Sunday, May 27, 2012

Who is in your boat?

  Life will take us down many roads and across many waters.  Those roads will at times be rocky, and those waters turbulent.  There is nothing new about this.  There will be storms.  It is going to get unpleasant, and sometimes scary. What we have to ask ourselves is one simple question.  "Who is in the boat with me?"
  The boat, of course, is metaphorical.  The question however is the same.  Either we are on board with Jesus Christ or we aren't.  If we are, in fact, on board with our Lord and Savior we have nothing to fear.  Remembering this isn't always easy.  The twelve disciples found it difficult, even with Jesus there in plain sight.

 Luke 8: 22-25

  One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Lets go over to the other side of the lake.". So they got into the boat and set out.  As they sailed, he fell asleep.  A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
  The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, we're going to drown!"
  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.
  In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this?  He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

  They had, at this point, seen countless miracles by His hand.  They had every reason to stand firm in the knowledge that their master would save them.  Yet, despite all of this, they faltered.  Panic took them.  They cried out, "We are going to drown!" They did one thing right.  When all seemed lost, they called out to Jesus.  What they had failed to see, was that He was with them the whole time.

  I am reminded of the story of the footprints in the sand.  The individual is talking to Jesus.  The person points out that through most of his life there are two sets of footprints.  He is upset though, because there are portions of his life's path where only one set can be seen.  These are the times the man remembers being the hardest.  These are the times he thought he would never make it through.  He demands to know why.  He wants to know why he sees two sets of footprints where his life was easy, but the minute things got tough that second set seems to have disappeared.  He asks why, why wasn't Jesus there?  Why is there only one set of footprints when having the Lord there at his side would have really counted for something?   In this story, Jesus gives only one reply.  He says, "Where you see only one set of footprints, I carried you."

  This is a story (from a much debated source)told to  illustrate a point.  It is that same point that was missed by the disciples in the boat.  Do we know who we have with us?  Are we missing the gravity of WHO HE IS.  The creator of the universe is with us every step of the way.  What we must do when the world  around us slides into chaos, is take a deep breath and remember.  We have to trust in Him.  Nothing can compete with WHO HE IS.  "He commands even the winds and the water."  

  There is nothing wrong with crying out to the Lord.  There is everything right with doing exactly that.  Just remember, He already knows.  He is there with you.  Do not lose faith.  Do not fear.  Cry out to the Lord, but do not be reduced to panic and fear.  Do not forget who it is that you have in the boat.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Holding out for His will...

Psalm 37: 1-9

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord willerinerit the land.

  How many times have we seen others prosper where we struggle?  As if this were not frustrating enough, we know that certain individuals are doing it through unethical and immoral means.  We see those who head out into the world time after time, living it up, sinning like there is no tomorrow, and seem to get away with it.

  What we must do in these cases is resist the urge to throw in the towel.  God has called us to be different and we must remain steadfast in His Word.  He has a plan for each and every one of us.  Rest assured that this plan is not for us to fail.  Oh, we might not succeed where we think we want to, but God has something deeper and more meaningful in mind.  He knows where we really need to be.  He also knows the desires of our hearts.  This is not the urge for something fun, or that techno gadget we have been wanting.  This is that deep down yearning to attain what we cannot without His hand.

  We have to remember that the paths we see, while seeming to be quick routes to our goal, often end up taking us places that we never wanted to go.  It is certainly this way with sin in any form.  Things may seem to go well for those going about worldly ways at the present time, but the Lord has made a promise as to the story's end.  It is those who remain still and steadfast that will prosper.  Those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

  Whatever your challenge, consider the cost.  Consider the prize.  Isn't it worth holding out a little longer?  Commit to the Lord.  Draw to Him, and give Him your trust.  Accept that you may not fill all of those wants.  But know that God will take care of your needs.  Even more so, He will see that you realize the true desire of your heart.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don't you know who I am?

  We all have our reasons for the things that we do and don't do.  When it comes to our calling from the Lord, none of these otherwise solid and air tight arguements seem to hold water.  Invariably, we turn to the one argument we have left.

  I'm talking about the one argument that seems to get in the way, even when we desire to do the thing God has called us to.  It goes something like this: "This can't have come from God.  I can't do this.". We then turn to our bibles.  We get down on our knees in prayer.  We ask for clarity.

  Now, at the point where we have confirmation in scripture and in Spirit, we start to get upset.  Now begins, "Why me God?  Don't you know who I am?  I know you have seen the things that I have done.  You know how I used to be.  How can you call me to this?  Nobody is going to take me seriously!"

It is time to consider three solid cases for this same argument where God chose someone who was not only unfit, but of a dubious past.

  Moses was the son of a slave, raised as a prince, who discovered his own origins, committed murder, and left town.  He didn't just leave town, he ran.  He knew that, in Egypt, he was known as a murderer.  Were he to return wearing the mantle of deliverer, he would be seen as a traitor as well.  Yet, in Exodus 3, God sends Moses to that exact place with that exact mission.  The Egyptians had every reason to kill him, and the Israelites had absolutely no reason to trust him.  We all know what happened next.

  Now let's move to the New Testament.  

  Matthew was a tax collector.  This was considered to be the lowest of low by the Jewish and Roman people alike. This was a group who sought out their own and demanded money to be paid for both government and temple taxes.  They were known to be dishonest on the whole, and were little better than thieves.  Yet, Christ called one of these to walk with Him and preach the gospel.

  Matthew 9: 9-13
  As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth.  "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

  Matthew had every reason to doubt the sanity of Jesus' call.  I can only imagine the overwhelming power of that call, made in person, by the Word made flesh.  Matthew did not argue, but obeyed.

  Now consider Saul, the Pharisee.  This man was a lawyer, prosecuting attorney, judge, and jury, all rolled into one.  He sought out Christians and made sure that they were punished, usually put to death.  He made an example of them. He was good at his job.  Then something happened on the road to Emmaeus.

Read Acts 9: 1-31

  Saul was confronted by God.  He was so set in his ways, that it took this grandios intervention by God to get his attention.  God knocked him down and struck him blind.  Then after following God's instructions, he was healed.  He was then sent to join the disciples and preach to the Gentiles.  Now, he was a being called to go to a group of people that he knew wouldn't trust him (and they didn't at first), and join their ministry by going out and and sharing the gospel with a people that prior to then had been considered unclean and unworthy.  He knew good and well that the disciples wouldn't go for that either.

  Yet, Saul, now Paul, did go and do as the Lord directed.  His ministry was anointed from the start.  This man reached the far corners of the known world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He cast out demons and healed the sick.  He converted the masses and is responsible for  writing a good portion of the New Testament.  What if he had fallen prey to his own "solid argument"?

  It comes to this.  God knows who you are.  He knows where you have been and what you have done.   He calls us to Him.  We submit to His authority and he makes us clean.  None of that from before matters from that moment on.  It is how we choose to live our lives then and every minute after that counts.  In that moment, the Lord of all creation has informed us that he no longer cares about our past, and that he is going to use us for His glory and the good of His kingdom.  Will we dig in our heals and defeat ourselves in stubborn arguments born in shame or doubt?  We have a choice.  We can do what we are called to do, what we were created to do, and obey the Lord.  
  God changes us when we step out in faith.  We become less of who we were and more of who He has called us to be.  It is our honor and privilege to serve the Lord.  It is our responsibility as citizens and ambassadors of heaven.  We have only to put aside our own prideful ideas and limitations.  We have to trust in Him.  That is the greatest challenge of it all.  It is also absolutely necessary.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Wrong Turn

  We all know someone who has slipped away.  Either through temptation, peer pressure, or as the result of some tragedy that they could not accept in light of what they thought they knew about God.  What are we to do in these situations?  

Matthew 18: 12-14
  "What do you think?  If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."

  We are all called to love and serve on another, as Christ served those who were with Him.  Sometimes that love took the form of harsh correction.  When one of the twelve did as much as utter words forged in a strayed line of thought, Jesus confronted him with the truth.  The apostles loved Jesus, and wanted to follow His commands.  They made themselves subject to His will, but sometimes they strayed, or came up short.  

 Mark 9: 14-29
  When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.  As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
  "What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.
  A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.  He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
  "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you?  Bring the boy to me."
  So they brought him.  When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion.  He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
  Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
  "From childhood," he answered.  "It has often thrown him into the fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
  "If you can?" said Jesus.  "Everything is possible for him who believes."
  Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
  When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit.  "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."
  The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out.  The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead.". But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
  After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
  He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

  We see  that Christ discovers the disciples arguing when there are to be no divisions among us.  Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  He then discovered that they are suffering from a crisis of faith due to their failure to drive out this particular evil spirit.  Look at what happens next.

  Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith.  He then shows them that this spirit, like all things, must submit to His authority.  He shows them that, despite what they have seen, it can be done.  He then instructs them on how to be successful the next time.

  It all sounds simple, a logical approach to correction.  I'm telling you though, that it isnt that easy.  Emotions are going to be involved, and strong ones.  You have to be in the Word.  You need to be able to turn to scripture.  You need to be sure that you are reaching out to correct in love, even if the circumstances require hard words.  Most of all, you need to be covered in prayer.  This is the most powerful tool that we have been given as Christians, and we must use it.  You must pray for that individual, over them if they will let you.  You must pray for wisdom, and the right words to say to that person.  You have to act.

  We, as the church, cannot afford to sit silently and watch those who have been marked as His, slide back into darkness.  We cannot afford to let those who are His, continue to suffer when we have been given the power and authority to make them whole.  We must venture out, now and then, to rescue the one.

  Christ made His heart clear on this matter, and it is Him that we serve.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Get going already!

Mark 16: 15-18
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will pick up snakes with their bare hands, and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all, they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well.”

These words are both inspirational and terrifying. God has endowed all of His children with the authority and responsibility to do His will. It is not a request, but our duty and our joy as slaves to Christ. We have from Him, a comission. We have from Him, the power of the Holy Spirit. We have His protection. We must find within us the boldness that He requires.

He has not said to pray for them that perhaps they may be healed. Do this from the safety of your home, where none may hear.

Read again how our Lord said that his own will be known.

"...they will place their hands on sick people and they will get well."

This is a powerful thing that we are called to do in His name. This is a scary thing. We are called not to doubt but to faith. Every step is a challenge. We have to trust in the Lord. We have to be hungry for Him, hungry for the Spirit, hungry to see the spread of His kingdom. We have to stop trying to act secretly behind closed doors. We have to acknowledge him with our lips and in our actions.

Luke 6: 46-49
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building his house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

What have we to fear when we stand firm upon the rock? Yes, the floods of the enemy will come against us. Yet, we will endure the storm in all its terror, for the Lord is with us. We must listen to His word, and follow it. We are to pray to God that we may see His will in all things, that we may hear His direction. Let us pray for those divine appointments, ones such as that of Philip, on the road to Gaza.

Acts 8: 26-39
Now and angel of the Lord said to Philip, “God south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, and important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So, he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the Good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, the came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

I pray that all God's church will truly seek Him. I pray that we will hear His call and keep those appointments that will make all of the difference. Let us live in faith, and not in fear. Let us stand, even in the face of adversity and show the truth and power of our savior. May we be obedient to the Lord and serve Him in the sharing of the gospel and the blessings of the Lord that he pours out in abundance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What do you long for?

The longings of many have been put into song. John Denver longed for that country road to lead him home. Ray Charles sang of thoughts and longings for Georgia. He said it was always on his mind.
Read what the psalmist has to say about longings.

Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.

This describes one who is truly seeking after the Lord. To long for God as a deer for water, to know in your heart that you can't live without Him, and to feel that burning in your soul. This is a person who chases after God as though his very life depends on it, because it does.

This is what God wants from His church.

Read Isaiah 30:9-11

How much of the church falls under this description. How many of us sit in congregations asking to hear "a message of hope"? How many churches are bringing people in with the good news of the gospel, but never delving any deeper? Where is the correction? Where is the guidance? The church needs this so desperately, yet the vast majority does not want it. We say the "sinners prayer". We put our name on the church roster. We sit in our pews and wait to be told how great we are for coming to church on Sunday and how God has wonderful things planned for us.

Read Isaiah 30:19-21

We have been called to wake up. We have not been listening. If we have been listening, we have not been responding. We are the church. We are God's people, citizens of heaven. Why are we choosing to die of thirst? We have but to cry out! We have but to listen! God will show us the way. He has already made the path. We just need to wake up and let him tell us where it is.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.

Do the words of the psalmist describe your heart? Do the words of the psalmist describe the church?

It is time to cry out.
It is time to pray.
It is time to open our minds and our hearts.
We have to listen.
We have to act.

Our very lives depend on it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


In 2 Samuel 6:1-11, we find David returning to Jerusalem with the ark. The cart lurches, and Uzzah makes the mistake of touching it. David witnesses the man being burned to death on the spot. As a result, he is afraid and leaves the ark in the care of Obed-Edom the Gittite. After three months he hears of the blessings this household has seen and decides it is safe to bring the ark into the city.

Now, read 2 Samuel 6:12-23

David is overcome with joy as the ark is brought into the city. He can no longer contain himself and begins to dance before the Lord. He is completely consumed by his joy and love for God and behaves in a way that many, who are prim and proper, would consider foolish. In verse 16, we see that his own wife is filled with contempt for him at the sight of this display.

2 Samuel 6:16
As the ark was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul, watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

I was not raised in a church that encouraged “foolish behavior” of any sort. Reverence for the Lord meant that we were to be proper at all times. At least, that is how the congregation seemed to feel about it. Raised in this way, the first time I experienced people dancing in praise, I was very uncomfortable. In some ways, I shared the opinion of Michal, as she watched David dance. No, I did not have the fear of being embarrassed by extension. I was not related to any of those present in any way, so it would not be connected to me. Yet, I was upset by their apparent lack of propriety.

My response was one of evasion. I left quickly, when the service was over, hoping nobody would give me cause for delay, or worse, ask me why I did not join them in their foolishness. Michal, on the other hand, decided to confront her husband on the matter.

2 Samuel 6:20-22
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel had distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel-I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

I thank God that he has changed me. He has spoken to my heart, and revealed through His word, that this is not only accepted, but desired. God wants our praises. He is to be given the glory in all things. It is right to give Him praise. He deserves it. If its acceptable that we get excited enough to jump up and down over something as mundane as a sporting event, how can we not do the same for the Lord of Lords and King of Kings when he has saved us from hell itself?

“I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this…” If only we had the courage to respond in this way all of the time. Oh, we dance before the Lord. We find ourselves in the midst of worship. The Spirit begins to move. We are overcome with the joy of His presence and we praise Him. It is only right. But, are we always like this? It is easy to be a fool for the Lord when everyone else is doing it too.

What are we doing when we know that our own Michal’s are watching?