Happy New Year

I know it is a few days late but as they say, “better late than never”, so Happy New Year! You know what I’ve always wondered, who is “they”? “They” always say, “they” always do, but nobody ever says who “they” is; just something to think about.

Now that the holidays are over, I will get back into the practice of sending out devotionals on a regular basis. Speaking of practice does it bother anyone else that doctors, dentists & lawyers call what they do “practice”? They have a medical practice, dental practice or a law practice; I don’t know about you but I’d rather they practice in school or on someone else and by the time they get to me, they don’t need more practice. Something to ponder next time you’re in the waiting room to see the doctor.

The New Year holiday is a time to reflect on the previous year as well as make goals & plans for the upcoming year. While we may plan and prepare there will undoubtedly be things that come up, good and bad which will impact our lives at home, work & church. As children of God we don’t have to worry over these things, because we serve a God who is bigger, greater & stronger than any thing that comes before us. The most important thing we can do, the best plan we can have, the greatest goal to achieve is to walk closer with God in 2013 than we did in 2012. These unexpected things will become blessings as we see God do great things through them and through us.

Make God a priority this year…See you Sunday!

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2 NLT

For This I’m Thankful

I wanted this devotional to be about 2 very different football games, both with the same outcome but achieved in very different ways, God wasn’t a fan of this idea because He placed a different burden on my heart for today and for this I’m thankful, because it means He’s still talking to me. I have a wonderful wife, 2 healthy happy boys, a good job, a home to go to, an abundance of blessings God has given me, for this I’m thankful.

One of the things people often try to do during the holidays is pick one thing they are most thankful for. It can be a difficult decision and oft times people aren’t able to choose that one thing, but today I found it, God gave it to me and for this I’m thankful. While I was in seminary, I had the opportunity to preach in a lot of churches; sometimes when the pastor was on vacation, when the church was without a pastor, at youth camps, mission meetings, sometimes when a pastor felt sorry for me because it’s been a while since someone let me preach and I discovered something, something very ugly. So what is that ugly something? Churches have some very un-Godly people in them, some more than others, but they all have them.

The Devil is able to do more damage to churches, and the cause of Christ using church members than using non-believers. Comments like “did you hear what they did”, “I can’t believe they wore that to church”, “I can’t believe s/he would come back here”, “I’m surprised they’re still together” whatever it might be, church folks can be some of the most un-Godly, un-forgiving people on the planet. God’s people aren’t always a reflection of God and I’m thankful God isn’t who some of His people make Him to be. That’s hard to say, some may think it is harsh to say, it breaks my heart to say it, but many times, we fail miserably in our responsibility to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

Think for a moment if you would about Peter. Imagine you’re on a boat with Peter and the other disciples, Jesus has sent you on the boat and all of a sudden, you all look and there Jesus is, walking on the water towards you. Everyone is understandably scared out of their minds and Jesus, sensing that fear assures everyone there is nothing to be afraid of, it really is Him. Everyone calms down and the Peter speaks up and says ‘Oh yeah, well Jesus if it really is You, let me walk on water too.’ A hush falls over the boat, anticipation as to how Jesus will respond, and then He invites Peter out of the boat onto the water. Peter steps out and walks on the water towards Jesus, then he gets a little overconfident, begins to look around sees the wind and waves and begins to sink. Sinking, Peter cries to Jesus for help and Christ extends His hand, pulls Peter from the water and guides him to the safety of the boat.

Now imagine if you would if Jesus was a little more like some church folks. Peter questions if it is really Him and Jesus invites Peter to join Him on the water. Peter walks out on the water towards Jesus, then he begins to sink, cries out for help and Jesus responds, ‘really Peter, I helped you once, you really expect me to help you again’. Or Jesus scoffs, ‘how dare you question me’, or He looks at everyone in the boat and says ‘can you believe he’d ask for help after I already helped him once’. But that’s not Jesus, it is nowhere close to who He is, for that I’m thankful.

As God’s children, we have a responsibility to be like Christ. Whether we like it or not, people are watching to see how we act and re-act and our actions influence how people think of Christ. We should, we must, be more like Christ, more forgiving, more understanding, more loving. The next time someone comes to you with gossip, tell them you don’t want to hear it. When you are tempted to judge, remember that it isn’t our place, but Christ’s. Lastly, we have to love, love and love some more. All of our responsibilities to Christ center on His love and our showing the world His love by loving people, even when we think we can’t.

May we live our life in such a way that we wouldn’t be worried if Christ acted like us; He won’t, and for this we can all be thankful.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Here I Am

If you weren’t able to make it to the Missions Conference this week, you missed a blessing and a challenge. We had the privilege this week of having 5 missionary families with us that have an amazing passion for sharing the love of Christ with the people of Turkey, Peru, Greece, East Asia and Mexico. It gave me goose bumps to hear Kat Compton talk about being homesick for Peru and her & Elmo’s desire to get to Lima to share Jesus Christ with the 9 million people who live there. It made me glad to be a part of Bible Baptist Church when I heard Cristina & James Sinde talk about how welcome they felt.

As I thought about these missionary families, I thought about each of you and even as I write this, I’ve got those goose bumps again because I know each of you has that same passion for sharing Jesus with people that these missionaries have. Our mission field might is Mexico, Peru, East Asia, Greece, Turkey, DeQuincy and so many other places. As we invite people we know to church, we are carrying out the Great Commission. As we make our commitment to Faith Promise for the next year, we are expanding the field we are reaching. As we commit to give to missions we are a part of the work that the Lillys, Comptons, Williams, Sindes, Mortons and many others, we are their mission partner. We don’t have to get on a plane, a boat, a train, a hot air balloon, a blimp or other wacky form of transportation and go to some far off corner of the Earth to be faithful to God’s command to go and preach the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world.

We should pray daily for our missionaries, for the people they are trying to reach and for ourselves, that we will be faithful to give and encourage these families. In the coming weeks, I’m hoping to use this space once a week or so to spotlight a missionary family and hope you will take the time not only to pray for them but also to send them a note or email that will encourage them. My prayer is that missions will become an important part of who we are and our relationship with Christ. That we will have a passion for sharing the Gospel throughout the world. That missions won’t just be something we talk about but something we are engaged in. That when the call to help with missions goes our, we will respond, Here I am God, use me.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NLT

Why Won’t We Listen

At some point in your life as a parent, you will ask your child/children, “Why won’t you listen to me?” or “Why aren’t you listening to me?”, it happens, they choose not to listen. For whatever reason, our children will choose not to listen to us. Just as we, for whatever reason, choose not to listen to our parents and as children of God, choose not to listen to our Heavenly Father.

This week our lesson focuses on our inability to be obedient to a Holy and Just God. He has given us His perfect and complete Word, filled with promises and we are quick to dismiss it. From the beginning of time, in the Garden of Eden, mankind has chosen to ignore God’s instructions. God says don’t eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and they ate. God says don’t touch the Ark of the Covenant and someone just had to touch it and they died. God says don’t make any idols and the children of Israel make a calf of gold, why?!? God says come to me and I’ll give you rest and we’re so busy running, we run right past Him. So we return to the question of why.

Well, I have an answer, but you’re probably not gonna like it. Adam and Eve got tricked, plan and simple, the devil pulled on over on them and they disobeyed God. As for us, we do it because of our sin nature, even though we have the Holy Spirit in us, we still sin, we still fail, but we are covered by the blood of Jesus. When God looks at us, even when we’ve sinned, He doesn’t see our failure or short-coming, He sees the redeeming blood of Jesus.

It is our responsibility as children of God to be on guard against the devil and his tricks and listen to the Word of God. To make it a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. We should make the choice to listen to God and be obedient to His Word

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:11-13 NKJV

What Did I Just Do?

Have you ever had one of those moments, where you did something and after you did it, you stopped and asked yourself, “What did I just do?” or “Why did I do that?”. Even as children of God, we have times where our sin nature takes over and we sin. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, we know what we ought to do and we don’t do it and we know what we shouldn’t do and do it anyway. It can be frustrating, embarrassing and discouraging; you might even feel unworthy of your relationship with God because of what you’d done.

The truth is, we aren’t worthy of our relationship with God. There is nothing we can do to deserve this relationship, nothing that will make us worthy, but the best news is our relationship with God isn’t dependent on anything we do. It is a relationship initiated by God through the calling of the Holy Spirit, made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

We aren’t done yet, there is more good news! Our failures, our short-comings, our “what did I just do” moments, they don’t define who we are with God. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior we become a child of God, a joint heir with Jesus Christ and that is who we are with God; one of His children. Consider if you would your own child/children, despite what they may or may not do, it doesn’t change the fact they are your child. The same is true with God, once we become His child, that’s a forever relationship because He chose to make it a forever relationship. The promise of God is nothing can separate us from His love. We are now defined by what Jesus did at Calvary. We should live as a child of the King, dependent upon God, filled with the Holy Spirit, covered by the atoning blood of Jesus!

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8

Great Expectations

Expectations. Have you ever started a new job and spent the first day (or several) and wandered aimlessly because you didn’t know what to do? Or volunteered for something and just stood around because you weren’t sure how you were supposed to pitch in? Without expectations, we’re lost; unsure where to go or what to do, we need that direction; we were designed for it.

Fortunately for us, God knew of our need for direction and He filled His word with expectations. Whether it is our relationship with God, with people or how we live our life with need direction. Unfortunately, many times we live like a man on trip; we have a map, we have an idea of where we’re going but somewhere we miss a turn or make a wrong turn and we refuse to stop and ask for directions. Our pride gets in the way and we don’t want to admit we don’t know or made a mistake. Pride can destroy us, it ruins marriages, friendships, costs people jobs, a lifetime of work and it is not worth it. Stop and ask for help, it is not a sign of weakness, it is a indication of some sense, some wisdom.

When you aren’t sure, seek God’s direction. Before you start seek God’s direction. There is no reason to wander when you have the road map for a successful, meaningful life at your disposal. It will do wonders for filling that place within you that cries for direction and knowing what’s expected.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Celebrate Uniqueness

One of the cool things about the Bible is there are approximately 40 different writers of 66 books over 1600 years and yet there is one Author, God, who allowed each writer to inject their own personalities into their writing. While God inspired the writers, they were not mere robots writing something that was dictated to them, they were able to write in their own style. Consider if you would the 4 Gospels; each tells the story of Christ’s life on earth, but each in a way unique to the writer. We’ll discuss why this was Sunday morning.

Just as God allowed each writer to maintain their own sense of style in writing, God allows us to keep our unique identities as we serve Him. While God does expect our life to be such that it brings Him honor, He doesn’t expect us to be ‘cookie-cutter’ children of God. We don’t have to give up all of who we are to serve God. God created us as unique beings and He wants us to hold on to those things that set us apart and USE that uniqueness to serve Him. Why? Because people are different and our uniqueness will allow us to reach people that others could not.

So many people are afraid to give their life to Christ because of what they’ll have to give up. Somehow, people have gotten the idea that to be a child of God is to give up everything that resembles fun. Where this idea came from, I have no idea. Now don’t get me wrong, there will be things we have to change and give up, but fun is not on the list. Thou shalt not have fun is nowhere in the Bible. Neither is thou shalt check your personality at the door, or you gotta look like you just lost your best friend to be ‘spiritual’. Its just not there, regardless of the translation you read from. In fact just the opposite is true, our new life in Christ is filled with joy and excitement because it is lived with a relationship with the Creator, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

I encourage you to continue to be yourself, use your uniqueness to glorify God so others might see that they can still be themselves after they accept Christ. Become a tool God can use to debunk the myth that a life with Him is dull, boring and just not that much fun.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9