Sunday, December 29, 2013

Same But Different

Same But Different
December 30, 2013
Malachi 3:6  "I, the LORD, do not change. . ."

The Lord works in ways we do not always understand.  It is impossible to predict what He is doing, what work He is intending, what work He is doing in our lives right now.  In an effort to understand Him in our present situations, we define Him according to how He appeared or interacted with us in our past.  We project onto Him our interpretations of what He did for us last year or last decade.  If the Lord allowed a tremendous blessing in our lives, then He will always allow a tremendous blessing in our lives.  If the Lord allowed us to experience loss, then clearly He will always allow us to experience loss.  If the Lord did not answer our prayer last time, then He will not honor it this time. Our thinking of Him is flawed, when and if we limit the Lord to the manner in which He acted in our past situations.

The truth of the matter is the Lord is not limited by your imagination or understanding.  And to try and predict the work the Lord is doing is only a feeble attempt at controlling Him.  The Lord has free reign to work in our lives as He pleases and it is not always the same.  Just because the Lord allowed you to experience loss last year does not mean He will allow the same this next time around.  You cannot box Him into past circumstances.  While the Lord is free to do what He wants, He also wants you to give Him free reign in your life to the point you and I are not fighting against the work He is currently doing.  It is easy to confuse His character with His works.  He character will never change, but His workings are always new.

The children of Israel tried to do this; they tried to box the Lord into thinking He would always deal with them the exact same same way as the set of circumstances before.  He rebuked them and said, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  When the Lord said this, yes, it was to a specific people at a specific time, but the verbiage He used was to project it was a constant state of occurrence.  It was meant for that time and for the rest of the time.  The Lord doesn't just do a "new thing" one time.  It is a constant state of His character.

The Lord is the same; He does not change.  His heart is the same; it does not change.  His actions, however, are unique for every person and every new set of circumstances, based upon all the variables only He can comprehend.  The Lord is always moving forward.  While His laws for mankind are the same; He is still free to do a new work in your life and mine.

If we allow the Lord to truly be lord of our lives, then we are also giving Him free reign to do a new work.  Do not let the Lord's workings in the past paralyze you from fear of Him working that same way for your future.  It might be different this time.  He may have been shaping your character or growing your faith.  Maybe He was cleaning house.  You cannot predict the work of the Lord and I have grown to understand He works in ways I could never imagine. The more you and I try to understand what He wants to do, the more we put limits on what we will allow Him to do in our lives.  Free reign means free reign; so give it to Him.  Let Him be the same God but working differently as He sees fit.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 77, Is 49, Hebrews 13:8

Sunday, December 22, 2013


December 23, 2013

Luke 2:10  "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.'"

When Mary first found out she was pregnant without having been with her husband, she had cause for alarm.  She believed the report that the child would be from the Lord, but surely she had a few random thoughts during the pregnancy that caused her some perplexing emotions.  You and I think we have a lot to deal with in life, but when Joseph found out his wife was pregnant when he had not been with her, he had cause for alarm.  He had a lot on his plate going into that first Christmas.  Right after the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to shepherds out in the field, not a natural event.  The shepherds had cause for alarm, maybe even trepidation.  There were a lot of intense emotions going into the first Christmas, from a human perspective.  All of which was difficult to comprehend at the time.

But every step of the process, (Mary dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, Joseph dealing with others viewing him as living with an adulterous wife, shepherds dealing with a frightening appearance of angels), was met with someone from heaven reassuring them it was going to be OK.  This event in life was not meant to cause alarm.  It wasn't intended to bring turmoil or difficulty or frustration, it was meant to cause joy.  The exact words from the angel were, "WILL CAUSE GREAT JOY." (emphasis added).

The Christmas story was anything but idyllic at the time.  If that had been my life, I would have thought about quitting.  But it was meant to cause great joy, not alarm.  While Christmas in the present certainly causes frustration from the economy, mixed emotions from family gatherings, and lonely nights, it was originally intended to cause great joy.  The birth of Christ was and is an enormous event for you and me.  We should be full of joy if we have Christ in our lives.  If you do not have joy this Christmas, then maybe you are missing Christ in all of it.

I can venture to say the only thing that got Mary though the pregnancy and birth of her son was realizing it was the Christ.  I bet the only thing that got Joseph through the first Christmas was realizing it was the Christ.  The shepards were able to calm down once the angels re-assured them it was the Christ.  After they all realized it was the Christ, they were able to experience the joy in Christmas, despite their own unique situation and experiences surrounded the surreal event.

If you are lacking joy, consider realizing the Christ.  It was meant to CAUSE GREAT JOY for all people.  "All people" means you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 1:18-21, Lk 1:26-38, Lk 2:8-20

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God Owes You

God Owes You
December 16, 2013
Isaiah 64:6  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. . ."

Wouldn't it seem nice for a moment if God owed you a favor.  To make the scenario even better, you could maybe choose what it would take to pay off His indebtedness.  And you could determine the exact moment of pay-off, like when you think you need it most, when you've gotten yourself in a pickle.  Then you could receive something nice and feel guilt free for enjoying it; after all it was owed to you.

It is absurd, however, to think that the Lord would owe a human any amount of debt, whether in returning a favor or money.  But you and I act like the Lord owes us something.  We do good deeds and we keep score.  We obey the Lord's commands and have a running tally.  We give of our time and money, and have a detailed record to prove it.  While we will never outright declare the Lord owes us for any of this, we think it when we need a favor.  When we get into a pinch or a tricky situation, we pray to the Lord for help and then sit with a sense of entitlement because of all the favors we've done for the Lord.  After all, it's the least He could do for all we've done for Him.  It's time He makes good on those favors.  Maybe our giving to the Lord was with good intention, but surely He was noticing our efforts.  Surely He was keeping a tab.

To say this gently, the Lord owes you nothing.  The Lord owes me nothing.  The Lord is indebted to no man and will not be held hostage for the good you think you have done in your lifetime.  Anything you've done for the Lord should have been done out of the goodness of your heart.  If not, you should have kept it to yourself.  It's hard to do though, give without slightly feeling good about it, like you've made the score uneven in your favor.  I might suggest that anything good you or I have done was because WE owed the favor.  Whether we helped the needy or gave money at church, we have an obligation to the Lord for all He has ALREADY done for us.  If you've given anything, it was about time to return the favor.  The scales have and always will be tipped away from you when compared to the Lord.

It is easy to hope He might have taken notice of your passed deeds, especially when you're in need now.  Maybe He'll take it all into account.  The fact of the matter is, He wants to help you in your time of need, only He isn't going to base it upon the good you've done in the past.  The Lord isn't' going to weigh your good past when considering helping you in the present.  They are not correlated.  It is irrelevant to Him.  He wants to help you now and will consider your situation with MORE favor than you think you deserve.  If you demand the favor, don't expect Him to perform per your wishes.  The Lord never works like that.  He works in a way that is truly in your best interest, even if it means not pulling you out of that tricky situation.

So go ahead and do good deeds, only don't keep score.  And go ahead and ask Him for help when you need it, only don't ask when considering your spotless record (because it really isn't that spotless).

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ez 33:23, Rom 3:3-19, Rom 8:28, Rom 10:3-13

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Not Stronger

Not Stronger
December 9, 2013
2 Corinthians 12:9  ". . . for my power is made perfect in weakness."

I've often heard people say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  This is not true; in fact it is heretical in nature.  The actual phrase, "that which does not kill us, makes us stronger," was written by Friedrich Nietzsche (pronounced Knee chee).  Although his cognitive abilities were impressive, devoting his life to the study of philology and philosophy, he was not a Christian.  In fact, he grew up in a religious environment, only to turn away from anything faith-based in exchange for pre-modern existential reasoning.  Nietzsche was an atheist who declared outright that there is no God, and even called himself, "the Anti-Christ."

His famous quote makes you ponder, if something emotional or physical didn't kill you, then it stands to reason you might actually be stronger for it, able to bear up under it again easier the next time.  After reading through Scripture this does not compute correctly, though.  Nietzsche is suggesting you can actually handle something on your own, fighting through it, struggling to come out on top and are better for it.  But this is not how any of us can come out on top of a difficult situation.  We do not struggle on our own, making it through difficulty based upon fortitude or brute strength.  We are able to handle the difficulties in life successfully only through the power of Christ that is living in and through us.

If we have wrestled successfully through a struggle, it is because Christ has given us strength.  The Apostle Paul calls it his strength during weakness.  He recognized humans are frail in comparison to the Lord.  He calls us to draw upon the strength of the Lord when we are weak; this is when the Lord is made strong in our lives.  If we have weathered through anything successfully, it is because of the Lord's strength, not our own resolve.  If left on our own, we may survive difficulty but come out an altered person.  Struggles can leave a person paralyzed emotionally and physically; this isn't anything like Nietzsche's "stronger."  If we draw upon the strength of the Lord, we can come through difficulties with a stronger testimony.  In fact that is what the Lord loves about enduring difficulty with us.

He loves the opportunity for our weaknesses to point to His strength and create bragging rights for His successes in our lives.  Paul writes that this should be our goal, to rejoice in our weakness so that Christ can be made strong.  If you think you can weather anything alone, coming out stronger, you are working too hard.  For starters there is a good chance you'll have limited success.  Secondly, it is WAY easier to trust in the Lord's strength and experience to help carry you through life.  If and when you come through difficulty successfully, you've gained experience in placing the situation in the Lord's hands.  The realization then is how to put the situation in the Lord's hands sooner.  Your goal is not to be stronger but to be weaker, trusting in the Lord's strength.  If it doesn't kill you, it should teach you how to be weaker.

By the way, Nietzsche spent the last part of his life mentally ill, having lost his mind.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 84:5-7, Phil 4:12-13, 1 Cor 10:13, 1 Cor 15:42-44, 2 Cor 12:1-10, 2 Cor 13:4

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ant Economics

Ant Economics
December 2, 2013
Proverbs 6:6  "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise."

The Bible is a single story of hope woven together from beginning to end.  But all throughout Scripture there is a variety of wisdom peppered in that needs to be headed while we are on this earth.  Specifically, the book of Proverbs gives us all important information we should implement while living our lives from beginning to end.  One example of such wisdom is an analogy of an ant, the small six-legged picnic nemesis.  Ants are usually considered a pest, but the writer of Proverbs said we should examine the life of an ant and implement the wisdom found by its example.

We are to consider how the ant "stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its food at harvest."  The summer time is when the ant is busiest, storing away any provisions it finds.  It doesn't live extravagantly on the abundance of food during the summer months; it lives only on what it needs and keeps working.  It works hard instinctively, not knowing the future or trying to predict it.  The ant never is content to stop, not knowing how long of a winter it must survive.  If there is work to be done and the ant is able, it keeps working.  If a fellow ant can only gather a little, the others chip in to make sure that ant is still able to eat over the coming winter.  It is an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality. The ant is hard-working and generous with its own family.  It works as long as it is able and never considers retirement.

Humans, on the other hand, like to spend the excess of our income the moment it becomes excess.  If we have a constant level of excess, we simply adjust our standard of living so it is no longer extra.  We may decide to set some away for the future, but that is only retirement monies, not necessarily in preparation for an unexpectedly long winter.  And any money we save is earmarked for ourselves, never for those in need.

This time in our history is marked with economic depression and there are limited moments of excess.  We all hope it ends soon, but we must change our ways regardless.  We must redefine our thoughts of the future, realizing retirement is not actually a Biblical principle.  Long winters may be a constant, not a once-in-a-lifetime event.  And of any monies we have extra, we should consider setting some aside for those in need.  Unfortunately, we have more people who are in need than people who have excess, it seems.  This should be opposite if we all had followed the ant's example.

The ant never turns down work, if there is work to be done.  This is also opposite of humans.  We like to decide if certain work is below our standards of respect.  We refuse work if it doesn't pay as well as we want.  The ant would never turn down working, no matter how menial or insignificant it seems.  The fact of the matter is, humans are lazy.  Yes, this is a generalization, but we are often lazy, exchanging perceived self-respect vs financial stability.  It is time to change our perception of work and financial savvy.  Storing away in times of excess is not hoarding; it is wise, if it is earmarked for the right reasons.  Living frugally should become the new defining trait of our society, not living in excess.  We could all learn a lot from an ant.  It could change our lives forever.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Proverbs 6:1-11

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Boy King

Boy King
November 25, 2013

Proverbs 22:6  "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."

The apple does not fall far from the tree.  This saying can be true in more ways than one, suggesting a child is JUST like his or her parent.  If a mom or dad displays specific behavior, it is understood that a child will probably display that same behavior.  This can be a great thing when the behavior is positive.  But what about when the behavior is a detriment to society?  Hopefully the child will not always follow in his father's footsteps.

There were several kings in the Bible who got it wrong during their reigns.  Sadly, Scripture describes too many kings who did "evil in the eyes of the Lord."  One such king was Amon.  The Lord could not tolerate Amon's behavior, so He allowed Amon to be killed.  Following the death of Amon, his son, Josiah, was appointed the next king, as was the tradition.  But Josiah was at a disadvantage; he was only eight years old.  An eight year old is not able to lead, despite how smart or gifted he may have been.  But somehow, Josiah got it right.  He was not the bad apple that described his dad; Josiah did what was right in the Lord's eyes.

But Josiah could not have done right in the Lord's eyes unless someone taught him correctly.  The Bible names Josiah's mother, though it never describes her.  I would suggest she was a godly woman.  And Josiah could not have led the nation as a child without male advisers; it would not have happened.  I would suggest those advisers were godly men as well.  Josiah was a godly man, but thankfully he was surrounded by godly leadership when he was still becoming that man.  His mother and advisers guided him in his leadership role and when Josiah was man enough, he continued that godly tradition.

We can learn many valuable lessons of wisdom from the few simple lines that detail Josiah's life.  Your job is to surround yourself with solid Christian leadership and advisers; this is not limited to boy kings.  It is valuable to have sage advice pouring into your life.  Your job is to be a godly person helping to raise up others around  you.  Just as others pour into your life, so you should pour into others.  Your job is to be godly in the position of your assigned leadership.  Maybe you didn't have righteous parents to guide you.  This makes it imperative to gather mature Christians around you, to bolster your effectiveness.  You may have been taught well, but it is still up to you to perpetuate that godliness in your life.  This carries throughout your adulthood and into your elder years, regardless of when you are appointed king.

If you do evil in the eyes of the Lord, chances are it was a long time in the making.  This goes true with doing right in the eyes of the Lord; it doesn't happen overnight or by accident.  If a child is to become a king and rule well, it takes many people to help him get to that point.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Kings 13:2, 2 Kings 21 & 22

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Nov 18, 2013

1 Samuel 16:1  "The Lord said to Samuel, 'How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?'"

Having the correct understanding of our Heavenly Father is important.  It is true the Lord will never leave you or forsake you.  He will not disown you as His child.  He will always love you with an everlasting love despite your circumstances or performance.  The Lord will never abandon you or turn His back on you; it is not in His nature.  The Lord will, however, reject you if the need arises.  This seems opposite of all the previous statements, almost creating a dichotomy in the Lord's character.  Let me explain.

The Lord chooses certain individuals for specific tasks.  Adam was chosen to name the animals in the Garden, Noah was chosen to save all the animals on the Ark, Jonah was chosen to preach to Nineveh, Jesus was chosen to die on the cross, Paul was chosen to be one of the first missionaries.  This list could go on and on with individuals the Lord chose for His specific goals, to serve in exact situations, positions, and roles.  One such individual who was chosen by the Lord was the very first king of the Israelites, Saul.  The Israelites never had a king before, so the Lord allowed a specific individual to lead the nation for the very first time.  King Saul was chosen by the Lord as leader.

King Saul, however, didn't exactly get things right his entire life.  In fact, he got arrogant, precocious, and forgot how to serve the Lord wholeheartedly in his capacity as king.  So the Lord did something he doesn't do very often.  The Lord rejected Saul.  To be specific, the Lord rejected Saul for his leadership role over the Israelites.  The Lord rejected Saul as king.  The Lord still loved Saul, but was not pleased with Saul's behavior.  The Lord could not tolerate Saul any longer in his appointed position.  The Lord chose him and then the Lord rejected him when his performance was not to the standard set in place for Saul's life or his role as king.  This didn't stop the Lord from loving Saul as a child, but Saul could lead the nation no longer.  He was rejected for his service.

While you might suggest this scenario is limited to Saul, it happens more than you think.  I've seen many men and women rise in Christian leadership, only to be taken out of that position because they could no longer live up to the standards of leadership set before them.  I firmly believe the Lord removes individuals from their leadership position if they are not fulfilling their roles as He desires.  You, too, could be chosen by the Lord for something very specific, something very important.  You, too, could be rejected by the Lord for that same leadership role if your life does not live up to the standard set in place for that position.  The Lord is not willing that others should perish because of your bad behavior.  He is willing to reject for service all those who are a hindrance to the growth of His children.

I do not want your life or mine to parallel the life of Saul. I do not want the Lord to reject you or me for His specific service.  It is critical that we pray for one another and stay focused on serving the Lord wholeheartedly, not falling into the traps set for failure.  It is critical we stay humble in the position He has chosen for us.  If you are not yet in that position, guard your heart and mind now; don't let the Lord reject you for His service before you even have a chance to start.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 7:5-7, 1 Samuel 15, Jer 31:2-4, Heb 13:4-6

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pray Less

Pray Less
November 11, 2013
Matthew 6:7  "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."

There is an old cliche that says you have two ears and one mouth so it is suggested you should speak half as much as you listen.  It is a trite saying that has some earthly wisdom in it, as we all should truly listen to others far more than we speak at them.  I say speak AT them because true communication is actually a volley, a back and forth consisting of speaking and listening.  If we were truly listening to what others had to say, we would speak WITH them instead of AT them.  We would listen to them, process what they were actually communicating, and then respond appropriately based upon what they communicated.  You know exactly what I'm referring to, as you've had one sided conversations with someone who wasn't truly listening.  We are all guilty of this; it happens.

Since we are all guilty of speaking more than listening, it is reasonable to consider that we do this in our prayer time with the Lord, too.  If you are honest with yourself, during a ten minute prayer time with the Lord, you probably do the majority of the speaking.  This doesn't actually accomplish the purpose for which prayer was intended.  The Lord already knows what's in your heart; prayer is the opportunity to find out what's in the Lord's heart.  If you spend more time speaking at the Lord than listening, you will miss all the important things He has to say.

Scripture says that the Lord already knows what you are going to ask for in prayer.  It is a foregone conclusion before you utter a word.  He knows.  He already knows!  This is actually encouraging, because it means He heard your prayer before you said it.  This is an opportunity to be more efficient in your prayer time.  Since He already knows what is on your heart, you have the opportunity to speak less and listen more.  If your prayer time is mostly spent speaking, you have permission to pray less so you can actually hear Him.  Your life would be radically changed if you truly listened to what was on the Lord's heart.  Mostly we spend our few moments trying to unload what is heavy on our hearts but never give a moment for the Lord to do the same.

The Lord has so much to say to you; His heart is heavy with words to communicate only you aren't listening.  You are too busy babbling about your stress load, your problems with your job, the anxieties of your family, and your rising financial concerns.  News flash, He already knows about them and has answers for everything.  Only you can't hear His answers for them because you spend ten minutes venting your concerns to Him and then stop the prayer time short.  You stop praying before He even has a chance speak.  You stop before He has the opportunity to respond to your concerns.  You stop before He has even a moment to tell you what's on HIS heart.  Your failure to listen to the Lord sets your situations up for failure, the very situations you are praying about.

This week, take the time to pray, only say nothing, absolutely nothing.  Just listen.  Try it for a week and see how your situations resolve.  I promise it will revolutionize your life!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Chron 28:9, Matt 6:6-8, Acts 15:8, Heb 4:12

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not in There

Not in There
Nov 4, 2013
2 Hesitations 6:5  "This, too, shall pass."

There are many cute sayings perpetuated by Christians though not actually found in the Bible.  It may be out of a sincere or innocent heart, but sincerely incorrect, nonetheless.  Some things perpetuated are harmless like the "apple" in the story of Adam and Eve.  The Bible calls it a "fruit" but never actually identifies it specifically as an apple.  In the birth story of Jesus the three men from the east are "Magi" but we perpetuate them as "Wise men."  Innocent and harmless, most of the time, but some things perpetuated actually create difficulty in the maturing process of a Christian.  One such cute saying, "This, too, shall pass," though intended to encourage someone during times of difficulty, is not actually helpful for his Christianity.

The phrase or concept or teaching of "this, too, shall pass," is truly not found in Scripture anywhere.  I know this because I have so wanted it to be true many times.  I have searched the Bible over and over and it is not there.  What IS found in the Bible is teaching about the Lord working through up and down cycles like changing seasons or stages in farming (plowing, planting, harvesting).  But these concepts are not guarantees for every situation.  They are not promises.  It is never promised by the Lord that, "this, too, shall pass."

The Apostle Paul knew this extremely well.  He prayed several times for the Lord to remove a "thorn in his flesh."  The Lord did not remove it and Scripture never says if the Lord EVER removed it.  The Lord never promised to remove the thorn but the Lord DID promise him something.  The Lord promised that His grace for Paul, in enduring the difficult situation, would be sufficient.  The Lord promised that His abundant grace would be enough for a Christian to endure anything.

You may not want to hear this, and I say this with great compassion and gentleness of heart, but your situation may not change.  What you are enduing that you'd like to see pass, may not pass in this lifetime.  John the Baptist understood this when he was arrested.  His jail sentence didn't end except through his beheading.  This is not meant to depress you but to re-direct your thinking.  You are to pray for the Lord's grace, not just the removal of the thorn in your flesh.  Look for His grace as you are waiting for the possible passing of the situation.  Look for His grace BEFORE you look for the end of the difficulty.  You can only endure it to the end IF you have His grace.  You must allow yourself to be covered in it.  If you sulk and complain during your difficulty, you are only attempting to remove His grace.

Your prayer should be, "Lord, clothe me in Your grace as I wait upon Your sovereignty to unfold."  If you'd like to encourage someone else who is going through troubling times, try this: "I am praying the Lord fills you with grace as you walk though this difficulty and that you will find a way to rejoice in it."  And if they cry for a while, sit on the step and cry with them, too.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 3:2-6, Is 28:23-26, 2 Cor 12:6-10

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hungry for Bread

Hungry for Bread
Oct 28, 2013
John 6:5   "When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?'"

When Jesus was teaching and performing miracles it was hard to keep people away from Him.  People flocked to Him, surrounded Him, even hounded Him at times.  It was quite honoring most of the time, as people were beginning to realize what Jesus could do for them.  No only could He heal their diseases, but He could forgive their sins and give them hope.  His teaching proved sound; His wisdom made sense to them as it captured their hearts and minds.  Jesus was in a powerful position over their lives, changing their futures forever.  The people didn't quite understand all that was going on, but they understood Jesus was changing their lives.  For this very reason, they hungered after Him.

The people actually hungered after Him so much, that on several occasions they forsook caring for their own daily needs because they were desperate to have more of Him.  On two specific instances, Jesus ended up having to feed a host of five thousand and then a host of four thousand.  The Bible counted the men in both of these circumstances but scholars suggest if you totaled women and children, it was closer to sixteen and twenty thousand.  Despite the accuracy of population statistics, it was a lot.  It wasn't just a car full of unexpected house guests, it was thousands upon thousands of people.  The people were there because they hungered after Him, despite growing weary and hungry from sitting at this feet for days on end.

The people didn't think they would end up staying for days chewing on the morsels of His workings, that's why they didn't pack any food.  They came because they wanted HIM and they stayed.  This proves one of Jesus' statements He made later, when Jesus said to Satan that man did not live by bread alone but by the Word of the Lord.  Remember that Jesus was and is the Word of the Lord and the Bread of Life .  People need sustenance for their bodies, Yes, but people need sustenance for their souls!  You and I are this same way.  We need food to keep our mortal bodies going, but we need the Word of the Lord to keep our souls in eternity.  We need the Bread of Life, not bread alone, to sustain us.

But when was the last time your soul truly hungered after the Lord?  When was the last time you were so desperate for Him that you forgot to pack a lunch or make plans for dinner?  When was the last time you got in the car, drove to meet Him, forgetting to pack your bag and yet stayed for days?  Do you realize, like the crowds around Jesus, that He has the power to change your life, your future?  If you and I realized what these crowds knew about Jesus, we would forsake our daily bread at times and not leave His presence.  We would let go of certain things in order to have more time for Him, desperate for His power to change us.  Instead, we often have to pencil in a quiet time with the Lord and keep Him on a schedule.  Afterall, you wouldn't want too much of the Lord in your life.  When was the last time you flocked to Him, surrounded Him, hounded Him and then stayed for days?

I pray you and I get a hunger so deep inside for the Lord that we forget to eat lunch just one time.  If that happened, our lives would certainly be changed forever just like it did for those crowds.  And Jesus would have to remind you and take you to dinner.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 4:3-5, Matt 14:13-21, Matt 15:29-39, John 6:1-14

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Little Donkey

A Little Donkey
October 21, 2013
Zechariah 9:9   "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

During the time of Jesus, Rome was the occupying military presence.  Caesar was in charge and it was a common occurrence to see his military patrolling the streets.  Just having military personnel on hand in the cities helped deter rebellion against the government and ensured a degree of peace throughout the land.  Since the military was present, if a coup attempted to arise it was quite easy to put it at bay.  Many people assumed Jesus would be one of these coup attempts, since He was predicted to be the king of the Jews.  The government was prepared for this and many people were expecting it to happen, ready for battle to break out and a new king to assume the throne of government.  But you and I know that never happened the way many thought, as the Lordship of Jesus was and is over a different kind of kingdom.

In fact, many people assumed Jesus would, during their lifetime, ride through the streets on a horse, declaring His status as king and battle against the military troops in the city.  This is opposite of how it happened, though.  On His one and only triumphant ride through the city, Jesus sat on a little donkey without holding a sword for battle.  Scripture says that Jesus rode on a male foal of a donkey.  This means it was less than a year old, had never been ridden, and not fully strong enough to carry human weight.  I can just imagine, too, its gate being smaller than usually, seeing its feet take quick, cartoon-like steps just to keep at a slow pace.  It was actually an embarrassment to be seen riding this little hee-haw mule.  No king would show his face while riding on this joke of a steed.  A king usually rode the largest of horses, strong enough for battle, stately through the city streets.  Not Jesus, He rode a little donkey.  He was not a threat; He came in an unassuming manner, being mocked for His choice of chariot.

The reason Jesus rode such a teeny pack animal was critical to the Lord's plan.  The Lord never intended Jesus to wage a human war against the occupying Roman government.  Since He rode a donkey, without carrying a sword, the military were not incited to rival against Him.  It wasn't time yet.  It wasn't appropriate.  It wasn't part of the plan.  It didn't quite happen how everyone imagined or how everyone hoped it would turn out.  But this is OK, because quite often the Lord does things in a manner we seldom understand and we would seldom choose.  We like the exciting idea of a horse, a battle, and a new government.  It is a gallant romantic story, similar to the one we've imagined for our own lives.  But at some point, we begin to realize things will not turn out how we thought they might.  We are expecting a stately horse, but find it is really a little donkey, seemingly pathetic to the heroic story we've prepared for ourselves.

No, it is not how you envisioned it, but it is how the Lord designed it.  It is foolish to the world but perfect for His plan.  This was true in the plan for the life of Jesus and it is true in the plan for the life of you.  As you mature in life and mature in your Christian walk, you realize that the stately details you envisioned do not parallel how they are being revealed.  The sobriety of reality can be disappointing if you are still looking at the situation through your human eyes or human understanding.  While the daily details of your life may seem boring, they may be exactly how the Lord wants them displayed, using you perfectly how He planned.  Your little donkey may feel embarrassing at the moment, but the revelation in Heaven someday, of what really happened, will turn out an amazing romantic tale of perfection.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Zech 9:8-10, Matt 21:1-6, 1 Cor 1:18-31

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Promises Remembered

Promises Remembered
Oct 14, 2013
Exodus 2:24  "God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob."

Have you ever had someone remind you of a promise you made years ago?  Maybe you spoke the promise rashly and didn't commit it to memory.  Maybe you never intended to hold tightly to the promise.  Maybe you intended to keep it but truly forgot about it.  Whatever the case, it never feels good to be reminded of a promise you have yet to fulfill.  If makes you feel like a failure.  It is good to be reminded of promises sometimes; it keeps us all accountable.  It is good to be reminded of promises such as wedding vows or your dedication to follow the Lord.  Being reminded brings the focus back onto what is important.  Thankfully, the Lord never needs reminded.  He is faithful to remember the vows and covenants; He is faithful to fulfill His promises.

When Noah was on the ark, floating above the earth, Scripture says that the Lord remembered Noah and so He receded the waters.  When the Children of Israel were crying out from being in slavery, Scripture says that the Lord remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Lord sent Moses to lead them to the Promised Land.  When the Children of Israel sinned, and failed to repent after many years, Scripture says the Lord remembered their wickedness and was forced to hand out the discipline He previously prescribed.  When the time was appropriate to bring the world a Savior, the Lord fulfilled His promise in sending His Son to die for the sins of mankind.  The Lord, regardless of time-frame, remembers His promises, He remembers His children, and He fulfills His covenants.

While this all might be well and good for the characters found throughout Scripture, it is easy to think the Lord's promises do not apply specifically to us today.  This could not be further from the truth.  The Lord will always remember His promises and is constantly fulfilling them.  He is keeping the promise to stop the suffering of the world as the end draws nearer and nearer.  In the meantime, He is still in the business of remembering the promises to you and me this very day.  He has promised to never forsake us.  He has promised to save us when we call on His name.  He has promised to appear to us when we seek Him wholeheartedly.  He has promised to be a husband and father to those without.  He has promised to bring physical and spiritual blessing to those who give obediently and generously.  He has promised to lead your life for His purposes and will bring your talents and skills to fruition in due time.  He has promised to pour out His spirit upon you when you live righteously.  He has promised to bring you to His side and wipe away all your sadness.  What the Lord has promised, He will fulfill.

You may feel like Noah, abandoned in the ark, floating above the waters, wondering if the Lord will remember to draw back the waters.  You may feel like the Children of Israel in slavery, wondering if the Lord will remember His covenant and bring you to the Promised Land.  You may feel like the Lord has not remembered that you might be without a husband or father.  But all those feelings couldn't be more void of reality.  The Lord has not forgotten you.  The Lord is remembering His promises to you this very day.  The Lord is keeping and fulfilling those promises He made to you.  If you feel He has forgotten, it is quite alright to remind Him through prayer.  He loves it when you remind Him of the promises; in doing so, it bolsters your own faith and proves to Him you've hidden His word in your heart.  And while there are promises found in Scripture that cover us all, He has given you specific promises as well.  Hold tight as He will fulfill those too.  Unlike us, He is always true to His word.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 8:1, Josh 1:13, 2 Chron 6:42, Neh 5:19, Ps 98:3, Jer 49:11, Hosea 9, Acts 10:31, Rom 8:28, Heb 13:5, Rev 16:19

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gather Stones

Gather Stones 
October 7, 2013 
Ecclesiastes 3:5  ". . . a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them . . ." 

The famous writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was often poetic in his sharing of wisdom.  He accomplishes his timeless points extremely well, though leaving the modern reader slightly pondering his exact case analogy.  One such poem we have affectionately entitled, A Time for Everything.  He writes that there is a time for everything under the sun, a season for things done by man.  He goes on to reference a list of those activities along with their complete and polar opposite.  The first of those being: a time to be born and a time to die.  This first one is very clear in its reference and consequential understanding with little interpretation needed.  When reading further, however, there is one analogy that leaves the modern reader hanging; it reads, "a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them."  I will propose several probable interpretations, all plausible through Scriptural support.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to rocks in a field.  You would certainly gather stones if you wanted to clear the field for growing an intended harvest.  Conversely, you would scatter stones in someone else's field if you wanted to thwart their ability to grow a crop.  Destroying a field was actually quite common after a battle to further hamstring an opponent from rebuilding his livelihood.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to building or construction.  There is certainly an appropriate time to erect a building and usually a time to tear down or re-purpose an old one.  The usage of stones in construction techniques was also mentioned many times in the Bible when discussing alters.  There were very integral times to build an alter to the Lord and tear down an alter that was built for pagan purposes.  Sometimes alters that were previously built to worship the Lord were used by others to offer sacrifices to pagan gods.  It was definitely required to tear down those alters.  Neither of these two instances is a probable interpretation, however, since the concept of building or tearing down are covered in verse three of the poem.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to punishing someone.  Stoning a person to death was the prescribed way of dealing with certain sins or crimes.  You would obviously need to gather stones if you intended to stone someone to death.  Scattering the stones would be akin to showing mercy, where mercy would be more productive than killing the person.  Remember that this is what Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery.  The interpretation of justice versus forgiveness, interesting as it is, would not probably be correct, since killing or restoring a person were also covered in verse three of the poem.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to a simple but effective monument.  While this is not specifically a building or an act of construction, a pile of stones was often erected to commemorate an event.  If you wanted to seal a memory in a public manner, you would set it in stone by collecting a pile of rocks.  You would also destroy a memory, or wipe away someone else's commemorative event from history, by tearing down those stones and scattering them.

While all of these interpretations are plausible, I sincerely believe the author is talking about remembrance stones.  If you were to write the verse with this interpretation in mind, it might read, "a time to remember and a time to forget."  There are many things you and I should remember on a daily basis and there are many things you and I should simply forget; this is advice we seldom take.   This point is argued many times over in Scripture, as we are to remember all the things the Lord has done for others in the past and remember what He has done for us in recent history.  It is also good to forget.  Forget someone's transgressions toward you, just as the Lord has forgotten yours.  Thankfully the  Lord has put our sins far from His memory, as far as the east is from the west.  Though we have sin-filled, commemorative events in our lives, the Lord is able to scatter those stones of remembrance.

I encourage you to re-read this poem in its entirety, thinking of each line as it could apply to yourself.  We are often at one extreme or the other no matter what point the author was trying to convey to us, but we need to realize there is an appropriate time for both ends of the spectrum. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 41:51, Deut 8, 1 Sam 7:12, Ps 103:12, Ecc 3:1-8, Is 43:15, John 8:2-4, Phil 3:13

Sunday, September 29, 2013

No Revival

No Revival
Sept 30, 2013
Jeremiah 29:13  "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

The concept of a spiritual revival can be an intriguing idea.  Revival is generally thought of as a re-newed movement of the Lord's activity or power among Christians.  It is a sought after movement as people petition the Lord to bring revival throughout the land.  The hope is that  the Lord would send His presence into the hearts and minds of people, bringing revitalization to a stale or stagnant life, changing their lives.  It can be marked with miracles, signs, and wonders, creating a renewed interest in the Lord.  It can be an extremely effective time-period of bringing new people into the Christian faith.  It is exciting and scary all at once, but filled with the Lord's power nonetheless.  But the concept of a spiritual revival is a man-made idea.

No where in Scripture does it describe a time where the Lord simply sends down a special movement of His power among Christians on His own volition.  It is not His method; it is our perception of the way He works but it is not how or what He desires.  It is not what He designed.  The Lord designed that we would walk and talk with Him on a daily basis, accepting His forgiveness and living a life full of power and a sound mind.  The Lord designed that we would move mountains with our faith and see the sick healed on a regular basis.  The Lord designed that we would have Him in our hearts at all times and live as one of His disciples 24/7.  But despite the Lord's design, we screw it up.  We mess up His plan entirely.  The Lord didn't invent revival.  He knows we need it but He didn't create it.

The opportunity or need for revival comes only after man lets darkness, laziness, and discord enter into his life.  It is man that creates the need for revival, as the Lord originally and continually intends that we live in a constant alive state.  The Lord desires that we would never need revived.  It is our own fault, our own doing.  Thankfully, the Lord accepts the genuine moment when we realize we are in need of being revived.  He acknowledges it and is willing to let it happen, but He does not send it like we think.  The Lord does not send revival, just the opposite; WE allow ourselves to receive it when we truly acknowledge Him.

The Lord didn't leave us.  His power was and is always there, ready and willing and able to perform miracles in our daily lives.  His ear is always attentive to hear our hearts cry, even if we are not willing to speak with Him.  The Lord never left us; we simply became dark, lazy, and full of discord.  In a true state of genuine revival it is the heart of man that is turned back toward the Lord.  We think it is Him who needs to return to us and send His power once again, but that does not contain even a hint of the truth.  His power didn't go anywhere. If we sense the need for revival it is because we stopped allowing Him to be Lord of our daily lives.  We shoved Him away, wrote Him out of our governments, banned Him from our schools, and continually refuse to acknowledge Him in our workplace.  It is not the Lord who needs to bring a mighty move of His presence.  It is man that needs to return to Him.

It is our own fault and we need to turn our hearts toward Him.  Then and only then will we see a movement of Him among us again.  Revival is not something sent from Heaven, it is something acknowledged in our hearts when we truly humble ourselves to seek the Lord.  It starts in the heart so let it begin with yours and mine.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  2 Chron 7:14, 2 Chron 30:9, Hosea 6:1-3, Psalm 85, Prov 8:17, John 15:1-10

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pick Your Part

Pick Your Part
Sept 23, 2013
Psalm 139:16  "Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

My daughter recently auditioned for a school play, her very first one after joining the drama club.  She was so excited about the thought of being in a play, an original play, imagining just what it would feel like to be a part of the production.  Naturally, she was nervous about the audition, never having participated before, not knowing what to expect.  She had to memorize lines and present her character during the audition.  And then she had to wait.....wait for the directors to cast her role, deciding upon her part in the production.  The anticipation was almost more than she could bear, wondering if she made the cut and wondering what role she might play, hoping it was the part she preferred.  And then the posting of the parts was displayed; she made the cut but was extremely disappointed.  She was glad to be cast for the play, but she did not get the part she wanted.  As a parent, I had to simply let her feel all the emotions that go along with excitement followed by disappointment.

We slowly re-built her enthusiasm for the the play, encouraging her that the part she was cast for might be a good fit.  Although it wasn't what she wanted, she decided to stick it out and accept the role she had been given.  The directors assigned her a script and memorization of the role has commenced at our house.  As we practice the part with her we realize something the directors of the play already knew.  She is perfect for the role chosen for her.  It is as if the role was created just for her.  My  daughter's natural personality really brings the character to life the way it was written and designed by the writers.  The role she is playing is a perfect match for her skills, abilities, talents, personality, and giftings.  But she wasn't allowed to pick her part, it was decided by the writers and directors who knew best.

You and I try to pick our part in life and what role we want to play on the Lord's stage.  But it doesn't work that way.  The Old and New Testament are very clear that we are simply a creation of the Master Maker.  What is created does not have a choice in its purpose.  We cannot pick our part, choosing our own role in the Lord's plan.  He designed the world from beginning to end; He is the Writer and Director.  We are allowed to accept our part in His master plan, but we cannot choose our own role.  Our part has already been written perfectly for our skills, abilities, talents, personality, and giftings.

We can choose to accept our role with enthusiasm or opt out.  Difficulty arises when accepting the role but complaining about it all the while.  The Lord wants willing participants to fulfill the role He created for each and every one of us, no matter if we think it is the role we would choose or not.  In fact most of us, like my daughter, would choose an alternative than what we've been assigned.  We think we have a better idea than the Director at what part would rightly suit us.  The Lord knows best and it is wise to submit to the role He has given each and every person.  He wrote the part just for you and only you can fulfill that role.  It suits you perfectly.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Pro 16:33, Is 29:15-17, Is 45:8-10, Is 64:8, Jer 18:1-10, Rom 9:20-22

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Different is Good

Different is Good
Sept 16, 2013
1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession. . . "

Being different than others is not always a pleasant thing, especially when you want to blend into the crowd.  Sometimes you don't want to stand out but be accepted as one of the group, one who belongs.  We've all felt different at times, wishing we wouldn't be noticed.  It is natural to want to belong, but we must be careful where it is we belong.  The Lord does not want us to belong to the world, only to Him.  Unfortunately, though, we are IN the world; we must endure being IN the world while not being accepted by it.  This creates internal conflict as we must withstand being different.
Scripture says we are to be completely different, unlike the rest of the world.  We are uniquely  His own, regardless of where we live.  Peter discusses this in depth and describes how it should affect our daily lives.  We should have lives free from the world's ways.  We are sacred and special to the Lord and are supposed to act like it.  One translation of the Bible uses the term peculiar.  We should appear peculiar to those outside the church walls.  If we blend in to the rest of society, then we are clearly not peculiar enough.  It is good to be different, as this is required by the Lord.  If strangers cannot see that you live differently, then it is time to adjust your lifestyle.

Living uniquely unto the Lord is not easy however, as our natural inclination is to try and blend in to society.  To accomplish this, Peter gave us the recommendations on how to make it happen.  He said "rid yourselves of ALL malice and ALL deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind."  Obviously, this is easier said than done, however it is a good recipe for being different.  Partial malice and partial deceit do not set a Christian apart from the rest of the world.  Teaching one thing and living another way is not  acceptable.  Having envy actually makes it MORE difficult to live a peculiar lifestyle.  And there are apparently more than one or two ways to slander a person than just gossip.  We all are guilty of these traits, which does not make us uniquely His own, set apart from the rest of the world.

If they did not accept Christ, when He lived among them performing signs and wonders, then they will not accept you or me if we appear to be different.  But that is OK, because that is the way God wants you, the only way He will accept you.  We must live our lives as set apart, not on the outskirts of society but simply not indulging in the same lifestyle as everyone else.  In fact, I've found that strangers are drawn to the light inside of you if you are living according to the Lord's standards.  I'd rather be accepted by the Lord than be accepted by the world any day of the week.  It is not easier but it is better, AND there is a reward for living differently.  If we lose our lifestyle here on earth we will gain a full lifestyle in Heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Philippians 1, 1 Peter 2

Sunday, September 8, 2013

No Escape

No Escape
September 9, 2013
Romans 8:38  ". . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

There is no escaping the love of God.  You cannot run from it and you cannot hide from it.  Nothing will ever be able to separate you from the Love He has for you.  You are loved by the Almighty Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.  In as much as He loves you, He also holds you as His own, as His child.  There is no escaping it.  This is so comforting to know and it is a message easy to swallow.  We like to hear this message of love; it is a favorite among Christians.  But there is something else that comes with the love of the Father that we cannot escape.  We cannot escape His discipline.  This message is a little harder to receive.

Adam and Eve learned this lesson the hard way.  Right after their first sin of eating the forbidden fruit, they tried to hide from the Lord.  He went after them, seeking them out, looking for them until He found them.  He didn't beat around the bush either; the Lord cut right to the heart of the matter, correcting them of their error.  He was not about to let them get away with anything.  He always confronts us, not to be mean but to keep us on the path He has set before us.  Adam and Even could not escape the Lord's discipline and neither can anyone else.

Scripture says very clearly in the Old and New Testament that the Lord disciplines those He loves.  This discipline is not punishment but correction, leading, and discipleship.  He has a purpose in mind and that is to be made further into His likeness while being used for His glory.  You cannot escape the Lord's love and you cannot escape the Lord's discipline.  If you think that the Lord's mercy is greater than His intent on applying discipline, you are mistaken.  If the Lord relented from His discipline, it would be akin to hating you, allowing you to continue on a path to destruction.  If you want to accept the Lord's love you must accept the Lord's discipline.

His discipline comes in many forms, often disguised.  Scripture says we are to endure hardships or difficult situations as discipline, as the Lord's discipleship.  The tough time you are having right now is an opportunity to accept the Lord's love and be shaped by His discipleship.  They go hand in hand.  You cannot escape the Lord's love and you cannot escape the Lord's discipline.  Too often we experience difficult times, hardships that seem unbearable, and we become angry with the Lord for allowing it to happen.  This is the opposite of how we should see it.  If the Lord is allowing us to experience it, then He is showing us His love by allowing us to be discipled, being made more into His likeness.  During this hard time, adjust your opinion of the situation and see it as the Lord's love for your life.  If you cannot escape it, you might consider embracing it.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Proverbs 3:12, Rom 8, Heb 12:6-7, Rev 3:19

Monday, September 2, 2013

You Are Not Lovable

You Are Not Lovable
Sept 2, 2013

1 John 4:19  "We love because he first loved us."

You are not loveable, at least that is what you tell yourself.  We all tell ourselves this, that we are not valuable enough to be loved by others and certainly not by ourselves.  This is a common trick by Satan to devalue people in an effort to quench their potential in the Lord.  He fills our head with lies about our self-worth and potential, degrading and diminishing the significance the Lord created in us.  Satan takes your flaws or past failures and sets them up as the image of who you really are, generating a false sense of your present and future value to the Lord.  If he can convince your mind that you have no value, then he can convince you there is no way anyone, especially the Lord, could love you.  But the Lord would say this is the exact opposite of how things work in His mind's eye.

The Lord has never said He would love you based upon your performance or generated production.  He loved you BEFORE you were born.  In fact He even saw your life from beginning to end, BEFORE you were born.  He knew you, your flaws, and your failures BEFORE you even had a chance to live them out.  And yet, in spite of yourself, He decided to love you.  He even proved His love by sending His son to die for your sins, while you were still sinning.  If the Lord can love you before you fail, knowing you will fail, then His love is not predicated on your actions.  His love is based upon you, nothing else.  He loves YOU, not your actions, however good or bad.  He even loves you despite your successes.

If the Lord can love you, filtering out your successes and failures, then it is reasonable to love yourself.  It is OK to love yourself.  In fact, if you don't love yourself, then you are insulting the Lord.  If the Lord says you are loveable, then you are loveable, even if you have personality deficiencies and significant room for growth. He still loves you and you SHOULD love yourself.  Love the way the Lord created you.  Love the unique traits He instilled in you.  Love the special giftings you were born with and the body He gave you.  Love your perspective on life and the desires He placed in you for your future.  Love YOU.

There is no time for self-abatement, whining, or complaining about yourself.  Your current situation, regardless of how dimming it might feel, is not a reflection on your ability to be loved by the Lord or yourself.  The Lord loves you through what you are experiencing right now and He wants you to do the same.  It is also not a time to be arrogant, inflating your self-worth above others, but a time to see yourself in the light of how the Heavenly Father sees you.  He looks on you with love and compassion in His eyes, with tenderness in His heart.  He is filtering out your successes and failures and loving every ounce of you.  If He can love you, then you can certainly love yourself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Jer 31:3, Rom 5:8, Eph 5:1-2, 2 Thess 2:16

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Water for the Thirsty

Water for the Thirsty
August 26, 2013
John 4:10  "Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'"

The famous story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well can evoke many different thoughts and ideas.  The biggest that comes to mind is when Jesus was omniscient regarding her life; Jesus knew every detail of every marriage and divorce the woman had, even the status of her current live-in boyfriend.  Jesus wasn't discussing her relationships to condemn her at that point, but to make her aware that He wasn't an average person.  He was revealing His identity to her.  The conversation actually started by Jesus asking her for something to drink.  When she talked back to Him, He replied that He had the ability to give her living water so she would never be thirsty again.  Jesus was saying that He was water enough for her thirsty life.

The revelation of water to satisfy thirst is part of a prophecy found in Isaiah 55.  Isaiah foretold of food and drink that would satiate the innermost parts of man, a satisfaction that could be had at the deepest level of soul and spirit, which would only come from the Word of the Lord.  This was referring to Jesus.  He came to earth in order that we might have complete satisfaction for our thirsty spirit.  Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy, the one thing that could satisfy all the emptiness inside of our lives.  The woman at the well understood emptiness that could never be satisfied.

This woman, who needed the Living Water of Jesus, had tried to fill the emptiness in her life with relationships.  When the first relationship didn't satisfy her desires, she would leave it for another.  She did this multiple times, demonstrating her search for something that could be enough.  This is also why Jesus discussed her relationships; He knew she was searching for something to fill the empty feeling insider her world.  Her life was unfulfilled and she looked for things to fill it, to quench the thirst inside of her soul, only she never found it.

While the woman at the well used relationships to try and satisfy the emptiness inside, people can and do use many different things.  Some use drugs, some use overeating, some use shopping, some even use work to satisfy the hungry desires inside.  But there is only one thing that will bring satisfaction to a man or woman.  It is not the  successful feeling found in his or her physical life.  It is not the attainment of status or the collection of luxurious toys.  The only thing that can and will fulfill the empty feeling inside of you is a deep relationship with Jesus.  If you are reading this, you probably already know Jesus and possibly have a decent relationship with Him.  But is He the satisfaction of everything in your life?

If you already know Jesus yet still have hunger pangs every once in a while for something more, something different, then you aren't letting Jesus fulfill everything for you.  You have to LET Him quench the thirst for every area of your life, allowing Him to be the satisfaction in each particular corner of your thirst.  You are a multi-faceted being with many different levels of needs.  You have a need for ego satisfaction and it is time to let Jesus quench that thirst.  You have a need for emotional comfort and relational support; it is time to let Jesus quench that thirst.  You have a need to feel like you belong, to feel loved, cherished, and important.  It is time to let Jesus quench all that makes you thirsty.  He would say to you today that He is living water enough for your thirst.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Is 55, John 4

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Innocent Bystanders

Innocent Bystanders
August 19, 2013
2 Samuel 11:24  "Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king's men died.  Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead."

Everyone knows of King David's story of adultery with Bathsheba.  It really isn't a story about just adultery, though; it is a complete tale of how one man's sins affect the lives of so many others.  If you recall the drama found in 2 Samuel 11, you'll see that the prophet Nathan called out David's sin through a parable.  He likened David's actions to a rich man with many flocks stealing the lone family pet-lamb of a peasant.  Nathan invoked feeling in David by telling him the pet-lamb had emotional attachments to the peasant and his children; it wasn't just property.  Nathan was telling David that his sin reached far beyond just stealing something; it affected the hearts and lives of others.

You can further see this point when re-reading the full account.  Bathsheba was called someone's daughter and someone's wife.  In fact, the Bible refers to Bathsheba as the wife of Uriah even after his death, even after she married David, and even after she bore David's son.  When David had Uriah killed, there were innocent soldiers killed along with him, innocent bystanders to David's sin.  Those soldiers had mothers, fathers, wives, and children.  They mourned for their loved ones along with Bathsheba when Uriah and the other soldiers died.  Later in life, as a result of David's actions, his own sons committed rape, murder, and adultery all as a direct result's David's same sins.  Innocent lives were affected many years after the fact.

No man is an island and his sins do not JUST affect himself or his relationship with the Lord.  If you ask any therapist, he or she might tell you that the greatest impact of alcoholism is on the close loved ones of the addicted, similarly with any drug abuse.  How you respond to life, its temptations and stresses, has a direct impact on those around you, the innocent bystanders.  They become collateral damage, secondary to your own actions---even if you did not intend it.  When you commit sin, seldom are you thinking of others, only yourself.  And even if you aren't directly sinning, how you respond to situations in life will still affect those closest around you.  There are many consequences to your actions, lives that are being touched and impacted as a direct result of the choices you make every day.

This creates an opportunity to think of others before you think of yourself.  While you cannot foresee the direct impact your choices will have on others, you can surely bet that if it is sin, it will spill over in a negative fashion into the lives closest to you no matter how hard you try to conceal it.  The Bible says you should consider others more highly than yourself and consider their feelings and regard above your own.  This means realizing that what you are doing today should impact them positively, propelling them forward in life instead of leading them on a harmful path.  Your road rage or anger problem is directly impacting them.  Your closet drinking or hidden gambling is changing the course of their lives forever.  Your selfishness is possibly leading others on a slow road of destruction; you are just too consumed with yourself to see it.

You may be a deacon in the church, volunteer at the homeless shelter, give to missions work, but still have a struggling sin present in your life.  That one sin is still having a negative impact on the world of those around you, even if you are not willing to admit it.  There are innocent bystanders affected by your actions and it is time to take responsibility for it, altering the course of their life and yours forever.  Do not be fooled into thinking you are not harming anyone.  The reaches of sin go far beyond what is inside your own head.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Sam 11, Matthew 7:12, Gal 6:7-10, Phil 2:3

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Re Rock

Re Rock
August 12, 2013
Matthew 16:18  "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

The Apostle Peter is referred to as a rock.  This isn't because he was thick headed, it was due to his steadfastness in the Lord, as his life was built on a strong foundation.  The Lord intended to capitalize on this, using Peter as the basis for growing His church here on earth.  Peter is credited for being the first official leader of the church (the Catholics consider him the first Pope).  But despite Peter being a founding father of the Christian church, he still had a rocky start.  Jesus declared that Peter was a rock for the Lord BEFORE Peter had the opportunity to deny Him three times.  Jesus even knew Peter would falter and deny Him, but He still called him a Rock.  Just a few days later, Peter did just as predicted.  He denied Jesus and cursed the Lord.  What a rough start to a fantastic ministry.

More than a thousand years before Peter, there was another founding father of the Lord's church.  Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first priest anointed by the Lord to be the spiritual leader of the Jewish nation.  But like Peter, Aaron had a huge failure before he started leading the Lord's sheep.  Remember it was right before Aaron was anointed priest when he fashioned a golden calf for the Children of Israel to worship.  Yet despite this moral failure, the Lord still installed Him as leader of the church.  This gives tremendous argument for the Lord's ability to use the imperfect, even those who have failed spiritually, to lead His church.

Aaron very publicly broke the first and second commandment and Peter very publicly broke the third commandment, yet the Lord still used them as the foundation for His church.  Everyone was aware of their spiritual failures, but the Lord was able to use them for the basis of His leading His people.  It wasn't about being perfect, coming from a flawless past.  It wasn't about being free from scandal or public humiliation.  It wasn't about living an amazing life and building up to the ministry.  It was about the Lord's ability to use those whom He chose.  The Lord chose Aaron and the Lord chose Peter and the Lord chose you!

You may have some past failures in your life but the Lord is still able to use you.  Your spiritual failures do not disqualify you for the Lord's service.  Do not be insecure about your past or what sins the public has seen in your life.  If the Lord wants to use you as a rock then He will.  You do need to be able to move forward, however.  The Lord is not hindered by your mistakes but you may think it is blocking your success.  The Lord would say that He no longer sees your past mistakes; He only sees the person you have become today.  Start seeing what the Lord sees in you, a rock for His church.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 32, Lev 8, Matt 16

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Other Side

Other Side
August 5, 2013
John 21:6  "He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.'  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish."

How many times have you worked hard and diligently, yet to no avail?  You may have spent countless hours and pressed forward with all your might, but there are times when you have seen little or no fruit to your labor.  Your intentions might be well and good, from a heart of gold, but there are moments, even years, when it seems you have made little ground.  I've seen pastors start ministries, with the most valiant of hearts, fail at their efforts.  It makes me cry to see them have to close the doors on their efforts, their hearts' work.  It happens all the time in business, ministry, even school.  No matter how hard and diligent the effort, sometimes there is no success.

A few disciples of Jesus understood this.  They were out fishing all night, throwing their nets into the water, reeling it back in, only to see an empty net.  There was no fruit to their labor; their hard work had not paid off.  Countless hours were spent, their backs were aching, and their nets exempt of fish.  The sun began to rise after the all-nighter and they were about to throw in the towel.  A voice from the shore shouted out, "Friends."  Again, the voice shouted to the men in the boat, "Friends."  "Have any luck catching fish this past evening," the voice asked?  "Try throwing the net over the other side of the boat, just one more time!"  Reluctantly, the men obliged the friendly voice.  They cast the net on the other side, just one more time, and pulled in so many fish that their boat almost capsized.  The voice obvoiously came from Jesus, but the recommendation was not logical.  If the net came up empty the previous 100 times they cast it, whey would there be any fish this time?

And what was different about the other side of the boat?  Nothing.  The boat had not moved into different waters; it was in the same place.  One side of the boat or the other, if there is a school of fish near you, you are bound to pull something out of the water.  It wasn't about the net, or the boat, or the position, or the water, or the side the net was cast.  It was about trusting in the voice of the Lord and His provision for success, His timing for the blessing.  The moment the fishermen submitted to the full voice of the Lord, laying down their ideas of business acumen, and trusting beyond human wisdom or understanding, the Lord granted the blessing.  The Lord did not do this to frustrate them, but to teach them to listen to His voice and trust that all provisions for success are granted from Him alone, no matter how skilled they were at their craft.  It wasn't that He was stalling their success, but that He was teaching them to trust in Him before arrogance could settle in place, thinking they had done it on their own accord.  It wasn't about them, it was about the Lord.

You may have tried with all of your might at something you believed to be a good work, but have had little success.  You might have tried to go back to school but it didn't work out.  You might be a small business owner, struggling to survive.  You might have started a ministry but it doesn't seem to ever get off the ground.  If you firmly believe you are working with a heart for the Lord, then try it again, against human wisdom, trusting in the voice of the Lord, leaning upon Him for the success.  If you quit, you are only solidifying your failure.  If you try again because you believe it is what you are supposed to be doing, then trust in the Lord for His timing for the fruit to your labor.  Go beyond conventional business acumen and submit to the Lord, waiting on His timing for the success.  I believe the Lord's voice is calling out to you, "Friend, try it again just one more time; try it my way!"  So go ahead and cast your net on the other side.  What have you got to lose?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Pr 16:1&9, Pr 19:21, John 21:5-7, James 4:13-17

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Not My Fault

Not My Fault
July 29, 2013
Romans 14:12  "So, then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God."

It is easy to blame someone else; it makes us feel better to pass the buck.  We like to justify our actions until it seems right in our own eyes.  We can lie to ourselves and convince our own minds that what we are doing is the right thing.  But deep down inside, if we are honest with ourselves, we know who is to blame for some of our problems.  While it is easy to say it is not our fault, it is still our responsibility if our actions prove we were involved.  People have been trying to pass the blame since the beginning of time.  Remember Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  Adam was quick to tell the Lord that his wife was the one who gave him the forbidden fruit.  He said it wasn't his fault.  The Lord is not fooled, however; He knows everyone's actions and everyone's heart.

The older brother of Moses, Aaron, should have known better than to try and pass the blame.  Remember that Aaron was the mouthpiece for Moses.  Aaron was with Moses at every turn during the Lord's miracles.  Aaron witnessed the Lord's power first hand and had proof that the Lord was to be feared.  If anyone should have respected the Lord's instructions and commands, it should have been Aaron.  But Aaron, like Adam in the Garden, was quick to pass the blame even when caught in the act, red-handed.

When Moses was up on the mountain top meeting with the Lord, the Isrealites were left unattended.  Well, they were left with Aaron in charge.  Moses was gone a long time so the Israelites told Aaron to make them a god, in order to worship it.  Aaron instructed them to turn over all their gold to him and he would make them a golden calf to worship.  He did so, producing a graven image to bow down and worship, telling them it was their god.  Moses came down the mountain to see the Israelites worshipping the golden calf and was shocked at the sight.  He confronted Aaron about it, enraged with disgust.  Listen to Aaron's response.  "You know how prone these people are to I threw [the gold] into the fire and out came this calf."

Wow, talk about shifting the blame for Aaron's own sin.  He blamed it on the crowd and blamed it on the fire, but he alone was responsible for overseeing the production of the golden calf.  He basically said it was everyone's fault but his own.  You and I do this same thing.  We find others to blame in order to justify our own actions.  We blame our circumstances, our spouses, our parents, our friends---everyone but ourselves.  We are the only ones who are going to be held accountable for our actions, no matter who put us in the situation.  We WILL be held accountable; it is just a matter of time.

Our accountability will be before the Lord some day and no one will be standing by your side when you give your side of the story.  Your spouse and your friends will not be there.  The Lord will ask you what happened and you will not be able to tell Him it was not your fault. He sees passed your lies and knows what is in your heart.  He will not be fooled by your response.  No amount of smooth talking will convince the Lord when you've been caught in the act.  You can lie to yourself all you want but the Lord will bring it all to light one day.  It is time to start taking responsibilty for your actions.  Everything you do is your fault, even if you'd like to believe that others have led you to it.  You can choose this day who you will serve.  You will either obey the Lord's instructions or not.  There is no middle ground.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 3:12, Ex 32:1-25, Josh 24:25, 1 Sam 16:7, Ps 33:13, Pr 21:2, Daniel 7:9-10, Rom 14:10-12, 2 Cor 5:10

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Put to the Test

Put to the Test
July 22, 2013
Exodus 16:4  "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.'"

No one likes tests. A test is an opportunity to fail so we avoid them at all costs.  Unfortunately, though, we do not get the option when it comes to being tested by the Lord.  Whether you want to admit it or not, the Lord will test you in your lifetime, probably more than once or twice.  You may not realize it at the time, but you if think long and hard over past periods of your life, you will realize the Lord was testing you.  The Lord WILL test you, trust me.  He tested the Israelites and was extremely open and honest about it.  He told them what the test was and what it would take to pass the test.  One particular test was in the gathering of the manna that fell from Heaven.

The Israelites were in the desert and did not have an available food source.  The Lord decided to provide them with manna from Heaven to sustain them.  A daily provision was on the ground for them in the morning and they were to gather the exact amount needed for that day.  There was an exception, however, and that was on the day before the Sabbath.  It was permitted to gather two days worth of manna so they would not need to work on the Sabbath.  If they gathered too much, however, and held it over until the next day, the manna became full of maggots.  For some reason, the Lord allowed the manna collected on the day before the Sabbath to stay fresh for one extra day only.  In this way, the Lord told them He was going to test them.  He wanted to see if they would follow His instructions; He wanted to see if they would follow His instructions and trust Him in His daily provision for them.

The Israelites were just like you and me, they were tempted to collect a little more and store it away like a squirrel.  The selfish and greedy tendency kicked in and they tested the Lord's requirements, gathering more than they were instructed.  They discovered that the manna became full of maggots when they did not follow the Lord's instructions, not trusting in His daily provisions for their sustenance.  It was such a simply and easy thing to do, but they failed at it just like you and I fail at it each and every day, not listening or trusting in the Lord.  He gave them an easy assignment, one day's worth, one to practice with on a daily basis to build their trust in Him.  It was an opportunity for Him to see what they were made of and for them to see His daily provision, teaching them they could depend upon Him.

You've experienced the Lord's instruction and provision in the past, is it enough for you to trust Him in your future?  Did you learn; did you pass the test?  Like the Israelites, the Lord is testing you, giving you the opportunity to learn His character and know that you can trust Him if and only if you follow His instructions to the letter.  You know what His instructions are for your life, but maybe you haven't been following them.  It is time to prove to the Lord that you can follow His instructions and give Him the opportunity to prove His faithfulness to you in return.  You will never be void of His testing.  He tested Abraham, the Israelites, the Apostle Peter, and even Jesus.  If you successfully pass the test, proving to the Lord your knowledge of Him, then life will be so much easier with one less test to re-take.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 22:1-3, Ex 16, Deut 8:2-16, Lk 4:1-3, 2 Cor 13:4-6, James 1:3-12, 1 Peter 4:11-14, Rev 2:10

Sunday, July 14, 2013


July 15, 2013
Revelation 4:8  "Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings."

In the last book of the Bible, there are many unique scenes describing Heaven, the Lord, and what happens in the Lord's presence.  One particular scene depicts four beasts, also sometimes called angels.  These angels have six wings and their bodies are COVERED with eyes.  It says that these four angels encircle the throne day and night, non-stop.  Why in the world would these four creatures need so many eyes, even under their wings?  It does not say what they use those eyes for but we can make an educated guess.  The four beasts have faces, so the eyes on the front of their heads would give them sight as to what direction they are flying.  The multiple eyes are not for alerting them of possible air traffic control problems.

If you look elsewhere in the Lord's creation, there is another creature with many eyes: a spider.  I'm not comparing angels to spiders, however we do understand why spiders have so many eyes.  They use different eyes for different levels of clarity and distance.  Certain eyes are used for alerting itself to things in its presence, no matter where it is located.  It is difficult to surprise a spider or keep something from its view.  Some eyes have greater magnification so it can see amazing, almost infinite detail.  My guess is these creatures encircling the throne use their many eyes to study the Lord, to fixate upon His countenance, on His majesty.  They encircle the throne, keeping all available eyes on the Lord, viewing the details of His infinite glory with great clarity and magnification.  The reason I suggest this is due to their audible response after viewing His majesty.

These four creatures cry out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."  In the Bible, when a word or phrase is repeated three times to describe something (like Holy, Holy, Holy), it is calling it the very essence of that thing, the embodiment of it.  The angels with many eyes fixated on the Lord cry aloud day and night, after gazing upon the Lord, that He is the embodiment of Holiness, the Almighty who existed before the world began, the one who is Almighty in this current age, and the one who will be Almighty in days ahead.  The angels can see all these things with their eyes.  They are focused on Him, studying every facet and angle, discovering the truth of the Lord's character and being.  They come to a simple yet complex understanding of the Lord.

My question to you is what have you discovered after gazing upon Him?  What do your eyes tell you about Him?  What do you have to say about the Lord and His character and His being?  Are you studying Him with great intensity or are your only two eyes focused upon yourself?  If you did study the Lord in earnest detail, what would you discover?  Would you come to the same conclusion as these four creatures, that the Lord is the embodiment of Holiness and that He is Almighty even during this present time in your life?  Sadly, you and I don't view the Lord like this.  We see Him as a Santa Claus, we see Him as a distant magician, we see Him as an elusive myth.  We never have discovered what those angels discover about Him every day, that He is so much more than we are willing to see.  It's time to open your eyes and truly discover the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Is 40:12-14 & 18-31, Rev 4:6-11, Rev 5:11-14

Sunday, July 7, 2013


July 8, 2013
Numbers 20:10  "He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?'"

Moses was an amazing leader; no one would deny that.  He was an effective administrator, he had an intimate walk with the Lord (one that has never been paralleled today), and he was lauded as being the most humble man that ever lived.  There are few leaders who could be compared to Moses.  Moses did not necessarily have an easy life, but he lived out an excellent example of a successful Christian walk.  Except for one thing.  Moses had an anger management problem.  His anger problem was a big enough deal to make him ineligible for his earned earthly blessings.  Moses deserved a few good things in his life; he worked hard enough to receive them, but his anger management problem removed his eligibility to partake of the Lord's promised blessings.

The earthly blessing Moses forfeited was his future life in the Promised Land.  Remember that Moses was leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt, then out of the desert into the territory promised to them by the Lord, the land flowing with milk and honey.  But Moses did something that made the Lord decide he couldn't live in that land.  Moses was instructed to speak to a rock in order to provide water for the Israelites.  When at the place prescribed, he got angry with the Israelites, angry enough that he struck the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it as directed.  This frustrated the Lord and so He removed Moses' eligibility for the Promised Land.  It seems a little harsh, one moment of regret removed all the good Moses had done, making him ineligible for the blessing.  But I would suggest the moment at the rock was simply the last straw for the Lord's patience with Moses' anger issues.

Recall that Moses killed a man in his earlier years, the reason he left living in Pharaoh's house in the first place.  Moses was 40 years old when he got angry enough to murder a man for abusing his fellow Hebrew.  Many years later, when Moses was 80, he went back to Egypt to lead the Israelites.  On one specific occasion, in Pharaoh's presence just before the last plague upon Egypt, the Bible says that Moses burned hot with anger in his dialogue with Pharaoh.  Then when Moses was 120 years old, he struck the rock with his staff out of his anger with the Israelites.  The point is, Moses didn't get rid of his anger problem at 40, he didn't learn by the time he was 80, and still had anger issues at 120.  You'd think by age 120 Moses might not be so short tempered.

Moses' refusal to deal with his anger management problem is what removed his eligibility to enter into the promised land.  While you may not necessarily struggle with anger, I know you have a specific area of your life that is a significant weakness for you.  Maybe it is faith, maybe it is envy, maybe it is pride, this list could go on.  I strongly believe that your refusal to deal with this problem, though, is hindering your earthly blessings, however successful you are in other areas of your life.  The Lord wants a complete and whole package in His children and that includes the weakest area of your life as focal point for success.  You might be disappointed in your lack of blessings received to date, but maybe it is your fault.  The Lord is holding back your blessings because you have held back from submitting those weaknesses to Him.  It is time to get help with your area of struggle; admit you have a problem and get help.  Start by confessing it to the Lord and allow Him to lead you on the path to success in those areas.  He will help you if you ask Him.  The Lord does not want to hold back your blessings; it is not part of His plan.  But He will do whatever it takes to get your attention.  Don't remove your eligibility like Moses.  Receive all that the Lord has promised you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 2:11-14, Ex 11:4-8, Ex 32:19, Num 20:2-12, Pr 3:12, Jer 29:13, Matt 6:33, James 1:5