Archives For Believing

NOTHING

August 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Nothing! Nothing is the greatest gift God can bless you with.  The gift of nothing is yours to discover…Think on it.

 

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing truly is a gift of God.

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2 Corinthians 8:1-7 is worth a slow read. These verses are packed with the grace of God to give under extreme circumstances. It is a beautifully convicting and humbling portion of scripture.

 

In verse 7, Paul is encouraging believers to excel in “this act of grace.” The act of grace Paul is referring to is the Macedonia Churches have given under punishing circumstances by the grace of God. Verse 2 tells us they were in a severe test of affliction, and extreme poverty. However, generosity overflowed in abundance in spite of their present hardships.

 

Paul is showing that when God takes ordinary people, and throws in a full measure of His extraordinary grace, and then throws in a full measure of the power, and guidance of the Holy Spirit, you have a recipe of all things possible.

 

Often when it comes to preaching about giving, many pastors come across as begging and desperate when asking their congregation to give. They end up using guilt to motivate them to give. However, that case is not true of the Macedonia Churches.

 

I once read where an old ancient Greek preacher speaking on this very passage said, “They did the begging, not Paul.” Isn’t that amazing! They begged to give. How incredible would it be if Christ-followers would beg to give to the causes of God’s kingdom, instead of being coached into given by man’s wisdom?

 

What would happen if we begged God to be able to give instead of the preacher begging God’s people to give? We would be like the Macedonian Churches caught up in the grace of God working through us.

 

Often when we think of grace, we think only in terms of God’s grace working in us and for us. However, that is not all that grace is for. Grace also works through us for His glory. Part of that grace is the grace of giving.

 

It takes grace to receiving anything from the Lord and it takes His same grace to surrender it back to Him. We love holding on to what God gives us like it’s our own. Grace for you, and in you, is an undeserved Gift of God, but grace through you is its purpose. You can’t lose what you give to God.

 

In verse 1 of 2 Corinthians 8 we read, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia.” The root of given is not money; the root of giving is the grace of God.

 

What is God’s grace capable of producing? It will produce people that give, and beg to give no matter the hardships. In verse 4 we read, “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…” There it is! By the power of grace, they begged to give and didn’t need to be manipulated to give.

 

How is this type of giving possible? The answer is found in verse 5. “…they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” There you have it. When you give yourself first to God, you always give your best. N.T. Wright speaking on this passage says, “Paul phrases his entire appeal, not in terms of money, but in terms of grace.”

 

Grace is what God does for us, and in us, but we must never forget that it is also what God does through us. The next time you struggle to give remember the grace of God and giving will come easy.

follow

Luke 5:4 (ESV) And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,  “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

The most beautiful mystery of scripture is that God pursues you that you might pursue Him. God sent His Son so that all humanity has an opportunity of Salvation. He came to us and died for us while were yet sinners separated from Him. The pursuit of God is indeed beautiful and mysterious. The pursuit of God is always that you might follow.

Simply hearing the invitation to follow Him is not following. Talking about the invitation to follow is not following. Admiring those who have accepted the invitation to follow is not following. You only become a follower of Christ when you follow. In other words, you become something by doing.

Many years ago, my cousin used to talking about repelling down mountains all the time. Almost every time I was around him he would be telling stories of his latest adventure. His passion was evident as you listened to him.

After many months of hearing about repelling, listening to his stories and admiring the accomplishments he had performed, I was compelled to try the sport myself.

I asked him to take me repelling, and he did. The climb up the mountain was free. The view from the top of the mountain was free. Getting geared up for repelling was free. Watching him do it first was free. Doing it myself cost me something.

It cost me leaning back over the cliff and trusting the rope to hold me, and actually repelling down the face of the mountain. Once I reached the bottom of the mountain, I could and did officially call myself a repeller.

The same is true when it comes to following God. There are many who call themselves Christians, but it is quite another thing to call yourself a Christ follower. To call yourself a follower you must follow. You become a follower by following.

When Jesus told Peter to put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch, He was inviting Him one step closer to following Him. He was asking Peter to trust that He could make more out of life than Peter ever could on his own. When you respond to the leading of Jesus you are one step closer to following Jesus.

We know how the story ends. Peter obeys and a great catch of fish begins to break the nets. Peter is blown away and confesses that he is a sinful man. The command to follow is then given, and Peter’s life is changed forever. He moves past just hearing, listening and admiring. He becomes a follower by following.

I want you to know today that you will never become the true you until you follow God. You can never be fully human the way God intends for you to be unless you follow. You must do something to be something. The doing I’m referring to is to follow Him and bring Him the glory He alone rightfully deserves.

Kyle Idleman once wrote, “Following Jesus isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s not the small print—that’s a guarantee.”

Salvation is free but discipleship will cost you something. You become a follower by following.

Only God

July 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

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You Lord give longing for the eternal. Only you can satisfy. Forgive me for looking anywhere else for completeness and joy. Soul-satisfaction can only be found in you-the creator of all things.

You walk with me moment by moment. There is never an instant you are not near. Your endless road of Grace amazes me continually. Every hunger of my life leads to you for sustenance.  My soul and heart is restless without you.

I hold fast to your promise spoken long ago,  “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” You are all-sufficient. My soul smiles and I campaign forward.

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The only prophetic voice that spoke on Golgotha was from the middle cross. The man on the left cross-needed the man on the middle, and the man on the right cross-needed the man on the middle also.

The only redemptive work taking place that day was from the man in the middle. He was 100% man and 100% God. God in the middle was showing the world the only way to eternal life. Choosing the man in the middle makes you the only alternative society that has the right answer.

In a world of ugly, beauty can only be seen through the lens of the cross and what Jesus accomplished by willfully submitting to His Father’s will. Only by following the suffering of the cross can we live as sheep among the wolves of the left and right.

The only thing that will ever change the world is when His followers simply follow Him. When we choose the left we are not choosing Jesus. When we choose the right we are not choosing Jesus. Only when we choose the man in the middle do we choose the path that leads to Heaven and Earth coming together.

The cross of Christ takes away resentment and fills our hearts with hope. Down through the centuries, resentment and power have crucified many. However, resentment and power met its match the day it confronted Jesus.   Resentment and power  was confronted by love and love won forever!

Jesus took the dreadfulness and ugliness of a Roman cross and painted it with the beauty of God’s own blood so that humanity could be free from evil forever.  Freedom comes when you choose the man in the middle. Once we choose the man in the middle, we are called to a different way of living. We are no long left or right. We are now the middle. As the writer Brian Zahnd says, “We are to model what it means to be Christ-like in a Caesar-like world.”

Along with Paul, we cry out, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

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Don’t mute Jesus. Excel in making Him known through loving the unlovable. Jesus never chose sides. He loved the world. He hung on the middle cross loving both the one on the left and the one on the right. He chose them both, but only one chose Him that day. He chooses everyone that everyone might have the chance to repent and turn to Him in surrender. 2 Peter 3:9b teaches that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The only division Christ came to bring was to a division that points all of humanity to a decision for Him or against Him. He did so because choosing Him or rejecting Him is the only eternal choice that really matters in this age, or the age to come. You must point humanity to the middle cross every day of your life through your actions and your words. People in our world are hungry to belong. They are hungry and thirsty to be heard, valued and love unconditionally.

Pointing humanity to the left or to the right will never satisfy the hole in their lives. Pointing them to the middle cross is the only answer. In John 6 Jesus speaking to the crowd said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is still offering that call to the world today. He doesn’t offer it through himself (his physical presence) anymore because He sits at the right hand of the Father waiting to return. However, he still offers it through us, His children by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Christ followers,  you and I have the Spirit of God living on the inside of us seeking to serve and rescue the world. The rescuing of the world doesn’t happen by following the media, or by choosing the left or right. Rescuing happens by choosing to obey the command of love, and pointing the world to the middle cross where Jesus stretched out His arms wide to embrace everyone who would hear.

Will you obey and follow His leading, or will you be a quencher of the Spirit? Will you mute Jesus today by choosing the left or the right or will you live for Him and promote Him today by choosing the middle? The middle cross is still the only answer for the world because Jesus used it to defeat evil forever. Jesus turned an ugly cross of Rome into a vision of beauty that rescues the world.  His crucifixion was the greatest act of love ever accomplished for humanity, and it’s still the only path that leads us home.

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Only God can transform a bad life situation, but His first desire is to transform you through your surrendered dependence upon Him alone.

Twenty years had gone by, and the day Jacob has been dreading is now upon him. He is about to run into his brother Esau. God has asked Jacob to return, and the last time Jacob saw his brother Esau, Esau wanted to kill him.

God is at work in Jacob’s life, but at this point Jacob is to afraid to just trust in God’s plan, so he comes up with a plan of healing himself. He is convinced that he can boost his odds of a successful meeting with his brother by the power of self-sufficiency. However, God has a different plan.

God’s desire it to transform Jacob by freeing him from self-sufficiency. God is looking for surrender and not Jacob’s plans. God is looking for complete surrendered dependence. C.S. Lewis once said, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.” God is looking to help Jacob find his real self that is found only in the surrendering of everything to God.

Try as we might, we can’t heal ourselves the way God can heal us. Self-Sufficiency must give way to surrendered dependency on God. In other words, you can’t be fully His until you are fully given over to Him. God has Jacob right where He wants him. Jacob has no recourse left but to rely on God, and that’s a perfect place to be.

In Genesis 32:24-31 Jacob is alone and wrestles with God until the breaking of the day. It’s not so much a physical confrontation as it is a spiritual battle where God is trying to give Jacob a new freedom. After a long match, God touches the hip socket of Jacob and Jacob is left in a position of utter and absolute brokenness and dependence before God.

Jacob declares,  he will not let go until he gets God’s blessing. Up to this time Jacob’s biggest weakness was not trusting God completely and trying to micromanage every step of his life. Verse 27 God answers Jacob by giving him the blessing of a name change.

A name change is a character change. A name change is a direction change. A name change is a purpose change. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel. God’s purpose for Israel has always been that they would bring the whole world to God himself. In one beautiful moment, Jacob’s plans are turned over to God and replaced with God’s purpose.

Jacob calls the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered. From that day forward,  he walked with a limp and a smile. He was now free because of surrender. How about you today? Are you free? Are you trusting God or trusting your plans?

Abraham had to lay down Isaac and trust God. Jacob had to lay down self-sufficiency and trust God. What do you need to lie down before God? It’s tempting to put off what you need to surrender. However, self-sufficiency, non-surrender and avoidance never brings healing.

Only God can transform a bad life situation, but His first desire is to transform you. God doesn’t want your plans He wants you.

Here the message, Surrendered Dependency Upon Him

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Have you ever felt numb emotionally and spiritually? I’m sure you have. Maybe even today you find yourself in just such a place. You don’t have any feelings because they seem to be gone. The effect of sadness and depression over the many closed doors in your life have slowly cut off your faith blood supply, and you feel only numbness.

Numbness! That place in your faith life where you want to completely give up, but you know you can’t, and you know you won’t. Numbness is the part of walking by faith that personally haunts me the most. Maybe you know the feeling I’m referring to?

You are doing everything right and still all the doors in your life seem to close with a dull rudeness. You break out your faith check list to make sure you are walking pleasing to the Lord and sure enough everything for the most part seems to be right on track. Why then is every door closing, and yet for everyone else around you, the doors seem to not even have a close option?

Numbness will take you to the place of Elijah. Elijah had just witnessed an incredible miracle in his life. He witnessed God move on Mount Carmel in such a way that human involvement couldn’t be credited with any part of it. Yet, not long after the open door miracle, we see him whining that he’s all alone as a follower of God. He is numb! He is in the perfect storm.

Numbness led him to isolation but even in the isolation God was there. Numbness can’t push God away from you. He is commanded to get up and eat and to his surprise food and water have been supplied for him. Numbness can’t cut you off from your needs being supplied.

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” We are informed that a hurricane type wind passed through the mountains and shattered the rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind. Then after the wind there came an earthquake, but God wasn’t found in it either. Next, fire came, and God was not found in the fire. Finally, a whisper! God was in the whisper.

Numbness can’t be blown away. Numbness can’t be shattered away. Numbness can’t be shaken away. Numbness can’t be burnt away. However, numbness can be whispered away.

The whisper always comes. The whisper always comes. I’m waiting on my whisper. It will come!  How about you?

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There are 365 days in a year. I’ve never tried, but I would be willing to bet, if I placed the word happy on each day of a calendar when I finished the day happy, there would be less happy days than not. If it were one big wall calendar, you could back away from it to get the whole view, and it would look like a hopeless sight. However, that’s not the way I would see it as a Christ follower.

As a Christ follower my goal is not happiness. My inheritance is joy. Joy is not even a goal. Joy is a gift. I don’t have to fight for it. I don’t have to earn it. The Spirit of God living on the inside of me gives Joy. Now, back up from the same calendar and take another look and you would see the word joy on every day.

Happiness is an emotion. I enjoy experiencing happiness, but it’s not life giving. Joy, on the other hand, is a bi-product of the Holy Spirit. Joy arrives each day on the wings of mercy and walks with me through the ups and down of everyday life. When I walk with joy, happiness often merges along side of me for a while, and it’s nice, but when happiness leaves I don’t grieve because joy is always there.

Joy can’t leave because it’s a gift of God. Weeping might endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  If happiness is your goal there are many things you can do that brings it to you temporary. However, once that experience is over, happiness runs off and begs for you to wear yourself out chasing it again.

You never have to chase joy. Joy is part of the DNA that was given to you when the Spirit of God came to live inside of you. You are a temple of God, and His temple is a temple full of Joy. At times, you might sing a song of unhappiness, but underneath the unhappiness is a river of Joy that can’t be explained or shut off. It just is! Enjoy your joy and you are enjoying God Himself.

Galatians 5:22-23

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No matter how you add it up zero added to zero equals nothing! However, add God to the equation and you get endless possibilities. You serve a God who is altogether above mathematical quandaries. He has always been able to blow the lid off the box of our limited human reasoning and capability.

Give God a few fish and some bread and He can feed over 5,000 people. Give God your empty wine vats and He can fill then with the best wine using only water. Give God a withered hand and He can heal it. Give God a storm and He can calm it. Give God a dry fishing spot and He will fill the boat with fish. Give God your impossible and He can make it possible.

You can’t control how God will answer your need, but you can be well assured He will answer in a way that brings Him the most glory. Just knowing that God will get the glory should be enough to reassure you that everything you are facing is going to be all right. It might not be the answer you want, but it will be in the end the answer you need.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed about the outcome of any particular situation that is uncomfortable in my life, I remind myself His glory will win out and if His glory wins, I win! God always acts with a view to His glory alone and everything is secondary. When God is put first, everything is going to be just fine.