Sunday, November 2, 2008

Your Target Ministry Market

Your Target Ministry Market
Oct 27, 2008
Matthew 15:24 "...I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel"

There is a saying, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." To put it another way, if you go through life without something to do, you won't do anything. Our life is full of time and effort and yet if we don't put the two together, we will accomplish nothing. The best way to accomplish something is by first knowing what it is you are trying to accomplish.

All successful businesses know this full well. They know exactly what they are trying to do and they set all their goals and activities to hit that target. But in order for them to do that, they must have customers. Businesses spend countless billions of dollars in an effort to define who their customer is and how to reach that specific customer. For instance, the famous and successful department store, Macy's, labels its target market as "working women, ages 25-54." All of their efforts are in an attempt to attract and appeal to this specific market. This market of working women, ages 25-54, is their specific customer target.

The principle of a target market is not new, however, and even Jesus used it in His ministry here on earth. Jesus said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." His ministry was specific to only Jews in Israel and He kept His work and travel to about a 25 mile radius. He had a market and He stayed focused on those efforts only. It didn't mean that other segments of the world were not important and it didn't mean that no one else should try in a different direction. It meant that His target was set to reach only one specific market. He knew that in order to accomplish what He was sent to do, He had to be specific and focused.

This translates well into our lives. Many of us do not know what we are doing and have rarely defined who it is we are trying to impact. You have been given specific skills and abilities and have been placed in a specific time in this world. All the things in your life have come together for what you are to do. Take the time to figure out who it is you should be impacting and then set a course to do just that. You are more likely to hit something if you are aiming at it. Don't be afraid to figure out who it is the Lord would like you to reach. Ask Him; I'm confident He has a specific person or persons in mind.

Only you can reach the people on your campus at your specific school. Only you can reach the employees that are directly under your management. Only you can reach your close family members. If we all had a target, maybe we would hit it more often. I have a target market, do you?

1. Have you ever identified who it is the Lord would have you impact?
2. Take the time to write it down and ask Him how to reach them.
3. What course of action should you take in reaching them?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Matt 10:6, 1Cor 9:26, 1 Cor 16:9

Devotional Byte's target market is busy Christians who have easy access to electronic media. Devotional Byte's mission statement is: To encourage, challenge, and convict Christians in their personal walk with the Lord.

Are You Good Enough

Are You Good Enough
Oct 20, 2008
Romans 8:30 "...those he called, he also justified..."

When asked the question, "Are you good enough?" your mind quickly summarizes all the bad things you've ever done in your life and flashes all your failures in front of you. You know the answer to the question will be "No," but you still justify your answer and make excuses in order to get rid of that guilty feeling. So confident now in your answer, after making yourself feel better with deceit, you hope you will never be called forward or be challenged for excellence. You slouch back down in your chair and hide from being called out, knowing that you're not good enough so you don't have to try. Your past has dictated your future, and there is no longer hope of you changing the world. This thought pattern is ingrained into our lives of insecurities and laziness.

There was a man of God who committed more atrocities than you could imagine. He failed in life more than you could ever imagine. He certainly wasn't good enough; he was the scum of the earth. But that did not preclude him from being called forward, challenged for excellence, or asked to get over the insecurities of his failures. He was the apostle, Paul. Recall that he lived at the exact same time as Jesus and that he was determined to stop Jesus' ministry here on earth. Paul persecuted Christians and was responsible for more murders than anyone on death row here in America today. Paul's murders were probably the worst sins any Bible hero ever committed, as they were in direct rebellion against Christ. Paul was even the one given credit for stoning Stephen, a great man of God from the early church.

But all those sins and failures did not stop God from changing Paul's life and using Him in a mighty way to impact the entire world. Paul allowed the Lord to take his failures and wipe them away, enabling Paul to become the most effective Christian and missionary the world has ever seen. Despite Paul's failures and the atrocities of his past, the Lord was able to use him; Paul is given credit for more contributions to our Bible than any other human being. In God's eyes, the more you've failed in your past, the more God can use you in your future.

So, if you've decided that a life of failure precludes you from doing anything great in this world, think again. The Lord doesn't care how many "D's" you got on your report card, or how many STD's you have, or how many DUI's you have. He cares about using you and your future. So the next time you're asked the question, "Are you good enough?" you can re-write the question. The question now becomes, "Do I have what it takes to move forward, beyond my failures?" The question now becomes, "Am I willing to move past my past and change the world?"

You may, at times, begin to feel inadequate again, but that is OK. You'll feel like a wild mustang among thoroughbred horses. But you'll need to remember, it's not about your past or lineage, it's about how fast you can run. And if you don't have a past full of failures and you haven't made an effort to impact the world, then Christ would say to you that you are no better than those Pharisees, whom He called white washed sepulchres. Look it up.

1. Do you remind yourself of your failures and forget about doing great things?
2. What part of your past do you need to get over in order to do those things?
3. Ask God to show you the great things He needs for you to do.

Additional Scriptures for Study: Matt 23, Rom 3:24-28, Rom 5:1, James 2:18-26

Not Made in God's Image

Not Made in God's Image
Oct 13, 2008

Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness....""

I look at my own sons and daughters and wonder how to fully shape their lives and character. They are all so young and impressionable; I fear they may learn things I do not want them to learn. I see things in them that I wish I could change about my own character and wonder if I was the one who put it tin them. Will they turn out all right? If they are made in God's image, shouldn't they turn out just fine? If I am made in God's image, doesn't that mean I'm OK, too?

Not necessarily so. The Bible says that when God created Adam and Eve, He created them in His own image. They were created perfect and, like God, had no sin. Adam and Eve were "born" Godlike. Then Adam and Eve met Satan and decided to bring sin into their lives. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they had their first child (130 years after God created them). Genesis 5:3 says that Adam "had a son in his own likeness, his own image" [italics mine]. Remember, this was after he had sinned. Adam had a new image and it was not the original one he started with. The first child born of man was made in man's image, not God's. Man's image was sinful. Therefore, you and I are born, not in the wonderful image of God but in the horrible image of sin.

But there is hope. The ENTIRE Bible is a story of God's redemptive plan to get us back to our original image; the image of God. Fast forward 2000 years and you find Jesus Christ, the role model of a human being who actually achieved the living status of a human made in the true image of God. But of course He achieved it, He was God. This is impossible for us. But because of Jesus' work on the cross, we can be new creations. Once we become Christians, we are actually born again and are now made into the image of Christ, the original image we were intended to have.

This leaves something for all of us to do. We must be transformed into the image of God through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. After we are saved, we must allow Christ to permeate every area of our lives in an effort to become more like Him. Don't stand in the mirror and try to see the facets of Christ in you; a mirror simply mocks what is there. Rather place a picture of Jesus in your mind and look at yourself in an overlay of that picture. You'll be able to identify the areas of your life that are not Christ-like. Trust me, there are plenty of them. And as you are conforming yourself in the image of Christ, it is your job to help others do the same, especially the people in your immediate life. In doing this, you will not only look like Christ, you will reflect God's own glory.

1. Are you being conformed to the image of Christ on a daily basis?
2. Identify three people in your immediate life that you can be an example for?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Gen 1, Gen 5, Rom 8:29, Rom 12:2, 2 Cor 3:12-18, Col 1:15

The Battle is the Lord's

The Battle is the Lord's
Oct 6, 2008

Isaiah 41:11 "All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish."

Ever realize that you have days or weeks where everything is in conflict with you? Nothing seems to go well and you're not actually doing anything wrong. Nothing seems to be smooth. You try hard to overcome the conflict, maybe even confront a person or two with whom things aren't going well. But the harder you try, the more difficult everything becomes. You begin to wonder "What's wrong with me?" You become a little insecure or even paranoid that everyone and everything is out to get you. I have news for you. Everyone IS out to get you, but it is not whom you think.

Your spouse isn't the problem. Your job isn't the problem. Your kids are not the problem. The problem is the war over us and everything in our lives. It is not a war that is being fought in our realm or world, though. It is being fought in the spiritual realm. Whether you want to admit it or not, Satan and his demons exist and they are very, very active in your life. They are real; they don't live inside of you, but they do have access to your house, your co-workers, and even your mind. They are attacking you from every corner and every angle. Satan and his men are out to get you and they will stop at nothing to steal, kill, rob, and destroy. They will not rest until you are no longer serving the Lord or you are dead.

But there is good news. This is a war that you do not have to fight. You don't even have to engage in battle. All you have to do is step aside and let God step in. That's it. It is so simple. Throw down your human hands and ask the Lord to take over. He wants to fight for you if you will let Him. But He can only help you if you will simply step aside and stop trying to figure it out on your own or work out your own problems. Your efforts will not work in the spiritual realm. Since God lives there, He is the only one who can do battle there. Your efforts are useless. Stop trying and let the Lord fight for you. Don't use human wisdom to figure it out; don't use human efforts to confront the conflict. In fact, when you get involved, it only gets worse. Step aside and let the Lord walk forward in all your conflicts and battles. Put the Lord first and pray that He intercedes for you. He will fight.

You'll be amazed at the results. When God steps in, the enemy is defeated and your problems seem to disappear. The verses before and after Isaiah 41:11 are amazing. Listen to what God says:
"I will uphold you with my righteous right hand...Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. "

1. Have you been having "one of those days" where nothing goes right?
2. Are you letting God fight your battles for you?

Additional Scriptures for Study: 2 Chron 20:15, 1 Sam 17:14, Psalm 97:5, Rom 8:26, Eph 6:12

Waiting on the Lord, Part 2

Waiting on the Lord, Part 2
Sept 29, 2008

"In the Waiting Room of God"

Isaiah 40:31 "but those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

For some reason, the Lord doesn't seem to answer all of our prayers instantly. We are a demanding society, where we want everything yesterday. When we pray, we are programmed to think the answer to the prayer will happen just as a genie in a bottle would grant a wish (instantly, and with sparkle dust). But the Lord does not suffer to work in our time frame. His ways are not our ways and His timing is not our timing. When the Lord is in charge there might be a wait involved. This puts us in a "waiting room," a place where there is nothing to do but "wait upon the Lord."

This is exactly where God wants us, in His waiting room. But there is something actually going on while we wait. God does not put us in the waiting room to punish us or to show us who's boss. He puts us in waiting for a reason; it is for our benefit. The verse, "those who wait upon the Lord," does not actually mean to sit and just wait for His timing. The word "wait" is translated in the Bible from the word "qavah," which has two facets to its meaning. It means to wait, as in anticipation, but it also means to tie or bind together (like a cord or rope being woven together from several strands ready for future use). The rope gets its strength from the multiple stands drawing upon each other. In the verse, "Those who wait upon the Lord..." can be understood as "those who are patient and bound together with the Lord can anticipate a renewing of their strength."

This gives you something to do while you are in God's waiting room; allow Him to weave Himself into every fabric of your life. Instead of just reading those magazines in the waiting room, try binding yourself together with the Lord for future use. Not only might He answer the prayer that you've been waiting for, He might also strengthen you for a future use beyond any of your own personal capabilities. The reason we are waiting for His answer is so that He may also work on us in the mean time.

He figures He's got our attention since we are in prayer to Him, so why not use our attention span for some work? His desire is to make us into the men and women of God that He needs us to be. And if the only way He can do that is by making us wait, then so be it. Allow this time for yourself to be bound together with Him, you'll be amazed at the things you and the Lord can do together. Your new "cord" will have four strands, The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit, and you. Oh the strength that your cord will have. The reason you'll have renewed strength is because you'll need it up ahead.

After you've renewed your strength it will be time to use it. But don't worry, you'll be transformed and be able "mount up on eagles wings;" you will be able to "run and not get tired..."

1. Are you waiting on the Lord for something?
2. Are you allowing yourself to be bound to Him while you wait?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Psalm 27:14, Ecc 4:12, Lamentation 3:26

Waiting on the Lord, Part 1

Waiting on the Lord, Part 1
Sept 22, 2008

"God's Timing is Perfect"

Psalm 145:15 "The eyes of all look to You, You give them their food at the proper time."

If you were to question my wife or kids, they would tell you I'm a stickler for being on time. Getting a family of six out the door takes considerable time management skills, especially considering our four children are all very young. To me, being on time is being a few minutes early. I allow cushion time for human error and the unexpected, to make certain we get there on time. If we're early, its because we've risked out of all the time wasting activities. My wife, on the other hand, calls her personal time clock "African Time." She once attended a church service in Africa where the service was scheduled from 10-12pm, but the pastor didn't stroll in until after 1pm and they didn't finish until 5 or 6pm. Needless to say, my wife is seldom on time for anything, per Americans' standards.

God, on the other hand, is perfect in His timing. There is no need for Him to factor in any cushion time for error or the unexpected. You've often heard that He is never late and rarely early. We would all like Him to show up early; we don't like close calls. We're not good at watching for those near misses, those times when danger is getting too close and we're snatched away by a savior just in time to avoid certain death. Those times when danger gets close cause us to fret and fumble as we nervously prepare for the inevitable, those times when we're certain God is not going to show up. We sit and tell ourselves that God is not near and He will never show up. We deceive ourselves by convincing our minds that this time is different and God will be too late. If we can believe this lie, then we are allowed to act in an effort to save ourselves or intervene because God isn't doing His job.

This is exactly the position where Satan wants us. Satan wants us to doubt that God won't show up on time, or at all, and that if we don't take matters into our own hands, our problems will never be solved. If Satan can convince us of this, then our faith is diminished and we slowly become lord of our own lives. When you don't wait for the perfect timing of God you can take matters into your own hands and really screw things up. Saul was an amazing leader and man of God, but there came a time when he didn't wait on the Lord. Because Saul didn't wait on the Lord, God removed Saul from his leadership position; some argue that Saul lost his home in Heaven as well. Read about it in 1 Samuel 15.

Whether you're waiting for God to give you a spouse, an answer to prayer, or show you your ministry in this world, it is important to wait for His perfect timing. Throughout the Bible, the Lord's own voice is recorded and appears over 500 times saying, "at the appointed time," "in due time," "at the proper time." God is actually interested in time. He set a time and place for everything. He even set a time for the issue you're dealing with right now as you read these words. Timing is so important to God that He is arranging your circumstances at this very moment, orchestrating everything in your life for a very important reveal. But that reveal will be missed if you take matters into your own hands and decide it is no longer prudent to wait for the perfectness of God. So, if you're getting antsy about something, be patience just a little longer. God has it under control and knows the perfect time to bring it about. His timing is perfect, just as He is.

1. For what two things have you been waiting on God's timing?
2. Are you tempted to take matters into your own hands or are you being patient?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Ecc 3, Ecc 7:14, Matt 21:41, Matt 24:30, Matt 24:48, Mark 13:33, Luke 12:45, Acts 1:7, Acts 17:26, Rom 5:26, Gal 4:4, Gal 6:9

I Like Sin

I Like Sin
Sept 15, 2008

Psalm 36:2 "For in his own eyes [the wicked] flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin."

I do not like lima beans. I would pick them out of any foods that my mother used to make. She could hide them in a dish, but I would find them. My palate knows. For me to eat a whole plate full of lima beans would be out of the question. I would sooner gag on a spoon than eat lima beans. Some people like lima beans; I am not one of them. You will not find a secret stash of lima beans in my desk drawer and you won't find me hiding in a closet scarfing them down. Since I do not care for lima beans, you will certainly never see me eat a whole bushel full of them.

Many people say they hate sin. But I know better. If they hated sin as much as I disliked lima beans, they would never sin. I cannot say that I hate sin. If I did, I would not "eat" a whole bushel full at times. You might say that you hate sin, but then you wouldn't "eat" a whole bushel full either. What you hate is the guilty feeling after you sin. What you hate is dealing with the consequences of sin when it's over. What you hate is the effects of sin on your relationships, but you like the sin part. Sin makes you feel good, for a time. If there were no pleasure in sin, none of us would ever "eat" a whole bushel full. But sin is enticing, it gives us a rush.

The key to finding the right perspective on sin is to figure out what you like more than sin. For the Christian, it should be that we love the Lord and our relationship with Him more than we like the short-term effects of sin. Every time we sin, we drive ourselves away from a right relationship with Him. God truly hates sin, which is why He is able to withstand "eating" a whole bushel full of it. He does not want sin in His presence. When we decide to "eat a plate of sin," we drive the Lord and His presence from us.

Most of the time, when we sin, we are doing so with the full knowledge of what we are doing. We are all old enough and mature enough to know what is going on. We are aware that it is sin, but we do it anyway. It's time to call it what it is and admit that we all like the short-term effects of sin. But it is also time to put your right relationship with the Lord above any amount of sin you might "eat" on a daily basis and make the decision to live your life better. Identify the "lima beans" in your life, the areas where you say you hate the sin but you keep doing it anyway. Now call it sin and determine to love the Lord and your relationship with Him more than the sin. Decided right now that you are going to be in His presence and make honest efforts to allow Him to help you rid your diet of those lima beans you claim to hate.

1. As you read this devotional, what two sins in your life immediately come to mind?
2. Are you willing to put your relationship with the Lord above those sins?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Matthew 6:24, Romans 12:9, James 4:4, 3 John 1:11

God Chooses Your Name

God Chooses Your Name
Sept 8, 2008

Proverbs 22:1 "A good name is more desirable than great riches..."

In our house, we have several "pet" names for our children and each other. They are familiar, affectionate names that we all answer to. Only the most intimate insider knows these names. No one outside our immediate nucleus knows, but we use them on a daily basis. When we use these names, they create a sense of love in the atmosphere and all sorts of warm feelings about the loved one. It draws us close and makes us feel dear to each other.

The Bible says that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. It is talking about, of course, a good reputation. That reputation is what others think of you when they hear your name. The reputation can be respectable or one of ill repute, but nonetheless, every time someone mentions your name, it creates feelings inside those who know you. Your name conjures up feelings in others based on your actions and interactions with them. It is good to have a great reputation with others but it is more important to have a good reputation with God. Every time He hears your name, it conjures up feelings inside Him about you and your behaviors, how you have acted and interacted with Him. Based on your activities over the span of your life, you have created a reputation in the Lord's eyes.

From that reputation, He has given you a name. It may be an affectionate "pet" name or it may be a word that makes Him want to spit. Whether you know it or not, He does not refer to you by the name on your birth certificate; He refers to you by how you are seen in His eyes. In the Bible, there was a man named Solomon; at least that is the name his parents gave him. But God said that He called Him Jedidiah, which means "loved by the Lord." Jedidiah was an affectionate name God had given to Solomon because of Solomon's reputation with God.

The name He has for you might be honorable or you might be ashamed by it. It might be a badge based on your actions or a disgrace. Either way, I would consider how the Lord thinks of you. In the Bible, God changed many people's names. Jacob was called a deceiver, but God changed his name to Israel, meaning an overcomer. David was a murderer and adulterer but God referred to him as a man after God's own heart. Whatever the earthly stigma your name might have, it is truly possible for the Lord to change your name. He wants to refer to you with an affectionate name that gives Him warm feelings inside every time your name is mentioned in His presence. And it is the name He will call you when you get to Heaven.

1. Have a name or reputation you'd like to change?
2. What is the name the Lord calls you?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Gen 32:28, I Sam 13:14, II Sam 12, Proverbs 3, Acts 13:22

Labor in Vain

Labor in Vain
September 2, 2008

Haggai 1:9 "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? declares the Lord Almighty. Because of my house, which remains in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house."

The Lord appeared to the prophet Haggai and told him why the children of Israel were not enjoying the fruit of their labors. Evidently, the children of Israel were hard at work, trying to produce a profitable lifestyle. They were working hard at their jobs and businesses, trying to get ahead in life. They wanted their standard of living to improve and so they did like Americans do today, worked several jobs in order to have more, more, more. But they did not have more. It seemed the harder they worked, the less and less physical evidence they had of their labors. Their businesses did not succeed and they never got the promotions they wanted. They didn't have more, and it was the Lord's doing. God appeared and told them that He had personally withheld all the fruit of their labors. He cut short their prosperity.

He did it for an important reason. He was upset that the temple, the house of God, was lying in shambles, in ruins. It seems the children of Israel were more interested in the pursuit of their physical desires and did not care what God wanted. All God wanted was for them to put Him first and take care of the house of God. He was willing to give them the prosperity they sought if they would have just put Him first and rebuilt the temple. This is a great story from thousands of years ago, but what does this have to do with us today? Well, fast forward to Jesus and His death on the cross. He did away with the physical temple as a building and created a new dwelling place for God--inside our hearts. The Bible says that we are the temple in which He lives. It goes further to say that if we seek Him first, then He will give us all these things that we so hotly pursue.

What backwards thinking God is proposing. He says that if we work less and focus more on Him, then we will have more. If you've been lacking in the physical sense, but working really hard, maybe the Lord has been withholding your fruit. Maybe if you worked hard at taking care of His temple (your own personal Christian walk), then He would give you the physical things you've been working for. God is more interested that you have a personal relationship with Him and work hard to be formed into the likeness of Him. Then and only then, is He willing to add the fruit of your other labors. If you've been wondering why He has been withholding your prosperity in this world, then consider He has some work for you to do for Him. Do that work first and then watch and see what happens. Who knows, maybe you'll drive that nice car and have that nice house AFTER your engage in a little ministry effort for Him.

1. Does it seem the Lord is withholding the fruits of your labor?
2. Have you considered that your relationship with Him is not first and foremost in your life?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Psalm 127:1, Psalm 128, Haggai 1, Matt 6:33, I Cor 6:19

Climbing the Mountain of God

Climbing the Mountain of God
August 25, 2008

Psalm 91:10 "then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent."

The other night I had a dream that I was mountain climbing. It was the same mountain where God had passed in front of Moses in Exodus 34. The mountain was high and dangerous, a sought after mountain by many of the greatest climbers. There were many others climbing the mountain too, all of us on our own, in great efforts to reach the pinnacle. As I approached the top of the mountain the clouds began to roll in and the winds brought a quick covering of looming darkness. Many of the climbers were as close to the top as I was and we all just had to reach it. But when the others saw the storm clouds beginning to form, they quickly started back down the mountain. I had to go on; nothing was going to keep me from reaching the top.

For some reason I was not afraid of the storm, as it was more important that I reach the top of the Mountain of God. I knew I'd have to camp that night in the rain, but was prepared to endure it, knowing I had the satisfaction of reaching the top. I was the only one who made it to the top and just as I reached that point, nightfall came with the rains. I hurriedly began to find the best place to stay the night through the cold, dark, and wet storm. The thought of actually falling asleep was wishful thinking, as it seemed it was going be a long night without a tent. But then I looked up and saw something strange.

I peered over at a grouping of trees and noticed something that I had not seen initially. It was a shelter. It was not simply a cover from the rain, but a solid-structured cement building with a warm bed inviting me to come in out of the stormy weather. I did just that. I went into the dry shelter and climbed into the warm bed while the heavy winds blew all around me. That night I slept soundly, listening to the rain bounce off the rooftop. I was safe and protected from the storm, all the while enjoying a wonderful night's sleep.

I awoke from the dream and realized something about God's character. Climbing the mountain of God is like our Christian walk, a steep climb that can seem dangerous, where only a few will make it to the top. And just because you make it to the top of the Mountain of God doesn't mean a storm will never arise. It does mean that He will shelter you from the storm, though. The Bible is very clear that if we put our trust and hope in Him and continue in our Christian walk, He will protect us and allow an amazing sleep through the most difficult storms in life. He wants to know how important it is to reach the top, how important your Christian walk is to you. Don't worry about the storms in life, keep climbing, keep pressing onward, no matter what the weather around you looks like. Let Him worry about the wind and the rains. Just focus on your Christian walk.

1. Do you see dark clouds on the horizon of your Christian walk?
2. Is it more important that you reach the top of the Mountain of God?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Psalm 91, Acts 20:24, I Cor 9:24, II Tim 4:7

God Called You Out

God Called You Out
August 19, 2008

John 21:3 "I'm going out to fish, Peter told them... but that night [he] caught nothing."

Before meeting Jesus, Peter was a fisherman by trade. Fishing was his profession, and that was all he knew. Enter Jesus. Jesus called Peter away from fishing and told him he would no longer fish but now be a fisher of men. Jesus called him out of his vocation as a fisherman and put him into ministry. For the next several years, Peter was a disciple of Jesus and in full time ministry spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus had so many plans for Peter; He said that Peter was going to be a rock upon which He would build His church. Forget fishing, Jesus had other plans for Peter.

But after Peter denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion, Peter forgot the new plans that Jesus had for him. Peter, somehow, decided that it would be better to return to fishing, even though God had called him out. (This is the exact same position Peter was in when Jesus called him out the first time.) You'll read in scripture that after Jesus rose from the dead, He went to look for His old friend, Peter. And you know where He found Peter? Back at his old profession, in a boat, trying to catch fish. Peter didn't catch any fish this time either. He had spent the whole night fishing but to no avail. He couldn't fish anymore. He had forgotten that God had called him away from fishing, and fishing was no longer what God wanted him to do. Peter's efforts were futile because that was not what he was supposed to be doing. God's call on Peter's life still stood firm, and fishing was not it.

God has called each of us out of something and into a marvelous light. That light is the knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Savior and with it comes a new life. You cannot go back to your old life; God has called you out from it. You'll find that it is unfulfilling, empty, and futile. No matter whom you were or what you did, that is no longer you. You are a new creation. You have a new identity and with it something you are supposed to do. I don't know what that is for you, but you do. You know, as you read these words, what the Lord has for you and are well aware of the old life to which you so easily return. Recognize that your old way of life is unfulfilling. Continue walking in what the Lord has for you. Even if you failed the Lord, like Peter did, you don't have to return to the old life. God still wants you to follow Him.

Jesus found Peter fishing again and had to call him back. "[Peter]...follow me" John 21:19

1. Are you aware of the life that you left when you decided to follow the Lord?
2. Are you continuing to walk in that new life on a daily basis or have you returned?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Deut 7:6, Isaiah 43:10, Matt 4:18-19, I Peter 1:2, I Peter 2:9

God Let it Past

God Let it Past
August 11, 2008

Psalm 103:12 "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our [sins] from us."

There is an old phrase that says, "let bygones, be bygones." Another way of saying it might be, "let the past stay in the past." Some might suggest the phrase is, "like water under a bridge." Any way you want to say it, the point is the same. Yes, we can learn from the past, but once it is gone, it should stay gone. We cannot live in the past, nor can we dwell on what has happened in our lives. There has to be a point of moving farther, beyond that of our previous failures, mistakes, and sins.

Imagine you are to embark on a new era in your life--school, marriage, job, birth. And every time you started the new journey, you carried with you a large black suitcase or piece of luggage that could only be moved on wheels. Now imagine how silly it would be to lug that black suitcase down the aisle with you before you said your vows, or how crazy it would be to sit in the interview office, anticipating a great new career, peering over the suitcase on your lap. It is ridiculous to picture, but that is what each of us does when we don't leave the past in the past. If we don't let it stay in the past, then we will be forced to drag it with us wherever we go.

The Bible says if we will confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them. If God has forgiven you, then why would you keep bringing up the past? God doesn't bring up the past, not if He has already forgotten it. You might say to God, "remember the time when....." His response will be the same every time, "what are you talking about?" This is one thing God can't do, remember the past. The Bible is very clear that His character does not keep a record of your wrong doings. He is quick to severe your past from your present but for some reason we keep hanging on to it.

If you have unconfessed sin in your life or there are mistakes you'd like to erase, make sure you are honest with yourself regarding them and take them before God. Ask Him to forgive you AND give you the ability to forgive yourself. Once He has forgiven you and forgotten about it, then I suggest you do the same. Learn from the past and vow to never repeat it, but don't carry it with you wherever you go. Don't start the next journey with your luggage; you look silly with that big, ugly suitcase in your lap.

1. Have something in your past that you'd like to get rid of?
2. Have you asked God for forgiveness and forgiven yourself?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Psalm 32:5, Matthew 9, John 8:36, I John 1:9, I Cor 13:5.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Greatest Man that Ever Lived

The Greatest Man that Ever Lived
August 4, 2008

Matthew 11:11 "...among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than..."

In today's society, we create our own fantasy world, where we are the center of the universe. We beg for someone to enable the fantasy of us turning into something great, someone respectable. We have this image in our heads of an idol that others may marvel at our abilities, feats, and accomplishments. Yet we drive every morning in our average car to our average job for an average pay and go home to our average house. None of us is the modern day idol we'd like to become so we click on the TV or log on to our favorite place in hopes of pretending our average life isn't real. We have this innate desire to be great in men's eyes and all fall far short of being an iconic figure of worship.

We are focused in the wrong direction when it comes to winning other's respect. We need to be focused on what God thinks of us and not man. We can win at everything in life and work hard to become something great so that men will applaud our efforts, yet it doesn't matter. When it is all said and done, no one will care how many people typed in our name as a search engine mover, especially God. God does not care how much money you make or how many people wear the sneaker with your name on it. God does not care how many letters you have after your name and whether men write about you and your work. God does not care if anyone on this earth is impressed with you, as He is not moved by the power of the swing vote.

There is a way to God's attention and there is a formula for being great. Do things exactly the way John the Baptist would do things and you'll be great in God's eyes. John the Baptist is said to be the greatest man that ever lived. Yes, the weirdo, who lived in the desert wearing camel hair and eating bugs, was the greatest man. This simple man, who had nothing the world desires, was worthy of respect. Jesus said so. Jesus declared, out loud, that John the Baptist was great. No amount of earthly respect could garner the title that Jesus bestowed upon John the Baptist.

What made John the Baptist so great in God's eyes? What miracles did John perform? What nation did John lead? What notoriety did he have in the world at the time? Nothing. None of the above. John the Baptist did not do anything that we would deem worthy of respect, but God bestowed upon him the face of satisfaction. John got a nod from God simply because he made sure everything he did was to bring about the work of the Lord. John took every task in his life and made sure it got the Lord's work done. Nothing more and nothing less. John did only the things necessary for pointing the world toward God and avoided anything that pointed the world's eyes elsewhere. And he did this no matter how it made him look or how uncomfortable it may have seemed. John cared about only one thing, the Lord's work, not himself.

Figure out what impresses God and become just that. Get God's attention and a nod of respect from Him, John the Baptist did.

1. Want to be the greatest man or woman that ever lived?
2. Are you willing to give up everything in your life that doesn't point to God?
3. Are you willing to do it no matter how silly it makes you look?

Additional scriptures for study: Matt 11, Matt 14, Jn 3, Jn 4, Jn 12:43, Gal 1:10

God is Moving House

God is Moving House
July 28, 2008

Psalm 22:3 " who are enthroned upon the praises of [your people]" (NASB)

It has been said that where there is light, there is no darkness. This seems a pretty obvious statement, but it makes tremendous sense and can apply perfectly in our lives. It applies perfectly because seldom do our lives epitomize the evidence of light, light being the Lord's presence. More often than not, Satan and his henchmen are at work, tempting us, tormenting us, and hatching evil schemes to implant their efforts into our lives. This creates a need for us to rid them, lest we drive away the light in our lives and suffer in the dark.

The only way to drive out the darkness (Satan's efforts), is to let the light in. We need to let God in. This statement is logical but it needs to be implemented. Satan does not want to be where God lives. Satan does not vacation in the house of God. He cannot stand in God's presence and has no desire to be anywhere near Him. The only way to drive out Satan's presence is to make sure that God is living in that place. If God is living there, then the devil cannot enter. God and Satan cannot fill the same space together. It will not happen.

If you'd like to drive out Satan, you have to convince God to take up residence. The Bible says that He inhabits our praises or is enthroned in our lives when we praise Him. The words, inhabit or enthroned, carry with them a meaning of permanence, a place where God has a physical street address and His mail is delivered. That is where God longs to be, home sweet home. He desires to abide and be King inside our praises. God longs to be home, in your praises to Him. There is nowhere else He would rather stay and He wants to move house.

The next logical step, start singing praises to the Lord. Do this non-stop in your life, every minute of the day and you will drive away the darkness. If you are singing praises to God, Satan has to flee. Once you start praising the Lord, God moves in and becomes enthroned. And when God moves in, Satan moves out. If you feel any amount of darkness trying to creep in, make sure you are lifting up praises to the Heavenly Father. Learn to do this on a daily basis and Satan's efforts will not darken your door.

Don't know any songs to sing? Start with the one you learned as a kid, "Jesus loves me, this I know...."

1. Has darkness been knocking at the door of your life?
2. Have you started praising the Lord, so He can move house?

Additional Scriptures for Study: Gen 1:4, Ex 14:20, II Sam 22:29, II Chron 31:2, Psalm 35:28, Psalm 47:6, II Cor 6:14

Arguing with God

Arguing with God
July 21, 2008

Exodus 4:13 But Moses said, "Oh Lord, please send someone else to do it."

Moses was minding his own business when a strange opportunity presented itself. Recall the burning bush where Moses stood on the mountain top and talked with God. We've all seen Hollywood's version of this scene, where Moses walked over to a bush that burned but was not consumed. The Lord spoke to Moses through this burning bush and gave him a crazy proposition. Well, it was more of a quest or a call to action. Instead of jumping at the opportunity, Moses proceeded to have an argument with God.

The Lord requested something of Moses and instead of offering his services willingly he gave the Lord every excuse as to why it would not work or why he was not the man for the job. At the risk of adding or taking away from the Bible, the conversation between God and Moses has been edited for the illustration of this point. The conversation went something like this:

God: "Moses, Moses!"
Moses: "Here I am."
God: "This is God; I have a job for you."
Moses: "But I am a nobody."
God: "Don't worry, I'll go with you."
Moses: "But no one will listen to me or believe me."
God: "Tell them God said so. It won't be easy, but I'll do all the work."
Moses: "But no one will listen to me or believe me."
God: "Then I will prove to them that I told you to do this."
Moses: "But I'm not really qualified to do this."
God: "If I sent you, then I've qualified you. Just do what I ask of you."
Moses: "Can't you find someone else."
God: "No one else will do; I've hand picked you for this."

It is easy to see from this short, paraphrased version, what was going through Moses' mind. He was afraid of getting uncomfortable or that he would not have success. Moses was doing just fine in his life and was getting nice and comfortable. Then the Lord showed up and asked him to do something. Moses argued with God and did not want to submit to what God had for him. He whined and complained and begged for a way out. But God had other plans. When God chooses someone, His call and quest are not really an option. Notice from the conversation that Moses was hand picked and God was even going to go before him and do all the work. All Moses had to do was follow the Lord's instruction.

It is human nature to argue with God and tell Him why His ideas are not very smart or well thought out. But I assure you, they are perfect in their plan. We have all had this conversation with God and argued with Him about something. Review the conversation above and put your name in place of Moses. The names change, but the conversation is exactly the same. We have this voice inside of us, telling us what we are supposed to do, but we suppress it and argue with it, telling the voice why it is wrong. If we argue long enough with this voice, we can drown it out with our excuses and rationalizations.

But if God has asked you to do something, then He has also given you just enough skills and abilities to make it happen. And if you think you lack in some area to accomplish what He asks, then God will make up the difference. In fact, God will go ahead of you and make it happen for you. He just needs a willing vessel to work through. And guess what? He hand picked you.

1. Have you ever drowned out the voice of God with your arguments?
2. Isn't it time to review that voice and put into action what He has called you to do?

Additional scriptures for study. Ro 11:29, I Co 1:27, II Th 2:13, Jnh 1-4

Violence to God

Violence to God
July 14, 2008

Matthew 19:6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man [separate].

In many cultures, and unfortunately in the Christian culture, divorce from a marriage has become practiced and acceptable. This is not how God designed or intended. God did not design divorce. When He created the institution of marriage, He left no opportunities for divorce. All of the scriptures talking about marriage discuss it as a joining of flesh or two becoming one. At the risk of being gross, consider the mental picture of someone trying to rip your skin off your body. This ripping and tearing of the flesh is how God envisions the act of divorce.

Let me give you a quote from the Lord God Almighty regarding divorce. "I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel , "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence..." Mal 2:16. In God's own words, He uses very strong language, hate. Hate denotes something that is despicable or repulsive to God. He considers divorce a violent act. When a man and woman separate through a divorce there is a violent ripping or tearing that must occur in order to separate the two. When God joins something, he doesn't just bond the two, He knits them together so there is no seam. He doesn't create a perforated line where the paper can be easily pulled apart. The point of connection is not visible; there is no apparent line where it can be cut. It must be ripped and torn in order to separate. If it is ripped or torn, there is the risk of ruining the two pieces. It is a very violent action that not only affects the married couple but the entire family for generations to come.

You may argue or disagree with this point, but it remains the same in God's eyes. He considers it despicable, just as He does murder, adultery, or homosexuality. You may suggest that you would never do one of those things, but you may feel divorce can be justified. I am telling you there is little to no justification for a divorce. If you or someone you know is on the verge of a divorce, you owe it to them to pray for their marriage as God will be disgusted when they divorce. It angers Him to see such an act of violence.

And while you may say you would never get a divorce, know that you are not immune from the temptations and sin that could lead to a divorce. Always be on guard against the attack on your marriage as Satan knows if he can convince you to get a divorce then God will be disgusted, as you will have ripped apart what God has joined together. Satan doesn't care about you and your marriage; He wants God to see a despicable act of violence. Take time right now to pray for your marriage and those around you. If you are not married yet, pray now for the protection of your future marriage. You owe it to God and yourself to work on your marriage.

1. Have you ever become complacent in your marriage and considered divorce?
2. Are you aware of the violence that must occur for divorce to happen?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Greatest Faith

The Greatest Faith
July 7, 2008

Heb 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."

Most of us don't wrestle with the idea of faith being "the evidence of things unseen." If you truly believe God exists, that is faith. It is pretty easy and requires nothing from us; it costs us nothing. But there is the other half of the definition, "the substance of things hoped for." If you are hoping for eternity in heaven, you are said to have faith. If you have eternal hope when you die, you are putting assurance in salvation or eternity in Heaven with Him.

This "substance of things hoped for" part of our faith gets difficult as it requires us to put our belief into action. You may need to have faith that your child will be healed of cancer or that your loved one will eventually be saved. This part of faith begins to cost us. It requires that we buy stock in God and His Word. We may have to give of our precious time in obedience to Him, with no opportunity of getting it back. But if it is what God asks of us, then we are being true to demonstrate faith. Then faith begins to cost us even more. We are asked to give God a tithe, a tenth of every penny that we work for, whether that penny is ours or we owe it in taxes. This really gets hard.

The greatest demonstration of our faith is when we give God our money. This is costly because your hard work is easily measured. You can quickly tabulate 10% of your gross income and realize how many hours it took to make that money. It is an exact science but the greatest exercise of things unseen. There is no guarantee in the Bible of what you will get, if anything, as a return on your money. There is no promise of what you are exchanging it for, but it is still required of you. And there is no guarantee that you will ever see it back in the form of money again. Once you give it, it is gone.

Everyone, if considered a Christian, must give God a tithe, a portion of money that may never be returned in the physical sense. This is hard because our money means so much to us. It is costly and can get even more expensive. I know of a man who is wealthy but stopped giving more money once the amount reached $10,000. He rationed that giving his tenth, even if it came out to $17,000 was just too much money. His faith in God is small, even though $10,000 is a lot of money. I also know of a family who faithfully gives a tenth of their money based on their gross income. It comes out to only about $2,200 a year for their family of four, but their faith in God is huge. They certainly need that extra $2,200 a year, but they would suggest that their faith is far more important than what that money could buy. They have the greatest of faith.

Their faith is huge because they believe God is bigger than their financial worries and woes. It is huge because they believe God will take care of them no matter how hard times might get. It is huge because they have "the substance of things hoped for AND the evidence of things unseen." They trust that God will take care of them around every bend, financially or not. Tithing is the greatest exercise of our Christian faith and it is not for the weak.

1. Do you demonstrate your faith in God by giving a full tithe?
2. Is your faith in God great enough to give even more?

God's Intended Glory

God's Intended Glory
June 30, 2008

John 9:3 "Jesus answered, It was not that this man or his parents sinned, but he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested in him."

The disciples brought a blind man to Jesus and wanted to know why the man was blind. The man had been blind since birth and the disciples were trying to figure out the reason for it. They wondered if the man's parents had sinned and the man was subsequently being punished for it. They also considered the man's own sins possibly resulting in the punishment of blindness. Jesus gave the disciples an astonishing answer. He said (in my own paraphrased version), "this was allowed to happen to him so that it might bring glory to God." Just as Jesus spoke those words, He healed the man of his blindness.

As a result of the healing, many things happened. The man spread word of Jesus' power to perform an amazing miracle. The Lord was given credit for healing him, resulting in more people believing in God. Most importantly, a story was created that we might read about thousands of years later in an effort to learn more about the character of God. All these things happened as a result of a few moments with Jesus. Imagine; the man spent a life of difficulty dealing with his blindness, all so Jesus could heal him at that exact moment. It is crazy to think that God would orchestrate that in the man's life before he was even born, but it is exactly what happened. The man's life and blindness were intended for glory. The Lord had something in mind and it required someone living almost an entire lifetime with blindness. All this was planned in order that God might be praised through a miracle moment.

This puts new light on the situation that you are going through right now. Maybe you didn't sin and maybe no one did anything wrong. Maybe all that is occurring in your life is an effort to create a crazy, beautiful story that will bring glory to God. In everything that happens for you, Christian, God is at work and He wants ALL of it to point to Him. Every situation in your life is an opportunity to bring Glory to God, no matter how big the miracle required to turn it around. In fact, the bigger the miracle, the bigger the story, and the more glory it brings to the Lord.

The next time you question all the happenings in your life, consider that God is at work, setting you up for a moment in time with Jesus. Get ready. When your miracle happens, you'd better be ready to give some amazing glory to God for your story. It's going to be big, I promise; get ready to praise Him. After all, it was intended for glory.

1. What situation in your life seems to have happened for no apparent reason?
2. How will you give Him glory when that situation is turned around?

Commandment #10

Commandment #10
June 23, 2008

Ex 20:17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."

I'm not sure where you live, but my neighbor has nothing that I desire. His house leaks when it rains, his wife smokes like a chimney, he doesn't have any servants, and his rat-dog runs around in my yard. How easy it is for me to live out the tenth commandment, "Thou shall not covet." Unfortunately, according to the parable about the Good Samaritan, we are taught that anyone is our neighbor, not just the guy who lives next door to me. But even though the scripture talks about desiring the physical things that we don't have, it is really a heart issue of our current situation.

Each of us has been given a certain lot and situation in life. Maybe you have a lousy job or could use a boost in your relationship when compared to someone else. Maybe you have to struggle because you couldn't go to college and someone else had his way paid in life. It is easy to look at others and desire the things God has given them, especially if it is something you want and may never have. The only way you decided you wanted those things was from seeing someone else's situation or life in comparison to yours. If you lived on an isolated island with all the necessities of life, you wouldn't care if your clothes were designer or not. It wouldn't matter if your car had an expensive name or where you went to college. Nothing would matter as much because you couldn't compare yourself to others.

The root issue behind the tenth commandment is a source of comparison and then complaint. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. What you have in life and what you are going through is exactly right for you and may actually be your lot in life. Unless you are living a life of rebellion against God, your life is exactly normal for you. It was custom designed for you by God. I know for a fact that you don't desire the bad things that are happening to others. In fact, you shy away from them because it is the opposite of what you want. If you compared yourself to someone who was worse off than you, you might actually feel thankful. But instead, you compare your situation to the perfect Hollywood life and complain because they don't deserve it anymore than you.

This is wrong. Desiring someone else's life, situation, or possessions is actually rebellion against God. It is rebelling against His will for your life and what He would have for you. It is rebelling against what He desires for you and your use for His glory. This is the whole reason we are to pray and ask for things in accordance to His will. If you want a million dollars, then pray for it. But when you don't get it, realize it is not His will for your life and what He would have for you. If that is the case, drop the discussion and go on living. If you live your whole life in a state of "want," you will never be able to enjoy what the Lord actually has for you, nor can He use you for His glory. Stop complaining about your situation or lack thereof and begin to be thankful for what He has given you. You'll realize it is His will for your life and you'll be better off for it. Besides, no one wants in be in rebellion against God.

1. What do you find yourself desiring that someone else has?
2. Are you able to give up that "want" in order to live according to His will for your life?

Godlike Integrity

Godlike Integrity
June 16, 2008

Ge 39:9 "...How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"

The word integrity has become synonymous with the word moral. If we say that someone has integrity, we are saying that he maintains a high moral standard. But the word integrity means more than that; it means being complete or undivided. If something gets burned in a fire but maintains its integrity, it remains unchanged. It is still complete. If a diamond goes through a fire, it comes out a diamond and is said to have its integrity in tact. God has the highest degree of integrity. Not that He simply adheres to a high moral standard but that nothing can change God. Nothing can harm Him and He will not be swayed by any influence. God cannot be altered in His person or His resolve. No matter what, God will be the same. He will remain integral to His character.

There was a man in the Bible who had the most Godlike integrity out of any hero we could study. The man's name was Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery, though he did nothing wrong, by his jealous brothers. He lived as a slave and was later imprisoned. Despite serving the Lord, God still allowed these things to happen to Joseph. Some theologians say his slavery lasted almost 17 years. But his imprisonment is particularly of interest since he arrived there after being falsely accused. He lived in a very powerful man's house and was in charge of everything, though still a slave. The man's wife tried to seduce Joseph but was unsuccessful. Joseph said that He did not wish to sin against God by doing such a horrible thing. She was embarrassed and accused him of following through with it. The powerful man threw Joseph into prison and God allowed it.

Think about this for a minute. It was God who allowed Joseph to become a slave in the first place; what did Joseph owe the Lord? Joseph could have become bitter or angry with God and walked away from having a relationship with Him. He certainly had no reason to stay true to God. But he did. Joseph remained faithful to God, though it appeared on the outside that God was not being faithful to Joseph. Joseph had integrity, Godlike integrity, for denying that man's wife. After all, after being a slave, it appeared Joseph had nothing to lose. But he lost even more; his integrity landed him in prison. Thankfully the story had a happy ending for Joseph, but no one was clued in to the ending while the slavery was in place. Joseph's integrity remained intact despite his circumstances, no matter what the possible outcome. Joseph proved that he could not be altered in his person or his resolve. No matter what, Joseph stayed the same. Joseph remained integral to his character, his Godlike integrity.

1. Has it ever appeared that God was not being faithful to you?
2. Were you able to retain your integrity to God despite your circumstances?

The God of Peace

The God of Peace
June 10, 2008

Romans 15:33 "The God of peace be with you all. Amen"

Many Americans, including Christians, seem to lack peace in their lives. This peace is not the opposite of being at war with someone, but rather an inner turmoil of stress or uneasiness. There is an inside battle that keeps us from having a restful heart, evidenced by the number of people with anxiety disorders, high blood pressure, or simply high levels of stress in their lives. For one reason or another, they are not able to come down from that stress and are always at odds with themselves. If you have no worries in your life then you are one of a select few, but if you are like most of us, you could use a larger degree of peace in your life.

There is good news. Our God is the God of Peace. Good for Him, but what does that mean for us? What is that peace and where does it come from? Instead of saying He is the God of peace we can say He is not the God of anxiety. That means His character, His inmost being, is at peace and rest. There is no worry or restlessness in Him. He does not wish to attack or kill and has no aggression in His presence. Again, this is great for Him but how do we get some of that in our lives? The answer is more simple than you think.

You cannot pray for more peace in your life and you cannot work at it. You cannot earn it and you cannot buy it. It is not even a gift. Peace is only found if we are in God's presence. You see, since God is the God of peace, that means He carries peace with Him everywhere He goes. It is part of His character and it cannot be removed. If He goes over "here" then that is where His peace may be found; it is with Him. What this means to you is simple. Spend more time with God, in His presence, and you'll naturally have His peace. But in order to spend time with Him you must get rid of your own thoughts and agendas, as there can be nothing between you and God. If you are truly spending time with Him in His presence, then you have cast all of your life aside and everything in it. You cannot take those things with you into a personal meeting with God.

If you have shed off that extra luggage to be in His presence, then you will be able to experience peace, amazing peace. And it is not simply the avoidance of those stressors in your life, but truly experiencing God's peace, that part of His character that is always there. It is like walking outside after being locked up all winter, letting the sunshine hit your face. The warmth simply casts itself onto your face and permeates every part of your being. When you are in His presence, you are experiencing His peace, the warmth of His presence. The trick is to be in His presence at all times in order to experience peace at all times.

Notice the text in the specific scripture, "The God of peace be with you..." Want to take peace with you everywhere you go? Just take God and His presence with you, the peace with follow.

1. Haven't had any peace in your life lately?
2. Isn't it time you spent some time in His presence in order to have that peace?

God the Farmer

God the Farmer
June 2, 2008
Isaiah 28:24 "When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil?"

There is a vegetable garden in my backyard that we started last year. Unsatisfied with the previous results in produce, we decided to put a little extra effort into the ground this season. Starting at the end of last year, we added compost to the soil so it would break down over the winter months. As soon as spring hit we began further preparing the soil for this year's bumper crop. I got the biggest tiller I could find to break up the hard Missouri soil. The sun was hot that day, but I persevered and spent hours tilling up the soil, adding in organic matter and the recommended fertilizers. My zero years of agricultural experience coupled with no know-how, should produce interesting results from this city boy. Yes sir, my 20 feet of dirty work should make enough vegetation for a few tossed salads this year.

God, on the other hand, is truly likened to a farmer, likened to a farmer's character, that is. There is a cyclical nature to a farmer's work: tilling, planting, watering, harvesting. This is the same with the Lord's work in our lives. This is a pattern from start to finish, a process. The farmer does not till the ground forever but realizes that his efforts are adequate and needs to plant the seed. The farmer then makes sure that the seed is cared for and watered. The farmer also waits until the perfect time and executes the harvest.

This is how God works in our lives. If we feel that God is at work in us, tilling the ground, then we should be prepared to eventually allow Him to plant the seed. God will move us through the pattern of His process in our lives and our current situation will not last forever. Whatever step of the process you are in will not last. Be prepared to move on to the next step. In fact, the Bible says that God’s character is intent on moving us through the process. So, if you feel as if your current situation may never end, rejoice in knowing that God is at work and has a purpose for the activity that He is taking you through. The farmer’s actions are purposeful and so are God’s. It would be silly if God never planted a seed after preparing the ground or if I went to check on my own garden every week and decided to till the soil again. There would be no purpose. A farmer's character is intent on a harvest and so is God.

The harvest is coming, I promise. Be prepared for some amazing produce, far better than what our own agricultural skills could do.

1. Feel like God will be tilling the soil forever?
2. Are you prepared for Him to plant the seed or are you ready for the harvest?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember
May 26, 2008

Ex 13:9 "This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead...For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand."

Many holidays are meant to commemorate an event or day of historical significance. Memorial Day in America is one such day, where we take time out to remember all those who have served in our Armed Forces, fighting for our freedoms or for those who cannot fight for themselves. It is a special day, honoring many men and women who have even given their lives in service for something so very important to all of us.

God actually set up the first memorial day, which was to be celebrated on a specific day but remembered ALL the days of our lives. The event to be remembered was the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This event was a big deal. You remember the Hollywood portrayal of Moses and the Ten Commandments. It was the story of Moses going to Egypt in an effort to leave with the Israelites who had been enslaved for a very long time. They were allowed to leave, but only after many plagues of bugs, blood, and death. Finally, the Israelites were released, led out to the land of milk and honey by Moses. It was a grand event, done with a great display of God's power throughout the whole story.

Though this event was very important in history and to our Christian heritage; it probably means nothing to you and me, today. But it does and it should. It was a display of God's power, might, and deliverance, where He wants us to remember His capabilities to work in the past and in our lives today. It was a chance for God to do something so great in history and set up a precedent for His abilities in your life here in this place in today's history. This event was so important that God commands us remember it and to play it over and over again in our minds. This story is set up as a command to recount to everyone who will listen to the epic event.

It was a command to remember the event not only so we would remember His power and capabilities but so we would be able to do this in our own lives today. Think long and hard about all the good and wonderful things the Lord has done in your life, the many displays of His power and might. Recount those times when He showed up big or you were able to see His power at work or deliverance in a situation. Now take precedent from the Bible and recount it over and over in your mind and to everyone who will hear the story. I know you have something worth remembering; now share it with those around you and listen to their story. You will be amazed at God's power, might, and deliverance.

1. What has God done in your life worth remembering?
2. Have your recounted your story to someone else lately?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Working with Clay

Working With Clay
May 19, 2008

Philippians 1:6 "...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..."

Remember art class? There was always someone with crazy talent that could make anything he touched into a masterpiece. And this masterpiece always made your project look like macaroni pasted to construction paper, no matter how hard you tried. Or maybe you've seen an amazing artist at work, marveling at the precision and skill made to look so effortless. Have you ever seen an artisan work with a piece of clay?

He begins by unwrapping a lump of clay from its protective covering and stares at this gray matter with nothing but potential. To you and me this block of clay looks like nothing, though it could become something wonderful. The artisan begins his work, pushing and molding the clay. He bends and mars its flesh until it is in the correct position. He applies carving and cutting tools to take away the unnecessary. As you watch him work, it is difficult to tell what the finished product will become. It almost looks as if the artisan is failing at his work, as the clay resembles nothing that you are familiar with, nothing you've ever seen before. Still, he presses on, intently adding shape and detail, one movement at a time. At this point, you begin to wonder if the clay was better off as a block of potential as there is no way he can pull this lump of marred flesh into a work of art. You may even think he should throw it away and start over, as your imagination cannot begin to pretend a finished product could materialize.

But as the artisan continues, you begin to see the object take form and if you squint your eyes you can pretend it resembles your nutty aunt Clara. With a little patience, you endure as the artisan puts the final touches on the work of art to reveal the finished product. He spins it around and your jaw drops in utter amazement. As you gaze at the work of art you are marveled at its simplicity yet complex beauty as you realize it is a perfect likeness

The Lord is at work in your life, Christian, and you may think it will never turn into anything worthy of display. But the Lord is hard at work, molding and shaping your flesh until it is in the perfect likeness of the person He needs you to become. It may seem the Lord cannot make anything beautiful out of your current state or that He should throw you away and start over with someone else. But I assure you, He is intent on finishing the work that He started in you. Give Him a little more time and patience. Once He is finished, you can take a peak at the finished product. I promise, you will be stunned and amazed at how He was able to take you and your life and make something beautiful out of it.

Helpful hint. Make sure the clay is soft for the Lord to do His work, otherwise His molding and shaping might hurt a little.

1. Fearful the Lord is not able to make anything beautiful out of your life?
2. Are you willing to give Him a chance to complete what He already started?

Under the Covers

Under the Covers
May 12, 2008

Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Remember when you were five and slept in your own bed, maybe even in your own room for the first time. When the lights went out fear began to creep inside, but as long as you could hide under your covers, you could make it. Even if it was simply one sheet, it was a covering or protection from whatever might lurk in the darkness of your bedroom. You would pull the covers high overhead and nothing could get to you as long as you stayed totally covered up tightly. You were safe, as that covering made sure of it. No bad men could harm you and no thunder storm could rattle you, as long as you were safely under the covers; those cotton sheets were really a coat of armor made of steel.

Now as an adult, your intelligence has taken away that confidence in your bed linens. Somehow there is very little that can give you a safe feeling, that feeling of ultimate protection from all harm. There is little you can do to proect yourself from the bad men that might harm you or the thunder storm in your life that might rattle you. No matter how tightly you pull up the covers, there is nothing protecting you, or so you think.

But when we become Christians, we automatically get a new set of armored bed linens. It is called the covering of the Almightly. God reaches out over you as you sleep with everything under His command and control. Nothing can harm you. You are safe and protected from the bad men and thunderstorms of life. There is nothing that man or life can do unless the Lord allows it. Though difficulty may arise in your life, you are still protected and your soul is always safe. No matter what happens in life, you are still safe under the covering of the Almighty.

When you go to sleep tonight, rest assured that His covering is keeping you safe. Stay under it all the days of your life, as it says a few verses later "you will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day." Psalm 91:5

1. Afraid of what lurks in the dark?
2. Are you resting in the covering of the Almighty?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

God's Big Voice

God's Big Voice
May 5, 2008

1 Kings 19:11-12 "The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

Americans love their superheroes. Billions of dollars have been spent perpetuating images of superheroes in our hearts as we love to indulge the idea of someone so strong and powerful who can rescue us from all harm. We continue in this fantasy, imagining what it would be like if we had such superhero powers, envisioning the display of our powers in front of our enemies. But there is really only one such superhero: God.

He displays His power so many times throughout the Bible, where His might is demonstrated before everyone or a select few. The Bible paints a picture in many different books of the Bible regarding God showing up in a storm; thunder, high winds, lightning, and earthquakes. This imagery instills in us a sense of awe, knowing full well His capabilities, where we revere His power and are willing to submit before Him. But then, after this display of power and might, God speaks. Our superhero steps forward and begins to talk to us. Naturally, we expect His voice to be booming, maybe as loud as the thunder, or with fire blazing from His breath. But God does not speak in a thunderous chorus where nations can hear His words. He speaks in a still, small voice.

Our superhero chooses to talk to us in a still, small voice. The word "still" is used so we are willing to calm our thoughts, voice, and world around us in an effort to hear Him. The word "small" is used so we can hear Him on an intimate, one-on-one level. When God speaks, He uses a voice that can only be heard if we are listening in, so very closely. If the distracting noises around us are too loud, then His voice cannot be heard, as it is usually a gentle whisper. God's displays of His superhero powers are so His enemies are afraid of Him. God's use of a still, small voice is so that anyone who truly wants to hear His voice might do just that.

1. Haven't heard the Lord's voice in a while or ever?
2. Isn't it time you quieted your selfish world to hear Him?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Greatest in Heaven

The Greatest in Heaven
April 28, 2008

Matt 18:4 Jesus said, "Whoever will humble himself and become like the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

After getting my MBA in Finance, I worked for the largest private bank in the world, managing investment portfolios and having lunch with millionaires everday. We lived on the East Coast only a few blocks from the beach and life was good. Through a strange twist of fate a few years later, I found myself jobless and needing to support my wife and two children (with a third on the way). I took the only job I could find at the time, working construction. One day, I ended up working on a brand new hospital; the task at hand for me was to take out the trash. The place was dusty, dirty, and dark inside and my clothes reflected the look and feel of the jobsite. I had collected enough trash to fill my cart and pushed it to the service elevator in order to take it to the dumpster.

In line at the service elevator two gentlemen were talking; one older and one much younger. The younger mentioned how tired he was from studying during the previous night for his college course. The older advised him to stay with it, to hang in there, and that it would pay off for him in the long run. He continued in his discourse to the young man and noticed me out of the corner of his eye. I had been listening in, as I had a passion for higher education and was hoping that my higher education would have also paid off. How ironic of a place I was in; my education afforded me the knowledge and ability to be on the hospital’s administration staff but instead I was picking up the refuse on the construction site. The older man noticed me listening in and said to the younger, “Stay in school; that’s your ticket; you don’t want to end up like this common laborer right here.” He pointed at me, suggesting that I was truly what my task had demoted me to be, the lowest and least respected guy in the place. He didn’t even have enough common courtesy to mention those words to the young man in private, as if I was too stupid to understand what he was really saying.

I kept my mouth shut and did not mention anything of my situation, past, or education. This slap in the face hurt so badly and I wanted to stick up for myself and defend my pride, suggesting that I should not be in such a place. But I did not. I kept quiet. For days my ego hurt from his wounding words and I searched for ways to not let it affect me, though it did. It pains me to replay this story but it actually gives me tremendous hope. Hope, you wonder? Yes, Jesus teaches us that in order to become great in God’s eyes we have to become least in the world’s eyes. This does not mean that everyone must pick up trash for a living and cannot be a prestigious board member, but rather have the attitude of the least respected. Jesus was teaching about a pride issue, not one of physical status. This opportunity to receive such an insult that day afforded me the lesson of becoming the least in the world’s eyes. It was a chance for me to take a look at my heart and make sure that humbleness and meekness were reflected in my character, not a puffed up pride on the outside that may have the potential to take me into hell.

1. Want to be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
2. Have you learned what it means on this earth to be the least?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When God Says No

When God Says, "No"
April 21, 2008
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Jesus was earnestly praying shortly before He was executed on the cross. His prayer request was that He did not truly have to die on the cross, as His flesh had no desire to go through that physical torture. Jesus asked God to take "this cup," which represented Jesus having to spill His blood on the cross. But we all know how the story continues. Jesus went to the cross and gave His life that day, as God did not honor that prayer request of Jesus. God answered the earnest prayer request with a "no."

No one wants to admit it, but sometimes God does not answer our prayer requests. This does not mean He doesn't hear them, but He chooses something better through not honoring the prayer request the way we intend it. In the case of Jesus' death on the cross, mankind can now have eternal salvation. What a great ending to the story. If God had honored Jesus' prayer request of not going to the cross that day, you and I would be eternally damned to Hell. I'd say that I am thankful God did not honor Jesus' prayer request.

This sits well with us in the case of Jesus' death on the cross, but not in our own situation. We feel that if we pray hard enough and believe strong enough, the prayer request will be honored by God, no matter what. But sometimes that is not the case. I have known a pastor or two who was not healed of cancer, despite their earnest prayer requests for healing. The reason for this...God has something better in store that meets His design for you and mankind. If God is not answering your prayer request, then consider long and hard that God has something more important in mind; something either better for you or better for your fellow man because of it.

Notice the rest of Jesus' prayer, "yet not my will, but yours be done." Jesus knew that God's will was far more important than what Jesus wanted. And Jesus knew that God's will was better, far better than answering it the way Jesus wanted. So, too, in your situation. If it seems that God is answering your prayer request with a "no," then consider that God has something more important in store for you and your specific situation.

1. Have any prayer requests not answered?
2. Have you considered that God has something more important in mind?

Be Warm, Christian

Be Warm, Christian
Apr 14, 2008

James 2:16 "And one of you says to him, Goodbye! Keep yourself warm and well fed....what good does that do?"

We live in a Christian society where we love to spout off the platitude "I'm praying for you" anytime someone in the church, a co-worker, or family member has a degree of difficulty or problem. In fact, many times it isn't even a trite statement but something said with great sincerity. We add them to our prayer list or in the least we pray for them once. Unfortunately, this is not good enough. This is a "be warm and well fed" Christianity, where we wish them well but we do nothing about it. God suggests this is not Christianity at all.

In order to truly be a Christian, we must be able to step out of our comfort zone, take time out of our busy schedule, and make a move to do something about our brother's situation. If we deem his situation worthy of a prayer request on our own volition, then we deem it worthy of taking action on his behalf. This does not mean you must become the answer to prayer for him, but it does mean you must do something about it while waiting for the Lord to answer. Absolutely, pray for him, but then get out of your prayer closet and do something. Prayer is wonderful but it is only the first step in demonstrating your Christianity.

If you have the means to be the answer to prayer, then ask the Lord if He would have you be a willing steward of those resources. If you have no means, then find something you CAN do for them. This is truly an action word. To "do" something means to take action. In the least, you can walk along side them as they go through the difficult situation. This is still doing something, as long as you are available and present for them. Sit with them while they cry, listen as they vent, meet an alternate need while waiting for the Lord to show up. This could be simple stuff like: watch their kids, bring them a meal, take them out for coffee, buy them a book, etc. I'm confident if you spend time with them and do any of these things, it will become clear how the Lord might use you more purposefully in people's lives; the specific need that you can meet will become evident. These are all things that require you to be physically present, God meant it that way, as often times you being there is as valuable as the answer to prayer itself.

Most of you would agree with me as you read this, but how many of you have taken the easy road and sent an e-mail, mailed a card, or had flowers shipped. This does not really count. Absolutely, it is nice and serves a purpose, but you could at least make a phone call and take it from there. You never know what you are really doing, because as Jesus said it, "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." Notice that "do" word; (it means, take some action).

1. Are you part of the "be warm and well fed" church?
2. Isn't it time you stepped up a level and took action?

God Loves Hypocrites

God Loves Hypocrites
April 8, 2008
Romans 3:23 "..for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.."

Many times non-Christians express their frustrations regarding those who attend church. They respond with a true statement that everyone in church is a hypocrite. Politely, I agree, but then suggest not everyone in church is Jesus. True, the goal of being a Christian is becoming Christ-like, but it is impossible for anyone to be totally like Jesus, as our sinful flesh will always get in the way of physical perfection. Sure, we Christians try to be perfect, but fall very, very short of that.

This seems like a rational argument for why Christians are not perfect, especially from an outside perspective, but it does not explain why the people inside the church cannot see it the same way. As Christians, we feel that if we are in church for any length of time then we should know how to walk, talk, and act like a Christian 24/7. So, when we get to church, we play the well-rehearsed role of being a Christian. When in church, we never yell, swear, argue, hold grudges, envy, or act inappropriately toward our spouse and children. To everyone in the church, we look just like they do. We tell each other that we are fine and that our lives are on track with the Lord, after all, just look at how we are acting right there in church; model evidence.

Then behind closed doors, in the semi-privacy of our homes, the truth comes out. We engage in many of the same sins as all the non-Christians, not necessarily on purpose, but sin happens. We must hide these sins from all our fellow church members, though. They must never be aware, lest they judge. They must think that we are always becoming more Christ-like with very few, if any, shortcomings or failures. This is where the hypocrisy comes in to play, when we put on a front for the fellow Christians in our church. Heaven forbid they become aware of our humanity and find out we're real people.

The truth of the matter is, we are all very human and fail to be perfect and Christ-like everyday. Even the best of Christians struggles with loving his neighbor or dealing in kindness to his spouse. Even the pastor sometimes struggles with keeping his thought life pure. Even the deacons face apathy toward God and allow worry and doubt to creep inside. And almost everyone gets angry in their hearts while driving on the highway. The point is, non-Christians are aware that we are not perfect, but for some reason, Christians are not aware of this same fact. And if we are aware of our imperfection, we sure aren't going to admit it to any other Christian. After all, they might think we are a hypocrite.

Everyone else probably knows you're not perfect. Stop pretending; God knows who you are and loves you anyway. There is no judgment in the true house of God.

1. Have you been playing the role of the model Christian?
2. Isn't it time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable again?