talk privately with me?

Speak in the light: Jesus taught His disciples to be open, honest, and clear about the gospel. Do I use clear common words when sharing about Jesus, or do I try to impress with a bombastic rhetorical superfluous loquaciousness that serves only to confuse.

What you hear whispered in your ear: Jesus taught His disciples that they should share what He the Great Physician spoke to them. (Back in the day doctors used to whisper doctrine or instructions to an interpreter who would then tell the listener what he said) This also speaks to me of how the Holy Spirit sometimes nudges me or speaks to my heart. Also, when someone whispers, I have to listen carefully. Do I make time to simply listen?

Proclaim upon rooftops: Preach. Be fearless and courageous when sharing the Word. But people will think I’m simple and closed minded! But, God will think you faithful. Besides what the worst anyone can do to me? Kill me? That’s where their power ends and eternity begins.

I don’t think God wants us to be conspicuous by acting weird in our walk with Him or silly in our talk, but I do think he wants us to be fearless and forthright; even if that means standing boldly for the truth when others want us to sit down and shut up.

There is no such thing as a covert Christian, so I’d better get better at being a barefaced believer.

(check out the link under the title above if you'd like to hear the song - Rooftops)

Song Series: Rooftops by Fellowship Church

Rooftops - Be a Conspicuous Christian


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU3mOzEgfB8
Read: Matthew 10:26-28

What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops - Matthew 10:27

Roof tops are conspicuous places.

In my old neighborhood where my wife, Deseri, and I had our first house, many of the housetops were metal. About every other year these roofs needed to be painted with reflective aluminum coating or they’d begin to rust. I remember driving past a house where an absent minded home owner carelessly walked backward off the side of the roof he was painting falling several feet to the ground. A small crowd quickly gathered to make sure he was alright, and yes, he was, but I thought, “How embarrassing!” I don’t think this kind of attention is what Jesus had in mind when He told His disciples to proclaim from housetops.

What I tell you in darkness: Jesus taught His disciples one on one; privately. Do I give Jesus a chance to talk privately with me?

Speak in the light: Jesus taught His disciples to be open, honest, and clear about the gospel. Do I use clear common words when sharing about Jesus, or do I try to impress with a bombastic rhetorical superfluous loquaciousness that serves only to confuse.

What you hear whispered in your ear: Jesus taught His disciples that they should share what He the Great Physician spoke to them. (Back in the day doctors used to whisper doctrine or instructions to an interpreter who would then tell the listener what he said) This also speaks to me of how the Holy Spirit sometimes nudges me or speaks to my heart. Also, when someone whispers, I have to listen carefully. Do I make time to simply listen?

Proclaim upon rooftops: Preach. Be fearless and courageous when sharing the Word. But people will think I’m simple and closed minded! But, God will think you faithful. Besides what the worst anyone can do to me? Kill me? That’s where their power ends and eternity begins.

I don’t think God wants us to be conspicuous by acting weird in our walk with Him or silly in our talk, but I do think he wants us to be fearless and forthright; even if that means standing boldly for the truth when others want us to sit down and shut up.

There is no such thing as a covert Christian, so I’d better get better at being a barefaced believer.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quiet Time: Significant Life Change

Significant Life Change


Read: Luke 19:1-10



Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” – Luke 3:14


I just read again the well-known story of Zaccheus; the little guy that everyone hated for being a selfish tax gathering extortionist working for the “other side”. What a crazy change he underwent. I mean, from money grubber to philanthropist without a hint of avarice.

Come to think of it, I don't see anyone in the bible that follows Christ (other than Judas) that doesn’t experience a significant life change.

Ironically, for us Americans, like Zaccheus, when we come to Jesus, we often have a drastic attitude adjustment toward people and, yes, money.

For example, I’ve met parents who come to Christ because of the change that takes place in the heart of their teenager. Often they talk about how the teen's new repectfulness and kind hearted attitude caught their attention. How, they are helpful and actually volunteer to do chores around the house. Some teens even took jobs in order to be able to give. Work to give? Are you kidding me? Now that’s significant life change!

Zaccheus encourages me to remember what it was like when I first met Jesus. I couldn’t wait to please Him.

God revive my passion to please You.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Song Series: God Is Able

God Is Able

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxRQahH0cqA

Read: 1 Samuel 12:23-25

Memorize: Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you – 1 Samuel 12:24

I love to look through old photo albums; the pictures bring back fond memories of family and friends. Sometimes I stop and think about what God was doing at that point in time and invariably I am reminded of His faithful love and the great things he has done.

“God Is Able” by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan is another new song our worship team is learning. It speaks eloquently of the deep and lasting truth of God’s unfailing power, might, and ability to work all things together for good. The chorus opens up the old family album and reminds us that Jesus defeated the grave pronouncing victory for all who trust Him. We overcome in His name, “Savior and Lord”.

Samuel wanted the Israelites to remember that they had overcome not by their own strength but by the power of the One Who chose them. I think he also wanted to warn them that forgetting God is a pretty easy thing to do. So, after letting them know that he’d continue to pray for them even though they kind of turned their back on him (actually they turned their back on God by asking for a king). Samuel gave them three simple instructions to keep them close to their Savior:

1. Fear (reverence) the Lord.

2. Serve the Lord.

3. Consider (think about) the Lord.

That got me to thinking:

• Like Samuel, do I continue to pray for others (even when they hurt my feelings) as if I am called by God to do it?

• Do I show respect to God for Who He is and what He does? How?

• Am I honestly serving Jesus with all my heart?

• When was the last time I actually sat down and made a list of what God has done in and around me lately?

You know, I think it may not be a bad idea to look through the old memory book of faded photos again. Except this time, I’m going to make a list as I recall God’s faithfulness in the lives represented by the photos in the album.

God is with us, God is on our side
He will make a way
Far above all we know.
Far above all we hope
He has done great things

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Song Series: Not Ashamed

Not Ashamed
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSqmnzcKmo8

Read: Romans 1:15-17

Memorize:  
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. – Romans 1:16

Our worship team has been working on a new song titled “Not Ashamed” by Bryan Brown, Chris Tomlin, and friends. Each time I sing it I’m encouraged to rekindle the fire inside of me to walk worthy of my calling in Christ and to fearlessly share the good news of the power of God for salvation.

The song obviously draws its text from Romans 1:16 where Paul emphatically states his position as an evangelist and his heart as a follower of Christ.

As I read again Paul’s discourse to the Christians living in Rome I am hit squarely with the charge to” take charge” of the calling Christ has placed on my life. Perhaps you will feel the same.

Here’s how it hit me in my personal bible study time:

“I” - Paul gets personal. He wants his readers to know and understand that it’s him doing the talking and he’s taking full responsibility for what he’s about to say.

(I am responsible for what I say or don’t say) (Eph. 4:29)

“am” – Paul gets present. He’s talking in the now and is making it clear that what he’s writing he is walking.

(I am responsible for living for Jesus right now, right here, right where God’s placed me to be) (Col. 1:10)

“not” – Paul is the polar opposite of the harsh adjective that follows.

(I am responsible for surrendering daily to the cross Christ) (Luke 9:23)

“ashamed” – Paul is not distraught, not discouraged, not distressed and certainly not embarrassed.

(I am responsible for standing strong and stalwart in the power my Lord and Savior) (1 Cor. 15:58)

OF THE GOSPEL.

(I am responsible for giving away what has been given to me; the good news of new life in Christ) (Mark 16:15)


Oh, to God that I would consistently catch Paul’s courage.


I often pray, not just for the opportunity to share, but also to be aware of opportunity to share.

How often have I at the feet of timidity allowed my voice to remain silent?

How often have I at the threshold of eternity allowed a soul to slip by unseen?

No more! I am not distraught, I am not discouraged, and I am not distressed. In deed I am resolute, unafraid and undaunted in my love for Jesus and the power of His love and ultimate sacrifice and victory for mankind.

I AM NOT ASHAMED

are you?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Song Series: Counting On God

Counting On God

Read: Habakkuk 3:17-19


I'm turning cartwheels of joy
to my Savior God.
Counting on God's Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength. - Habakkuk 3:17 (The Message)

“No one knows what tomorrow holds but I know Who holds tomorrow.” I think I heard Billy Graham say that. I like it, don’t you? You know what I like about it specifically? The fact that I really don’t need to know what tomorrow may bring, as long as I know that God is allowing it to be brought.

I like the way “The Message” translation reads too. When was the last time you saw someone excited about challenging times? Goodness! This guy’s doing cartwheels for crying out loud! Then Habakkuk goes on to say that he’s full of faith and power because he’s trusting that God is in control. No worries. He’s counting on God.

Our band is learning a song titled “Counting On God” by Desperation Band, which I think does a good job of putting this faith filled thought into practice. You can check it out at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jdkfdClHOM

I’m gonna go practice my cartwheels.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Quiet Time: Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Read: Psalm 60:9-12


Through God we shall do valiantly,
And it is He who will tread down our adversaries. – Psalm 60:12

My son and I recently viewed the movie “Act of Valor”. I usually watch these types of movies in the privacy of my home because they have a tendency to touch my heart deeply. Our men and women in the armed forces sacrifice so much. There’s a line in the movie where the soldiers are crossing a river, the narrator says, "You live your life by a code, it's your shore line - it's what guides you home. And trust me; you're always trying to get home." The code of honor, among other things, is what kept the SEALS going when the going got tough.

The soldiers in bible may not have had a true code. They were not fighting for freedom. They often fought for whatever they could get out it. But, they were still respected for their ability to suffer hardship and follow orders without question.

We’ve all read the bible passages where soldiers treated Christ with contempt. They were corrupt (Matthew 28:12; Luke 3:14) cruel and sadistic (Luke 23:11-36; John 19:2).

But there were good men who were soldiers too. Like Cornelius the centurion, who feared God, gave from his heart, and was a man of constant prayer. So much so, that God actually sent an angel to talk to him so that he and his family would hear the Good News of Jesus from Peter himself and be saved (Acts 10:1-7). Or, how about the soldier who stopped Paul from be beaten to death by the mob (Acts 21:31-33). Then there was the centurion who kept the soldiers from murdering Paul and the other prisoners during the ship wreck incident (Acts 27:41-43).

By the time letters are being written to the newly formed churches located from Jerusalem to Rome, soldiers were being used as examples for Christian conduct (1 Corinthians 9:7; Philippians 2:25; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; Philemon 1:2).

My point is this. I know we’re about to celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. PRAISE GOD! But while we’re celebrating His sacrifice and victory, I don't think that He'd mind if we lift up a prayer for those who are sacrificing today for tomorrow’s victory over evil and injustice.

It wouldn't hurt either to shake a soldier’s hand, especially if he or she attends your church tomorrow. Better yet, take the time to write a “Thank You” note and slip it into his or her hand at the end of the service.

Who knows, you may be the only act of kindness he’s received for his act of valor.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Quiet Time: Church Politics 101.1: Be A Blesser

Church Politics 101.1: Be A Blesser

Read: Romans 12:14-20


Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. – Romans 12:14

Saying, “God bless you” when a classmate sneezed would’ve gotten you a lower grade as a student in Steve Cuckovich’s high school health class. He even knocked 25 points from one student's grade for saying the phrase in class. After parents complained about students losing points for saying "bless you", Cuckovich says he decided to stop the practice, but intends to find another way to discipline his students going forward.

That story reminded me of a funny exchange I overheard between two coworkers. One guy sneezed and the other guy said, “God bless you.” “Why’d you say that? You didn’t have to get all religious on me!” said the one who sneezed, at which point the other replied, “I guess I could’ve said, ‘May the evil spirits depart from you,’ but that seemed a little long.” Everyone in the place burst out laughing. From then on, whenever the guy who considered the phrase offensive sneezed, the place irrupted with a loud and boisterous, “GOD BLESS YOU!"

The bible tells us that it’s good for us to bless others. We are challenged to bless our enemies (Romans 12:14; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; 1 Corinthians 4:12) In Matthew 5, Jesus actually tells us to let our enemies bring out the best in us and reminds us that, God “…gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.” (The Message Bible) When we act in accordance with God’s word we act according to our real selves; the person God saved us to be. In other words, our lives become more godly and our walk with Jesus more powerful and fulfilling.

A THING TO DO:
The next time we are confronted with an obnoxious filth spewing person, we can stop and stand quietly (our response is our choice not theirs)and ask God to bless them by drawing them to Jesus.

Something else we can do is to make a habit of blessing those around us like our family members, friends, and work associates. We don’t need to make a big deal out it. Actually, we can bless them in our hearts, but the next time we say good bye to someone we like or love, why not add, “God bless you.”

Bless and curse not.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Quiet Time: Church Politics 101.2: Feel Their Pain

Church Politics 101.2: Feel Their Pain
Read: Romans 12:15-16


Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

I feel your pain.

Remember when ACT UP representative Rob Rafsky confronted then candidate Bill Clinton back in 1992. No, I’m sure you don’t. But, I know you remember Clinton’s response. Here’s what happened. Clinton was out stumping for the presidency at a New York City fundraiser. Rob stood up and (quoting from Vito Russo) said, "We're not dying of AIDS as much as we are dying of 11 years of government neglect." That’s when candidate Clinton gave the now famous/infamous line, “I feel your pain.” Immediately, that four word line went viral with every late night talk show host and political pundit putting their irreverent spin on it. I think that Clinton had the right idea, though, even if it did ring hollow; we do need to try and feel one another’s pain.

We see the early church being encouraged to be empathizers, as well as, really good listeners. Empathizers, by being happy when good things happened to other church members and by actually shedding tears with the broken hearted when sad things take place (Job 30:25; Hebrews 13:3).

Christians should be really good listeners too. A good listener gets into the head of the person speaking and tries to actually see things through their eyes (Romans 12:16; Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:8). We’ve all heard the truism: “People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care,” or the other that says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Well, makes sense, but it seems to me that this is something many of us need to work on.

A THING TO DO: The next time someone begins to share something with us, we can make a point to stop whatever we’re doing, make eye contact, and really listen without comment. Then, after they’re done talking, see if we can reflect what we hear them say back to them. (This clears up any accidental misunderstandings too) Finally, if we see pain or joy in their eyes we can reflect that too (I think this’ll be the hard part; at least it usually is for me).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quiet Time: Church Politics 101.3: Know the Nameless

Church Politics 101.3:Know the Nameless

Romans 12:1-3 & 16


- do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. – Romans 12:16

Clicks don’t exist only in schools, they exist in churches too.

In my first year in High School I was a transfer student on special assignment from the East side of Tampa. Most of the kids at the school were from West Tampa, so, obviously, I knew no-one and no-one knew me. I was the nameless odd man out; especially in the eyes of the “cool” kids. But, I knew a secret.

My junior year, I was slotted to become the new bass player in an ambassador show band called Sound System. Basically, it meant instant popularity and special placement within the student body. So, I bided my time and hung out with the only kids who’d accept me; the “nerds”; the nameless. The funny thing is, the more I hung out with the marginalized students the more I liked them. Sure, they were often quirky and obviously different, but they were real - genuine. I guess, because they had nothing to prove and no one to impress. Sometimes I see this kind of separation in churches.

My dad and mom were leaders in the church and that meant I was there every time the doors were open. I’ve also been privileged to serve on staff at several ministries around the Bay. This has given me the ability to notice, that sometimes our churches become large, or at least large enough for people to begin pairing off. Soon these pairs become groups, and these groups become segregated entities via social and economic similarities. Before long, our senior citizens are sitting in one section of the worship center, the youth in another, families with no kids, young kids, and grown kids have their place too. Oh, and of course there're the young singles, college and carrier, and single agains.

It becomes obvious who the “cool” kids are, as well as, where the nameless sit. Some congregants are courted and others are pushed aside. Most of the pastors I know hate this kind of thing and preach against it; but, really, it’s out of their hands. (However, to his shame, I remember hearing a speaker from a mega church say that we leaders need avoid these negative people, because they’ll never change and will on bring us down with them). Yet, God, tells us to search them out. God actually encourages us to hang out with the “nerds”, the marginalized, and the nameless. Because, when we don’t, it means we’ve placed ourselves on a pedestal and although we’d never admit it out loud, we consider ourselves a little more important than them (Philippians 2:3-5).

Well, the big day came. I got my spot in the band and even became leader over the rhythm section the following year. Clubs scrambled to get me on their teams, everybody seemed eager to say, “Hi” to me, and even the cool kids treated me with new respect. But, you know what, only the “nerds” didn’t change. Only the nameless knew my name when nobody else did. Don’t let your church be that way.

A THING TO DO: Do you know the nameless in your church? Look around next Sunday, and ask yourself, who do I not know? Why don’t I know them? Then, make an effort to reach out to them even if they’re not part of your group and by all means, KNOW THEIR NAME! God says they’re worth knowing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Church Politics 101.4: Don't Hit Back

Vengeance
by Alexander Butler
Church Politics 101.4: Don't Hit Back
Read: Romans 12:9-20


Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. - Romans 12:14

“That seems a bit vindictive, Doug,” said Pastor Chuck after reading a letter I intended to mail to a member of the choir.

Chuck has seen more than his fare share of church politics over his few decades as a senior pastor, yet he remains one of the best loved pastors in the Bay area. In this case, I was on staff at his church as the Worship Arts Director, and he was pointing to a line on the page that I knew reflected my hidden anger toward this fellow in the choir.

This guy deserved to be put in his place. He was a chronic complainer, seldom showed up for practice, and walked out on a major Easter production because his chair wasn’t in place. Of course I pointed all this out to Chuck, who simply leaned back in his chair and said, “Doug, God will correct this man if He thinks it best. You just love him.” It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, but I knew Chuck was right. So, I removed the sarcastic line and mailed the letter. Church Politics 101: Don’t Hit Back

This passage in Romans stands in direct contrast to worldly wisdom. We’ve all heard the saying, “I don’t get mad I get even”, but here God is telling us to let Him get even. That He’ll actually take vengeance on our behalf if that is indeed what needs to be done. But, then He goes one step farther and says, “You just love them. Buy them a sandwich if they’re hungry and give them a drink if they’re thirsty. Love them with actions, not just words.” That’s not easy. That’s gotta be a God thing. But it works. Truth always does.

The man in the choir eventually left the church and blamed it all on me and my attitude. Brother Chuck knew it was bothering me and took me aside to talk about it. He said the man was a big NASCAR fan and was simply looking for an excuse not to come to church on Sundays so that he could watch the races with his buds at the pub. Chuck knew this, yet he continued to minister to this man and his family even after they left the church.

A few years later I ran into the former church choir member at a restaurant. I could tell he was trying not to make eye contact, so, I walked up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned around to look at me, gave him a big bear hug (he was a big guy). We small talked for a few minutes and then walked outside where it was easier to hear. He began to tell me about some serious issues he was experiencing. Then, in the middle of his story he looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Brother Doug, I’m sorry.” I hugged him again and said, “I love you, bro, and really meant it.” We talked a few more minutes and his party was called for their table. That’s the last time I saw him. I was glad we tied things up.

Here're a few things I learned from the experience: First, I don’t think that the chance encounter at the restaraunt would’ve been as positive without my deleting the line in that letter. Second, it’s hard to hold a grudge when God empowers us to love. Finally, I certainly don’t think I could’ve hugged him if I’d already hit him.

So here's the first lesson in Church Politics 101, Point 1:
Don’t hit back; let God judge – you love.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Quiet Time: Jogging With Jesus (How to have a quiet time)

Jogging With Jesus
(How to have a quiet time)

Read: Luke 21:37-38


And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him (Jesus) in the temple to listen to Him. – Luke 21:38

I like to jog. Honestly, I’m not very fast, but I do keep my heart rate up in the 150s for at least thirty minutes; that’s what the experts say to do in order to receive maximum benefit from the run. But, you know what? I didn’t like to jog before I got a heart rate monitor. That’s something else I learned from the “experts”. They suggested novice runners purchase a monitor to help them establish a sustainable speed. (Sustainable being a speed that they could maintain for at least 30 minutes) You see, most new runners push themselves too hard and soon stop trying before they’ve established a sustainable routine. I think that’s kind of what happens to us when we first feel the need to establish a daily quiet time. We dig in with vim and vigor, but no plan. So, we overdo it, only to find ourselves discouraged and our bibles back on the book shelf.

A daily quiet time is more than a good routine or a box to check on a list of things to do. I like to think of it as simply a moment to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Christ. Now, I know that doesn’t sound very “spiritual” but that’s really how I look at it. Every morning I try to start my day by sitting quietly at the kitchen table with the Word to see what God has to say to me. It’s really not that hard. Sometimes I get a lot out of it and sometimes I can barely keep my eyes open, but I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s become a very meaningful part of my daily routine; kind of like jogging with Jesus.

There’s been a lot written on how to have daily devotions so I doubt that I’ve got much to add, but, here’s some stuff I’ve learned from Christ followers who’ve enjoyed a long walk with Christ:

1. Establish a place for your quiet time. (I like the kitchen table)
2. Establish a time. (I like early mornings before anyone else in the house is up)
3. Establish a method. (“Our Daily Bread Devotional” is what I use when I’m not studying for a specific reason like my church’s small group get together)
4. Make it personal. (tell God what’s on your heart, ask Him to open your eyes to what He has to say that day, and listen…really listen – this takes time)
5. Write it down. (Capture what God’s speaking to you. Keep a journal. You’ll be amazed how God has worked in your life when you go back and read what you’ve written several years later)

Here are some websites that may help:

Our Daily Bread: http://odb.org/
Bible Gateway, online bible: http://www.biblegateway.com/
One Year Bible; I like to use the “Living Standard Version Bible” for a read through the bible experience to kind of get an overview of what it’s all about and how it all ties together from Old Testament to New Testament. I often use it as a good read before going to bed at night. It usually takes from 15-20 minutes to read the selected sections. http://oneyearbibleonline.com/index.html

When I first started out, the longest I could run without slowing down to a walk was about 10 minutes. It took a while, but after several weeks of pounding pavement I finally reached the coveted 30 minute mark and have been able to maintain a sustainable and “enjoyable” routine ever since.

So, don’t get discouraged. To coin a phrase, “Just Do It”.

In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty (Proverbs 14:23).


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Quiet Time: Betrayal

Friendship
by Stephen Huneck
Betrayal

Read: Matthew 26:20-22

Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” – Matthew 26:22

Has an enemy ever been unfaithful to you? Of course not; only a friend can betray a friend. Have you ever been misled by an unscrupulous sales person? Sure you have! Why? Because they acted like they were your friend, when in reality they simply wanted something from you. A friend doesn’t want something from you, they just want you. That’s what surprised me when I see Jesus telling His disciples, His closest friends, “Truly I say to you, that one of you will betray me.”

Jesus knew who would betray Him, yet He spoke to the whole group sitting around the table for the Passover meal. I mean, He could’ve taken Judas aside and said, “You, snake! I know what you’re up to. Go do what you’re going to do and let me have this time alone with my friends.” But, instead, He causes everyone in the room with Him to question their commitment; to question their friendship. And, now here’s the part that surprised me: they all began to say to Him, “Surely not, I, Lord?” which tells me that they all thought they were capable of betraying Him!

Well, that got me to thinking. If the guys who were closest to Jesus, who walked with Him daily, and sat at His feet while he taught them the way of the cross. If these guys thought that they could actually forsake their friend, their “Lord”, where did that leave me? Could I desert Him? Would I turn my back on Him and walk away from our friendship?

You know what, I think I have left Him. I imagine we all have at one time or another. Yet, regardless of our waywardness, He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus may cause us to rethink our commitment to Him but He'll never betray His commitment to us. Think about it. Christ didn’t turn His back on even the most doubting of His disciples, Thomas (John 20:24-28) and he’ll never turn His back on us.

Jesus doesn't want something from you; Jesus simply wants you - all of you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quiet Time: Settle Down

Settle Down

Read: Philippians 4:4-7


6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (NAS)

“SETTLE DOWN!” Here it is forty years later and I can still hear my dad’s words bellowing from the driver’s seat to us kids in the back as we traveled on our annual summer road trip. My sister and I loved these long excursions from Florida to Indiana. They were an adventure. Dad liked to travel the back roads, which meant that we often saw things most vacationers never see. Like little known Civil War battle grounds maintained by the local historic societies or deep pits with sheer cliffs that peered down on crystalline blue green water left over from a long forgotten mining operation. But back roads also meant long…long…long periods of travel from one point to another. So, as kids often do, my sister and I became antsy, then rambunctious, and finally downright irritable. That’s when the order to “SETTLE DOWN!” barked from dad, and sometimes from both parents simultaneously! Can you relate? I don’t think many of us are very good at "settling down" these days, but God tells us the best way to do it.

Basically what I hear Him saying to us in Philippians is this: “Don’t be a worrier. I want you to bring everything, and I mean ‘everything’ to Me. Talk to me about your cares, concerns, hopes, and dreams And while you’re talking to Me, thank Me ahead of time. You know I’ll always answer and give you exactly what you need, may-be not what you want, but definitely what you need. As you do this, My peace, peace that you didn’t see coming or understand how it exists, will settle you down in My Son, Jesus Christ as you walk out your faith daily."

God wants us to talk to Him (prayer), listen to Him (read the Word) and rest in Him (simply relax); especially when something’s weighing heavy on our minds.

In other words, “Settle Down.” God’s got this.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quiet Time: A Really Good Day

A Really Good Day

Read: Philippians 1:27-30


Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… - Philippians 1:27

Life can be frustrating. Recently I had one of those days at work where manpower, machines, and materials seemed to converge and conspire against me to develop the “perfect storm” of frustration. First, before the start of the day shift, over half of my crew members called in sick. Next, our two large lifts (we only have two) were scheduled for maintenance mid-morning, and finally, I discovered that a major preplanned job was shorted the material needed for completion and the best ETA for said materials was two weeks out. That’s when I remembered that morning’s bible study and knew that God made this day for me to walk for His glory. It was going to be a really good day.

Walking: moving forward one step at a time. I believe that’s how God wants us to live. Paul was in a prison at the writing of this letter to the Philippians, so, if anyone understood the concept of walking with Jesus it was him. He probably didn’t know for sure the date of his trial, he certainly didn’t have legal representation to help him navigate the myriad false accusations against him, and Roman law being what it was, he understood that his chances for a speedy and fair outcome were laughable. Yet, here he is, encouraging the Philippians to walk worthy of their calling in Christ regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.

Walk worthy. There it is again; the silver thread that connects everyone who names the name of Jesus. Some of us are homemakers, some blue collar work-a-day guys and gals, and others professionals within a chosen field of expertise. Yet, we’re all called by God to walk with Him in a manner worthy of the gospel regardless of the pressures and unforeseen challenges along the way.

That’s why I knew; regardless of the pressures experienced at work that day, no matter the frustration associated with a lack of resources, and in spite of the fact that there was no plan B or help on the way, I was going to have a great day. I was walking with Jesus right where He wanted me to be.

As it turned out, our team pulled together like never before, I was able to postpone the maintenance on the lifts until later in the day, and we scrounged enough material to allow our customer to move forward on his project without delay. Oh, and by the way, every team member who came in to work that day was a Jesus follower, so, we all took it as a opportunity to grow and walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus.

Yep, I would say it was good day; a really good day - walking with Jesus along life’s way.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quiet Time: Man of My (The) Word

Man of My The Word

Read: James 1:22-25

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. - James 1:25

My brother in law can fix or build anything. He’s an unbelievable craftsman. However, this isn’t what gets him the work. The reason most people hire him to rebuild their kitchens, baths, and fancy outdoor living spaces is because he actually does what he says he’ll do. If he says, “I’ll start on Monday, two weeks from now at seven o-clock in the morning.” That’s exactly what will happen. He is a man of his word. We should be men and women of our word, better yet, men and women of the Word; that’s where the unforeseen joy is found.

That's what I see here in this chapter from James. We need to read the word with our hearts and minds set on doing whatever it says to do. If we do this, actually do what we read, our lives will have meaning and purpose beyond what we can imagine.
I’ve found that the more I do the word, the closer I walk with God. The closer I walk with God, the more delight and affirmation I find in Him and receive from Him. It is as if I feel God's pleasure and that is a very pleasant feeling indeed.

Common sense tells us that we should want to be men or women of the Word. It has been proven powerful, historically accurate, experientially relevant, and holistically beneficial and true. But, perhaps the best part of being men and women of the Word is the unexpected joy we find in the journey.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quiet Time: Working Together

Working Together

Read: Mark 16:19-20

And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. – Mark 16:20

I have a friend who loves to help people. He actually told me that he wished there was a way he could help others for a living. For example: I asked him to show me how to change the brakes on my daughter's automobile. Well, my buddy got off work a half hour early, beat me to my house, had the car up on jacks and the wheels removed before I pulled onto my driveway. What a blessing. Changing the brakes was a snap, and I never doubted one moment that we'd get them done properly as long as he worked with me. That's what I love about this story in Mark; Jesus worked with the apostles as they spread the good news.

AMAZING! Jesus "worked with them". Understand, Jesus had already gone back home to heaven at this point, but here He is, still working on earth through His followers. How? Obviously He worked through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. God performed miracles through the apostles to show that the Message they were proclaiming was from the living God and that the power of Jesus was still alive and vibrant on planet earth.

Jesus still works with His followers today. Now, I can't say that I've seen a lot of honest to goodness miracles; no doubt, I've seen a few. None of them were very flashy, but they were indeed amazing and brought glory to God. And, I don't know about the stuff I've seen on television; it all looks a bit questionable to me, really. But, I do know Jesus works today because I've seen time and again, the unmitigated overwhelming evidence of a changed life when Jesus comes into the heart of a new believer.

A changed life; now that's a miracle - that's Jesus at work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quiet Time: No Backseat Drivers

No Backseat Drivers

Read: Mark 8:34-38

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" - Mark 8:34

I have a real problem with backseat drivers. (Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you) I like to drive, but I can’t stand to be told how to drive. I don’t even like to follow other cars in a caravan! That's kinda how I relate to what Jesus is saying in the passage from the gospel of Matthew.

I think God wants us to give up the backseat self-help, self-centered, disinfected Americanized brand of religiosity (is that a word?) and begin to learn self-sacrifice and the joy of saying no to yourself.
OK, OK, I just lost half of you didn't I? Too preachy, right?

But, really, when we're planning our future through the eyes of our past and the limited knowledge we've acquired through education and various experts in the field, aren’t we actually trying to tell God what ought to be? God's ways are higher (Isaiah 55:9) do we really think they're going to square with anything this world has to say?

So, practically speaking, before making plans, talk with the Planner (God) (Isaiah 55:9), ask Him to help you understand his roadmap (bible) for the next step (Psalm 25:3-5) and then believe that He will accomplish it for His glory (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Oh, and as we wait for clarity; let's actually wait - not worry (Isaiah 40:31). Worry wrecks the word's work in us (Matthew 13:22).

Listen, God doesn't need our help, he wants our heart. So if He says, "Take up and follow" we’re obviously going to need to drop something and He's surely going to lead us.

So, Just let Him drive.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quiet Time: Don't Tell

Don't Tell

Read: Mark 7:31-37

And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it.
- Mark 7:36

I can’t remember either of our kids tattling, although I’m sure they did. It’s just that we had simple guideline when they were growing up: "What you say may incriminate you" (talebearers tend to overlook their part in the process). So, our children quickly learned to shut up and move on. What is interesting in this passage of scripture though, is that Jesus is giving orders to a man healed of deafness, as well as, his buddies who just saw him get healed, not to tell a “good thing”.


Many have speculated that Jesus was simply trying to keep the crowds down. He didn’t want these guys spreading the news about the healing because it would simply muck up the ministry opportunities. Whatever the reason, the fact is, Jesus wanted those who saw the healing to wait before spreading the good news. Well, they didn’t, and the more they talked the crazier things got. But, you know, who could blame them for talking? Well, for one, Jesus could.

Interestingly, the first word the deaf man heard was, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be Opened”. The next words he heard from Jesus were, “Be quiet!” Which goes to show you, that just because we hear and understand a command, doesn’t guarantee that we’ll follow it.

Then there were the friends of the deaf man. After pushing their way through the crowd and pretty much begging Jesus to heal their buddy, a very commendable thing in deed, they actually see Jesus accomplish what they asked Him to do, and it was “Katie bar the door” let’s have a party! I mean, really, what would you do? I for one would be hooting and hollering like a wild man! So, here you are all excited and that's when you hear Jesus, shushing you. He says, “Don’t tell anyone.” Yeh, right! Emotion and exuberance can cause us to turn a deaf ear to Christ’s commands if we’re not careful to quiet ourselves before acting.

The basic take away for me is, "Do what Jesus says to do even when what you want to do appears to be a good thing."Just wait; his timing is best.




Monday, March 5, 2012

Quiet Time: God Doesn't Need a Plan

God Doesn't Need a Plan

Read: Mark 6:35-44


They all ate and were satisfied - Mark 6:42

The story of the feeding of the five thousand seems to be a picture of poor planning until Jesus acts.

I mean, when I think of myself as one of the dads in the crowd of five thousand men with their families, I'd most likely be beating myself up for not bringing food along.

If I was one of the disciples, I think I might have been questioning Jesus' planning and organizing skills. After all, He should've either sent the crowds home a long time ago or sent out for food earlier in the day so that it'd arrive in time for dinner.

But the fact is that Jesus never needs to plan because He's always in control. Jesus is in control even when we blow it. Jesus can be trusted; all we need to do is offer Him what we have.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't plan, I'm simply pointing out, that when we've done our best to follow Christ and we realize that we've left something out, or that we don't have the stuff to do what needs doing, or we look around and see that we're in a pretty tough spot; that's when we can trust Jesus to make a lot out of the little we've got.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quiet Time: Don't Hide Your Hands; Open Them

Don't Hide Your Hands; Open Them

Read: Mark 3:1-8


He *said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” – Mark 3:3

Hands are more than body parts that help us grab hold of stuff. Hands are extensions of our personality, they help us communicate, and they can convey joy and openness, as well as, anger and hatred.

Anna was a Latin girl from my high school. Latinos love to talk with their hands. She was pretty, self confident, and friendly. Not normal. Most girls with her obvious datable qualities were somewhat aloof and stuck on themselves. But, there was something different about Anna. You see, Anna had a malformed arm that grew only six inches in length with a hand at the apex that consisted of a thumb, forefinger, and pinky. I noticed how she always made sure it was hidden, but I also noticed she didn’t let her difference define her. Honestly, I think she kept her arm covered for our benefit more than her own, because she knew how shallow kids could be.

Then, just this morning at the restaurant, as if to drive the story home, my prayer buddy, Kevin showed up with a severe allergic reaction manifesting itself on his hands. Right away he informed me, “I’d shake your hand, but I got something on my fingers after cleaning out my gutters at home.” I looked closely and saw that his hands looked as if boiling water had severely scalded them. I also noticed how Kevin made sure to keep his hands out of sight while we sat at the breakfast table. Again, more for my benefit than his, I’m sure.

I thought, "What’s Jesus trying to tell me?" In Mark’s gospel, Jesus didn’t allow the man with the withered hand to hide. To the contrary, Christ called him out and brought him forward. How many times had the guy sat in the back of the synagogue; unnoticed, overlooked, but very aware that others knew he was there. How often had he tried to cover up, hide, or disguise his malformed extremity, not because he had a problem with it, but because he knew that others just couldn’t handle his imperfection; his "curse" from God, as the religious nut jobs would have called it. But this man was neither cursed nor a mistake, he was simply different, and he was about to become a living breathing example of God's grace.

Then I thought, “Where were his friends?” Why didn’t someone step forward and say, “Hey, Jesus, before you start teaching, could you help my buddy?” Jesus even gave everybody at the church a second chance to show a little compassion by asking, “Is is lawful to do harm or good on the Sabbath?” but , no-one said a word. NO-ONE-SAID-A-WORD. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

However, that’s when it hit me. Would I have spoken up? Would I have raised my hand on behalf of the guy who couldn’t and asked Jesus to move on his behalf? Would I have stretched my hands toward heaven in praise for God’s intervention after the healing? Or, God forbid, would I have lifted a fist in protest?

You see, hands really do more, than just grab stuff. Hands reveal what’s in our heart.

I want to live life with open hands.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quiet Time: Cliff Hanger (part 2) Don't Look Down

Cliff Hanger (part 2)

My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. – Psalm 63:8

Keep clinging – keep climbing and don’t look down. The higher you climb the closer you come to His face and freedom.

The movie Cliff Hanger with actor Sylvester Stallone has a heart wrenching opening scene. He plays the part of a rescue mountain climber who lets a fellow climber slip through his grasp to her death on the valley floor below. That’ll never happen with Jesus, but that fact doesn’t mean we’ll continue to climb.

The problem with many of us believers in Christ is that we’re not followers of Christ. He says, “Climb, follow me” (Matthew 16:4), but instead we look down and freeze. We see the obstacles, the challenges, our past failures, and future fears and there we stay. Stuck to the side of our perilous cliff, neither falling nor ascending, just stuck. The odd thing is, the longer we stay in that position the more comfortable we feel.

That’s when God loosens His grip just a bit to wake and motivate our faith in Him. A lump rises in our throat, our hearts beat faster, and we are acutely aware of the fact that we are not where we ought to be. That’s when we realize the scary truth. God never lets go, but He’s not against shaking us out of our complacency (Hebrews 12:13).

So Paul says “I press on and grab the hand that grabbed hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). Like Paul and the Psalmist, we need to be quick to respond to the prodding’s of the Holy Spirit. We need to press on toward the upward call of Christ (Philippians 3:14).

Press on: accelerate, elevate, and propel yourself forward in your relationship with Christ. And, whatever you do, don’t look down.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quiet Time: Cliff Hanger (Grab my arm!)

Cliff Hanger (Grab my arm!)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:12

Have you ever watched a movie where the hero yells down to someone he’s trying to save from falling? Invariably he screams, “Trust me; grab my hand!” That’s the picture I get in my mind when I read this passage of scripture.

I see Jesus screaming, “TRUST ME! GRAB MY HAND!” while grasping the sleeve of a falling man or woman who is slowly slipping out of their coat toward a bottomless pit. Now I know, theologically this isn’t exactly perfect, but stay with me for a minute.

Paul says:
“I press on” I keep moving forward, I don’t stop.
“I… take hold of” I grab, I lock arms.
“I was laid hold of” I was grabbed first.

See the picture? Christ reaches for us before we reach for Him. But, it’s in the reaching out for Him that we realize just how deep the ravine really is. And, like a drowning man we then frantically grope for Him to pull us up; to “save” us.

So, let me break it down “spiritually”.
1. God helps us see our sinfulness and then we agree with Him that we are indeed sinful (the ravine is deep and we are falling)
2. God reaches out and grabs our attention by offering salvation through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. He says, “Trust me; I can save you.”
3. At that moment we have a decision to make. Fall or Climb
4. Once we accept His rescue our job is to keep clinging to and climbing up His arm. Not because He may let go of us, but because the struggle gets us closer to His face-His presence-His peace (2 Corinthians 3:17) until we’re safely home.

So, that’s the perspective from someone who is falling, but what about the Christian who’s already walking with Jesus; how does this scripture encourage him?

To be continued…

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Quiet Time: From Want To, To Done (something new in you)

Power
Graphite nanoparticles
From Want To, To Done
(Get ready for something new in you)

Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
– Philippians 2:13

Recently, I planned an afternoon meeting at a place just outside of town. Running late, I quickly typed the address into the GPS and hit the road. Fortunately, the traffic patterns were light and I was making really good time. Finally, I reached the general area of where I thought I needed to be only to discover that I was on the wrong side of town. You see, I had typed in South Street instead of North Street when I placed the address into the street finder, which put me a good ten miles opposite from where I wanted to be. Analysis? I made really good time...in the wrong direction.

God’s never in hurry and He always knows where He’s headed, especially when it comes to getting us to the place we need to be. Right now, He is working, awakening, changing, us. His work takes place deep inside us where no one can see.

So, then, how do we know that He’s working? Well, a new desire wells up within our hearts to please Him. God himself actually “gives” (allows, entrusts, bestows) us the desire (want to, longing, hunger) to please Him. Then, once we’re fully engaged and focused with a new “want to” He endows us with power (ability, aptitude, capacity) to “do it”. Think about it. God draws us (John 6:44), ignites us, and empowers us to be people who please Him. WOW!

Are you sensing His presence? Do you feel a new desire, determination, devotion welling up to seek His face and find your place in His pleasure? Then be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.

God is about to do something new in you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quiet Time: Ryan Braun and the Bible (Don't jump to judgment)

The Gavel
by Andrew Scott
Ryan Braun and the Bible (Don’t jump to judgment)

8 Do not go out hastily to argue your case;
Otherwise, what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor humiliates you?
9 Argue your case with your neighbor,
And do not reveal the secret of another, - Proverbs 25:8-9

From Yahoo to ESPN everyone’s talking about Ryan Braun and his new found “innocence”. Seems like just a couple of days ago Ryan was all but convicted and stamped guilty of elevated testosterone levels (read: steroids) by major league baseball, as well as, the press. Yet, turn on any sports channel this evening and you’ll see a confident Braun touting his innocence from a podium on the first base line at the Brewer’s spring training camp in Arizona. According to David Brown of Big League Stew, “It's the first time an appeal of this nature at the major-league level has been sustained”. Seems everyone might have done well by listening to King Solomon.

Solomon pointed out the danger of jumping to conclusions before hearing all the facts. He also noted that it’s much better to work things out privately, if at all possible. Unfortunately in this modern world of tweets and 24 hour instant information, private is a four letter word.

The media machine “leaked” Ryan’s test results before all the facts were in. It seems his urine sample wasn’t sent to the lab for analysis within the specified time frame. I’m sure the time frame is in place to protect both the player and the league from accusations of tampering. So, I guess that’ll be the next “leak”; how someone tampered with the sample, that is.

Frankly, I don’t know Braun, and my favorite baseball team is the Tampa Bay Rays, so, the whole incident seems a bit over blown to me. However, we can all benefit from the wisdom in Proverbs and insure that we’re not accusing people or jumping to conclusions without hearing all the facts. Better yet, let’s just leave the judgment thing to God. He’s the only one who knows the whole truth and nothing but.