Friday, September 30, 2011

Mission Accomplished

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:30)

I often have a problem finishing what I start. It depresses me to see how much unfinished business I have been involved in. Contrast my depression to the joy of one of my granddaughters. She exclaims, “I did it!” to convey her joy after she has finished an assignment. It expresses the joy of a mission accomplished. When it comes to God, we can rest assured that He finishes what He starts. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, He was saying “Mission accomplished.” “I did it!”
Sometimes we become bogged down with so many unfinished projects we don’t know where to focus our time. And the thing that matters is left undone. God sent His son, God the Son, on the most important mission in human history. On the cross, Jesus declared that the mission was accomplished. To accomplish the mission, one must know several things.

I. THE MISSION IS CLEAR. A clear understanding of the nature of the mission is crucial. We must know the objective. We must know when it is over. Jesus knew He was the perfect sacrifice that was offered for sin. Jesus knew when the price for our ransom had been paid. He knew when it was finished. Do we understand this today? Or are we still trying to add to the price of our salvation?
II. THE MISSION IS COSTLY. The cost of the mission must be counted. Did Jesus ever wonder if the goal of the mission, the release of the captives, was worthy of the price to be paid? Do we often consider our great worth to God?
III. THE MISSION HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR. From the foundation of the world, God determined that in the proper time and place a Savior would come. Timing is everything in a hostage rescue mission. The time for our redemption has come and is coming. In God’s preparation it was determined that there was no easier way. But often we still look for another way to save ourselves; perhaps it is because we cannot submit and surrender our lives to the One who paid the price.
IV. THE MISSION HAS BEEN PAID FOR. The cost has been borne by the Mission Planner. We do not have the resources to pay the ransom. Only God had the resources to accomplish the mission. And He fully funded the mission with the precious blood of Jesus.
IV. THE MISSION MUST BE COMPLETED. The One on mission must have been willing to endure the hardship and suffer for the outcome. The One on mission must be willing to pay the ultimate price. The question becomes, if we are on mission with Christ, are we willing to trade our lives for His?
V. THE MISSION MATTERS MOST TO THE MASTER. The mission mattered to God. And it still does. Does the mission matter to me? Has my life been changed to know that I matter to God? Has Jesus finished His work in you? Are there areas of your life that He is waiting for you to release to Him? Do you want to know the joy that Jesus knows when a mission is accomplished? The joy surpasses the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says “... looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We can now tell the story of our rescue. We have been bought and paid for. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Well Built Home

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a curious thing. For many years it has been the object of curiosity and even admiration. One writer said that it continues to be a place where people come to celebrate something built crooked. According to engineers the degree of being out of plumb is increasing. It will never right itself and one day will fall. The problem lies in its foundation.
The way we build our lives can result in visible crookedness. The pain that comes from crooked living does not give us cause to celebrate, although it may become a spectacle! The problem with crooked living is that somewhere our lives are built on the wrong foundation or we became detached from the right one.
When we come to the determination that our life is off center, we must have come to the realization that there can be only one standard of measure. God measures our lives like someone holding up a plumb line. He is the true standard of measure for right living. A beautiful life is one that has been rebuilt on a more secure and solid foundation. A rebuilt life glorifies God.

I. THE ROCK IS THE FOUNDATION. Building on rock is the most secure method of construction. It keeps our house from shifting, sinking or settling. God’s principles for right living is our solid foundation. Submission to His authority stabilizes our home.

II. THE ROCK IS GOD’S AUTHORITY. God’s authority is solid, stable, and immovable. It is unchanging, unlike sand that shifts when floodwaters come. His authority is universal and beyond this world. We can build upon His authority. His teaching is the “building code” for building successful lives.

III. OBEDIENCE TO GOD BUILDS OUR HOUSE. It is our contribution to fasten our house to the foundation. It takes time to do this and we must be intentional. When we hear His word and fail to obey, we build on an inferior foundation. Building on sand is foolish. The house will not survive the storms of life. Even when we build a “good house”, doing good things, unless we are grounded into the foundation, we will “slip-slide” away. Our lives are only as safe as hearing God’s word and applying it. We take risks when we take shortcuts. Foolish builders skip steps, building unstable lives.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Little Things Mean A Lot

For who has despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10)

My wife’s numerous bouts with kidney stones have given me a fresh understanding of small things. A kidney stone is impossible to ignore until it goes away. At least it was in her case. It was amazing to watch how her whole body focused so intently on that tiny little thing. Very little comfort was found between waves of nausea and extreme back pain. That little thing became a large focal point in her life and the lives of others around her.
Have you ever been made to feel as though your contribution to life didn’t matter? Those of us who have experienced being belittled by our siblings or snubbed at school by the “in crowd” know the pain of feeling small. An elderly lady once told me that people had made her feel small in their dealings with her. They made her feel too old to do important things any more. Her perception was that she was given menial things to do so she could still feel that she had some value. She came to despise these “small things” because she felt that she was insignificant. Feelings of insignificance seem to follow us throughout our whole lives. When we begin to believe that we really don’t matter, it is very painful.
No matter what others may say, no matter how they act toward us, our value to God is measured in drops of blood at the foot of a Roman cross outside the city limits of Jerusalem almost 20 centuries ago. Insignificance is a lie. God’s barter system says so. The ransom price for me that says I matter has been paid in full. You and I matter to God. And that’s what really matters! God is a God of the small thing. He said that if we are faithful in small things, we will be given opportunities to be faithful in the large.

I. SMALL STEPS ARE LITTLE THINGS. Children who are exceptions will walk before they crawl. Usually, it’s the other way around. But no one runs before they can walk. They begin to walk with small steps. It is important that we learn to walk with God before we can run with Him.
II. SMALL THINGS ARE BASIC THINGS. The first things we learn about living are basic things. What to touch and what not to touch, where to go and where to stay away from. These are basic to survival. Basic obedience to God is basic training for life.
III. GOD CAN USE SMALL THINGS TO DO GREAT WORK. Little is much when God is in it, so one old song says. Little people, inhabited by God, have the potential of greatness. Our spiritual work is begun by God. And He will complete it. One step at a time in our walk with Him.
Don’t despise the day of small things. Don’t think less of your service to God than He does. He thinks we matter. Learn to appreciate the small things that matter to a great God. There are no little people in the kingdom of God. Can you remember a time when God took something small in your life and magnified it to His glory? Someone around you may be feeling pretty small today and needs to hear that story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Name Dropping

And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15)

Have you ever been a “name dropper”? Sometimes people claim a personal relationship with a powerful person they've never even met. We want to be connected with power.
We can suffer great damage being a spiritual name dropper. Many today claim to be “Christian” with no visible difference in their lives than the ones who make no such claim. They suffer the results of sinful lifestyles, knowing nothing of Christ’s prohibitions and principles of Christlike living. They don’t even know what they believe. Sadly, some of these are in the church. Some are church leaders. And the painful trials persist and prevail.
God was about doing His work in the first century church. Many were going around, casting out devils in the spiritual realm. In our passage, the question is posed by the demonic entity to those who were using the name of Jesus without knowing Jesus. The results were devastating. God was glorified.
I. USING THE NAME OF JESUS WITHOUT KNOWING HIM IS POWERLESS. The power of the name is given to those who identify with Jesus. Peter and John were told not to use the name of Jesus. But it was evident to all that the power they possessed was because they had been “with Jesus”.
II. USING THE NAME OF JESUS WITHOUT KNOWING HIM IS DANGEROUS. The spiritual world recognizes spiritual power. And they know when they don’t see it. Engaging spiritual enemies without spiritual weapons is not only foolish, it is dangerous. We are no match for spiritual warfare with the enemy without the Spirit of God. We only receive the Holy Spirit through a personal encounter with Jesus. God will not be conjured up at the whim of people who don't know him. He is not a subservient god.
III. USING THE NAME OF JESUS WITHOUT KNOWING HIM IS HOPELESS. There is no hope for people who are without hope. People without Jesus are without hope. We are defeated and despairing at the hands of a merciless enemy.
IV. USING THE NAME OF JESUS IS SOMETHING THE PEOPLE OF GOD SHOULD TAKE VERY SERIOUSLY. His name is holy and never to be used in vain. There is power in the name of Jesus and its power is not to be used for personal gain or self exaltation. God will judge us as to how we ministered in His name.
V. WE ARE NO ONE WITHOUT A NAME. Our identity is fragile and insignificant without a name. No matter what shame is attached to our name, when we are born again into God's kingdom, we are given a new family name. And we can do all things through Christ. What a name. The name above all names!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blessing A Barren Life

Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. (Isaiah 54:2)

I often tell folks that one of my goals in life is to move all of my belongings in the back of a pick up truck in not only one afternoon, but all in one load! My wife says I'm living in a dream world. I tend to agree. Even after our last move into a more spacious house, it seems that our space is filled to capacity. If we keep growing, we'll have to move again. So maybe we can squeeze in a little more. I'm not ready for the change.
There are people around us everyday that have struggled for many years to find meaning in their lives. Their pursuit has not always been fruitful and painful trials along the way have been their lot. Sometimes it seems that their whole lives have been spent in a wasteland. A life of barrenness, absent of life and empty of blessing.
In times of barrenness, God may be preparing us to handle His blessings. Our text talks of times of change for Israel. Sometimes they would pray for a change in their situation and had trouble handling the change when it came. So do we. But God is a God of change. He wants His people to prepare for it.

I. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, LIVING ROOMS MUST BE LARGER. The spiritual house must be bigger because of the larger presence of the Spirit of God. Life with God is not just another activity on our agendas. Life with God should be the focal point of living. Larger rooms are needed for abundant living!!!
II. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, LIVES ARE STRETCHED OUT OF SHAPE. Like a comfortable piece of clothing that fits our shape, our life will be stretched beyond our capacity for comfort. It will take on a new shape, different from the one that has fit us for so long. A new way of thinking will challenge us to change. A blessed life is all about adapting to change. We will be stretched to trust God.
III. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, LIFELINES MUST BE LENGTHENED. Our connection to God must not be broken in the process of stretching. It must take on a deeper dimension. Our prayer life must be expanded to a continuous conversation with the One who sustains us. We learn to pray at all times.
IV. WHEN GOD BLESSES A BARREN LIFE, FOUNDATIONS MUST BE FIRMLY FIXED. Through it all, our foundation must be revisited and secured. Our tent pegs must be tightened. Our roots should grow deeper into the source of our strength. We drive our stakes deeper and more securely as we spend intimate time with God in His word. We are subject to take God for granted in times of blessing. Our gratitude to God for blessing our barrenness should be our first step of strengthening for the next wind that blows through our lives. Surviving the storms give us a story to tell.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harvest Of Righteousness

Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:12)

Country folks often talk about their gardens. Mystery was the name of the fruit that grew in some of my gardens. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention when I planted. Forgetting where I planted the beans and in what row the okra was planted, I had to wait to see what the plant looked like when it sprouted before I would remember. Many times I reminded myself that next year I would be more purposeful in my planting. At least I would know what to expect!

Have you ever wondered why you were not growing in godliness as fast as you thought you should be? Perhaps the trial that you faced last week has repeated itself with added intensity. And the temptation you encountered is back with a vengeance. Why do we often seem so defeated in our spiritual growth? Could it be that we are not purposely trying to grow spiritually? That we are not cultivating the righteousness of God?
The Old Testament prophet announced that there is hope after seasons of famine and infertility and unfaithfulness. He likens the spiritual growth of God’s people to a work of God and actions of man. Some thoughts worth noting and taking to heart.

I. PLANT EXPECTING A HARVEST. Righteousness grows only when it is sown. When it is seen, we should know that it was planted there. Goodness is not an accident of human behavior.
II. HARVEST EXPECTING WHAT’S PLANTED. We must know what is planted to know where it will grow. Intentional planting can yield fruitful results beyond our expectations.
III. FALLOW GROUND BECOMES FERTILE AFTER PLOWING. Fallow ground is idle ground. Idle ground is unplanted ground. We must plow before we plant. Praying about the growth is like plowing fallow ground.
IV. WAITING ON THE RAIN TO FALL COMPLETES THE HARVEST. Unless the rain falls, no amount of plowing and planting will produce the harvest.
V. WE MUST SEEK THE RAINMAKER. When God rains righteousness, that marks the beginning of a spiritual growth cycle. We should expect great growth when we cultivate our lives with a great God. Proverbs 11:18 says, “The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.” We really do reap what we sow. Now how does your garden grow? Is it worth talking about?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Finding Favor With God

Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:23)

Sometimes I need a favor. I need help meeting some particular need from someone who has the ability to meet it. Often the favor comes from one of my friends getting help from one of their friends. If we have such friends we are “favored” to have them. It’s good to “know someone who knows someone”.
Sometimes when we really need help, we can find that we have been abandoned by our friends. Even our family may not want to get involved with our troubles. It can be some of the most painful times of life when we need help and find ourselves isolated. Solitude during suffering is a particularly hard trial.
When we are at our lowest in our life, we have the potential of making the discovery of a lifetime. He delights in revealing His grace through the lives of others. The passage before us speaks to the days when God is glorified through His people, Israel. It speaks to the day when God’s people lead the way to a knowledge of God. The passage is applicable to the church today. The best way to know God is to be introduced. It’s good to know someone who knows Someone!
I. WHEN PEOPLE SEEK GOD’S FAVOR, THEY WILL FIND GOD’S PEOPLE. When someone needs God, he will seek someone who is a vessel of His grace. God will send someone to that person or send the person to someone. God is in the business of helping people find Him.
II. WHEN GOD IS WITH YOU, PEOPLE SEEKING GOD’S FAVOR WILL BE DRAWN TO YOU. God's blessings are given so they may be a sign of God's grace and glorify His name. We are not to hide these blessings but testify as to the source of them. Spiritual vitality serves as a magnet to those who are seeking God.
III. FINDING FAVOR WITH GOD’S PEOPLE IS PART OF FINDING FAVOR WITH GOD. God’s blessing is received from God’s people. God wants His people to not only give a blessing, but to “be” a blessing. When we receive God’s blessing through His people, we receive it from God.
IV. WE SHOULD LIVE OUR LIVES SO THAT WE ARE KNOWN AS GOD’S PEOPLE. We should never feel as though we should apologize for being God’s people. If we are timid about our identity, how will the world believe its reality? I should be known as someone who has found favor with God. I should be a conduit of that relationship and a connection to it. I should be someone who knows Someone.
V. WE SHOULD LIVE OUR LIVES BEING EASY TO FIND. The days of withdrawal into the safety and comfort of the church are drawing to a close. God is drawing men’s hearts to Himself. He wants us to act as spiritual signposts, directing people to a relationship with God. It finds favor with God when we are readily available as a witness. It finds favor with God when we are easily approachable in our testimony.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Temptation's Appearance

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

An older pastor once gave me some very sound advice. He said to protect my ministry and never meet alone with a potential partner in temptation. My thoughts today concern all of us who minister in the name of Christ. Guard your ministry. Set up boundaries that are non-negotiable. Many people would like the opportunity to turn back the clock on the times they have yielded to temptation. If they could relive the time of their temptation, they would have others around them to keep them accountable and refuse to compromise on the boundary lines they have established.
Understanding that we are fallen people and weak when faced with temptation, we can receive help and hope in God’s word. We must never assume we have the power to resist in our own strength. We need help from a source that will never let us down. It glorifies God to resist temptation.
I. TEMPTATION CAME TO CHRIST; IT WILL CERTAINLY COME TO YOU. “...the tempter came and said to Him…” To tempt Christ tells us we have an enemy who is bold beyond belief. Satan initiates the contact and it is intentional. Temptation is never accidental. He deliberately sets the trap.
II. TEMPTATION WILL COME WHEN WE ARE PHYSICALLY VULNERABLE. “...command that these stones become bread.” Satan exploits our weaknesses and weariness. When we are tired, we are a target. When we are hungry we can be helpless to the enemy's tempting.
III. TEMPTATION CAN COME ESPECIALLY IN THE MIDST OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY. Fasting will attract Satan if the motives are pure. Preparation for ministry is a susceptible time for temptation. Satan seeks to disrupt the mission of the ministry.
IV. TEMPTATION TAKES ADVANTAGE OF OUR ISOLATION. Satan targets the solitary soul. Accountability combats that assault. Community is a good deterrent for succumbing to temptation.
V. TEMPTATION WILL COME TO DISTRACT US FROM SEEKING GOD’S WILL. Satan seeks to hinder our prayer life and time with God. Outside activities, other people, and our agenda will create diversions when we try to encounter God.
VI. TEMPTATION COMES TO CAUSE DOUBT “If You are the Son of God...” Satan knew who Jesus was. But still he tempted Him. It’s in his nature. Satan knows the truth. He wants us to doubt it. When we begin to doubt, we begin to disbelieve. Unbelief is where our sin begins.
VII. TEMPTATION IS OVERCOME BY THE WORD OF GOD. God has the last word to the tempter. Truth cannot be overcome. Only by knowing God’s word do we know truth and can refute Satan’s lies. Without believing God’s truth, we will believe the lie. We are no match for temptation in our own strength.
Look closely at what surrounds your life today. Temptation often does not appear to be what it truly is...a work of the devil.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wedding Preparation

And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:10)

Have you ever been too late for a once-in-a-lifetime event? There can be many reasons for being late. When the reason is of our own making, it can be extremely embarrassing and exceptionally painful. Some of our hardest lessons in life happen when we miss out on immediate opportunities. The failure to capitalize on a great opportunity because we were waiting on better deal is the story of many a life. Someone waiting on a better job often spends a lifetime hating what they do. Someone waiting on the perfect wife or husband can spend years waiting in loneliness. Those who lose out because they waited too long to respond will be especially saddened. We can get hurt when we wait too long. Jesus told a parable illustrating what happens when we are prepared for God’s opportunities and what happens when we aren’t. He compared it to a wedding and a bridegroom who came.

I. THE WEDDING WILL OCCUR WHEN THE BRIDEGROOM COMES. In our culture a wedding involves engraved invitations and deadlines to meet. The oriental wedding was not that way. The wedding went on for a period of time. And it never started till the bridegroom came. In the parable, no one in the bridal party knew when that would be. The wedding was held according to the bridegroom’s schedule. He was not directed by the bride to be there at a certain time or day. There was no wedding till he came. The bridal party was to be ready for the wedding, not off on a last minute trip to the Wal-Mart of their day! They were to be good stewards of their time and their oil.
II. THE TIME TO BE PREPARED IS NOT AFTER HE COMES. A wedding in our culture is very time bound. Is there ever enough time to prepare? In the setting of the parable, there was a motivation for the virgins, or attendants to the bride, to prepare. Since they did not know when the bridegroom was coming, there was urgency and an immanency that he could come at any time. Our lesson is that we should be prepared for His coming…receiving no warning about a tentative arrival date.
III. THE BRIDEGROOM LEADS ALL TO THE WEDDING FEAST. A CLOSED DOOR GREETS THE LATE ARRIVALS. Weddings in our culture show the bridegroom waiting on the bride for her arrival. In the eastern culture, the bride waits on the bridegroom. God’s culture is the kingdom of God. The bride is to wait on the bridegroom. The bridegroom will not be kept waiting. Oil for the lamp is as necessary as breath to life. We cannot keep God waiting. One day the door will be closed to the wedding feast. And no amount of knocking will get us in. It will not matter who you know if you don’t know Jesus. He is the Bridegroom. We must be on the guest list and we should be anticipating His arrival. Are you ready? He is coming. Don’t keep Him waiting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Teamwork Is The Best Work

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

I vaguely remember my granddaddy’s mules. The younger one was stubborn and the older one was pretty cooperative. The younger was headstrong and the older one was docile. They were paired together for a reason. The young one had much to learn. The older one was the best teacher. And their best work was done when they were yoked together, learning to work as a team.
Ever felt like you’re moving in circles, getting nothing done? Do you ever feel as though you are the only one doing any work? It was the same way with one of those mules. The younger one, always eager and wanting to go his own way, often found himself pulling the plow while the older one stopped. The older mule’s purpose was to temper the zeal of the younger one. The Bible speaks of people having zeal without knowledge. Enthusiasm without wisdom is a way I would describe it. Often the Christian life is like that. God wants us to learn to work in partnership with Him. Many times we move off into a direction of ministry without Christ going with us. Sometimes He stops to slow us down. Ministry can be very hard work when we work alone. It’s like pulling a plow with no one else helping. That’s not God’s idea.
When we realize that we are not responsible to determine the direction of ministry or the speed that we move, it can be a liberating thing. And it glorifies God when we follow His leadership. God’s work is teamwork.

I. WORKING ALONE RESULTS IN WEARINESS. Sometimes we work alone because we think no one can do the work like us. Sometimes we work alone because we don’t want to give up our way of doing things or set aside our agendas. We will find that spiritual work is tiring work when we work alone. Spiritual work was not designed to be a solo act. We were created to work in partnership. When our work only brings a burden of weariness, we are doing too much alone.
II. WE CAN RECEIVE REST WHEN WE MEET JESUS. Sometimes we are energized when we work. We love the work so much that it is refreshing. God designed an environment like that. Resting while working is only something God can give us. Finding joy in our work is energizing. There is joy when you work with God.
III. WHEN WE WORK WITH JESUS, WE FIND REST. When we join Him, we work when He works and only when He works. Paired up with Jesus is a learning experience. Like an inexperienced partner, we learn when we work closely with Him.
We must follow His lead.
IV. WE CAN LEARN THAT GOD’S WORK IS NOT STRESSFUL. Gentleness and humility make for a good work environment. When we are partners with Jesus in His work, it is a restful, pleasant experience in Him, even when the forces of hell are aligned against us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God Is The Good Part

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:40-42)

Parts are parts. A popular commercial about chicken nuggets made that statement. According to the commercial, some didn’t think it mattered what parts of the chicken that nuggets are made from. The ad’s key concept was that it did matter. Now I don’t know whether any part of the chicken is more nutritious than others. But in spiritual matters, it does make a difference which part of our time is spent where. Some things will cause us to grow spiritually. Some things will keep us from growing. Anyone ever tell you that you may be too religious and that you spent too much time trying to get closer to God? The argument can come from our own family members who would benefit greatly from times we invest learning the ways of God. Or the sting can come even from our own church family. Once I spent a painful time watching a church choose to do an activity to attract people in the community while missing God’s presence in the process. We can spend a lot of time doing popular but frivolous things that people do in our culture at large.
God wants me to make the wise choice about how I spend my time with Him. And others will have to live with that. Martha was a dotter of I’s and crosser of T’s. She had a job to do and she was focused on it. We need Marthas as well as Marys in the kingdom of God. But life is more than a job. Life is a journey. We can find God in the journey. We can find frustration in the job. Mary and her sister Martha learned some lessons that we can all take to heart. Our passage can teach us a lot about spiritual choices and the need to choose the good part.
I. SOMETIMES THE RIGHT THINGS CAN BE DONE AT THE WRONG TIME. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home...and then began to prepare for His visit. I can see her in a flurry of activity, aiming to please the Master. Perhaps she was more frustrated about having to do things because nobody else would, rather than wanting to do things out of a servant’s heart.
II. BUSYNESS CAN BE DISTRACTING TO GOD'S BUSINESS. Martha was so absorbed in her agenda she began to set one for Jesus. Sometimes Type A people can meet those that cannot be controlled. Martha tried to get Jesus to tell Mary to do her will. But Jesus was focused on God’s will. No one ever set a schedule for Jesus but the Father. He was always about His Father’s business. Family business.
III. FOCUSING ON FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD PLEASES GOD. The good part is God. His Person is our portion. He is what we need. He is sufficient for the moment. Our challenge is to focus on our time with Him rather than focus on ministry activities of our own design. Focusing on fellowship with God can be a cure to ministry burnout. God is not honored when we lose the joy in the journey. Help someone see that the good part is God. Spend some time with the Lord yourself. Then share what you hear from Him.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Requirements Of Godliness

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

I am not a gifted gift giver. I struggle with what to give people. I wonder if I will give them what they need. Once when I was wondering about this out loud, a friend of mine told me I should be asking what they want instead of what they need. Then the gift would have more meaning. I don’t know about the truth of that. But it does have some weight when we consider what to give someone who really doesn’t need anything. God is that kind of Someone. He needs nothing. But what does He want?
Have you ever struggled with what God requires from you? Have you ever worried about what pleases Him? Godliness is rooted in goodness. And goodness begins with God.
We can never give God enough of our best efforts to please Him. The best efforts of man fall short of God’s standard.


I. THE LORD REQUIRES ACTIVE JUSTICE. To “do justice” means to practice righteousness. Our actions should demonstrate how a good God would act.

II. THE LORD REQUIRES A LOVE FOR KINDNESS. To “love kindness” means to hate indifference. Our actions should demonstrate a desire to show compassion to others. When we are kind to others, we do not ignore them in their plight. The worst thing is to show that others do not matter to us. People matter to God.

III. THE LORD REQUIRES HUMILITY IN HIS COMPANY. If you have ever been anywhere with a braggart or a loud, aggressive person, you don’t want to go there again. The Lord wants us to be with Him. But He wants us to be humble. To walk humbly with God is to know He permits us to accompany Him only by His grace. We cannot hold our heads high with pride while we bow low before His presence.


1. We cannot sacrifice enough. Many sacrifices are insufficient.
2. We cannot be good enough. Our best efforts He regards as “filthy rags”.
3. We can only give him our lives and receive His in exchange.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good Words For God's Work

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

A man without breath is a man without life. Ask any emergency responder and they will tell you that when someone is not breathing, they cannot live long in that condition. Immediately, serious steps are taken to breathe life into them. Resuscitation efforts always include someone breathing for the person who is not. When the effort is successful, the person who was without breath begins to breathe…and live again.
Often someone may sense their need for God after everything seems to die in their lives. Marriages, family relationships, careers and dreams seem to shrivel up and wither away. Painful realities begin to sink in. And we know that without God in our lives, we have nothing to live for and no purpose to fulfill. I have been salted with this kind of fire. But some of the most painful trials have been after I have surrendered myself to God’s service. It is possible to be so busy in doing God’s work, we can do it without God’s help. We often begin to depend on our abilities and our strategies until we realize that no eternal fruit has resulted from our best efforts. Sometimes a church worship service can seem like being in a room full of artificial flowers. Everything looks pretty good, but it just doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem like it’s alive. It’s like a man without his breath.
Paul wrote to a young pastor about scripture being the God-breathed word. Timothy was to learn the importance of knowing that God’s word was absolutely critical to ministry. It is not just a guidebook for church behavior but it is the very essence of God that produces eternal growth. It gives life. And teaches us how to recognize death when we see it.


I. THE MAN OF GOD MUST HAVE THE WORD OF GOD. The man of God cannot represent God without knowing God’s word. We can only know God’s will when we know God’s word. Without God’s word we are not God’s man.
II. THE MAN OF GOD MUST HAVE THE WORD OF GOD TO BE ADEQUATE. We are not sufficient to represent God without God’s word. We are not up to the task. The world is too much for us to deal with without God’s help.
III. THE MAN OF GOD CAN DO NO GOOD WORK WITHOUT GOD’S WORD. The man of God can do much work without God’s word. But it won’t amount to much. To do good work, we need a good word from a good God. Good work is that which transforms a man into the image of God.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Growing To God

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Failure to thrive. I am told these words are used as a doctor's diagnosis and explanation for the reason some children do not grow. For some unknown reason, the child stops growing and seems to have no interest in eating or taking in nourishment. I don't know all there is to know about this condition but I would suspect that if a child is in this condition for an extended period of time, there are serious health risks. Their very life is in jeopardy. When I hear the word “thrive”, I think of living life in an ever-increasing growth curve. When someone or something is thriving, it is not only existing, it is excelling. It is not only being fruitful, it is bearing fruit. Sadly, so many of us living the Christian life today could be labeled as “failing to thrive”.
It is painful to live out a life thinking about what might have been. I believe that so many times God wants to call us out of a painful place in our life and we refuse to go. It's almost as if we would rather stay in a place of no growth rather than risk going to an unknown place and trusting God. So we remain in a safe, sterile, controlled existence. No refreshing, exciting, exhilarating life is lived remaining inside our own self-contained, self-constructed comfort zone. Listen, life hurts. When we risk living it, sometimes it hurts more before it gets better. But God would call some of our pain “growing pains”.
Have you been hurt and believe that by withdrawing from the world you can remain unhurt for the rest of your life? God is a Living God. Living means changing and growing and dying and being and becoming. God wants us to grow toward Him. God wants us to grow with Him. God wants us to grow. He wants His children to live abundantly! Here's some points to ponder:

No amount of external reading and study can bring about spiritual birth. It is a work on the inside of a human being's heart. The heart begins to feel what God feels and love what God loves. The external evidence is a changed life. We will also begin to be offended by what offends God. Others will notice the inward change in outward ways. That is a good thing.

If it were that easy to be transformed spiritually, we would claim credit for it. It would be a contest of whose book, exercise, or food could bring about the greatest change in the shortest period of time. God is still in control of spiritual transformation. And it's in His time.

The changing of the mind is the first act of transformation. God gives us the ability to choose His way. He enables the mind to believe Him and gives us the knowledge that His way is best. He helps our unbelief. Belief will guide behavior. It all has its start in the willing mind. If our mind is not in tune with God's mind, then unbelief will rule the heart. Unbelief is knowing what God wants and being unwilling to change. Believing begins with a made up mind to obey God and submit to His authority.

We should be forever growing spiritually. There is so much to learn. God's ways are much higher than our ways. The life of the spirit is so alien to the life of the flesh. It is like learning a second language. God's word translates the spiritual life to us fleshly beings. I should be able to say that I am more spiritually mature today than I was a year ago. Growth is an ever-increasing level of maturity. When growth stops, we die. It is never too late to start growing to God.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grace For Good Work

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The best instruments have the potential for the sweetest music. The best tools can do the best work when wielded with the greatest skill. The best projects often depend upon the right timing and the right resources. But some of the worst people play the best instruments. Their music is not pleasing to the world but is offensive. Some of the worst mechanics can have the best tools. They prey upon the naïve and unsuspecting who trust them to do a good job and treat them honestly. No matter how impressive their tools, their work is despicable when their heart is not right. Some of the most impressive building projects have destroyed the people who built them because the motive was to glorify the designer or the builder or the owner. To do good work, you need the resources and help of a good God.
I, for one, have been tested by trying to do some good things without relying and depending upon the help of a good God. I can tell you about many experiences that on the surface seemed like they were pure in motive and had a good goal in mind only to realize that I was trying to glorify self. In times like these I have failed miserably to make a difference in the Kingdom of God. Have you ever been in these kinds of predicaments where all that is left at the end of your work is weariness? Maybe you think that every time you attempt some good work for God it will end up the same way. And you have become so discouraged that you stopped serving God. If this describes your life, you already know that you are not living the abundant life that Jesus promised.
God can be glorified in those painful and purifying experiences. The good news is that God provides abundant resources for abundant living. I call it “large living”. I'm not talking about taking huge bites of everything the world can offer in the way of pleasure. I'm talking about the resource of grace that never runs out. The grace that covers a multitude of failures. The grace that is available to us from the heart of a gracious God who says if we work for His team, and work for His purpose, play by His rules, He will provide us with abundant grace. That, my friends, is good stuff!!! Some thoughts on the passage today:

He is the source of grace. And since He is the God of grace, He shares it with His people. Grace is not available just anywhere. It only comes from God. Grace says God loves us because it is His nature to love.

His grace is sufficient. It is always enough. It is never rationed and held until we earn it. We cannot earn it by our good works. Grace is given in God-sized measure. It is always given in abundant amounts because God gives it to share. We cannot share what we have not received.

The only good works are God's works. These are eternal works. Every other work, however well-intentioned, that comes from the mind of man will not stand for eternity. These man-made works are those that fade in time and do not carry over into eternity. Without God's grace as our resource, we cannot build those things that eternal kingdoms are built upon. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are the fruits set aside for preserving people. These preserved people make up the Kingdom of God. And we cannot ever dwell there without receiving His grace. A transformed life is God's good work of grace.
Those that God will use, He purifies... so they can testify.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God's Penetrating Presence

Then Jesus * said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.' But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee." But Peter answered and said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You." All the disciples said the same thing too. (Matthew 26:31-35)

The recent Iraq war was something to watch on television. With real time satellite images, live cell phone calls, and imbedded reporters, it was like we were there with the armored mechanized units as they raced across the desert sands. More soldiers and equipment moved across more territory than ever before. It was like a race to Baghdad. In one instance, a unit moved so rapidly that some of the media reported they had outrun their supply lines and were in danger of being cut off. As it turned out, this news was not accurate and the unit was able to be resupplied so they could continue their advance. But if that unit had outrun its supply lines, life could have gotten real ugly, real fast. They would have been exposed to the enemy in a vulnerable position. Or if the unit had not had good reconnaissance reports, they would not have known what awaited them as they were moving into unknown territory.
Spiritual warfare operates with much of these same principles in place. We have very good reconnaissance because we have Superior Intelligence on our side. We can know the enemy's movements and his strategies. We can know what his strongholds look like and how to destroy them. We can also be assured that our supply lines are sufficient as long as we stay connected. But when we move into unknown areas without the Lord's commands, when we move faster than He wants us to go, we will have encounters with the enemy we will not quickly forget! God is about fighting the battle. It is not ours to fight. It is just ours to obey. God wants His soldiers to stand on the battlefield and see the glory of God and not our own power. Fighting the enemy without God's strong support or superior intelligence is a painful experience.
God can be glorified in those painful and purifying experiences. When we are scarred by our many battles with the enemy, we become seasoned veterans and learn to fight smarter. We allow God to choose the battles, we allow Him to pick the place of our skirmishes and we trust Him to go before us. If we are fighting a particular addiction that seems to overwhelm us, we can ask Him to go before us and deliver us from temptation. When we keep coming against a particular stronghold of the enemy, we can allow God to give us the wisdom to stand against it. Today's passage is given in the context of Jesus predicting Peter's denial and failure. The best news is that God is already making plans for restoring His people who stumble and resupplying His warriors who are weary. Here’s a good word from a good God.

He sends us only to where He has been. If we are walking closely with Him, we can hear when He gives us our marching orders. He knows best the mission that awaits us there.
He promises His presence. Even though He goes before, He goes now. He is the God of the present and the God of Presence. That is pretty comforting to me.
He is like a supportive force, standing ready to supply and assist. None of His grace is stretched to the limit. None of His resources are in scarce supply. There is always enough to get the mission done.
With God, we will go farther and faster into the enemy's territory than ever before. In fact, the gates of hell will not stand. The Lord said so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Caleb's Claim

Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken. (Joshua 14:12)

As you assess your life today, and take inventory of all the dreams that have been realized and all the ones that have vanished like a vapor, how are you doing? Have you ever longed for something for so long that it drives you, consumes you, sustains you? Or have you realized some of those dreams only to discover that the dreams were really nightmares. And you never seem to wake up.
Trials of life often condition us for life in the future. Our scripture today is about a man who dreamed his dream and lived to see it come true. For many long years Caleb clung tenaciously to his future. You see, he had been promised an inheritance. And he wasn’t about to waste away without claiming it! Caleb and Joshua were the only two of their generation to remain alive after the Exodus from Egypt. Forty years of wandering and wondering must have been their experience. But if Caleb ever doubted that his wandering days would someday come to an end, we don’t get that sense from this passage of scripture.

Caleb would not have desired the mountain unless the Lord had spoken. The Bible says that God will give you the desires of your heart. I think these desires, the wholesome ones, are the ones God Himself places there. It pleases God to give us desires that originate with Him.

Caleb did not want the mountain out of a sense of entitlement...he wanted the gracious gift of God. He knew the trustworthiness of God’s promises. He had seen the miraculous and mighty hand of God at work to sustain His people. And He had heard the promise of God come from the mouth of Moses. For Caleb, God’s word was true. Always.

Even with God's gifts, they must be developed and nurtured. There is a striking similarity to our salvation here. God gives us salvation. And the Bible tells us to work it out. I believe that means to exercise those gifts that God gave when we were saved. Caleb was willing to work at the opportunity that God allowed. He’d waited forty years for this. Caleb did not want the lush fertile plain. That was for lesser men. He wanted a mountain that the Lord would help Him climb. He was accustomed to utter dependence on God’s blessing in a hostile environment.

Caleb still had the desires of his heart before him. It was enough to keep him young. He was old enough to know the value of what God had given him. He was young enough to still enjoy it and want all that it entailed.

What a lesson we can learn from Caleb. He never gave up on the promise of God. And God honored that. God sustained Caleb so that He would be used to testify as to the credibility of God’s word. God can do that for you. If you have received a promise from His word, never, never, never give up or give in to settling for a lesser dream. Stay the course, endure the hardship, and become seasoned by His grace. Then go tell somebody!

Those that God will use, He purifies so they can testify.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Following God Fully

Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully. So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.' Now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken." So Joshua blessed him and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the LORD God of Israel fully. Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba; for Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. Then the land had rest from war. (Joshua 14:6-15)

There once was a day when people traveled without cell phones. Without GPS or OnStar navigational systems. When they followed one another in cars, followers and leader alike knew where they were going and what to do when they were separated. The leader watched for flashing lights that signaled trouble or a much needed rest stop. And the leader stayed alert to the absence of lights that sent the signal that those who were following were no longer following. The best followers were those who stayed close to the leader. They followed while being fully engaged. God looks for followers who are that way. People who follow God fully.
Have you ever been so passionate and excited in your walk with the Lord only to be discouraged by those you would think should be just as excited as you are? Are you anticipating and claiming the promises of God, patiently waiting to see them fulfilled? There are painful, yet purifying, trials when you follow God. Caleb followed God fully. Caleb was no fledgling follower. He was a full-fledged follower. He knew God by experience. Not only had he witnessed the providential power of God in his life, but watching Moses and Joshua walk with God inspired Caleb to "follow God fully". Caleb's life tells us that following God fully always leads us somewhere.


A minority position. Joshua and Caleb gave the unpopular and minority opinion of the spies report of the prospects in Canaan's land. Often when we follow God fully, we can expect that we may be in the minority - even among God's people. We can expect that sometimes people want to hear about comfort without sacrifice and security without risk. When following God fully requires total dependence on God, often the message is rejected.

A promised possession. Caleb knew that God had promised that they would possess the land. He learned that God's word is true and a promise from Him, though not yet realized, is no less a promise.

A preparatory tribulation. Caleb and Joshua were the only ones from their generation to survive the wilderness wanderings. It only took days to bring the people out of Egypt. It took years to get Egypt out of the people. We're still in the process of purification. Often God uses tribulation and trial to purge sin from our midst. Sometimes it takes an entire generation of people following God fully to accomplish this.

God can be glorified in those painful and purifying experiences.


A faithful observation. Caleb recounts his life of living with a faithful God. Caleb glorifies God in telling how he is still fit for serving God because God has preserved him to receive the promise. "Now then, give me this hill country..." Caleb's bold request is one that inspires me. He doesn't ask this because he feels entitled...he asks this so he can glorify God by receiving the promise. God preserved his life all these years so we can know that God is faithful to His word.

A collaborative community. Caleb is given the place called Hebron which means a community and alliance. It is given by the covenant keeping God. The God of community. This is what God desires. That we cooperate with Him in obedient partnership and become strong as His people. There are too many go-it-alone types of God’s people. The giant who lived in this place was the greatest among the Anakim. The giant of giants. Arba occupied the place called Kiriath-Arba, modern translation meaning Big Man Ville. God removed Arba from his place and placed one of His servants there. Caleb’s obedience mattered to God. And it mattered to God’s people.

Be encouraged today to follow God fully. He is not a halfhearted God. He wants wholehearted followers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Knowing Where We Stand

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13)

It's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer! This line in one old song says it rightly. Both these men were standing in the need of prayer. But only one knew where he stood. He stood some distance away. Only one knew why he was in need of prayer. He was the sinner...he needed mercy...for justice was coming. Jesus said this man was justified because he recognized where he stood before God. The other man stood at the center of a universe of his own delusion. He came into the temple, the place of God's presence, to announce to himself his view of his own righteousness. He wasn't declaring this viewpoint to God for God had no reason to be informed about the man's condition. God knows where we stand. The man was declaring this to himself. He was the object of his prayer. This is an example for us to see that a man will lie to himself, even while he thinks he's praying. Praying to God requires that we talk to God. And talking to God will reveal to us where we stand before God. A place of prayer...standing some distance away...pleading for mercy. Is the place you stand before God a better place than some occupy or are you standing in the place of the sinner? Do you know where you're standing today?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Faithful Interruptions

...after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, "If I just touch His garments I will get well." (Mark 5:27-28)

Interruptions can be so distracting. When we are intensely focused on what we have planned to do it can be easy to resent the ones who break into our agenda. The disciples were notorious for that. It seems they often tried to "manage" the agenda of Jesus. Perhaps they perceived themselves to be like the call screeners or personal assistants of the chief executives of our day. It seems you often have to "know somebody who knows somebody" to get to the one you need to get to. Not so with God. When the woman heard about Jesus...when she heard about the Word of God...she received something infinitely valuable. She received faith when she believed what she heard about Jesus and endeavored to act upon it. Faith, when rightly practiced, can even interrupt God's agenda. And faith is activated when God interrupts ours. Faith moved this woman to cancel her plans to allow for her to encounter the Lord. Faith gives us a confidence to see a different outcome. Faith gives us confidence to approach God. Faithful interruptions are all in this narrative. Jesus was interrupted by Jairus, who saw Him and fell at His feet. His daughter was deathly sick. As Jesus interrupted His day to deal with this dilemma, setting out on the journey to the home of Jairus, the woman interrupted His agenda while expressing her faith. And her dreadful disease was immediately interrupted. God invites us to radically practice our faith...allowing the Lord to interrupt our plan and receive His mercy. We can trust Jesus, who came to destroy the works of the devil. Faith is an immediate interruption to spiritual agendas.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recovery Mission

And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. (Mark 1 :35)

God is in the house. This must have been the sentiment as Jesus visited these meeting houses, fighting the infection of demonic influences. This is not the first time we read of this satanic scenario in Mark's Gospel. So this tells me that Jesus routinely encountered demons in this setting and lets me know that this was the rule rather than the exception. Sometimes we are surprised to find evil lurking in church services or ministry settings. We shouldn't be. Evil lurks where it should not be. It prowled around in Paradise, seeking who it could lure away from God's authoritative and protective Word. He will lie in wait, dormant even in our Bible studies and prayer meetings, until holiness begins to be manifested and it sees a chance to oppose the plan of God to recover His people. The devil still tempts us to seek counsel apart from the Word of God and abandon God's abundant provision. The Lord gives His people all they will ever need if they will only trust His word. Evil will try to subvert God's authoritative teaching and cause doubt and division. And evil uses people to do it. The Lord has always known where the opposition is gathered. It congregates in many congregations. In the least likely places...synagogues and churches. Be on your guard...the devil lurks where you would not likely look. The Lord knows the hideouts and He is still actively recovering the high ground of holy houses through the preaching of the gospel...proclaiming the authority of the word of God.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Authorized Teaching

They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him. (Mark 1:27)

This teaching was was not what the people were used to hearing and seeing. This teacher was different. He didn't fit the mold. This teaching had the ring of authority to it because the Teacher exercised His authority. In the midst of their Bible study, a demonic entity was exposed and manifested its opposition to the Presence of Jesus. The Teacher then gave everyone, including the demon, an illustration of what He was teaching about authority. It's as if He was saying, "Allow Me to demonstrate." When the demon was silenced and cast out, the demonstration made the point that when God speaks, the spiritual opposition surrenders. No argument. No question. No negotiation. No joke. Here the authority of God in Christ is being explained by the gospel writer as it truly is. The Lord Jesus rules. His word is authoritative. Mark has introduced his readers to Jesus, the Son of God. He clearly points to evidence that declares that Jesus the Man is truly God in the Flesh. And because He is God, He speaks a message from God. The gospel was this new and authorized teaching that had come into its time in the midst of God's people. Because Jesus is God, with the authority of God's gospel, His teaching was, and is, an authorization that the Kingdom of God has come and is now coming. In that day it was powerful enough to have dominion over unclean spirits. We can be assured it has not lost that power. It is still authorized in its teaching. The Word of God embodies the power of God. And we still stand amazed in the Presence.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Special Delivery

When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel, His dominion. (Psalm 114:1-2)

The nation of Israel did not bring about the circumstances of their deliverance...but they did have to do something. They had to leave Egypt. It was non-negotiable. God ordained that their crying and groaning was not without purpose. His people came to the place in their hearts that their desire was that life to be different. They wanted freedom from Pharaoh's domain. But their was a stipulation on this freedom. These slaves were not to be set free to become a master. They were set free to serve a different Master. God would be their ever-present potentate.
Israel was God's name for His people. They had come down to Egypt as a family. They would leave as a nation. Jacob's name had been changed to Israel when he was changed from a self-serving person to a faithful patriarch. Judah was to be the branch of this family tree to carry the scepter. A King would arise to shepherd His people. Messiah would be manifested, God in the midst of them, righteously ruling His people. But to get there to that place, Israel had to leave Egypt.
In our journey with God today my question becomes...are we there yet? Many of us say we want deliverance, we cry out against our bondage and yearn to be free...but we haven't left Egypt...or secretly harbor a desire to go back to our sinful lifestyles or stay connected to that which drags us back into Pharaoh's domain of darkness.
Our King is coming with the scepter. It is long past time we left Egypt behind. Forsake Pharaoh's land forever. With God we can do it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stubborn Hearts...Hard of Hearing

But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices. (Psalm 81:11-12)

Once I actually heard some people telling one another that they were glad about their stubbornness. It was as if they were boasting about it. They thought that being stubborn was a positive character trait. Perhaps they were confusing it with steadfastness or perseverance...standing where God has decreed we stand and doing what God has commanded us to do. My grandfather used the term stubborn to describe his mules...who often stood where they wanted to stand and refused his commands to pull the plow. So with mules, stubbornness really leads nowhere. In God's people stubbornness leads us somewhere, but nowhere we really want to go.
There are privileges of obedience in God's people. Things go well with those who obey. They gain faith in increasing measure. They receive the provision of God's blessing upon their lives. There are also consequences of disobedience for God's people as well. The stubbornness of Israel as a people made them hard of hearing when it came to voice of God. They refused to do what God commanded and go where God desired. I believe that malady is afflicting the people of God in our day as well. Our stubbornness leads us somewhere, away from God's presence and into ourselves. Our stubbornness can lead us so far away from the Lord we can no longer hear His word even when we want to. We have become hard of hearing by our own design and God gives us over to our own devices. And that's the way we live our lives...trusting in ourselves and the world's design to order our lives without the wisdom of the Word of God. To walk in our own devices is to practice unbelief as a believer. This comes about when God lets us have our way...and we go our own way. Stubbornness surely leads us somewhere...nowhere.
When we stop listening to the word of the Lord we will see our faith diminish. Life can get hard for God's people without the wisdom of God. When we hear the teachings of Jesus, the great narratives of Israel's journey with God, and the great epics of faith as only stories without life application we don't learn about life in any meaningful way. We all know people who can tell great Bible stories but are lousy at life. They are consistently demonstrating an obvious disconnect between what they claim to believe and how they actually live. You see, God never tells His story for our amusement...He tells it for our salvation. He is not the Great Entertainer...He is the Great Deliverer. He gives us His word to hear and practice its principles and sustain our life. God's people are privileged as long as they listen to the Word of God. We are exposed to the enemy when we don't.
So is there a remedy for this disorientation? I think so. Listen to the word of the Lord and and live like the Lord desires. Don't be like a mule. Be like the Lord.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Longing Last Look

Remember Lot's wife.

Remember...Jesus was talking to disciples. He was reminding them to remember the story. The story in the Hebrew scriptures about Lot (the nephew of Abraham), and his wife is found in Genesis 19. Jesus wanted His disciples to recall this woman's response to a warning about the impending judgment of God. The city of Sodom was on a fast track leading to destruction and God's angels had warned Lot and his wife and daughters that it was coming. It was perilous times for them. God was going to destroy the city of Sodom for its wickedness and rebellion. This family was miraculously delivered from the danger zone with a warning to flee for their very lives and not look back upon the place from where they had been rescued. What was the response of Lot's wife? She had to take one last look. It was a longing last look for the life she was being led away from. And it cost her dearly. A desire for the life she was leaving behind was her fatal attraction. Sin's power is only broken by the power of God to save. And some disciples look backward more than they look forward. Coming out of Sodom, coming out of sin, was a one way journey. The way out was life. Judgment was coming. Death was near. It's a lesson for the modern day disciple. One look back to where we are being delivered from and we are tempted to go back. If we look backward to what God has deemed worthy of destruction, we will be destroyed as well. We will not live. Lot's wife looked back to the place where she had left her Sodom. It was her last look alive. How many of us take too many longing looks backward...never moving forward into where God is leading? One look back is one look too many. One longing look can be our very last look. Looking backward towards sin's domain will render us useless for the journey of salvation. God is leading us somewhere. Don't leave anything worth dying for behind in Sodom. Leave with your life and live!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The God-Made Man

Those who make them will become like them. Everyone trusts in them. (Psalm 115:8)

There is a huge difference between man-made gods and a God-made man. Idolatry is the reality of dead men making dead gods. Men fashion and design their gods for convenience and the ability to manage them. They can carry their gods into whatever their life situation presents to them. Big difference from being carried through the life situation by a God who lives. In Israel's formative years some would carry their household gods with them on a journey, or into a battle, or during times of festivities. Their gods were there to insure favor, future, or fertility. But futility was what these idols produced. There was not much difference in the lives of God's people at times than the lives of pagan people around them. The trust that people placed in idols could not bear fruit. Only futility. Uselessness. And men became like the things they worshipped. Our word for today is that they still do.
Idolatry in our day produces faithless people. Useless for God's work. Worthless in bearing eternal fruit. Dead men do not praise the Living God. A man must be made alive to worship the Living God. The Living God speaks to dead men and they worship the God of the living.
And when people worship the Living God...they will become like the One they worship. This is the life of the God-made man. Living to worship the Living God and forsaking sinful idolatry once and for all. Hallelujah! Our God lives.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Faith On Deposit

He said to him, "By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?" (Luke 19:22)

Risky investments can reap big returns. The parable is told to tell us that the Lord values the investment He makes. And even though the story is about a financial investment, the focus is not on money. So often we think about what is familiar within our culture. So when we are materially successful as a believer, its easy to get pulled into the trap of being focused on being a good steward of the resources God has blessed us with. That is surely a principled belief. But God does not give us wealth to hoard. He expects us to put it to work. But I don't think financial investment is what Jesus is primarily teaching here. Before He tells the parable, the gospel writer tells us why He told it. He told the parable about a kingdom that was coming...and how the coming king's subjects were to conduct themselves until the king returned. Do business...with this...until I come... All the servants heard the same message. All the servants were given the same amount of mina. Upon the king's return one servant multiplied the mina and produced ten. One produced five. And one produced...well...none. He presented the same mina, wrapped up and hidden away in a handkerchief. Two out of three produced returns on investment. One broke even. Or did he? This slave who had hoarded th mina was unprofitable. Worthless is the king's description. I think the mina represents a measure of faith that the Lord gives to each of His servants. It is deposited within us and He expects we do business,Kingdom business, with it. The fruit of the Spirit is to be developed only because He has deposited this measure of faith within us. Like a garden, the more it is cultivated and nurtured, the greater the harvest will be. Some disciples produce in differing degrees and some disciples never seem to produce at all. They never demonstrate any works of faith or mature into fruitful disciples. These are the ones who have kept God's gift locked away, covered up and hidden from view. Could it be that the reason they do is because their understanding of God is as flawed as the unprofitable slave's view of the king? God is no more an exacting, or hard, master than the king in the parable. Unfaithful, or unprofitable, disciples may use that as an excuse for their lack of production. But the truth is that the more we study the word of God, the more we will know that our King is kind and compassionate and even enables us to bear fruit and produce returns on His investment. What the Lord is doing with us, slaves of Christ, is investing Himself in us. In the story, each servant reported the return to the king and stated that the mina was the Master's mina. Interesting to see that that even though the one-mina man did not please the king, he was not destroyed. But he was not rewarded either. When King Jesus returns, He will want to see a return on the deposit of faith He left with each of His slaves. Faith is not given to us so that it be kept hidden away in a handkerchief. Faith is to be boldly invested in a world of faithless people. Faith is to be invested to do business for the Kingdom of God. When the Lord returns, I do not want to be a one-mina man. I want to be one who shares in the joy of reigning with our King. I would like to hear that I have done well as a faithful slave, trusting the King to help me do business with what He has entrusted to me. Faith on deposit produces returns when it is put to work. Are you working out your faith in a faithless world or have you locked it away in a risk-free environment? Faithfulness produces more than fearfulness.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Battle Flags

Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place; They have set up their own standards for signs. (Psalm 74:4)

Who can forget the iconic picture of the American battle flag being raised on the World War II battleground of Iwo Jima? When I think of this passage I perceive a picture of a great battle. The battleground is God's ground. When you see God moving into the realm of the entrenched spiritual opposition, the enemy digs in. His forces will brazenly come into the place where God has claimed for Himself. They will plant their flags on holy ground...just to let us know the enemy fights on. In the gospels we read of an occasion where Jesus encountered a demonic manifestation in the synagogue...the meeting place. The psalmist is talking about a reality many centuries before that time where Jesus cast out devils in Bible study. This tells us that first century demonic appearances were not a unique phenomenon. This is a common thing, before and after. And we can gain the understanding that we are not talking about the devil invading God's's the other way around. The Lord Jesus did not authorize a retreating action or a defensive battle. He came to destroy the works of the do battle with sin...and He won. He engages the enemy and commands us to join Him. The Lord is on the offense and He expects the people of God to engage the enemy with the Word of God. The psalmist is crying out for the expulsion of the unauthorized occupation of wickedness in holy places. The standard of the adversaries, the battle flag of ground taken in warfare, is to be thrown down. The psalmist is not telling the Lord what He doesn't already know. He is declaring a desire for the day to come when God makes the earth a footstool for His feet and His enemies serve Him and surrender to His authority. Have you ever been weary of the devil's constant assault on humanity in general and you in particular? Are you tired of the appearance that evil is winning the battle? Sometimes we can be deceived into thinking that the Lord has rejected His people and God doesn't care about us. But that is only the's a lie that is the basis of the enemy's strategy. This devil is defeated and is losing the war...but he is an expert in the propaganda battle. The good news is that the battleground is God's ground. And soon His standard of righteousness will be raised for all to see. The standard that we shall raise will be our intolerance for wickedness in holy places and in holy people. Righteousness reigns in God's kingdom.