Monday, December 1, 2014

To: Us with love; From: The Lord All Powerful

God sent us the best Christmas present ever! No doubt in the commercialization of Christmas and the questions that surround the actual date of the celebration, we can loose the real opportunity we have to recognize that God sent us the greatest gift in Jesus to give us an opportunity to have a real relationship with Him. It's on this understanding that I will take a few moments to highlight the gift of God to us.

"A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us. He will be responsible for leading the people. His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace. Power and peace will be in his kingdom and will continue to grow forever. He will rule as king on David's throne and over David's kingdom. He will make it strong by ruling with justice and goodness from now on and forever. The Lord All-Powerful will do this because of his strong love for his people." Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)

God has sent "to us" a great gift. This gift is the Prince of Peace! This peace will be in his kingdom and will continue to grow forever. We recognize that the Kingdom would be established in the hearts of men and women who would follow Christ. Thus, this peace is to rule and grow in us. Wow - a gift that keeps on giving and growing!

We may feel like that peace is not residing or resonating in our lives. We may wonder where is that peace. It may seem we have an unopened gift. We may need a better understanding of how to open God's Peace package.

I offer to us today the consideration of how to open this peace in our lives. Here is a simple journey to opening this gift...
  • don't worry about anything
  • pray about everything
  • tell God what you need
  • thank Him for all He's done.
This may seem all too elementary. Some times we skip right over that things we need to do in an attempt to find a magic moment. It really is this simple to open the gift of peace.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience  God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

To experience God's peace, a peace that exceeds our understanding, we must not worry about anything, pray about everything, tell God what we need and thank Him for all He's done. This peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ. WOW!

As you may exchange and open gifts during this Christmas season, my prayer for you is to open the greatest gift God has given to you - the Prince of Peace!

Friday, January 24, 2014

And it begins

Mark 14:36, “‘…Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”

This prayer of Jesus is one of the most profound prayers ever offered. He was struggling through the moment, knowing what was coming. Overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He prayed – knowing - His friends were sleeping, one would betray Him any moment, His friends would deny Him, His country would reject Him, He would be tortured, He would take on the sin of the world, and in some manner, He would be separated from the Father. Any one of these could have been reason enough to quit His journey. Yet He settled it before it would happen when He prayed – Yet not what I will, but what You will.

Settle it now. Begin an intentional journey of growth to be like Jesus – to love God and others as He does. Develop a made-up mind. Pray like Jesus – yet not what I will, but what You will. He will empower you for your journey.

His plans for you are far better than you could ever imagine. Trust Him in the journey. Not only will you be overwhelmed with joy but many others will be impacted too. Your destiny is changing. Go with Him! And it begins…


Mark 9:23, “‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’”

Some journeys are longer than others. This is a short one designed to get you on a longer one. Hopefully that longer one will get you on many more to come. Our hope is that you never stop growing spiritually. That’s His hope too.

In this story in Mark 9 when Jesus is asked if He can help, He seems to take exception to the question. They did not realize whom they were talking to. They asked for pity, and He had power. The possibilities with God’s power is in the realm of impossibilities for us. So everything is possible for him who believes.

We cannot redeem ourselves. We cannot change ourselves to be what God wants us to be. We must have His help. Spiritual growth is dependent on God’s Spirit working in our lives daily. He is working for us not against us. He will help us.

Our part is to just do it. Do what He gives us to do to grow. Our next step is ask Him what to do. He may direct you to a Bible passage, a plan for growth or someone to walk with you. So, just do it. It will become possible!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What does your journey look like?

Mark 8:34, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

Jesus is expecting His followers to follow Him. He paints a precise picture. This 21-day journey is intended to reveal specific expectations Jesus has given us. It is not an exhaustive list, but is a foundational one.

Jesus speaks of hypocrites – those who act like something they are really not, - “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:6-7.

Our goal in this journey is to be real - real with God; real with one another and real with ourselves. We should take the challenge to plan for intentional growth following this 21-day journey over the course of this year. Set a plan in order to read the Bible through this year. Evaluate your life spiritually and target areas for growth. Find someone to be accountable to, just like the disciples were accountable to each other and to Jesus.

 Are you ready for this? Map it out.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You're it!

Mark 1:17-18. “…Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

The disciples were immediately responsive to the call Jesus issued them. Jesus intended to train them to lead others as He led them. He was clear about that from the beginning – I will make you fishers of men.

As a part of their training Jesus sent them out to communicate the good news to others with the expectation of bringing others to faith in Christ. He was just as clear on how to present this gospel. In Luke 10, Jesus told them to pray blessing first, then build a relationship perhaps over a meal, then meet any “felt” needs (like praying for healing), and then proclaim the Kingdom.

If the way is paved with prayer, friendship and service, most anyone would be ready to hear about the hope we have in Him. It would create an openness to receive what we have to say and a desire to have the same.

Jesus is intentional in all He does. We should be the same: Praying, building relationships and meeting needs with the intent of leading someone to faith in Christ. Who are you praying for? What pre-Christian are you building relationship with and meeting needs for? It’s our turn!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Billboard

John 21:19. “…Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’”

After spending over three years with Peter, Jesus tells him the same thing He told him when they first started their journey together. Peter had learned a lot during the three years, but during the time Jesus may have needed him the most, he ran another direction. So Jesus restores him to fellowship after the resurrection and reminds him of the simple call He gave him at first – follow me!

Jesus had a plan for Peter to represent Him in word and action. Jesus believed in Peter as he believes in us today. He wants us to live His story in word and action. Peter got it. This is confirmed when he wrote in his letter, “Live such good lives among your neighbors that…they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12. And then he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15.

Have we got it? Do our actions speak as loud as or louder than our words? Are we living with such good deeds and hope that others ask about us?  We can honor Him and attract others with what we say and do! We can do this if our actions and words - Follow Him!

Monday, January 20, 2014

the story God is writing

Luke 19:5-6, “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.”

Zac was just trying to watch the parade. Because of his physical size, he could not see over the crowd. He climbed a tree for a better view. Little did he know he would get a personal moment with the Son of God.

We all seem to stumble onto moments with God that forever change our lives. We just need help, maybe even enough to cry out for it. He hears and here comes the parade. We really had no idea of what it would mean to encounter the King. He certainly is like no other king we have ever heard about. This King, born in a stable, will stay at our house.

We are a story that God is writing. When we recognize another moment of our life is a God story, we should write it down and share it with someone. These stories have incredible impact in the lives of others. As they hear them, faith is awakened and they begin to ask Him to help them too. These God stories will give others encouragement and empowerment. What is God writing about you?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Getting to it...

Luke 19:17, “’Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you…’”

In the scope of history, we can seem like a spec in the universe. Why would God be so concerned with me and whether I use what He has given me? Because just as He pursued you (the spec) He is pursuing every human spec ever created. He wants to use you, the redeemed spec, to redeem another spec.

So God expects us to be about His business with the tools (gifts) He has given us. A “good servant” is a faithful servant who is employing the gifts given to honor the gift giver. A “good servant” is an active servant. A “good servant” is a trustworthy servant.

A “good servant” takes the initiative to increase the family business. A “good servant” operates in good faith. A “good servant” is ready to release the gains to his Master.

We must not overlook the fact the Master rewards all “good servants” for their service. Their reward is to serve even more. If God values serving so much that He makes the opportunity to serve the reward, then we should be getting to it…serving with the gifts He’s given us.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

There is more...

Luke 18: 22, “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing…’”

Jesus was always helping those who would follow Him to understand who He is, who they are and who they need to be. It is so easy to be thankful and comfortable with who we are. This is especially true when we have achieved another level of growth or accomplishment.

Jesus challenged this young man who said he had kept all the commandments to do one thing more. He will always help us to see the next step. He will always expect us to take the next step. And He will help us to take it.

He has given us gifts to use for the expressed purpose of serving others His love. These gifts will need development in our understanding and use of them. We may need to ask Him what the next growth step is. As we take it; we develop the areas of serving He gives us.
The young man went away sad after Jesus told him his next step because he was not willing to take it. According to Jesus, that would have been his step to victory. Let’s get stepping.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A New Life, A New Opportunity

Matthew 20:26, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant...”

Jesus said of Himself that He did not come to be served but to serve others. He illustrated this in many ways, but perhaps in none more powerful than when He washed the disciples’ feet. He commanded them to serve others in the same way.

Jesus not only expects us to serve others but He equips us to do it. He gives us passions and gifts to serve others. Paul wrote in his letters that “each” one of us have gifts given by God to serve others. So we have a call to serve, a gift to serve with and a people to serve. The only thing holding us back from this opportunity for greatness – is us.

Have you discovered your God-given gifts for serving others his love? You can study New Testament teaching about gifts He gives and ask the Holy Spirit to give you a discovery of your gifts. You can ask a spiritual leader in your life to help you on this discovery journey too.

God doesn’t give us gifts to display on a shelf. He gifts us to be a blessing to others. May His grace be displayed through your gifts as you serve others today.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Living Full...

John 14:26, “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Jesus said an expression of our love for Him is obedience to His commands. This would mean we would need to empty the parts of our lives that do not honor Him and fill it with the things that do. These things can be called spiritual disciplines. He has taught us what these disciplines are with His teaching and examples. These disciplines open the door for a more intimate relationship with Jesus.

As this intimacy grows in our relationship with Him, we begin to grow fruit that is attributed to the continued cultivating work of the Holy Spirit. This is not something we can buy from a spiritual market and add to our lives. It is grown from our intimate relationship with Christ.

These fruit are mentioned in Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruit grow when we make room for intimacy with Him. What fruit is growing in your life? Allow the Holy Spirit room and time to cultivate your relationship with Christ.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Who do you say?

Matthew 16:15, “’But what about you?’ he (Jesus) asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’”

The apostles only similarities with one another were that the majority of them were fishermen from Galilee before following Jesus. It was following Jesus that gave them a new identity. Those with whom they came into contact would recognize them as someone who had been with Jesus.

What distinguishes us today from anyone else in our community? The only real distinguishing factor must be that we have been with Jesus. The more we are with Him we begin to think, act, serve and love like Him. Our identity changes. Our old way of living fades away and a new way of living takes us to a new destiny.

The new identity begins with the surrender of our lives to God and is expressed in water baptism, communion, and connection with the body of Christ. It continues with growth in our lives as we take on the disciplines and character of Christ. It is complete when we graduate into the next life time – eternity – with Him.

Identity change is always challenging – ask the butterfly. Yet the struggle is well worth the effort – Keep the faith!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Who uses the instructions?

John 8:31-32, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus carefully made a distinction between those who believe in Him and those who are His followers. The distinction is made based on whether you hold on to His teaching. Real followers take on the knowledge and wisdom of their teacher. We learn of Jesus’ knowledge and wisdom in his book, the Bible. We might call it an instruction manual.

When we are not willing to follow instructions, we believe we already know the “how to”. We may believe we know how to be like Jesus from many sources, however, the Bible is the primary source and authority that frames who Jesus is and who we should be.

Natural growth happens daily. Spiritual growth does too. Spiritual growth can be nourished or starved. We should nourish it daily with a balanced diet of Bible reading to understand who Jesus is and who we should be. With this, you can know truth and live in freedom.

It’s hard to hold on to what you do not have. Do you have a personal diet plan – a Bible reading plan?

Family Relationships

Family Relationships

Matthew 19:6, 14, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate…Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Jesus places a God-given value on family that we must develop in our lives. From marriage to raising children, He developed His plan to be woven into the fabric of our lives. The family unit - the father, husband, mother, wife, son, and daughter - is what God designed to illustrate His love for us. This is one reason the devil fights so hard to break up and destroy the family.

The family is the illustration the apostle Paul uses to describe the relationship God has with the church.  Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church; wives come under the mission of your husband as to the Lord; and kids obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Godly family relationships can only be developed with the help of the Bible, not our culture or traditions. As we try these Biblical principles on for size, we learn that this is better than anything else we have experienced.
Can you prayerfully consider becoming a Biblical model of the family God has created you to be? What is your role? Remember He who calls also empowers you!

Where friends become family

 Friends become family
John 11:3, “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”
Jesus built great friendships with those around Him. Lazarus was recognized by his sisters as someone special to Jesus. Jesus wept at his graveside. Then He raised him from the dead. Wow.
Jesus even called those He was teaching His family if they did God’s will. He valued relationships with those around Him. He invested in those relationships with His time. He built close friendships with those who ministered with Him.
He challenges us with the statement, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Real relationships need real commitment to give each other our best. Those friendships become more than friendships, they become family. In many regards, these God friendships that become family are stronger relationships than our earthly family. These relationships provide us love, forgiveness, acceptance, help, encouragement and accountability. These are real relationships.
Do you have any God-given friends in your circle? Can you find a new friend this year? Start by making yourself friendly! Enjoy the adventure.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Connecting with Them

“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.” Luke 4:16

Jesus models the values He wants us to have. As you read about His life in the gospels, notice He valued meeting together in the synagogue on almost a daily basis. He would participate in the teaching, worship and relationship building at each gathering.

The writer in Hebrews (10:25) says, “You should not stay away from the church meetings…you should meet together and encourage each other.” He shares what Jesus models: encourage one another, motivate one another to love and good works to make a difference in the lives of others, strengthen one another to hold tight to the hope we have from the promises of God and be empowered to go into the presence of God with sincere worship. Can you make it your usual custom to join with other believers to encourage, learn and worship?

It is difficult to connect with others when you are not around them. Jesus promised a special visitation every time believers are together in His name. Let’s get together.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Connecting Changes Things

Luke 12:31, 34, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need…Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of our heart will also be.”

We live in a world where we are often learning how to take care of number one – us. It’s all about us. We can have it our way. We have rights. As we grow in our relationship with God we begin to realize it’s not about us, life is about Him; we must become less and He must become more.

The focus of our life becomes seeking Him, His plan and purpose for our lives above all else. This means our investing strategies change. We do invest in us but by investing in Him and what he is investing in. We learn our finances reveal a lot about us: “wherever our treasure is, there the desires of our heart will also be.”

We learn to be a Christ follower is also to be a giver. For God so loved the world He gave... We learn to be a giver of our time, abilities and even our finances. God gives us direction throughout the Bible on these giving areas. It’s His expectation of us as we grow. What will we learn to give this year that we may not have given before?

Being a giver comes from a thankful, loving relationship!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Connecting with Conversation

Luke 11:1, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’”

“Can you hear me now?” was a slogan for a cell phone company that gained notoriety. It may also be a question many Christ followers would like to ask God when they don’t feel like they are getting through to Him with their prayers.

Prayer is communication with God. Jesus responded to their request with guidance on how to have a direct conversation with God. He said don’t make of show of your prayers to try to convince others you are spiritual. Don’t repeat the same words again and again. It does not get you any closer to God answering. But He does say to keep on asking, seeking and knocking and then you will receive, find and the door will be opened to you. He also says if we as sinful people know how to give good gifts to our kids, “how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.”

Real connection takes consistent conversation. Consistent conversation builds real relationship. An intentional daily conversation with God is needed to keep you growing, Let’s take the next few moments and spend time talking and listening to Him.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Connecting with Him

John 4:23, “…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks”

Connecting with God has always seemed challenging and even mystic for mankind. It’s not that challenging for Him. He created us to connect with Him. He created ways for us to connect with Him. His grace is the key to open the door for that connection. His love and forgiveness are the passage ways for us to connect.
So with all that God offers to us for the connecting, the next step is ours. He commands us to love Him with all our heart, mind and strength. What are we to do? Let me try this on for size…Love Him! Not in a limited way like Sunday morning only kinda love, but love Him every day of the week kinda love. Love Him with our work, study, play and family life. This is real worship – in spirit and truth. It’s what He seeks.

When each Christ follower lives their life as worship to Him during the week we can gather to worship as a symphony of worship at the weekly church gatherings. Spend time worshipping Him today!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Looking for a Traveling Companion

Day 3 of 21 of Spiritual Growth Journal
Luke 4:1,14, “Jesus…was led by the Spirit in the desert”; “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…”

Jesus never traveled alone. He traveled with His friends and family. But the times He seemed to be separated from them, He had a traveling companion in the Holy Spirit. As valuable as the people around Him were, He gained so much more traveling with the Holy Spirit.

As you launch out for the next few days in the discovery of Christ in you, we have arranged for a traveling companion. Okay, well the truth is God arranged for Him to be with you even before you started your journey. That’s right, the same Holy Spirit that led and empowered Jesus will be with you. He will be available to lead, teach, empower, encourage, comfort, illuminate and help you. He is available to you the entire journey – these 21 days, this year of your life as you grow to be like Christ and every year after. He is available night and day.

In his journey to the desert with all that the journey included, Jesus followed the help of the Holy Spirit. Will you travel with the Holy Spirit too? Take a few minutes right now and just get to know Him with a simple conversation (prayer). Tell Him about your hopes in this journey and listen for Him to share his.

Monday, January 6, 2014

To Get Where We’re Going, Start Up

Day 2 of 21 Spiritual Growth Journal Devotional

Matthew 5:1-2, “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:’”

We find Jesus pulling away from the busyness of ministry and the popularity of the crowd to invest in the lives of those who would come after Him.  He went up on a mountainside and sat down. We don’t have a record of Jesus sending an invitation to the class or ringing the school bell. We do see the hunger in the disciples to come after Him, to sit with Him, to learn from Him – to grow in this new family business.

It seems their eagerness to learn from Him and not just about Him is demonstrated much like when they left their nets. Of course they would have no way of knowing what He was about to share with them. But we do. Wow! This teaching on the top (found in Matthew 5-7) would lay the foundation for every Christ follower to build their understanding and life on.

The disciples would in time move from just knowing about Him to living for Him. We have to make the same decision. What will we decide? Let’s make these 21 days a time of coming after, sitting with, learning from and growing in Jesus as He leads us in our journey.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Invitation is a Declaration

Matthew 4:19, “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”

Jesus’ first invitation to those who would become his disciples (and the apostles) is really more than an invitation - it’s a challenging declaration too. Most invitations give you an option of refusal. Jesus’ invitation gives you the option of a transformation to live life with a cause that is bigger than yourself.

Jesus was very clear. First, He said “Come” – which means a directional change toward Him and not away from Him. Second, He said, “Follow me” – which means an understanding that the leadership of their lives will not be left to them alone. Third, Jesus said, “I will make you” – which calls for the submission and humility in the student-teacher relationship. Last in His invitation, He says they would become “fishers of men” – this would mean a commitment to change  and be in His family’s business.

This invitation, and declaration, is still a clarion call to every Christ follower today. What will we choose? His hope is that you respond much like those first disciples did, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” Leave what you must, choose today, and follow Him!

Friday, January 3, 2014

a 21-day journey is coming...

It's been way too long since I have blogged. I have written a 21-day devotional I will post daily beginning Sunday, January 5 on my blog for your reading pleasure. My hope and prayer is that it will encourage you to grow as a Christ follower. If you are not a Christ follower now, then I encourage you to read and learn from these snapshots what being a Christ follower is supposed to be.

Today I was reading Acts 2:42, "All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer." (NLT). I prayed for the Lord to keep me devoted to these same things to which the early church was devoted. They are very relational - all under the same teaching, fellowship, sharing in meals, the Lord's supper, prayer. I also prayed for Bethel Church, where I serve, to be the same. A precious retired pastor that attended a church I once served said to me, "Pastor, if everyone in the church had their oar in the water rowing, they would not have time to complain." His nuggets of truth were so encouraging. So in this new year we can be devoted to rowing.
It is encouraging to me that when Jesus is the center of the church, He is the unifying factor. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects of our faith, we become a unified bunch. (Hebrews 12:2). When our eyes are focused on Him, it's difficult to look at others who can distract us. My prayer for all of us is to stay focused and devoted and not be distracted with any spiritual ADD - attention deficit disorder.

On a personal level, I choose to make Jesus the center of my life (and not a top priority). If He is a top priority, it is a challenge to involve Him in all the priorities down the list. However, if He is the center of my life, then everything I am and do comes from this relationship I have with Him. This is a paradigm shift for many of us. In making Jesus the center, I encourage you to follow me as a I follow Christ.

Jesus, may those who read this blog today hear your voice calling to them, "Follow me." Let them walk in your blessing and favor this year. Help them to keep their eyes on You! Amen!