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.