Friday, December 23, 2011

The Devil's Seeds of Doubt

Sometimes, God speaks to us through friends, through strangers, or through something we read or see. This week, I think he decided to speak to me through a devotional. Imagine that. ;)

This is from Pastor Bayless Conley's Answers for Each Day daily devotional series.

The Devil's Seeds of Doubt

As we saw yesterday, Satan will seek to attack when we are on the verge of a major breakthrough. I believe there are three distinct areas of attack in this battle. Today I want to cover the first with you. It is found in Matthew 4:3-4,

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

The devil's first area of attack will be to try to get you to doubt your calling.

Notice that just prior to this encounter the voice of God the Father said to Jesus, "This is My beloved Son!" And that is the first thing the devil challenges, "Well, if you are the Son of God…."

He will do the same thing to you.

What is it that God has spoken to you about that He wants you to do with your life? Has He told you that He wants to use you to funnel vast resources into the gospel? Or maybe God said you are to be a teacher, or that you are going to impact the entertainment industry, or that you are going to be a prayer warrior and tip the spiritual scales in critical times.

Whatever it is, the devil will saddle up next to you and say, "Who do you think you are? What God has told you is just a pipe dream. It's just your own head speaking to you." He will try and get you to doubt what God has said to you and to doubt what God has called you to do.

When that happens, you need to go back to that word that God has spoken to you in order to keep your focus and direction right.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Can I Help You? ~or~ Making Money Isn't About the Money

Through a series of unforseen events, I've found myself having to re-enter a career field I'd happily placed in the rear-view mirror three years ago. While I was good at it, one of the best if you believe people who give out awards for such things, I pretty much despised every single hour spent in the last job I had in that field. To say I was relieved when I left that field would be an understatement. In fact, I literally felt like a weight was taken off my shoulders, pressure taken off my chest and within a few weeks, I felt healthier, happier and more alive than I had in years. If that doesn't show you what power stress and negativity has on us, nothing will…

So, as you can imagine, I'm not overly excited to go back into that field. In fact, I almost feel the same way you would if you were about to put your hand onto a hot stove, after having been burned badly once before.

Regardless of my feelings on the matter, it is what it is and I have to do what I have to do to take care of my family.

1 Timothy 5:8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Now, I may have just gone through a rather shameful crisis of faith, but at no point would I ever relish the idea of being an unbeliever, much less worse than one. And, regardless of that, God has wired me to take care of my family, so this is what I have to do.

In thinking about it last night, the idea struck me that no one who does a job strictly for the money derives any real pleasure from it. In fact, studies prove the opposite, regardless of what the world might tell us. Money cannot buy happiness, so working only for money is a sure path to unhappiness.

That was most likely the trouble with my last job in this field. I ended up disliking it so much, that it just became about the money and nothing else. Once that happened, the door closed and there was no hope of ever enjoying it again. Don't get me wrong, there were times when I did enjoy that field, and there was a reason I got into it in the first place that wasn't just about the money.

Back then, it was exciting. I never expected to arrive at a place where I was spiritually exhausted, emotionally calloused and mentally jaded.

But, thanks to adverse circumstances (and my own poor way of dealing with them) I ended up there.

Going forward, I want to strive to not focus on the money, but instead to strictly concern myself with helping people. The phrase "how can I help you?" is uttered billions of times a day, all over the world, but how many people truly mean it? Well, I want to be one of those few who do.

If I focus on that and strive to do nothing more than help people, the money will certainly come as a by-product.

On top of that (and the foundation of it at the same time), is the idea that we're all called to be servants. "How Can I Help?" should be the most uttered phrase in the Christian life. Therefore, if I strive to help people first and foremost, I'll honor God's wishes and God will honor that effort.

And, by focusing on what God wants, I won't have time to focus on what I don't want…

I pray that each and every one of you has a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

Father God,
Please place your hand of protection on each and every one that we all know this Holiday Season. Get us all safely through this hectic time, and please heap extra blessings on those who need them most. I would like to ask that you remind each and every one of us that celebrating your Son's birthday isn't about material gain or overeating or any of that, but about learning to serve one another as Jesus served all of us. Please don't let any of us forget that.

In Jesus' name I pray,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


If this blog is for nothing else, let it be for accountability. You have helped me remain accountable and for that, I'm forever grateful.

But, the one linchpin to that is I need to remain transparent with you. Well, in the interests of that, I need to get something off my chest. I've been very unhappy with God lately. I won't call it 'mad' as I think that's a bit too strong. I haven't turned my back on him, or written him off or anything so dramatic as all that, but I have slowly disconnected from Him.

Many of you may recall I posted a while back about a certain career problem I'm having. Well, since asking for prayers on it, the situation has gone from bad to worse. I kept taking for granted the fact that God would show up and fix it, but as far as I know, He has yet to do so. The problem has become a very significant financial strain on my family and at this point has undone about seven years of my hard work.

I didn't realize it was happening, but over the course of the last month or so, I've slowly been pulling further and further away from God. While doing some introspective thought recently, I came to the realization this was due to my unhappiness that God is allowing this business nightmare to continue.

Now, before you jump to the same conclusions I did about how I need to have faith and how God does things in His time, not ours, rest assured I've been there already. But, to deny the fact that I've disconnected, even when I know it shouldn't have, is hardly being transparent. So, I'm admitting my sin, right here and right now. I unplugged from God.

As things have slowly come to a head over the last few days, and I realized this was happening, I've decided the only acceptable course of action is to reconnect. So, please, help me remain accountable in reconnecting.

For those who like to leave comments here on the Proverbs blog, please do so every few days, asking me if I'm staying connected. If you're the email type, please shoot me an email every once in awhile and check up on me.

No one's faith should ever be so weak that watching evil prevail in the short term can sever their connection with God. Admittedly, that's exactly what's been happening to me.

Thankfully, God always knows how to bring us back. Today, I sat down to get caught up on my daily reading and this devotional was waiting for me:

By Janet Conley
How to Stay Connected

Yesterday we discovered the second key to effective prayer is to stay connected to God. The critical question is: How do we do that?

While there are many things we can do, I want to focus on two things. First of all, if you want to have a close relationship with God, it is important to realize just how much He desires to have a close relationship with you.

This is an amazing truth when you stop to think about it. He is Almighty God, and yet He wants to have a close relationship with you.

Romans 5:11 in the New Living Translation says, Now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Through Jesus, God made us to be His friends! So connecting with God starts with remembering He desires to be your closest friend.

Second, you need to practice His presence. Right now God is with you. He is everywhere you go. He is at your job; He is at your home; He is with you wherever you might be, even in the hardest time of your life.

The last part of Hebrews 13:5 says, For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

There was a monk in the seventeenth century named Brother Lawrence who wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. In the monastery there were chimes that rang every hour, and Brother Lawrence would use that as a reminder to connect with God.

If you have a PDA or a wristwatch or a cell phone, you might consider setting it to go off throughout the day to remind you that God is with you. Each time it goes off, spend a few moments communing with Him. Practice His presence. That will help you stay connected to God.

Thanks for walking with me. I appreciate it more than you know and deserve it less than you might think. Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church said in a recent sermon that we're not designed to shoulder our burdens alone and that we should take them to other Christ followers for help. On that note, thank you for helping me shoulder this one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wisdom, Wishes and Doubt...

James 1: 5-8
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Most scripture I read is either something I take to heart, that lightens my load and gives me peace or simply goes over my head due to the fact I'm certainly no bible scholar.

But, a very small percentage twist me a bit, like a sapling in a strong storm. The passage above is one of those. I often find myself asking for God's wisdom when I'm in doubt or faced with circumstances I don't know how to handle. I feel very confident that God will give me that wisdom, but the real twist hits when I come to the part where it says "you must believe and not doubt."

What if God simply doesn't want me to know something yet? What if He intends for me to endure a circumstance in order that a future glory might arise from the contemporary pain? What if He's simply disciplining me for doing something stupid?

I know most of those thoughts come from the cracks the evil one slips in through, as he's always prowling around, looking for a chink in the armor. But, I wonder if by letting those doubts in, I'm failing to embrace and employ the full power of the Holy Spirit that resides within me…

So, to add another blanket onto the bed of over thinking, I pray for wisdom to discern what God's will is in any particular circumstance. Surely he doesn't want me to be confused, helpless, blown and tossed by the wind.

No. Our Father wants the best for us. This I know is a fact. But, how do I overcome my unbelief? How do I always remain confident that He will show up, in even the darkest of circumstances?


Maybe, I just need to add that to my request for wisdom, that no matter what, He will guide me where He wants me to be and regardless of my foresight into how I hope the future will go, His will is what's best.

What do you think? Are you ever confronted by doubt when asking God for something?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paul's Love Transcends 2000 Years

Colossians 1:9-14   For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

In Paul's letter to the church at Colossae, he was speaking to mostly converted gentiles who were being blown about in the spiritual winds, as the true teachings of Christ that was their foundation, was under attack by the heretical teachings of others (allegedly the precursors to the Gnostic beliefs) that sought to undermine the truth.

In reading the beginning of Paul's letter to them, I love how he starts by leaving no doubt whatsoever that he's not only praying for all within that church, but praying that they would climb the spiritual ladder and become more Christ-like and less worldly.

The closer we are to God, the harder it is for the enemy to distance us from him.

In his prayers, Paul asks God to fill them with knowledge of His will. He asks that they are able to bear fruit. He asks that they're strengthened so they have patience and endurance. And, he asks all these things because he knows they've been called to share in the inheritance Jesus died for.

While Paul penned this letter from a Roman prison nearly 2,000 years ago, it seems more than obvious these prayers apply to you and me, today, right now. Most of us attend or are members in churches that are made up primarily of gentiles, with a large contingent of new believers and those who are "born again." Most of us are under daily attack from worldly beliefs that seek to undermine our faith in Christ, just like those who lived in Colossae 1950 year ago. All of us need to remain focused that we are to bear fruit while remaining part of the vine. (John 15:4

So, today, I'd like to pray alongside Paul.

Father God,
You are the almighty God and your love for us exceeds any human ability to contain or restrain it. Today, we ask that you fill us all with the knowledge of your will, through the wisdom and understanding the spirit gives, so that we may live a life that is worthy and pleasing to you. Please nurture our hearts so that we may bear fruit in our homes, work places, communities and the world and do so with the strength that comes from patience and endurance as we know, without a doubt, that your Son has made a place for us in your Kingdom.

I ask all these things in Jesus' holy name,

Monday, October 3, 2011


Verizon just rolled out 4G cellular service. Now, Pastor James McDonald is calling for 5G service, from all of us, not a phone company or international media corporation. You and I are a far greater network than anything employing iPhones, Androids or Blackberries to spread the message.

Click here to read just what 5G service looks like.

No matter if you were baptized yesterday or 75 years ago, you need to be 5G. Just like cell phones that came in briefcases and pagers the size of a 'Droid, anything other than 5G is yesterday's news and just won't cut it today... or tomorrow.

To Fear or Fear Not?

Jeremiah 1:6-8
“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Thousands of years ago, when finding ways to speak to vast groups of people wasn't easy, God sent people out on his behalf. As we see in the verse above, the initial response to this leading was fear. "I don't know how…"

These days, with social media, blogs, etc., we have the ability to quickly and easily reach a multitude of folks, but all too often when God calls us to do just that, we respond with "I can't… I don't know how…"

But just like then, the answer remains the same. "Do not be afraid… for I am with you," declares the Lord.

Fear, like anything else, is best used in moderation. Fear can stop us from getting injured, prevent us from accidentally putting others in harm's way and save our lives. But, like anything else, too much fear is extremely harmful.

It stops us from reaching out to the lost, helping those in need, serving others and doing what God put us here to do.

The key there is to be able to discern when the fear is healthy or unhealthy, just enough or too much.

What I'm striving to do, is consider the outcome of the circumstance. If the possible outcome honors God and does his work, the fear is an obstacle I need to overcome. If the only outcomes are either selfish or hurtful, then obviously the fear is there to protect me.

Father God,
You gave us fear for self preservation, but all too often we misuse it and allow it to become a hindrance to what you put us here to do. Please grant us the wisdom to overcome fear, to not be afraid when you call us to something and to rest assured that you are always with us.

In Jesus' name I pray,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

One C or Two?

We had a great gathering at Gateway Church yesterday for Advance Weekend, the annual gathering of Church leaders and others committed to Christ.

While praying during the services, the concept struck me that most Church-goers I've encountered over the years fall into one of two camps, with few exceptions. People are either Committed Christians, who are striving to be the body, or they're consumers, simply asking "What can the Church do for me?"

While many fall into the shades of grey between these two extremes, I would posit that there is a line that divides the two mindsets and just about everyone is on one side of that line or the other.

With that in mind, it's easy to draw the conclusion that Two C folks are true followers of Christ, imbued with the Holy Spirit and striving to do His work.

The one C's are not.

Sure, they may call themselves Christians and declare that they have great faith, but if they're taking the consumer approach by simply drawing on the Church's resources, without contributing to them, they're really missing the mark… bigtime. And don't have the Holy Spirit within them or are simply very adept at ignoring it.

Proverbs 24:15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous, do not plunder their dwelling place

If we are the children of God and the church is God's house, it's logical to say our church is our house. Who among you waits for someone else to pay the electric bill in your own house? Who waits for someone else to put groceries in your 'fridge? Who expects someone else to play host to your house guests? Who ignores your children, assuming someone else will feed them, clothe them and otherwise meet their needs?

If you came to my house and I told you I wasn't paying the heating bill in the winter because I expected someone else to take care of it, you'd think I was out of my mind.

So, why then is it perfectly acceptable for people to go to church and not serve? Not give an offering? Not take ownership in what is essentially their house?

The answer is simple: It's not.

Ever. (With the caveat that those "checking out Christ" are more than welcome to simply consume until such a time as they cross the line and accept Christ into their hearts as their own personal savior)

So, while I assume all of you who are reading this are Committed Christians, full-on two C types who take ownership of your church with your time, talents and treasures, I know we all know one C people who don't. To that end, I would ask that you all join me in praying for them. Pray that they take the step from simply consuming what the Church offers to helping to provide what the Church offers. Pray that God will give them an epiphany and help them realize the Church is THEIR house as much as His. And they need to help keep the house in order, not simply sit on the couch waiting for someone else to pass the nachos…

God blesses us so we can bless others, not so we can soak up the blessings of others.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Father God,
Thank you so much for the hearts of those who read these words, the Committed Christians who know that the only hope this world has is in You. Please shine a light on those who are over the line with only one C in the game, those who simply want to consume what the Church offers and not contribute to it. Help the Church feed those consumers till they've had their fill, thus turning their appetite from that of a starving consumer to the heart of one who hungers to share Your love with everyone in the Church, in the community and in the world.

We ask all these things in Your Son's blessed and holy name.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Soul Storming

I joined a Men's Group through our church last weekend with a standup bunch of fellas. At first, I thought we were going to follow through a study series created by the church that they're encouraging all the small groups to go through at the same time. But, when I dug in, I was pleased to find out the group would instead be studying the Soul Storming curriculum authored by Jason Heriford.

The back of the book blurb is summarized with this:

"God has placed a dream in your heart and he wants to equip you to live it completely."

If that isn't right up my alley, I'm not sure what is.

In essence, the study helps us strip away the mess piled on our true selves by living a life in the world, then helps us identify what God has placed on our heart to do for His Kingdom. Once that's done, the other men (or women) in the group come alongside to help you achieve that goal.

The book was published in 2011, and already has over a dozen successful ministries launched from the study.

While all that is just plain excellent sounding, the two real hooks for me come twofold. Jason Heriford is in this men's group with me and he relied heavily on Pastor Gary Foran in writing the book. Gary happens to be the leader of our couple's small group.

So, if you're fully cognizant of the fact that God has far bigger plans for you and your life than this world might have you believe, pick up a copy of Soul Storming and get into a group of like-minded folks who can come alongside you and take the study from beginning to glorious end.

In other news, my dear friend and spiritual brother Gary Hughes is currently up for a pastor's position at a church near his home. This is an answer to a lot of prayer and could quite possibly be the culmination of a lot of soil tilling God has done in Gary's life. Please pray that God uses this experience to draw Gary closer to him and that if it's His will, that Gary lands the job.

God bless!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Ram is on The Way

As a storyteller, I always marvel at how God works, weaving the sub-plots of our trials in and out of the tapestry of this life. After yesterday's post, I prayed earnestly that God would provide, guide, grant wisdom and take care of us.

Today, Angie got this devotional in her daily reading emails.

August 30, 2011

A Ram is on the Way
Glynnis Whitwer

"So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.'" Genesis 22:14 (NIV)

Have you ever been in a situation so desperate that it looked hopeless?

Have you ever sat at the kitchen table wondering how you were going to pay the electric bill? Have you ever stood at a door that's been slammed in your face by an angry teenager and despaired at having a relationship with him again? Have you ever had your heart broken so deeply that you wondered if you would feel whole again?

Sadly, we live in a broken world where desperate situations happen every day. I know someone reading this devotion is wondering how she will make it through the day because her situation looks hopeless. If that is you, I encourage you to keep reading. I believe God has a message of hope for you today.

That message is found in the Bible, in the story of a man who was dealing with his own desperate situation. His name was Abraham and he faced the greatest testing of his life. After longing for a son for many years, God finally gave Abraham a boy, whom he named Isaac. Abraham never imagined God would test his faith by asking him to sacrifice his son. But it happened.

It had to have been the darkest day of Abraham's life as he trudged up the mountain, with firewood strapped to his son's back. Every step took Abraham closer to what he believed to be the sad ending of a hopeless situation—the death of his son. Yet in spite of his sorrow, Abraham trusted God. His heart wasn't soaring with joy. He wasn't dancing up the mountain. But he put one foot in front of the other. Walking through the darkness of the situation; obeying His God's commands.

Unbeknownst to Abraham, something else was walking up that mountain. Quietly. Out of sight. On the other side of the mountain. Something else was putting one foot in front of the other. Only Abraham couldn't see it.

For every step Abraham took, a ram on the other side of the mountain took a step.

All Abraham saw that day was his solitary journey of pain. As he got closer to the top of the mountain, his dread must have increased. I wonder if he asked himself any questions. I would have. I would have wondered why hadn't God intervened? Why hadn't God stopped this testing? Couldn't God see that Abraham was a man of faith? Why test him in this way?

But there was no answer. There was no voice from heaven. And so Abraham kept obeying his God's command. He put Isaac on an altar and prepared to sacrifice his one and only son.

And just at that very moment, at the very last second, when it looked like the end had come, God spoke, stopping the sacrifice. Abraham looked up and there caught in the thicket was a ram. Abraham took his son off the altar, replaced him with the ram, and offered the sacrifice to God.

Abraham named that place "Yahweh-Yireh" or "The Lord Will Provide." And the story was written down for generations of God-followers to read. It was written so that you and I today would read it as we face our own hopeless situations. It was captured in print so that you and I would know that God is already planning for our provision. We don't see it. We don't hear it. But we can trust that our God is at work. On your behalf, and on mine.

I choose to trust God today. A ram is on the way.

Dear Lord, You know how desperate I am today. You know that my faith has wavered. Although I want to trust You, I'm having trouble doing so. I ask for Your intervention in my situation, and for an increase of my faith while I wait. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

God is not only a master storyteller, He's the master storyteller and it's a delight to watch Him work.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Need God? Read God.

It's always interesting how when I find myself feeling out of touch with God, all I need to do is take a quick inventory of my daily pursuits to see I'm not spending enough time reading the bible or engaging in heartfelt prayer.

There are certainly seasons where I feel closer to or further from Him, like I exist in some elliptical orbit around the Throne. But, more often than not, when I feel unplugged, I can look down and see the power cord in my hand, recently pulled from the socket by that guy I see in the mirror. Even though this isn't news to me, I still learn it regularly. Just like I did about ten minutes ago when I started catching up on some devotionals from the past several days; things that might have brightened my outlook last week had I bothered to read them when I should have.

I've been going through some pretty stressful business stuff lately that seems to get worse each day. I know God will take care of me, and I count my blessings regularly that I have such an amazing wife and awesome son: the family that's far better than I could ever deserve. But, the business stuff is really dragging me down.

Those who know me well know I fall more into the "everything's great!" camp than the "yes, I need to open up and let my Brothers and Sisters in Christ help me shoulder this" camp. But, lately, I've sought the fellowship of two good friends to discuss these things in-depth and it's helped greatly. I've also admitted flat out that fixing these troubles is beyond my ability and I'm now 100% reliant on God to take care of the situation.

But, while I'm sitting here hoping He'll fix things, like most sons hope their fathers will, I'm neglecting what He wants from me. I'm neglecting my time in the word and my prayer time. I've replaced that time with some really great stuff though, like worry, stress, fear and frustration. Sounds like a good deal, right?


Well, my troubles certainly aren't going away overnight, but the other things that come along with them disappear like mist in a windstorm as soon as I open my heart to prayer and when I read God's word.

So, even though my problems seem impossible for me to repair and have resisted my every effort to fix them, I'm good. Because:

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

So, if you're going through some tough stuff, and let's face it, we all do whether we want to admit it or not, always remember we need God, so we should pray often and we need to read God's word regularly. The rest is just details that He'll sort out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Through the Flames...

After further thinking on my last post, the idea that quarrelsome people are very worldy confirmed the fact that I'm very worldly. While I try continually to tone that down and master it, it seems God would have me grow through that flaw by continually presenting me with test opportunities on the business side of my career to be quarrelsome. Sadly, I keep failing.

Looking back at the initial angle of the post, I found this of further interest on the subject:

1 Corinthians 3:10-15
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

While I may have no concrete idea of exactly what happens when we get to Heaven, I think I'm pretty assured of the fact that any works that in any way fall under the heading of "worldly" will certainly burn up. Hopefully, all of us find a reward that is far more than merely "escaping through the flames."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Worldly Church?

It seems to me, the main purpose of a Church organization is to
A) seek and save the lost
B) nurture the growth of the saved so that they might live a Spirit filled life.

While your mileage and opinion may vary, it seems most healthy Christian church organizations (at least on the outside) focus on the Great Commission and/or "being the body," which seems to jive with my two points above.

However, one thing that's struck me more and more lately is the litany of denominations and factions who insist their way is right and others are wrong. I've actually heard that some churches argue over how people are baptized, how prayers are sent heavenward and, the one that shocks me the most, some church leaders actually tell their congregations not to read the bible as they're ill-equipped to process the information for themselves.

While I have my own opinions on each of these topics, especially the last one, I wonder where  the line is drawn when engaging someone over this from a countering point of view? I've heard the logic espoused that those who make such statements are false teachers and their word should be combated at all costs. But, who is to say which side is right and which wrong when it comes to something such as the method of praying? Or how new believers are baptized?

Well, with that in mind, it's no wonder this passage jumped out at me today when I was doing some study (bolding by me for emphasis).

1 Corinthians 3
The Church and Its Leaders
1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

When one church denounces another across the street in those cute little marquee wars we've all seen in chain emails (you know the ones, where church on the east side of the street says "All dogs go to heaven" and the west side church says "No they don't, read your bible"), are they not simply showing the rest of the world how unspiritual they really are? Are we not doing the same when we denounce the practices of another denomination, another behavior of faith? When we speak ill of another church?

At what point are we doing more harm than good by letting the unsaved see that we cannot even agree on how to worship or how to declare your faith?

I recently read a long, laborious blog post from a gentleman declaring that any true Christ followers should avoid Texas Governor Rick Perry's giant Day of Prayer in Houston that occurred a few weeks ago. In the posting, the man reasoned that no true believer should attend the festival due to Perry's affiliation with a Church group from Kansas founded years ago. That doesn't make much sense, does it? Well, the poster went on to cite all his reasons for denouncing this group, most of which read like the Pharisees presenting their case against Jesus… a lot of ins and outs regarding the law and how we should worship. If the man had a concise point of logic to back his insistence that we all avoid the meeting, I failed to find it.

While I'm certainly not siding with Perry or passing judgment on the poster for that matter, the fact that there were tens of thousands of people gathered together on US soil to worship our God seems to have far more potential positives than negatives. Urging people to avoid it, the very people who might instill the event with the true Spirit, hardly seems Christ-like. On the contrary, it seems like behavior rooted in fear and manifesting in reactionary mistrust. Not everything is a nefarious plot to steal your soul. And, even if it is, no thief can open the hand of Jesus. So, why act out of fear? Jesus tells us not to fear over and over again in the bible. Aren't we listening?

I have no illusions the entirety of Christian believers will ever unite and set aside the worldly behaviors such as those mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1, and evidenced all around us every moment of every day, but, it does give me pause and make me question what thoughts I'll entertain and allow to pass my lips regarding how others worship.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Day - New Way of Understanding

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

My admiration of Paul - and particularly the Book of Romans - is no secret to anyone paying attention to my spiritual journey - that means both of you [wink]. I think, to date, I've read this book at least ten times, and pieces of it far more. So, I've obviously read the above passage enough times that I should completely comprehend it by now.

Here's where that "Living Word of God" kicks in though, proving once again that passages take on new meanings depending on where we are in our walk.

A few days ago, I read this and emailed it over to Angie, stating we needed to print it out and put it on the refrigerator, so that every time one of us felt a tug to indulge in food we really didn't need to eat, we might read it and think twice. Then, last night, I was at the 'fridge door, getting water, and sat and read it again.

We had bolded the portion of the passage that says "offer your bodies as living sacrifices" to reinforce the concept of not overindulging in food, something she and I have struggled with for a long time, but thankfully, a struggle she's been winning more and more lately (as recorded on her site).

As the water filled my bottle, the entire concept of making sacrifices ran through my mind, in one of those flash slideshows like you see in the movies. I pictured families bringing livestock to the Temple for sacrifice, people making offerings to God and even a few random images of fictional, dramatized sacrifices of fair maidens over volcanoes (yes my imagination is that overactive).

After all the images were done, I was left with a realization that these cravings for food were something I should be sacrificing to God. These times when I'd rather lay on the couch than go be active are moments where I can live sacrificially for Him. It struck me like a lightning bolt of inspiration that this must be what Paul meant by being a "living sacrifice."

"Living for God" can just be three empty words if I'm not actually living sacrificially. Sure, we tithe, we donate time, we help our church, our friends and family. But, if we give these cravings and other times where we're drawn to gluttony, sloth and other sins of the flesh over to God, instead of indulging them, we're offering our bodies as a living sacrifice.

To that end, I'm joining a gym tomorrow. I will also enact a strict diet to speed my physical recovery from "fat, old guy" to a man who truly looks fit, trim and young for his age. I might be turning 43 next month, but that doesn't mean I have to look like it.

For those of you who call me friend, I beg you to ask me about this frequently. Speak the truth in love and keep me accountable. As a writer, I'm forced to spend long hours every day sitting in a chair staring at this computer, which does nothing for my physical well-being. But, you can reach out to me through it and encourage me to work out and avoid unnecessary trips to the fridge.

If I truly want to be full-grown spiritually, I must also have a sharp mind and fit body. The three are symbiotic and if one falters, the other two are pulled down with it. It's like a three-legged table, if one leg falters the table will surely tip over and fall.

I'm praying that by toning my body, I'll sharpen my mind, strengthen my spirit and, by default, find myself able to achieve far more for God.

As the cliché goes, tomorrow is the "first day of the rest of my life." Pray with me that it's also the first day of a new life of physical fitness instead of sedentary fatness.

Father God,
You gave me this body, free of disease and major defects, yet I've seldom worked to maintain it, please forgive me. You amaze me by keeping me as healthy as I am and for that I'm very thankful. Please accept my cravings and laziness as a living sacrifice to you, Father, as I deny those things and give them to you. Please remind me hourly that I am Your son, blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit to be a good and faithful servant. But to be that, I must offer these things to You, each and every time.

In Jesus Name I Pray,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Give it Our All?

Romans 9:1
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

What would this world look like if all of us had the same conviction of faith that Paul has? It's moving to see someone willing to lay down their earthly life for others. We call these people heroes. Men who pulled children from burning buildings, or face enemy fire to save their comrades, all the brave men and women who rushed into the towers on 9/11 without a thought for their own safety.

But, how much more heroic is it to lay down your eternal life that others might find salvation? Taking a bullet for my wife or son or Father-in-law or others I'm close to would be something I'd do without thinking about it. But, giving up my eternal life so some complete stranger can spend eternity in Heaven? I'm afraid to admit that I don't know if that decision would come so easily… if at all.

It's sobering to think of that reality. I like to believe I'm a solid Christ follower, but if I truly was, this sort of all-in behavior from Paul would seem normal to me, instead of something that gives me pause.

I have a hard time talking to a stranger about Christ, much less offering to give up the most important thing I'll ever have.

What about you? Where is the line where you no longer sacrifice on instinct, but have to stop and think about it? Would you give up your eternal life for your family? Friends? Co-workers? Neighbors? Strangers?

It's thought provoking if nothing else…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recover Your Greatness

It's always amazing to me how many people's 'default setting' to the potential of answered prayers is a negative one. Those who are pessimistic by nature automatically disbelieve that the majority of prayers get answered and those who are optimists often seem pleasantly surprised when the answers come.

It's like someone has conditioned us to believe that God doesn't hear our prayers and if He does, could care less.

If you believe that, don’t. It's a lie.

Not only does God care, like any good parent, He wants to give us the desires of our heart. But, I think part of the trouble comes in when we allow our heart to fill with desires that don't do justice to who we are as children of God.

I really want a new 60" flat-panel TV for the living room of our new house. I can pray for that and maybe God will give us one, but chances are it won't happen. Why? Because it really does nothing for the Kingdom for us to have a fancy-pants television.

Proverbs 15:8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

But, if I pray for things that align with the life God designed me to live, guess what? They do come true. It says so in the Word:

Psalm 20:4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

Case in point: I awoke in the middle of the night Monday and was suddenly overcome with a mental uncomfortableness (not discomfort, mind you, but just a general lack of comfort) in my spirit with what my family was achieving for God in our current situation. When we were still up north, both my wife and I were integral parts of EBC's volunteer structure, doing work for the church every week. We also were a solid part of a wonderful small group, blossoming with three other families as we all "did life" together, growing, learning to be transparent with one another and seeking to be the people God designed us to be.

Since landing here in Texas, we've done some preliminary things and explored possibilities as we've started to acclimate to Gateway Church, which we love. However, we've yet to really roll up our sleeves and dig in.

The heavy realization that we weren't being effective for God set in and pushed from my mind any chance of returning to sleep quickly. So, I lay there and prayed that God would present us with the opportunity to do that Monday. I prayed specifically, fervently and with all my heart that He would show us the road and equip us to drive down it.

Well, let me put the car in reverse for a minute and fill you in on some back-story. Several years ago, Angie and I were making mad money but we were up to our eyeballs in financial quicksand.

We made "American Dream" kind of income and had "American Nightmare" kind of debt.

Our old church, Palm Valley Church, announced a class called Financial Peace University. Not only did that class teach us how to use our money biblically, it made us fans of Dave Ramsey and planted a big fire in Angie's heart to get people to put their financial houses in biblical order and then give to Kingdom efforts as effectively as possible. This dovetailed with my drive to motivate people to passionately support the local church.

Fast forward to about a year ago when Angie and I were discussing possible ministries we could launch and one that seemed to stick involved helping people find ways to channel their financial resources to help the Kingdom. Fast forward to just a few months ago when I was suddenly inspired to craft a church message that details how God uses individuals to fund His work (He blesses us so we can be a blessing to others!) - and how individuals rob the Kingdom by failing to be generous. After writing this, I submitted it to a good friend on staff at Gateway, who forwarded it on to Sara, a wonderful woman that works in Gateway's giving and generosity ministries. She, Angie and I discussed getting together at some point and exploring it further, but after being here for a month, it had yet to come to fruition and I'd sort of mentally 'back-burnered' it, figuring if God wanted it to happen, it would.

That brings us back to my prayers.

And His answer.

Yesterday, out of the blue, we received an email from Sara, saying she wanted us to have a meeting with her and Gateway's Executive Pastor to share our ideas and passion for this and how we might implement something.

An hour later, Angie watched this, from Dave Ramsey: The Great Recovery detailing his plan for economic recovery in the American church.

I can't emphasis enough how YOU need to watch the video at that link. Not only will it help your family directly, but it will help you help others in your local Church, which in turn helps your local Church help the local community and beyond. We're called to BE the Church and that link will help you do just that.

Now, God prepared Angie and I through experiences. He aligned our hearts to pray for things that help the Kingdom. He woke me in the middle of the night and prompted me through the Holy Spirit to ask for those things, then he answered that prayer.

How great is our God? Great enough to plant the need in Dave Ramsey's heart to launch The Great Recovery and great enough to tie in hundreds of thousands of others to help bring it to fruition.

Now, go. Be. The Church needs you. God's Kingdom needs you. Your family needs you. It's a blessing to be needed, but a sin to not answer that call. Thankfully, if you've read this far, you're ready to be a blessing. Thank you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Are You Wretched, Too?

Romans 7:15-24
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

When I think about Paul, I think about a man who was intelligent, passionate, driven and effective. His life’s work speaks for itself, clearly indicating he never wasted hours on the couch watching sitcoms, or hanging out with friends drinking beer and slinging playful insults. It’s doubtful Paul lost himself in games or the pursuit of his own personal pleasures. I can't say the same.

Paul seemed to be the kind of man who, once taken by the Holy Spirit, lived every moment for the Lord. Living intentionally, purposefully and effectively to spread the Word and help build the Kingdom. His legacy is known only to God, for who can count the vast number of people saved by Paul’s words, either firsthand, secondhand or read in the Book? Surely, they are "like the stars..."

Trying to live to the standard Paul set is nearly as tough as trying to live to the standard Jesus set.

But, unlike Jesus, who lived a perfect and sinless life, Paul was like the rest of us.

“…the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

How many times have I thought I need to stop being impatient with others? Stop overeating? Stop reacting harshly? I need to make a conscious effort to be happier? Be more appreciative of the blessings I have? How many times have I begged God to make me into the man He designed me to be while a cloud of anger or dismay or despondency roiled around in my mind, affecting my decisions and actions?

Not as many times as I’ve thought “What a wretched man I am!”

Then, I start to kick myself and embrace the idea that I am wretched.

Thankfully, Paul was too.

It’s no secret that Romans might just be my favorite book in the bible. And, that might boil down to this passage. I relate to Paul greatly as I lived a very destructive, disruptive life prior to coming to Christ – as did Paul. Knowing he still struggled, even after maturing in his faith, helps me to put things in perspective.

The maturation ends when the heart stops beating and not a moment before.

And, while it’s uplifting to know Paul had the same struggles, the real ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ moment is the next passage:

Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

No matter how many times I get caught in a dark cloud, I know the Son will always shine through.

To keep that at forefront of every day, I suggest this passage, which serves as a constant reminder of what we all have offered to us:

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Intersection of Self Worth and Strength

I've recently run into a bit of nearly overwhelming unexpected stress and anxiety from work related areas. It got so bad the other day I actually considered throwing in the towel and going back to an old career path that leads nowhere good, but pays very well.

Last night, I got on the phone with one of my best friends and he brought up Elijah sitting by the stream, watching it dry up. Elijah knew God's calling in his life and when all was said and done, despite the unexpected stress and anxiety, God's will prevailed and everything worked out for Elijah.

Since he and Paul are my two favorite biblical figures, and I'm very familiar with this story - which seems to have bookended our recently ended, two-year trip through the Kerith Ravine, when my friend Gary brought this up it hit me like a hammer.

Then, this morning, I opened up a few devotional emails and started reading. Oddly enough (or just as expected for those who know God's craftsmanship in our lives) the first two I read dove-tailed together and into this overall journey of the last few days. The first is from Bayless Conley, the second from Joe Gibbs.

Here they are:

Your Weakness, God's Power

2 Corinthians 12:9 is a powerful reminder of God's provision for you and me when we reach the end of our strength.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

When Paul wrote these words, he was being harassed everywhere he went by an evil spirit that he referred to as "a thorn in the flesh." It was a messenger sent from Satan to buffet him, to constantly harass him.

The constant harassment of this spirit finally got to him, and he begged God three times to take it away. Paul was clearly at the end of his rope.

But, even though Paul prayed for God's intervention three times, the spirit did not depart. And God's response to Paul was the verse we read above. His strength is made perfect in weakness.

What does perfect mean? It means that His power comes to full maturity…it blossoms…it is fully expressed in our weakness.

What was Paul's response? He went on to say in verses 9-10 of that same chapter,

Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions and distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It seems that sometimes we have to get to the end of ourselves before we will look fully to God. But when we do, we find that He is more than enough. If you are there today or close to that point, take hold of God's strength.

Put your trust in Him. He will bring you to the place of your breakthrough, and you will find the strength and direction you need.

This really resonated with me because it's so universal to first rely on our own strength and understanding and then feel like the walls are closing in when things don't go all roses and sunshine for us. But it reminds me of the old saying "If life was perfect, why would you need God?"

Then, as I contemplated that, I read Coach Gibb's devo:

Room to Be Human

We definitely live in a celebrity culture. How many industries—from sports talk to memorabilia sales—are manufactured on the backs of a culture that can't get enough scoop or goods on today's headline makers? We know they're just people, but somehow we're willing to let them be larger-than-life. It's in our cultural DNA.

But even those who impress us with their skill and swagger—the ones who are among the best at what they do—miss a lot of reads in the course of a game. They foul a lot of balls into the stands. They push a lot of shots wide of the fairway. Success is a matter of consistent skill and effort, but nowhere near perfection. There's never been a superstar who didn't know how it felt to pace the sidelines, frustrated with his play.

If you're in one of those funks where you're down on yourself for making an unwise decision at work, or underestimating how long something would take, or guessing wrong on a snap judgment call, maybe this would be a good day to cut yourself some slack. Nobody gets everything right, and God understands that about us. "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13-14).

Be fair with yourself today. Don't let a little pop-out keep you from swinging for the fences.

Pray this prayer: Lord God, thank you for knowing me better than I know myself, for being willing to forgive me when I foul things up. I pray for the courage to get back in and try again—for your glory.

So, that brings us to a crossroads. If things aren't going your way and you make a bad move or decision or action, it compounds things. That's when the doubt creeps in. That's when the enemy starts whispering in our ear, telling us all sorts of devaluing things.

"You're worthless..."

"You're an idiot..."

"You don't deserve the outcome you want..."

"Your life was meant to be terrible, look at you..."

And, it's at that point where we need God. In Exodus, God's presence is described like that of a mighty storm. Well, when things don't go our way and we compound that with mistakes, it's definitely a storm of sorts.

But at the eye of every storm is the Hand of the One Who Loves Us.

So, if you're struggling with a stream that's drying up, or living with the outcome of your less-than-perfect actions or decisions, look to God. It's hard to be influenced by what's wrong when you're focusing at all that's right.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Praying for Prayers

Something that is on my heart lately is prayer; don’t get me wrong, it’s been on my heart previously, but it’s risen like a high tide lately. The subject has been roiling around in the undercurrents of my thoughts for some time and just recently the wave has finally risen up and hit the beach.

Prayer is a direct link to God. It’s as if the power of the Holy Spirit is a vast oil reserve and all we need to do to drill into it and pump it out is set up a prayer well.

Matthew 7:7-10 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”

Some people are great at solid prayer and do it so well it amazes me. I’ve had several people tell me I’m one such person. But, I must confess I don’t think that’s true. Sure, I’m a wordsmith by trade and I can string together some compelling syntax, but as we can tell from the bible, polished vocabularies and purple prose don’t define a heart truly smitten with God. In fact, the bible is rife with grammatical errors and commentary that proves many who authored the passages were poorly educated in the literary sense. The ability to write well and speak well doesn’t necessarily equal the ability to pray well – even if it might seem so on the outside. The white-washed fence analogy comes to mind…

In thinking how to fix this, there’s a need to tally up the many of the obstacles I face. When I stop to consider who and what I want to pray for, I’m nearly overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. There’s always a seemingly unending list of people who need prayer. There’s always a list of things my family and friends need. There’s always a list of things others ask me to pray for and always a need for prayer for the church.

While John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, managed to find time to pray for eight hours a day, I just don’t see that happening in my life. And, if it did, I still feel like when I said the day’s final ‘amen’ I’d immediately think of something or someone I left out. Doh!

Another thing that scratches at me like a thorn in my shoe is the old “I’ll be praying for you” spiel. How often do we say that, meaning full well to lift others up, but never go beyond that comment? I do it far more than I’d like to admit. I know by saying that, I’ve made a covenant to lift someone or something up to God, so why don’t I always follow through 100%?

By saying “I’ll be praying for you” are we really doing anything more than offering comfort to those who hear the words? I honestly think it does little good beyond that if we don’t follow through with real, heartfelt prayer.

Another thing that gets me is almost a shame of knowing I should be praying more fervently, a notion that “I’m not worthy” that creeps in when I realize my prayers aren’t as frequent, specific and often as they should be. Knowing these things, why don’t I take full advantage of the power God has placed within me and within my grasp?

Furthermore, why do so many others who walk with Christ do the same thing? I’m sure it’s a combination of our fallen flesh, the storms of life and spiritual warfare, culminating in a prayer drought. But, this is something I’ve known for awhile, yet I still fall short…
What I’d like to ask today is that everyone reading these words join with me in praying one specific prayer, every day.

Father God,
Please help us become more effective with our prayers, every moment of every day.

I ask this is your Son’s precious and Holy name.

Matthew 18:19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

If we all pray that every day, fervently, meaningfully and sincerely, then we’ll all drill deeper into the power of the Holy Spirit, giving us all renewed strength in Him.

The feeling I get when I see a prayer answered is incredible. Knowing we can all experience that feeling every day is exciting.

If you’re willing, I’d ask that you experience it with me.

Now, I need to stop typing and start praying. When you’re done reading this, I ask that you pray, then reply to let everyone know that prayers are going out. Power is going out and Jesus is alive.

Luke 8:46 But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why I Have a Problem with Stagnant Churches.

I've never understood how a church can grow to the "average" size of around 250 and then close the doors. Too many churches out there are spending too much of their resources to only tend to those already in their midst and not enough effort in following the great commission.

Nowhere in the bible does it say we're to come together in small groups and insulate ourselves from the outer world. Yet, every community has church organizations that do just that.

I'm so passionate about this issue, that I actually have a book deal in the negotiation stages to cover this very subject. While I've only lain the groundwork for the book so far, every week or so I come across something new to add in, some fresh angle that further backs the point of view that churches were never meant to behave with a closed hand.

If your church isn't actively putting a vast effort into seeking and saving, then I submit to you that your church is dysfunctional.

Along those lines, is today's devotional from Pastor Bayless Conley.

The Vital Sign of Passion to Reach the Lost

One of the major signs that someone needs to be revived is a lack of concern for the lost. In David's psalm of repentance, Psalm 51:10-13, he says,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.

When David says, Renew a steadfast spirit in me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, he is saying, "God, revive me, restore me, renew me." One of the fruits we find in a heart that has been revived is a desire to see others converted. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.

When a person's spiritual life wanes, there is very little thought and very little action aimed at reaching the lost. Yet, someone who has been revived and is spiritually healthy will be actively engaged in the evangelization of the lost.

Read carefully these words from Elton Trueblood, a Quaker scholar. He said, "Evangelism occurs when Christians are so ignited by their contact with Christ that they in turn set other fires. It is easy to determine when something is aflame. It ignites other material. Any fire that does not spread will eventually go out."

When you are spiritually revived, you will think about the spiritual state of the people that you rub shoulders with every day. It is inevitable that when your heart is revived and close to God, you will have a concern for the lost.

Do 'average size' churches, that don't seek growth simply think they've done enough? My evangelism professor spoke of a church that interviewed him to lead their church into a new era. He laid out his plans for reaching lost people and growing their church and in turn, they responded by telling him they wanted him to remain in his office during business hours so he could address the concerns of the existing congregation. They didn't have time to seek & save, they were too wrapped up in their own problems.

I'd submit that their problem was the inward focus. While introspection and healing are necessary, they should never be the end game. If they are, the game is over.

If this describes your church, I pray God will convict you to either effect change or remove your family and find a new place of worship that actively spreads the Word. God blessed us to be a blessing to others and his blessings are as numerous as the stars; so too should be the people we all seek to bless.

There are a few people we're close to who exist in churches such as the type I describe and they actively defend the insular behavior. These churches sit in large metro areas with hundreds of thousands of lost souls within a 30 minute drive, yet these churches are content to exist mainly for themselves and to worship God. All I can think of when I hear them talk is they've done what so many other churches have done and bought into a lie from the deceiver.

I remember reading once that faith is like an escalator, if you're not actively moving up, your heading down - there is no standing still.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, - Matthew 28:19

Jesus tells us to go forth and make disciples. He doesn't command us to go huddle in a building and sing Kumbayah while people lose their lives all around us.

...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

"obey everything I have commanded you" means to go forth and make disciples. How much clearer does it need to be?

If you think you can't do it, you're listening to the lies of the enemy. If you think your church can't do it, the same applies. Once we accept Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us which is not bound by the enemy, unless we let it be so. Don't let it be.

I beg you, go forth and be fishers of men. God gives us so much and asks so little in return. How can we not obey?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Am Second

I've recently started watching UFC/MMA fights and found myself drawn in even further after noticing the sheer number of overt Christians in the sport. One shirt a fighter wore after a match that jumped out at me said "I AM SECOND" in giant letters and underneath in a much smaller font "Jesus is First."

I really dug that, and since seeing it there, have begun noticing it in more and more places. Last weekend, Eagle Brook Church ran a video from I Am Second about a deaf pastor who breathes the Word into the lives of 3000+ people every weekend. Today, I saw a link for a video from Brian "Head" Welch from Korn talking about how God helped him kick his addictions.

While I'm still not 100% certain what the movement is, I do see it working exceptionally well as a viral marketing conduit for God's Power. That's awesome. The Bible, banned by Kings, pronounced dead hundreds of times by human authorities, written over the course of thousands of years by many men who had no connection to one another, now has sunk it's roots into the internet age and is growing deeper and faster every day.

Praise God.

Let's all strive to come in second place.

I Am Second.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In His Image?

If God is a generous giver, and we're made in His image, why is greed such a problem for so many? Your local church and community, as well as many others in the world, needs the generosity of others to exist. God is generous, so why shouldn't we be? By not being as generous as possible, we not only hold back God's blessings from others, but we insult God.

From today's devotional, penned by Bayless Conley.

You Can't Out-Give God

Tucked away in the pages of the New Testament is a very powerful promise to those who are generous givers. It is found in Philippians 4:18-19,

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The Philippian church had made the financial support of the apostle Paul a priority. In these verses Paul acknowledges their generosity and also states a vital principle for every believer to grasp…you can't out-give God!

Not too long ago I came across a letter from a lady who had sacrificially given to the work of God. Here is what she said in her letter:

"My husband and I were in dire straits. He is a Vietnam War veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange. Due to his benefit claims being denied and his being unemployed for three years, we lost nearly everything. We had to put our home up for sale, but nothing was happening. During this time, I gave every penny I could get my hands on and always prayed. So one miracle after another began to take place. First, we were able to move into my husband's deceased mother's home. Then we signed papers for the sale of our former home. Next, my husband's claim for benefits was approved and awarded, and the award was backdated three years. Then he found a job! Our income has tripled, and God continues to do miraculous things for us."

My friend, become a generous giver today. Because you can't out-give God!

Live like God wants, live open-handed, we came into the world with nothing, we'll leave with nothing, so the times in between entrance and exit are only filled with what He gives us. It's not my stuff, it's not your stuff, it's His stuff. Honor Him by living generously.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blessings From Above

Today's Devotional from Pastor Bayless Conley

Embracing the Blessings of God

Ephesians 1:3 is a verse that is often misunderstood. It tells us,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

I used to read that and wonder what in the world a spiritual blessing in a heavenly place in Christ really was! I truly believed that I had been blessed with it, but I didn't have a clue what it meant.

Then one day as I studied, I found out that the word spiritual literally means Holy Spirit-conferred. The Amplified Bible helps clarify the meaning when it says, He has blessed us with every Holy Spirit-given blessing.

What it means, literally, is that the blessings you and I enjoy as believers in Jesus Christ come from heaven's vast resources. And they have already been conferred on us. Isn't that awesome?!

But there is something more. These Holy Spirit-conferred blessings include any blessing and benefit we get from God, be it material, physical, emotional, or spiritual.

So, when God heals you, it is a blessing being conferred through the agency of His Spirit. When God brings peace to your troubled heart, that is a blessing from the Holy Spirit. And when God supernaturally supplies material needs, that is the Holy Spirit at work blessing you from the vast resources of heaven!

But here is what I really want you to grasp. Based on this verse, all those blessings have already been given. They have been issued. On God's side of the ledger, they are a done deal. He has already signed them and sent them.

So praise God for…and embrace…His blessings in your life!

What are your blessings? In mine, I count my wife and son, my extended family and friends, my health, the talent God gave me to write and the peace He gives me when troubled times come and I remember to focus on Him. All good things, all Heaven sent.

Monday, June 13, 2011

For All the Dads Out There

This is from Joe Gibb's Two Minute Drill devotional series:

What Dad Says

If you’ve been a father for very long, you’ve heard one of your children say, “Dad, I remember you telling me . . .” And strangely, you may have no more than a dim memory of having said it. They were words that didn’t really register as they were coming out but, for whatever reason, they sure did register coming in.

Maybe it was a stray memory you shared while you were out fishing together or running weekend errands. Maybe it was a harsh critique of the way they were performing a task or treating a sibling. Maybe it wasn’t even something you were saying to them directly, but they were around, they heard it, they remember it.

Most dads don’t think of themselves as men of powerful, memorable words. But . . . we are. All of us.

So on this day of celebration, enjoy the cards and the phone calls, act surprised at the necktie and the nail care kit, doze in and out of the U.S. Open on television. But also take the chance to say some special things to your children, wherever they may be.

King Solomon wrote of his father, David, “When I was a boy in my father’s house . . . he taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart’” (Proverbs 4:3–4). Don’t let everything your children remember you saying be offhand and incidental. Make a point of telling them what your heart really wants to say.

Pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to be a dad who instructs and inspires my children the way you inspire me. Help me teach my children based on your Word that they may also mature in godliness.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"You Should Be Proud..."

The devil is a wolf who comes in sheep’s clothing. On the words of a friend, he seeps into our lives in the guise of something that’s good, when it’s really evil.

“You should be proud of your achievements…”

When you Google that phrase, there are dozens of pages with quotes of worldly people saying just it as if they hold ultimate authority over the human condition.

Be proud.
Be prideful.
You deserve it.

Fill your mind with thoughts of yourself and how important you are… you are number one, after all…

The word ‘pride’ occurs 69 times in the bible and ‘proud’ another 44 times, most often in ill context.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Never once does it say you should be proud of your achievements. No matter how deeply I look into the scriptures, I don’t see a single place where it talks of taking pride in one’s own fortune.

And why should it? What good comes from being prideful? What are the fruits of pride?

According to the Word, pride breeds contempt, arrogance, conceit, deception, disgrace, wrong doing, assault and violence. Do you want to be described with those words? I can testify to all those things and can also tell you it’s certainly no way to sum up who you are.

I have many reasons to be prideful according to the worldly way of things. And, I’m sure those who fight against our Lord would love nothing more than to whisper prideful thoughts in my ear so that I might become puffed up with pride, filled with arrogance and contempt, which will certainly lead to my disgrace and destruction of my witness.

What service do I give my son by showing him Daddy is prideful? None.
How do I bless my wife with by taking pride in my achievements? I don’t.
What honor am I showing God by filling my heart with pride instead of His glory?

Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

I am the product of a broken home, brought into this world by broken parents, raised in a broken environment where I was continually taught, through actions and words, that I was worthless. As with many people, I overcame that by filling the hole of my sense of self worth with arrogance and pride, constantly trying to prove to myself and others I was better than that. Sadly, I still catch myself doing it even in my current life.

But, I need to recognize that pride is a tool of the evil one and when the idea of being proud of my accomplishments is brought up, I need to put that behind me as with all things that are not of God.

Deuteronomy 8:14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God

For, I never want to put something in my heart where God belongs. I never want to perceive a hole where His presence dwells and never want to try and fill that hole with things of this world. Been there, done that.

Proverbs 16:5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

When the time comes and I must stand before the throne, I want to know I remained faithful, striving to do my best to follow His commands. I want Him to know that I focused on achieving things, not on being proud of the achievements. I didn’t make them, anyway.

John 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

My good friend Rob once came up with a very cool tee shirt design called Heroes and Villains. When I asked him about the inspiration for it, he replied that we all choose to be one or the other, a hero or a villain. It seems to me pride isn’t heroic, so embracing it definitely falls into the villainous camp. And, my wife and son don’t need a villain in the house.

Things of this world and life are fleeting, but what happens when I meet God face to face will last forever. No amount of books deals, or autographs signed or fan mail received will matter one iota once I’ve left this world. What will matter is how I handled the experience and which side I chose to stand on.

I choose to be a hero. I choose God. In the end, being a winner is far better than being proud.

Psalm 31:23 Love the LORD, all his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

She Felt So Used…

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. - Colossians 2:8

There are so many common sayings in our modern world that people spout, not realizing they come straight from the bible. From things like “Pride before the fall” to “skin of your teeth” the bible is full of phrases that have become so commonplace and clichéd people who use them do so with little or no understanding of their origin and true meaning. As an aside, I often catch myself snickering internally when atheists and devout anti-Christians use them, as if the words of God could add validity to their anti-God arguments. But, that’s a topic for another day.

An opposite phenomenon also occurs daily as there are many common phrases in this contemporary age that have taken an opposing definition to biblical ideals. The teachings of Jesus, at their core, call for a release of self and an embracing of selflessness. This world, instead, preaches “Look out for number one” and “it’s all about me” as well as “he who dies with the most wins.”

From that comes a sense of entitlement, a sense of selfishness, a foundation to life that clearly states in no uncertain terms that our own lives should be worshiped through the use of our time, talent and treasures. Instead of having Christ at the center of life, people who buy into these worldly ideas are replacing Christ with their own flawed selves.

How very unselfless.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

“She felt so used…”

When you read the title to this post, what did you think? In common, everyday vernacular, it immediately brings a slide to the darker side of human relationships. Thinking of a woman being used often conjures imagery of immoral behavior, selfishness, abuse and worse... often much worse.

But, in this case, we need to look at the saying in a biblical context, because I’m referring to my wife and how God has used her to motivate others with her weight loss. Angie feels so used by God it literally makes her shine with an emotional glow that illuminates her surroundings with a million points of warm and fuzzy Godliness.

She felt so used… when Pastor Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church asked her to provide before and after pictures so he might employ them in a service message about life change.

She felt so used… by others when they came to her after the message and asked if she would share her story in the hopes it might ignite similar motivations in them.

She felt so used… when close friends came over a week later and interviewed her for their own mission of personal life change, taking Angie’s knowledge and working it into a God-centered plan for a better future.

She felt so used… when several of us suggested she take her experience and build a ministry from it to help other women end their struggle with weight loss, giving them the ability to finally defeat a foe many have wrestled with all their lives.

She felt so used… when just this morning, Pastor Bob came to her again, asking for more pictures and information so he could share it on another large platform that would take what God has done through Angie and impact countless more lives with it.

She felt so used… and He saw that it was good.

I’m happy to say my wife is being used. She’s the apple of my eye and I would go to the ends of the Earth for her and even though her spirit is willing, her flesh is weak. However, with God all things are possible, including taking a phrase that sounds so terrible and proving it means something far greater than any of us might imagine.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Voices that Cry Out

From Pastor Bayless Conley's Answers for Each Day

Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (James 5:3-4).

These words are written to believers, to Christians who are hoarding up wealth rather than giving to support the spread of the gospel.

The reapers in verse 4 are those preaching and working out in the harvest fields of the world. Notice it says that the Lord has heard their cry. But if you read carefully, you will find that another cry has entered the Lord's ears as well.

"The wages" of the laborers cry out to God as well! The tithes and offerings that have been withheld cry out. Monies that should have been sown into the cause of Christ are raising their voices in a mighty chorus to heaven!

Large amounts of undesignated and unused funds that sit in bank vaults cry out. Funds God has graciously given to His people that have been withheld from their purpose—to bring a living Jesus to a dying world—cry out and cry out and cry out!

Are you sitting on a talking wallet today? Is your purse crying out to God? If you could hear their voice, what would they cry? "China! Europe! Africa! The Middle East!"??

Are you generously supporting the work of your own local church? Do not let your money testify against you! Give where, when, and how much God directs— consistently—into the work of His Kingdom.

If the precious fruit of the earth is going to be reaped, we have to support those who labor in the field.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Look up?

As humans, we’re always looking to others for a variety of things such as mentoring, measuring our own lives and examples of how things are done. Sadly, we often look at the position others have without seeing the impact they leave behind. Especially those of us who spent a big part of our formative years without a solid role model in our daily lives.

For a considerable amount of my life, I was lacking in direct role models, so I looked to the same places far too many young people do: celebrities. I admired professional football players, idolized professional musicians, dreamed of being wealthy like many in the public eye and desired the fame they had.

Why is that? What good can fame and fortune really do? Sure, the people I admired from a distance seemed to have great lives, carefree and unburdened by the worries that weighed me down. But, I was too naïve to really look at what sort of shadow they cast and how that was a true reflection of where their lives were.

Many of these ‘idols’ seemed to be worthy of envy, with fancy cars, big houses and never a fear about where their next meal would come from. However, a lot of them aren’t doing anything that carries a truly positive impact on the world around them. In fact, if you really look deep enough, many of them are behaving in a satanic manner, that is, doing things that lead people away from Christ and toward the things of this world.

Getting rich and famous is hardly a be-all, end-all for life. How do I know this, since I’m far from either in a worldly sense? Just dig into the lives many of these celebrities lead and you’ll see for yourself: broken homes, addictions, spiritual emptiness, devotion to money and all that it brings. That’s certainly not something worth envying.

Over the last many years, I’ve realized this, especially in the last few where my family went from being “rich” by worldly standards to living just above the poverty line in a matter of a year. In that time, I not only realized my priorities had been wrong for a long, long time, but I also discovered a lot of it had to do with where I let my vision fall.

Now, I look to men such as Max Lucado, Mark Driscoll, Greg Rohlinger, Craig Groeshel as my new “celebrities”. Each of these men has achieved a level of fame and fortune, but in Not Of This World terms, instead of what I used to quantify as success.

Each of these men casts a shadow that leaves behind uplifted souls. Each of these men is doing something to fulfill Billy Graham’s great quote that I’ll paraphrase here “My job is to get to Heaven and bring as many people with me as possible!”

One of my big turning points occurred when I saw a very famous ex-football player give a tour of his house on the NFL Network. When they got to his closet, he revealed over 1900 custom-tailored suits that cost in excess of $1000 each. He stored these suits in a two-story closet that was roughly 2500 square feet in size. Instead of feeling envy at this man’s fame and fortune, I immediately felt revulsion inside. Imagine what he could do with $1.9 million dollars for God’s Kingdom. That’s game changing money… but instead, he benched it and let it go to the evil one.

While the player does boast of having great faith, I see a camel and the eye of a needle in his future. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Thankfully, I learned God’s lessons about money before I hit the eye of that needle. Although I have the ability and potential to back slide at any moment, so, I need to keep focusing on the Godly role models I have now, such as my Father-in-law, my mentor and the men I mentioned above.

This brings me to the question of how I’m living. Since we all have the ability to be someone’s role model, what shadow am I casting? The kind that says “Life is all about getting rich and living like a King here on Earth” or the kind that says “I need to get to Heaven and bring as many people with me as possible”?

I’m very appreciative that God humbled me and has shown me the former is no way to live and the latter is far more rewarding than anything I could store in my closet, no matter how much I spend. But, I know if I fail to remember that, I’m only a few steps from the edge at any given moment. So, please say a prayer that I continue to grow spiritually, continue to learn only from those walking towards God and always cast a shadow that shows my son where his priorities should fall, not in this world, but in the next.