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Change

Releasing to God what I think I control is often hard for me. I suspect the same might be true of you from time to time. However, releasing things to God is the only way truly to live. All of us have something in our lives that needs to be changed for the better, but letting go of it and turning it over to God can be a difficult task to obey. Change is rarely easy, but it’s needed to move forward with God. I think for the most part we all have a desire to follow God but many times our lives, our own plans; our un-confessed sins keep us running in a circle.

We love the circle because it’s predictable. Following God is not predictable but you can be certain He knows where He is going. He will see you through any change no matter how big or how small. The creator has built change and transitions into life. The only one that doesn’t change is God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can’t control the seasons or transitions, but We can control how we respond to the changes.

Change is rarely easy, but it’s needed to move forward with God.

To hear more and go deeper listen to the message, Change Is Rarely Easy.

Choose Grace

January 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

grace

Jesus doesn’t stand separately from life calling humanity unto Him; He emerges in the midst of life offering the lost of the world a way to the Father through simple faith. He left all of glory to dwell among us. In human form, the bible tells us he humbled himself through obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

He lavished His preventive grace upon humanity as the greatest offer of all times. It is by His offer of grace we are saved through faith. Grace is not our own doing. Grace is a free gift received by placing your belief in the finished work of Christ. God’s grace is not a spiritual enhancement; it’s a radical rescue, calling you to walk the kingdom path of good works.

God’s gift of grace calls upon the sinner, inviting a choice. You can choose His offer of grace. You can reject His offer of grace. However, you can’t ignore His offer of grace because it pursues you constantly. The greatest gift to man was, is and will always be Jesus, but I contend that the second greatest gift was the gift of choices.

Choose grace; it is the only path that leads home. Choose grace; it is the only path that leads to heaven and earth coming together where those found in Christ will live for all eternity. Choose grace; the Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes. Choose grace; and you will discover the new way of life walking out the good works God has prepared for you.

Choose grace and you’re on the path to becoming fully human as God has always desired for His creation. Choose Jesus and allow all the old to pass away and embrace the new. Allow me to repeat myself as I end this devotion. Jesus doesn’t stand separately from life calling humanity unto Him; He emerges in the midst of life offering the lost of the world a way to the Father through simple faith.

The Quiet Canvas

October 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

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fairyjar1The simple act of being quiet before the Lord is a discipline that should be visited often. Quietness is a blank canvas before the Lord. In quietness, God makes faint undertones of color building to a masterpiece for His glory. He is the artist; you are the canvas.

My daughter Madison is an artist. She has work hanging all over her room. Each work tells a story-a story that was in her heart at the time. I’ve had the honor of seeing most of her work come to life over the days; weeks and months she would work on them.

Sometimes, I didn’t have a clue what the painting was until almost the very end. I would have to wait, and then once she put the finally brush strokes to the canvas the work would come alive and completely reveal itself. At other times, I could tell from the beginning what the work was and so in that case, the joy would come in watching her layer the colors making them burst off the canvas.

Quietness is where God works. Let Him paint. Let Him layer. Let Him choose the colors. Your part is to choose quietness. He waits for you. He has a grand idea for using you.

Quietness.

Until Then

October 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

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brokenroadUnanswered pain won’t go unanswered forever…but it sure feels like it sometimes. Pain is a former thing that will one day pass away. Life has a way of bringing challenges into our lives that at times seem too much to endure. Aches, limitations and even permanent limitation haunt many this side of eternity. Depression that is inescapable and scarring that runs through the soul unhealed, call for many to give up…and they do.

For all the bad things pain brings…pain also acts as a signpost pointing to an end to pain forever. Pain has a small whisper calling for you to endure anyway. Pain speaks with a faint voice of courage and resourcefulness; calling us to take hold of the future that will one day be ours. Pain calls to you to help others who are going through similar pain until the pain is no more.

Revelation 21:4b stands true, “neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” You will have a new body in the age to come. You will be untouched by the things of this present age. Pain, disease and any limitations will be forever cast aside.

For now, there is a call to press on, a call to endure by the power of His grace, which is sufficient for all things and all circumstances. Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn in the flesh. The answer he received from the Lord was simply this, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Until then…

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freedom

Isaiah 55:1 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

In Isaiah 54, God has offered forgiveness and now in chapter 55 the call to walk in forgiveness is given. It is not enough to be free; we must live free. We don’t have to order our lives around the axis of a world system that begs for us to dance as its puppets. We don’t have to order our lives around a fragmented social system that includes only those with more power.

In God’s order, everyone is included. We have a Christ centered alternative to be fully human and live fully human in Him and His redeemed order of justice. We have been given the choice of the one that choose us. In Christ, we are the tribe of Revelation 7:9-10

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (NKJV)

We are His redeemed community living a life of radical love in a sea of hatefulness. We render not evil for evil, but we love our way through this age until the age to come overtakes us, and death is swallowed up forever.

We need not use violence to fight for our rights, but instead as one writer has so eloquently put it, “Our violent ways find an end in the wounds of Christ, and in his forgiveness we are offered healing from our self-inflicted pain.”

For now, death remains but soon death will be swallowed up forever.

Isaiah 25:6-9 (ESV) 6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

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giving

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.

Peter_Paul_Rubens_The_Three_Crosses

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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.

sheepfence

Caution! Looking over the fence can lead to cutting your chin. A better usage of your chin is to bow it in prayer, thanksgiving at the feet of Jesus. Bowing your chin in prayer and thanksgiving acknowledges Christ as Lord. Cutting your chin on the fence revels the desire to be the center of the universe and last I checked, neither you, nor I can run the universe. The call of the Christ follower has never been to look for what we already have. We have everything. We have been rescued. We have Him.

I guess looking over the fence started in the garden. God assured Adam and Eve that He had everything in control and hadn’t missed a detail. He even gave details about the tree to leave alone. Guess what? That tree soon became their “fence.” The enemy introduced a very seductive word. That word was introduced to get them to look over the fence. That word was, “surely.” The serpent spoke, “You will not surely die.” In other words,  the lie was, “You don’t have all that you need.”

Looking over the fence is a hard one to resist. We all want answers that fit with how we think it should be or how we think it ought to be. Therefore, we often think to ourselves, the answers I’m looking for are surely on the other side of the fence. After all, I can smell the barbecue goodness coming from the other side. I can hear the laughter of plenty. They never seem to hurt or want for anything on the other side of the fence.

Life always seems better elsewhere, but it’s not.  What is out of our touch, or inaccessible, often seems of more wealth than what is present and sanctioned in our life on God’s side of the fence. It seems to be in our human nature to desire what we can’t have, and at the same time despise what we have right under our feet.

I’ve often found I start looking over the fence when I stop ministry to God. Ministering to God is the safest place to be. When I totally surrender to the beauty of sitting at His feet, the fence has no power and the voices on the other side grow strangely dim, and my soul gives way to a song.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:5-6

storm

Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Of course, He cares. But even better than that, He knows!

Jesus knew the storm was  coming when He commanded the disciples to cross over to the other side. He even knew the storm was upon them during His nap.

It’s kind of incredible when you think about it.

You know you’re in a storm when it’s all you can think about. It’s on your mind so heavy you toss and turn on your bed at night.

However, I want you to know that Jesus can be calmly trusted in the middle of trouble.

He knew they were destined for the other side, and He knows how to write your story also.

He knew they would arrive, and He knew they would arrive different men than when they launched out from the other side.

The kind of differences only a storm can bring.

It is not that Jesus is not around; He is there all the time.

You may not understand His timing or the way He chooses to answer but please understand Jesus is sovereign over all forces and that’s enough.

Jesus can calm the inward and outward storms of your life. He will get you to the other side.

Psalm 89:8-9 (NIV) 8 O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. 9 You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.