Friday, August 2, 2013

Jesus Is the Message

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to talk to a stranger about the weather, about football or our children or where we are from, and yet when it comes to telling them the simple truth, our stomach ties up in knots and our tongue gets stuck to the roof of our mouth? Why is that?

God hasn’t called us to be weathermen and sportscasters; He has called us and empowered us to be light shining in the darkness. Somewhere in the course of our conversation we need to seize upon the opportunity to Preach Jesus!

I’m going to Preach Jesus!

To the lost, I’ll preach Jesus as the Way!
To the lonely, I’ll preach Jesus as the Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
To the child, I’ll preach Jesus as Father to the fatherless.
To the sick, I’ll preach Jesus as Great Physician.
To those addicted to drugs or drink, I’ll preach Jesus as the Deliverer.
To the brokenhearted, I’ll preach Jesus as the One who came to bind up the brokenhearted
To the man on the deathbed, I’ll preach Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life.
To the sinner, I’ll preach Jesus as the Savior.
To the church, I’ll preach Jesus as Lord and Master.

No matter where I am, or who I’m talking to, I can preach Jesus in a way that will fill a void and make a broken man whole.

Jesus is the message!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do Good Anyway

In the course of our lives, we will run across quotes, books, movies and songs that move us, challenge us and inspire us. They serve as the gas to get us closer to God.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite pieces of inspirational writing, a poem, by Mother Teresa. It's called, 'Do It Anyway,' which has just enough gas to get us to our Destination.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may often accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

~Mother Teresa

This did not speak volumes to me. The knowledge, wisdom, faith and truth spoke whole libraries to me! What we have to realize is this-- there are a lot of jerks in the world, but as Christians we can instead look at it in another way . . . there are a lot of lost people in this world. The thing I've found is LOST people act lost, so it should come as no surprise when people are ugly to us for seemingly no reason at all. Should it?

My Dad has taught me, and encouraged me, to love people with absolutely NO expectations at all. Love them because Jesus, who is Love, inhabits your being. He overtakes your body, your Earthly vessel, so much so that no matter how people 'treat' you . . . you always respond in love! You do nice things for people not expecting anything back. In fact, if you do something for someone just to get something back . . . you really need to check your heart because your motives aren't motivated by love! The truest litmus test of character is doing something out of the goodness of your heart-- not expecting, or seeking, any recognition. It's giving something-- your time, love, energy and fellowship-- to someone who has nothing to offer in return.

Love always requires sacrifice and putting the recipient's needs, wants and desires above your own. It's putting an action with your words. It's simply wanting to make that person's day better in that moment. It's adding sun rays, Sonshine, to their day no matter how dark of a place they're in or how blue their life's skies are! It's uplifting words, words of encouragement, smiles, hugs and just attention, and validation, we all need.

I am LEARNING how to take things more with a grain of salt. Praise, criticism, being treated well or being treated terribly, responding the same way in indifference or in love, but doing my best not to react or do what is has been done to me. Be more like a duck and let their hurtful words and actions be the water that goes flying off your back!

Through forgiving someone, and asking someone to forgive you, there is great freedom, so let things go . . . life is too short not to! It's not easy to have the self-control to respond to cruel behavior in the right fashion, but it definitely worth it. For God sees!!

"You are my friends if you do what I command." (John 15:14) What is that command? Look at verse 17-- "This is my command: to love each other." What a radical, yet nonetheless, powerful thought!! Do I have this perfected? HARDLY, but God, through me, is making strides in this area.

Am I offended when someone is rude to me for no reason? When someone acts hateful toward me when I've done nothing to deserve it? Of course I am. I am human, when someone is ugly to me it hurts my feelings, it temporarily angered me . . . as in past tense. But what we have to understand is what Jesus said was and will always be true! The world will HATE us the same way it hated, and hates, Him (John 15:18-25).

Look at Jesus' words and it will come as no great surprise, or no surprise, at all when we are treated as outcasts.

Verses 18 and 19. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it's own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

But then look at verse 25 "But this is fulfill what is written in their law: 'They hated me WITHOUT REASON.'

So we should not EXPECT people to be nice to us, but we should assume the exact opposite. We get spoiled into thinking we aren't supposed to be ridiculed, shunned, disappointed and treated badly, but the reality is without expectations of how we're SUPPOSED to be treated . . . there is no disappointment.

Hurt people do what? They hurt! And let's face it . . . there are many, many hurt people in our daily lives. What's the easy thing to do when someone hurts you? That's right-- to hurt them back, but the 'easy' thing to do is never the right thing to do. It's not about what the offender 'deserves' ; it's about being who God intended you to be! After all, we didn't 'deserve' mercy, grace, forgiveness and love, but thankfully that didn't stop God from extending it when all we REALLY deserved was death.

It's not just about when someone treats you badly . . . it's also about being who God created you to be-- being who YOU ARE! It's no coincidence the Bible says we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27). With that being the case; we are made out of Love, to love, to share His love!

I encourage you to pray John 3:30 over your lives every day-- More Jesus to fill your body, your vessel, and less of yourself. Only through dying to ourselves, see Romans chapter 6, can He, through us, allow us to obey the Golden Rule. A big part of the Christian walk is taking up our cross (Luke 9:23) and sharing in the suffering of Christ (Romans 8:17). It's not fun, but it is what we are called to do.

There will always be people who speak destructive words instead of words brimming with life. There will always be words filled with doubt, fear and hate not of faith, courage and love. There will always be people telling you you can't do something as opposed to encouraging you to achieve those special goals you have in mind. There will always be those telling you to be realistic when you want nothing more than to chase your dreams.

They can easily steal your joy if you let them. They can certainly chip away at the peace, which has been given to you, that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

But remember, it's not about them . . . it is between you and God, so DO GOOD ANYWAY!!''

He has shown you, O' mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Why Did Jesus Wait Three Days to Rise from the Dead?

Maybe this is a pointless question, but why did Jesus wait three days to rise from the dead?
I mean, once He died, He had fully paid the penalty for the sins of all mankind. Why couldn’t He just resurrect right there, jump down from the cross, dust himself off, and call it good?
Maybe he needed to be buried in the grave. Fine. But why wait three days for the resurrection? Why not get wrapped in burial clothes, then rise sometime during that first night?
Here are some possible reasons, but honestly, I find none of them satisfactory.

To prove He was dead

I suppose some could argue that He had to stay in the tomb for three days to prove He was dead. There is, after all, the “swoon theory” in which people say Jesus didn’t really die, but just went unconscious. I suppose if Jesus “resurrected” two minutes after dying on the cross, this theory would be much more plausible. But when Jesus is buried in tomb for three days, this theory loses all credibility.
But at the same time, this still doesn’t answer the question. If Jesus wanted to prove He was dead, why not wait seven days? Or thirty? I suppose these longer periods can be disregarded because God did not want Jesus to see decay (Psa 16:10; Acts 2:27). But even in three days the body of Jesus would have started to decay.

To fulfill prophecy

Some say that Jesus had to spend three days in the grave to fulfill prophecy. Which prophecy? The sign of Jonah, who spent three days in the belly of a great fish (cf. Matt 12:39-40). But we must be careful here because the story of Jonah is not really a prophecy. Yes, Jesus prophesied that He would be in the grave for three days, just like Jonah was in the fish for three days, but if Jesus had never said this, then there would be no such thing as a prophecy about spending three days in the grave.
So this answer just kicks the question back a little further: Why three days? Why couldn’t Jesus have connected His death with the creation of the world, and said a prophecy about how “Just as the world was created in six days, and on the sixth day, Adam was raised from the dust of the ground, so also, after six days the Son of Man also will rise from the dust”? Jesus could have taken any number of stories and accounts in the Bible and turned them into a prophecy about how long He would be in the tomb. Why did He pick the story of Jonah? What is special about three days?

To increase faith

Another possible explanation is that Jesus wanted to increase the faith of His followers. By not resurrecting right away, they had to question why they had followed Him, and whether He was truly the Messiah. They had to work through the despair of losing Him, and the questions of what would have happened if they had not followed Him, or if they had defended Him better, or if they had simply been duped.
By waiting three days, Jesus allowed them time to work through some of these issues and questions. But again, this begs the question. If three days does this, why not seven, or twelve, or forty, all of which are also significant biblical numbers.

Could not rise during the Sabbath

It could be argued that resurrection is work, and so Jesus could not rise on the Sabbath, but had to wait until the Sabbath was over. This argument actually has some merit. But Jesus was always doing things on the Sabbath that other Jewish people frowned upon, including healing on the Sabbath.

Acting as our High Priest

Maybe Jesus was busy “doing stuff” in paradise, hell, and heaven. You know, High Priestly stuff like sprinkling blood on the altar in heaven, defeating sin, death, and the devil, preaching to spirits in prison, that sort of thing (Heb 9; 1 Pet 3:19).
I suppose this is possible. It just doesn’t really explain why these things took three days.

It doesn’t matter

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it was all just random. Maybe Jesus picked a number out of the air, and selected Jonah as a way of making a prophecy about it to prove that He could predict the future, which would then prove that He was a prophet of God when the prophecy came true. But the number of days in the grave is irrelevant. It just happens to be what Jesus chose.
I just struggle with this because the biblical authors seem to place such an emphasis on three days in the grave.
But in the end, I have no answer.

The important thing is that Jesus rose

We can all agree here. Maybe questioning why Jesus spent three days in the grave is a pointless question which only theologians ask. The important thing is that Jesus rose from the dead, and for this, we can praise and thank God for all eternity.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love without words


"The elderly gentleman next door had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the old man crying, his neighbor's four year old son went into the old man's yard, climbed onto his lap and sat there. Later, when his mother asked him what he had said to the old gentleman, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him to cry!'"

Doesn't this anecdote just capture your spirit? Here is the innocence of a child with an unhindered heart of grace.

Job too knew friends like this (at first).

"Then they sat on the ground with him (Job) for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." (Job 2:13)

Silence can be the wise choice of an understanding friend. Silence with loving company can salve the injured soul and caress a saddened spirit. There are times when advice or counsel are, at best, hollow, as the moment, the depth, the emotion can never be plumbed by words. Feelings can reach far deeper than words can ever dive.

Our Father in heaven too knows this. He was the first one to know it.

He too has sent His 'four year old' to sit with us. This is His Holy Spirit - our counselor and comforter (Jn 14:16).

When we feel as 'the elderly gentleman next door' did, His Holy Spirit sits on our lap, won't say a thing to us unless invited to, and even says our prayers that we can no longer form."In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Roms 8:26)

When words won't work for me, His Holy Spirit will.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thou shalt not judge.

Psalm 9:8 “He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.” (NKJ)

…not lie.
…not steal.
…not commit adultery.
…not murder.

Sound familiar? They should. Christians ought to have the entire Ten Commandments committed to memory. As soon as we learn them, they become our creed. We live by them. Take a moment to take an inventory. Which commandments have you obeyed today? Now what about this:

Thou shalt not judge.

Hmm. Feeling uneasy? I am.

Sometimes in our eagerness to be “good little Christians” we judge those who do not appear to be as “good” as us. But who are we to judge? Has God appointed us with that task? No. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (NKJ)

Nowhere in the Bible will you find a ranking system for sin. However, don’t we rank sin anyway? For example, wouldn’t we say a murderer is worse than a liar? But you know what? God views all sin equally. A sin is a sin is a sin. Period. Case closed. So why is it we judge others based on their sins?

Now what about this:

Thou shalt love thy neighbor.

Feeling convicted? Yep, me too!

When we judge others, we show condemnation rather than God’s love. We treat others as if their sin defines them. “She’s a liar.” “He’s a murder.” “She’s an adulterer.” “They’re sinners,” you think. We’re all sinners! Ask yourself what sin you struggle with the most. Do you want your life to be defined by that? Do you want God to judge you for that sin as harshly as you judge others? I sure don’t. Jesus died for every single one of us. As Christians, covered by the blood of Jesus and saved by God’s grace, our focus should be on showing that love and grace to others rather than behaving as if we are better than they are. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” Luke 6:35-38 (KJV)

How many people do we turn away from God with our hypocritical attitudes? How many people could we save if we were truly obedient? Think about that.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am a sinner. I have judged harshly and neglected to show Your amazing love to others. Please forgive me for being a stumbling block to those who would otherwise come to You. Thank You for forgiving me, despite my sins. I thank You, dear Lord, for offering Your grace, which allows me to come to You without condemnation. Continue to convict me so that I can be truly obedient to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God does not intend for any to be condemned. We are not condemned; we should not condemn others. If this week’s devotion has convicted you, seek God’s guidance. Repent, and God will forgive. Then take the grace God has offered you and share it with those around you.

Power Verses:
1 John 2:10 “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.” (KJV)
1 John 4:11 “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (KJV)
1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” (NKJ)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Do you hear what I hear?

The next time you see a homeless, hungry person, please remember a message from Psalm 69:33— “The Lord hears the needy” — and then ask yourself if you are “hearing” the needy by providing food in some meaningful way.
And the next time you see a heartbroken widow who has just lost her best friend/spouse and a good portion of her financial support, remember to comfort her with the promise that “The Lord hears the needy” and with fervent prayers/generosity showing that you also “hear the needy.”
Also, don’t forget that when your own life situation grows filled with stress and loss and fear, “The Lord hears the needy.”
You and I both know that we should memorize scripture more than we do. I’m giving you today an extremely simple, easy-to-recall passage to memorize.
Psalm 69:33 “The Lord hears the needy
No, these five words do not comprise the entire verse. But if you weave them into your memory banks and into your everyday life, the fruit for your faith will be much more evident and many more people will be helped during the course of your life.
Please be willing to tell a discouraged person of this promise in Psalm 69:33.
For in hearing you share it — and in hearing you testify of its truth in your life — the discouraged person might understand that heavenly compassion is on the other side of their prayers to God.
Please, my friend, trust the promise of Psalm 69:33 in your own life.
Know for certain that prayer is essential in your time of need.
God promises to hear the overflow of your heart when stress and loss and fear are flowing against you.
As you have opportunity, pray not only for yourself in such times, but also for others in need.
God will certainly give heed to your prayers that are offered alongside of the needy person with whom you are praying.
You see, we fail God and people in stress if you see their needy state and don’t do something to help them, something even as simple as praying for them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The "F" Word

The "F" word that I am talking about is forgiveness. This is the word. It is central to our relationship with God and our relationship with others. It is an easy word to say. It is easy to talk about. However, forgiveness, like we are called to, is not easy to do. But it is necessary.

When we forgive we are freed from the prison that unforgiving places us in. When we forgive others we are set free from the weight of carrying grudges and anger. When we forgive we are living in, and by, the grace that we have received from God.

My computer background has the saying "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner is you." Not forgiving others imprisons us. The person that is effected and hurt by our not forgiving-- is us. The person imprisoned and oppressed is us.

Thanks be to God that God loves us and forgives us. Thank God that he is a God of second chances, third chances, seventy times seven chances. And God invites us to live lives free of hurt and imprisonment of holding on to the wrongs down against us. God invites us to forgive. To be people of the second, third, forth, and seventy times seven chances. To set ourselves free. To live lives of radical grace. Saved by grace, living by grace, and extending grace.

Forgiveness isn't easy. It will take time. It will take prayer. It will take grace. Let go and let God.