Friday, December 30, 2011

Put Your Hope In God

Put Your Hope in God Even When It Looks Like All Hope Is Gone! Psalm 42:5, 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. When life isn't going the way you envisioned it, the road gets long, and the load is to heavy to carry it is easy to give in to despair. Trust me, unfortunately I have been there myself more times than I care to admit. The more I dwell and roll in despair the more helpless and hopeless I get. I lose sight of God, my faith wavers, and my world shakes, and I feel alone and afraid. It seems like everything and everyone is against me even though it may not be so. It's times like these that I turn to scripture to regain focus and encourage myself in the Lord. I have to make a conscious choice to praise God for all He has done. Even though I may feel that He has abandoned me at the moment. I have to draw on His faithfulness and steadfast love. He alone is my salvation and my God. Put Your Hope in God!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Time to Return to the Lord

Time to Return to the Lord I recently heard a statement that went something like this: America has traded in the blessings of God for unbridled pleasure and that our Nation needs to return to God. My thought is this: The church in our culture has traded in the blessing of God and our Nation is under reached, unchanged, and now considered to be unchristian. Until the Church comes back to Jesus we can't expect our Nation too. What say you??? I received a great question in response to my statement: So does that mean that the Bride of Christ is to blame..... That is a loaded question. I don't want to make a blanket statement. I know that there are many totally sold out believers. However, there are many in the Body that are stagnant, compromised, and divided in their affection for Jesus (Nice way of saying-spiritual adultery and idolatrous.). I am speaking of those of us who are professed Christians. Let me interrupt my train of thought and make a side note. Lest I sound self righteous and judgmental, I confess that I too, must accept responsibility for the tarnished, weakened, condition of the Church-Bride of Christ in our culture. I don't always live, act, speak, and serve in ways that are pleasing to the Lord. Thanks be to God for His amazing grace, tender love and mercy, and His ALL sufficient power and strength that He gives me. I don't deserve it and yet He gives it to me freely every day. Now I will get back to my original thoughts. I think the Church in our culture (the Bride of Christ) are in state much like is found in the book of Hosea. Our culture has seduced, allured, and deceived us into thinking we can profess Christ and live our lives as if He doesn’t exist. Because of this condition our witness in our society has been weakened. As a result the Church in our culture is low on conversion and high on transfer. Churches are dying, doors are closing, and in many cases the communities they were in don’t even know they are gone. Unfortunately, the Church in our culture is giving ample reason for those outside of faith to play the hypocrite card. We can’t expect our Nation or those who are far from faith to act like Christians but we should expect those who profess Christ too. That is the premise of my thought and the results speak for themselves. I love Jesus, His Church, and the local Body of Christ. I believe God has called us all to so much more. I believe the bar has been set high and it is time for me and all of us to rise to the challenge of our calling. There are so many lost and hurting people right here in our community and they deserve to see the very best of Christ through us. It is far past time for us to make the change. My prayer is that we revisit the blood stained cross, experience grace anew, walk in the power of His resurrection, and demonstrate His love and compassion toward one another, our friends, neighbors, associates, community, and our world. Long answer to a very thought provoking question. I am not crazy about the word blame. I would say we need to accept responsibility for the condition of the Church and as Christians encourage each other to return to the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. When the Church in our culture returns to Jesus then maybe we might be able to make a difference in our Nation. Thoughts??????

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

LIFE LESSON FROM A WANDERING SHEEP Psalm 23:1-6 ESV The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (The shepherd knows what I need so I can trust in His provisions. Only He can satisfy my wants and needs. There is no other. He can be trusted!) He makes me lie down in green pastures. (Sheep are stubborn animals and I am no different. I need the guidance of the shepherd to take me to a place of safety, rest, and nourishment. Sheep will keep going and going until the shepherd makes them stop. My shepherd has to exert force in my life to make me stop, rest, and refuel. He is the Good Shepherd!) He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. (The shepherd takes me to the calm streams of His presence so I'm not overtaken by the strong and violent currents found in the river of life. He refreshes, revives, and restores me safely in the shallows. He is a God of restoration and peace!) He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Like sheep we all have a tendency to stray from His path. My shepherd will lead me if I yield and submit to His authority and leadership. His path is righteousness and He longs for me to follow Him on it and in it!) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Even when I walk in the cold, dark, shadows of life/death He assures me of His love and presence and drives out all fear! With the rod of discipline and staff of guidance He will comfort me in the darkest hours and places in life. He is my comfort!) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (When I'm in the presence of those that seek to harm me whether by choice or not my Shepherd will sustain me. He will come to my aid regardless of how I came to be there. He will tend to my needs; He will validate and affirm me as His own. He will deliver me safely into His care. He will fill me with His goodness and joy until my life once again is overflowing with His presence!) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (With my Shepherd leading, guiding, restoring, comforting, delivering, healing, and freshly refilling me all that could possibly be in the wake of my life is goodness, love, and mercy. No doubt, I’m an imperfect follower nevertheless I choose to follow Him all the days of my life.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Characteristic of Authentic Community Proverbs 14:10 ESV Only those who intentionally establish and invest in relationship will ever see and know the hearts of those they do life with. Only those closest to me know the trials and challenges that God has used to shape and sanctify me. Pain and hardship seem to be cruel tools at the time but when you see how the Lord works in and through them to produce our deliverance then and only then can we share in the joy of redemption together. So, when I allow others into my heart and life they see and know what I've been through so they to can share in the joy of what God has done in my behalf. To know my bitterness is to share my joy! That is but one Characteristic of Authentic Community. Proverbs 14:10 ESV 10 The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Intimately Known Yet Intimately Loved! Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24 ESV This morning as I read this I was reminded of how intimately involved God is in my life from beginning to end. He knows my every thought and every word I have to say before I even speak it. There is absolutely no where I can go that He hasn't been or wouldn't go to be with or make Himself and presence known to me. That is both comforting and troubling to me. The reason for this is that I know myself. My heart, mind, and thoughts unfortunately are not always the most God honoring and yet God still loves me. In these passages he comforts me with the reminder that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. He encourages me by His relentless pursuit of me even when I'm seemingly outside of His will and plan for me. Knowing this about God is what gives me the courage to invite Him to search my troubled and wicked heart. I might be able to gloss over the unseen areas of my heart and life that gives the appearance of my being humble and holy but the truth is I struggle terribly at times. So much so I can't even begin to understand how or why He loves me so. You see, while I'm "Intimately Known" I am still "Intimately Loved" by God. Oh God, lead me in your everlasting way! Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24 ESV 1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Search is Over Matthew 13:44-46 ESV For the first 20 years of my life I was searching for meaning and significance. I sought it the form of acceptance and belonging socially. I attempted to fill the void and heal the pain through drug use, promiscuity, and anything else that promised pleasure and fun. Sad thing is the more I searched and filled up on those things the pain and emptiness multiplied. Then I discovered the treasure and pearl of great price. His name is Jesus Christ. On that day I surrendered my life. The search was over. I found Him and He gave me everything. He gave me life, meaning, and purpose. He delivered me from myself and the path of destruction I was on. He healed and continues to heal the wounds in me and my life. 25 years later with many ups and downs, good times and bad, mountain top and valley experiences I can tell you life in the Kingdom is worth my full surrender and absolute abandonment to Jesus. You will never know the joy and fulfilment I am writing about until you discover the treasure and pearl of great price that is Jesus Christ. For me the search is over and what I have found in Christ is worth far more than this life could ever offer me. May you find Him today! Matthew 13:44-46 ESV 44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Invitation to the Weary

An Invitation to the Weary Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Are you tired from your labor? Are you weighted down with a heavy load? If so, Jesus is issuing you an invitation to come to Him so He can give you rest. The yoke referred to here is what is used to connect oxen together to plough or perform some type of agricultural work. The yoke in itself was not the thing that would tire the ox. It was the load they were pulling and the constant strain of pulling against the other ox yoked together. The same can be true of us. We can pull against and resist the purpose and will of God. Futile, I know, but we do it often and get weary and worn down in the process. Jesus is also referring to the yoke as a form of teaching. The religious teachers of that day were placing the heavy yoke of their self imposed religion on the people. Unfortunately religion still is just as heavy and wearisome today as it was then. Jesus came to set us free and not bind us up. Big difference! Here Jesus invites us to remove the yoke that the world, religion, or others place on us. He welcomes you to cast all, not some, but all you burdens on Him. He promises to give you His rest in return. That my friend is an invitation too good to pass up. May you find comfort and rest in Christ today. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

What Fruit Are You Known For?

What Fruit Are You Known For? Once again Jesus is addressing the religious elite, or so they thought. The question today is would Jesus be addressing us in the same manner? There are many people today that attend church and do all the religious stuff but the heart remains cold and virtually unchanged. In this passage the question reveals the answer. A good tree produces good fruit. Why? Or how? By what is on the inside and not the outside. What Jesus is and can do on the inside of you works its way to the outside. That being the fruit of His righteousness. Truth be told our conversation often reveals the reality of the fruit being produced. So, what fruit are you known for? Is it good? Think about it. Blessings! May your heart abound with His goodness and be filled with the treasure of His righteousness. May your conversations be filled with life and produce an abundance of good fruit to the glory of God. Matthew 12:33-37 ESV 33 "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Seeking God in Prayer

Seeking God in Prayer

If God knows my needs why do I have to pray about them? The answer: You are in a relationship with God. Relationships require communication between the individuals involved. Prayer is conversational and our Father longs for us to be in conversation with Him. Not to mention prayer gives expression to our faith. It reveals our trust and dependency on and in God.

This passage also reveals a process to our communication with God. We are instructed to ask God questions as well as to ask Him about our needs. There is a huge difference between asking and telling God about our situations and needs. The process of prayer is not about presenting a list of all our wants and needs to God as if He were Santa Claus. Rather than looking at the process of prayer as a linear list to follow I think this passage reveals that asking, seeking, and knocking is what happens when we are having an intimate conversation. It also reveals a tenacity to clearly understand what the Father has to say about our needs and concerns. Today as you seek God in prayer ask Him to speak to you about your needs and concerns. Seek to know His heart better. Continue to probe and knock on the door until you clearly know and have intimately shared as well as received direction that inspires Godly confidence and reveals Godly wisdom as it relates to your needs and concerns.

Ask, Seek, Knock!
Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Perfect Posture

Perfect Posture!
Psalm 63:1 ESV

Life can be hard at times. Seasons of spiritual drought and famine come and go and oftentimes leave you empty. Your heart begins to question and doubt and confusion sets in robbing you of His joy and perfect peace. In those times it is so easy to retreat and withdraw from God and others. That my friends is one of satan’s deceptive schemes.

I've found that the best thing to do is run to God rather than away from Him. In many cases our conditions cause us to have "Perfect Posture" before God.

So, if you find yourself in this humble position acknowledge God, remember who you are in Christ, seek Him with all you've got, cry out to Him and He will come to you. He will flood your thirsty soul with His presence and all sufficient grace.

Be encouraged today! Your humble position gives you "Perfect Posture" before God.

Psalm 63:1 ESV
1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.