buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Peace in Chaos

This week is the annual family beach trip. As I sit here typing away, children are squealing in delight. The television is blaring with cartoons. But I am in my happy place even if it’s chaotic. I love this place with the family under one roof. The youngest is under one year and the oldest – my Dad – closing in at 90 this month. The baby had a hard time adjusting to my Dad; I guess old just doesn’t come across well to the young. Anyway, family is very special to me. I love being with my nephew and their kids. The kids go strong from sun up to sun down; and I think the adults are a bit jealous to have some of that energy!

God blesses the young with the energy and the old with the dreams – the young can accomplish what the old no longer can manage. We pass the baton to the young and let them run the race. We can give guidance and instruction. But they have to pay attention to what we have to say. Many times, the young resent the boundaries we impose on them. Boundaries are there for protection. As the young grow more mature, the boundaries are adjusted to reflect their new maturity.

I think God gives us boundaries as well. We all need those protective boundaries. The ocean only goes so far. God set those boundaries at the beginning. Climate change is a big topic right now, but I believe God already allowed those boundaries to expand and contract through time. We are the ones who have built where we shouldn’t have built.

The beach where we stay is located on an island. At the point of the island, we can see across to the next island. The other island has houses built to the very tip. However, there is a multitude of sandbags lining the shore to protect the houses that were never meant to be there in the first place. The planners didn’t plan for the shifting sands to shift, but it has occurred just as God allowed from the beginning.

God knows the boundaries will be pushed. Culture resents the boundaries He established from the beginning. Those houses will be long gone in a few years; the sands on the island shifts as the tide flows. But we are to be ones who never shifts as the tide of culture shifts. Our foundation is on the rock of Jesus. Our foundation does not move according to culture change. Right now that is unacceptable. We might experience blow back from our narrow view. God, however, is not pleased when culture shifts away from Him.

As the people of God, we are not to judge but to love. God never gave us the right to judge others. That is His right. His Word tells us our right is to love as Jesus loved. It’s easy to love my family. They are a loving bunch. I think God gave us a picture of a family in order to show us where we stand with Him. He wants all of His children to get along. He wants His family to show love to others outside His family. God is all about adoption and would love to graft all the people of the world into His family.

As my family has grown over the years (with new people being grafted in), we have all had to make adjustments. But we live with the same rules when we come together. We have the same understanding. There may be chaos in our midst, but there is a peace that fills the room. Love is the undercurrent that never shifts from our foundations. Yes, there is discipline when someone breaks the rules. There is crying involved at least once a day. But at the end of the day, we know that love always prevails.

So it should be with God’s family. Our foundation is built on love. Chaos may happen all around us, but peace is always part of our DNA through Jesus; and love always prevails at the end of the day. God has allowed what is taking place today, but it’s never His will to let others dictate how we live. When we live by His rules and His boundaries, we are in a happy place. Our lives work better and the peace fills the room of our hearts. This is God’s way. His foundation never shifts, and we can stand on that promise. The beach is a good place to learn how to be in a loving family.

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NLT)

The Stories

Over the last few days, I have been listening to several speakers tell their stories. I tuned into Daystar on my Roku and found Joni Lamb’s Table Talk. She was in Australia for the Plantshakers conference. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard of this conference before; but apparently this conference has been going on for years. One of the stories was a young man who started a bottled water company because he saw the plight of the poor with no clean water. He saw the statistics of the poor without water, and the statistics of how much bottled water is sold throughout the world. That gave him an idea. He had no experience in bottling water. He had no experience in business. But he had an idea – a God-sized idea. According to their website, they have given over $5.5 million to people in need. That’s pretty amazing! Check out https://thankyou.co/ for their amazing story.

I moved on to another speaker who talked about work that he and his wife are doing in the Middle East. Tom Doyle and his wife had a ministry that helps Christians in the Middle East. Their journey started when he was delivering a message to his church. During the message, the Lord impressed upon him that this was the last message he would preach to his church. His wife got the call as well. They both believed God was calling them to Gaza. Since that time, they have been ministering to the Christians in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

On Joni’s program, Tom spoke about some amazing conversion stories from the local believers in Syria. These men have chosen to stay in their country to win the lost. They all know that they will probably die for Jesus in that place. Tom mentioned that these men and women have such joy. Tom has a book out called Standing in the Fire that covers some of these stories. Check this out http://standinginthefirebook.com/ – the stories he told on Joni’s program are so inspirational.

On Joni’s program, she spoke to a couple who have a church in Manchester, England. They have been there for nine years and really making a difference in that place. The taping of this show was done long before the suicide bombing at the concert in Manchester a couple of weeks ago. So when I saw this program, I was intrigued by the fact there is a thriving church in this city where Satan chose to disrupt people’s lives by this tragedy. How much more can this church minister to this city now! Before this church, there were many churches in the city; but only a handful of churchgoers in each building. The church has been dying in England for years. But there is new life happening, and hopefully the church will have a greater impact in the midst of this tragedy.

I have heard there are pockets of rival going on in the western world. David Jeremiah said in one of his telecasts that all the great rivals have started by young people. They are the life blood of the church. Old men and women may have dreams, but the young can fulfill the dreams with their visions. It takes both in the church body. It takes us all to do our part. We all have stories to tell. Mine doesn’t have the thrill of the conversion stories in Syria. We all choose the path we will travel. I am praying my story has a better ending than the beginning. I want to make an impact on this world – I guess we all do. However, I will have to make some sacrifice to do it; we all do.

I guess that’s the kicker. We have to be willing to die to our self in order to move on with God. God can do amazing things through a willing heart. All we have to do is say Yes! As I consider this, I am reminded of the message at my church gathering on Sunday. The pastor said that desire informs behavior. Sin corrupts our desires and brings our destruction. The pastor mentioned that the intersection between desire and what we do is our idol. We will worship the desire of our hearts.

There is a war going on and the battle plays out for our hearts. We are told in Scripture to guard our hearts. Paul wrote in Ephesians about the armor we are to put on such as the breastplate to protect our vital organs. The heart is at stake here. In order to do the things God wants to do through us, we have to commit our hearts to him fully. There is no other way to have an amazing story to tell. When we get to heaven, I can imagine us telling our stories to each other. I pray for all of us to go out of this life with a blaze of God’s glory! Wahoo – what a ride! That’s my dream. What’s yours?

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)

Finding My MoJo

Time seems to have sped up. Do you feel it? Things are just moving at breakneck speed. I just had another birthday this past weekend, and it’s made me realize how fast time really is fleeing. We all have this great commodity called time. We get to choose how we spend it. We all have the same amount in a day. We just don’t know how many days we have. As a general rule, I don’t like to waste my time. But I do feel like I waste it at times when I just don’t feel productive. The enemy wants to steal our time. He distracts us from being productive.

One of my favorite things to do is play golf. Some would say that is just a waste of time with nothing gained by it. But I do believe it’s a great way to please God through the relationships that we foster as we play. Through the years, my Dad has been my playing partner. We used to play quite often. It was a great way to bond with my Dad. Nowadays, it’s only three or four times a year. Dad quit playing about three or four years ago; it just got to be too hard on him (he is turning 90 this year!). It makes me a little sad that I can no longer play with my Dad. We can’t go back to the way things were; we have to accept the way things are now and enjoy the time we have together.

Relationships bond over great difficulties, and on a golf course there are many. Most players dread the “water holes” where we all have to make it across a water obstacle. Usually, I have no trouble getting over water. I pick a club that will get me to the other side. This past Saturday, I lost a ball to the dreaded water hazard. I had been playing with that ball for a couple of rounds so I was a little sad that I lost it (and it cost me a penalty stroke, which is not good!). The brand stamped on it was MoJo (by Nike). It’s a fun name, isn’t it? My thought when the ball hit the water was “I want my MoJo back!” A funny thing happened on the next hole; I found another ball with MoJo stamped on it. I did get my MoJo back!

Golf may seem to be a waste of time to some, but to me this is how I enjoy my life. God gave me golfing skills and an enjoyment for the game. I believe He’s enjoying me as I play. I think it pleases Him when we use what He’s given us. Just like my Dad who watched me play over the years and bragged to his friends about my abilities (he taught me how to play), I think God gets a kick out of us doing the things we enjoy. And I get a kick out of seeing miracles on the golf course! God does stay right alongside us!

I had a hole in one a few years back. That day was a beautiful with a slight breeze behind my back. When I hit that ball, I knew it was something special. It felt different from all the other times. That was a miracle that can only be attributed to God. The week before I had done something that God had asked of me, and I believe God blessed me with this special moment because of my obedience. God impressed upon me to go visit a friend who was on her death-bed. I didn’t know why I needed to go, but I did what I believed God wanted me to do. It was scary because I had never done anything like that before. How do you say goodbye to a friend like that? See you soon?

About a year later, I had another occasion to say goodbye to someone else. This time it was my Mom. This time, it was much more difficult. It has taken me years to get to a better place. Celebrating my birthday without my Mom still hurts a little. Since my Mom’s death, my life hasn’t been the same. I lost something with her death. I think I lost my MoJo. MoJo is described as a magic charm. I think of it as our vital force, something within us that motivates us to do better things. We all have to find a new normal after someone’s death. Time moves on and so do we.

Our passed loved ones would not want us living in the past with the way things were. They would want us to have a wonderful life doing the things we love and enjoying every minute we are given. Time is precious and we should be using it wisely. We will never know when God will call us home. This is our time to get ready, to be fruitful and enjoy what God has given us to enjoy. It’s time to find our MoJo and do better things. This is better than finding a golf ball. This is finding our stride on God’s path. He has promised to give us an abundant life. It’s time we all find our MoJo and live life to the full!

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10 (MSG)

Increasing Potential

In 2009, I went to an integrative nutrition school where the instructor said writing was a good way to influence my “tribe.” I had no idea that this is what I would be doing nine years later, but here I am writing to my “tribe” – that’s you if you are reading this! The writing thing was completely new to me at that time. If for nothing else from my time at that school, I believe this was God’s way to get me to do this thing that I had no clue I could do. Every time I have a blog posting or a newsletter, I ask God if this is still something He wants me to do. And here I am typing out another post. So I assume He still has something to say through me. And if I have heard correctly, the words will reach someone who needs to read it for their benefit and for God’s glory.

On Tuesday, I listened to James MacDonald teaching on the parable of the talents. He said we will be accountable to Jesus on what we have done for Him. Pastor James mentioned that the talents in this passage refer to the capacity to serve God. As Jesus taught in this passage from Matthew 25:15-30, talent will be increased for those who use what they have been given. The one who received five talents immediately went to work to gain five more. They maximized the potential they had been given.

Pastor James said this: “Not everyone is a multiplier, but everyone should show an increase.” If we are in the Body of Christ, we should be increasing our potential for the Kingdom. We are to increase in our fruit bearing potential. We are told in this passage too that we will have a face-to-face meeting with our Master. He has given us resources to manage for Him while He has been away. There will be an accounting for our management skills. We have opportunities to use what we have for a greater Kingdom impact. Jesus expects an increase on His investment. He invested in us when He redeemed us by the way of the cross.

Jesus invested in His disciples. He taught them well. We are the product of their fruitfulness. But we have been given their burden as well. Through Scripture, we are taught just as the disciples were taught. We have Jesus’ words and His Spirit to instruct us. We have the same instructions as the disciples – go and make disciples – spread the Good News about God and His Kingdom. We are to tell others the power of the cross. Jesus died for us so that we could live with God for eternity. He paid the penalty for our sin. He took on our rags of filthiness and gave us His cloak of righteousness. That was a pretty sweet deal for us and a really bad deal for Him; but He took it on anyway. He thought we were worth it.

Since we have His Spirit, we have the capability to be like Him. The Spirit gives us the capacity to be fruitful like Jesus. We are given His Spirit to be His hands and feet while He is away. When He returns, He expects us to have been good managers and that His Kingdom has increased while He was away. For those who are gifted in certain gifts, it’s easier to share the Gospel; but we are all commissioned to do it. This was not His suggestion, but His commandment. Go and make disciples. There was never a “but clause” at the end. “I don’t have the gifting to evangelize, so I can’t speak to others about Jesus.” We all have that circle of influence that God places around us to communicate His Good News. We all have different gifts to get it done.

On Tuesday night at small group, we took a spiritual gift assessment. One of the ladies mentioned her gift of hospitality didn’t seem like a big deal. She also had the gift of mercy. The group responded about how big a deal that really was. Me, those were my two lowest gifts. I have the gifting of helps and faith. But we are all capable of meeting the needs of others in any way that the Holy Spirit leads us. We have a capacity that can be increased as we use our gifts. And when we do, we are rewarded either here or in heaven. But it’s not about the rewards but the Master. We are to always look to the giver and not the gifts.

My writing may not be much, but it is something I can use for God’s glory. God has something special for each of us to do, and He has enabled us with the gifts He has chosen for us to accomplish the goal. The Master will return one day, and we will have to give an account of what we’ve done with what He’s given us. Our lives are a reflection of Him. He invested a lot of blood in us. With that investment, He expects a greater return. We can do even greater things because of the Holy Spirit in us. And our capacity has exponential growth opportunities. We just have to be willing to use them for His glory. Let’s do our part before His return. He is coming soon!

“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ Matthew 25:1-21 (NLT)

The Gathering

Last week, I wrote about having unity in the body for prayer. This week, I was reminded that we are to be in unity as a community. I have heard it said that as Christians we don’t have to gather together to worship. We can do it as individuals: anytime, anyplace. True. But there is something about being together that makes a difference. We are told in Scripture that angels are gathered together before the throne in worship. Revelation 5:11 says there are many angels – thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They are gathered around the throne singing “worthy of the Lamb.” It reminds me of a Beth Moore conference at the end of the gathering when Travis Cottrell sings a song based on that verse. It’s powerful. There are several songs he sings that is that powerful. It’s worth the price of admission!

Have you ever been to one of Beth’s conferences or another big gathering of believers (besides church gatherings on Sundays)? I have been to several Beth Moore conferences and simulcast. I have been to a Billy Graham conference back in the day. When we stand up and sing certain songs together, I will get cold chills running down my arms. It’s powerful to hear all the voices together singing in unity. I love going to those conferences. I get encouraged by the Word spoken and sometimes I get a word directly spoken about a prayer request. It’s great when that happens.

However, gathering together isn’t really about the Word being spoken – although it’s good to gather to hear God’s Word; but the real power is gathering together to worship our Lord. There’s nothing more glorious because it replicates what will take place when we all gather in heaven. We will join with the angels in their praise of our Lord and King. This down here is just a dress rehearsal. We’re trying to get it right down here. But up there, everything will be right! There will be no one singing off-key or off the beat. It will be perfect!

So I get that we can do it on our own and we should. But as the writer of Hebrews says we shouldn’t neglect gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). The writer says especially in this day and time at the nearness of Jesus’ return. It’s important to encourage one another. It’s important to live as a community, helping each other through these tough times – especially as persecution breaks against us. And it will eventually. Actually, it has already started in some regards.

When I was growing up, it was the norm to gather together on Sundays. Not so much now. It is very rare for all the neighbors in the neighborhood meeting at the intersections in a rush to get to a gathering. Matter of fact, when I walk around the neighborhood on Sunday mornings, it’s downright peaceful. There is no traffic at all. No one is out walking either.

Contrast that with a Saturday afternoon college football game where the home team is playing. There is a rush to get to the game. Thousands upon thousands gather to watch men clash on the turf. There are lots of cheers going on and lots of singing of the fight song. Encouragement to the team members are shouted from the stands. The fans have no place on the field. There is nothing significant about the event. Sure some team will be victorious at the end of the game. Fans will leave and go about their own business. Their lives were not changed by the outcome of the event. Sure, someone will be a little down because their team lost. But they still go about their business.

The gathering of the church is much different. It should be as enthusiastic as the football game. However, we’re not fans. We are on the field playing! We all have a part to play, and it’s not being on the sidelines cheering. We should be encouraging our teammates just as zealously as those who gather for the football game. The gathering changes us. It inspires us. The glory of the Lord is revealed through us, and helps us shine brighter in our neighborhoods. We are to go out and be the light we are meant to be when this dark world knocks on our door. Gathering together is good for our benefit and for others.

The gathering though is more than a cheering session. It’s about community. It’s about sharing our lives with one another. The people who gathered together in the first century shared everything. No one was in need. The people were persecuted for their faith and were cast out of society with nothing. The ones who still had resources shared with those who have nothing because of their faith. That’s the picture of the true church.

In these last days, we need to come back to that picture of unity; of community. Scripture tells us we are to be known for our love for one another. That’s what gathering is all about. We can worship on our own, but we can’t love one another well without gathering together. Do not forsake it. Our neighbors are counting on us whether they realize it or not. We have the hope that will change their lives. Let’s be the church we’re called to be, and do good to all as we’re called to do.

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Philippians 1:27; 2:1-2 (NLT)

United in Prayer

The other day, I heard a Christian lady say that she was just waiting for the President of our nation to be impeached. It wasn’t the first time that I have heard a Christian talk about the President in a negative way. I hear it quite often. I heard another lady on Christian Talk Radio ask the host why Christians were for Trump. I am saddened by these comments, not because I am a fan of Trump’s. I am saddened because these Christians are not seeing the bigger picture.

I truly believe Trump is in office by the hand of God. How else can we explain it? His rise to the highest office was nothing but a miracle! I believe God put Trump in office for a purpose that will only be explained after the fact. God is in control of all things including who runs this nation. The best thing the President has done at this point is put godly men and women in his cabinet. They will get wise counsel from above and hopefully the President will listen to them. He may never get a wall built or change the health care system; but he was put a conservative on the Supreme Court with the possibility of another one or two during his term. And I also believe that he is in office for a reason that has to do with Israel. In God’s perspective, everything centers on Israel. If this is the reason for the miracle, then all eyes need to be on Israel.

There was a prophecy that came true concerning the Prime Minister of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu was told that he would be removed from office if he did a certain thing (I don’t remember the exact prophecy). He did that thing he was told not to do and sure enough, he lost his position. The same man who gave that prophecy had another one for Netanyahu a few years later. The prophecy was that Netanyahu would be returned to that position, and it was done just as it was foretold. There was a reason that was given with the prophecy, and it had to do with the third temple. Since these prophecies have come true, Netanyahu knows the temple will be on his watch. It will be interesting to see how all this unfolds. God has to do some major work in that area before that foundation can ever be laid.

With all the imperfections of Trump, the one good thing that we can point to as Christians is his friendship with Israel. Since the beginning of Israel’s modern history (since 1948) this is the first president that is totally pro-Israel. There have been other presidents that have taken a stand for Israel, but I don’t think they have stood up quite like Trump has at this point in time. There is definitely something going on here. God has stacked the deck in the first office and the legislative branch for a reason. Let’s keep the faith and believe God is still in control of this mess.

On this national day of prayer, let’s be united in prayer for our nation, for our leaders, for God to do His work through them for His glory. There is a lot at stake for us as a nation and for us as Christians in this nation. We have work to do to bring this divided nation back to unity. The government isn’t going to do it for us. The church has to build the bridge. We have to stand up and fight for our communities. We need to be on our knees before God asking for His healing power to heal this nation. This is our battle that can only be won on our knees together.

On this national day of prayer, let’s lift up Israel. Let’s be united for God’s eternal city – the peace of Jerusalem. Israel has been prospering and thriving in their homeland, but there are many threatening to destroy them. Israel needs our prayers. Benjamin Netanyahu needs our prayers. Let’s stand united under the banner of Christendom; for we are a mighty nation under God, indivisible – not referencing the US, but as God’s people together – the church. We are a force that cannot be defeated because our leader – Jesus Christ – has already won the battle. We are already empowered to do the work that needs to be done in this day and time.

Let’s pray together for the hope of the world to be revealed in these last days. For Jesus Christ to be made known and bring peace to every heart. For the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the land of Israel, and all of the Middle East, to bring about a great awakening in our land as well. Let God hear our cries of desperation and bring salvation to many in this time of uncertainty. And let’s pray for one another to be courageous and bold like the first Christians in the book of Acts. Let’s raise up this offering that it may please God to hear and answer our cries of desperation. Let God’s glory fill the earth! Amen.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 1 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NLT)

Pursuing the best life

I got a notice a couple of weeks ago that AT&T will be coming through my neighborhood to install a fiber optic line. A couple of days later, there were multiple colored lines spray painted in my yard and on the street. Then the real work began yesterday. Men were digging and drilling holes across the front of my yard. As I was watching them (for at least a few minutes at a time), I noticed there was a particular hard place for them to dig and drill. The place was near another hard place that I found a year or two after I moved into my house. The hard place was really a very large rock that extends from the front of my house to the back of the house; I assume the same rock. I didn’t know though that the rock extended to where they were digging. And apparently under my driveway. They were having a tough time making a trench under the driveway. They had to stop and readjust multiple times. They eventually got around the obstacle, but it took a couple of hours in the hot sun to get the job done.

All this was happening while I was preparing to write this blog. Before the men showed up, I had all the best intentions to write all day. I had several things to get done, but I got very distracted. I get easily distracted when it comes to my writing times. Over the last few months, it’s been a real struggle to sit down and write. It’s been very discouraging. Usually the words would flow before I sat down to write, but it’s not like that right now. However, when I sit down to write and focus on what God puts before me, the words come. The trouble isn’t writing, it’s sitting down to write.

My pastor spoke about focus this past Sunday. We are bombarded with distractions all around us. Everything can get us off track. The enemy uses the world to get our attention. The worldly things draw us away from God. Dr. Tony Evans said in a message last month that God doesn’t want us to love the world because it’s run by Satan. The world leaves God out. God will not compete with Satan. When we focus on worldly things, we worry. We place too much emphasis on things that do not matter; they are temporary and unimportant in the long run. We should look at things through an eternal lens. Will this thing matter to us in 100 years? We are after all eternal beings and will be somewhere in 100 years.

It reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit. Martha was upset that Mary wasn’t helping in the kitchen. Mary had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus, but Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was needed in the kitchen. But Jesus said, My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT) Mary was focused on the most important thing in that moment – Jesus. Martha was distracted by her work, and she failed to see the things that truly mattered.

Jesus is the solution for our worry. When we focus on Him, He gives us a different perspective on our circumstances. Only Jesus is bigger than our worries. We should focus on the One who can fix our circumstances; who controls all things.

Jesus told us through Scripture that the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength (Deut 6:5). In other words, seek Him first and everything else falls into place. The Israelites were instructed to repeat this commandment over and over; to tell their children, to tie this commandment to their wrists and foreheads, and to write the commandment on their doorposts. This commandment was essential to keep God’s people focused on what mattered. When Israel forgot, they were lost and exiled. There were removed from their Promised Land because they chose idols instead of God. They lost their focus on what really mattered.

When our lives are centered on Jesus, He will lead us to the Promised Land; the best place. He doesn’t remove our circumstances, but He gives us peace in it. Jesus is our Shepherd who protects us against the enemy. He leads us to the green pastures and the cool living water to refresh our souls. Jesus said there’s only one thing worth being concerned about. Like Mary, have you found it? Sit with Jesus for a while before you do anything else and let Him be your guiding light. Find eternal value that will matter in the long run.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 (MSG)

There’s a Difference

I have been told that I am different. My tastes are unique. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease eleven years ago, I eat differently than most people. The first Easter after my change to a healthier lifestyle was the first time I experienced the reality that I was totally different. My Mom was still alive and well at that point. The family was together as was the tradition for holidays. As usual, Mom fixed everyone’s favorite food, except I couldn’t eat any of it.

Mom forgot that I could no longer eat like the rest of the family. I had to have a different menu. Not because I wanted to be different, but because I had chosen to treat my disease with a food-based approach and not a medical prescription approach. My Mom didn’t get it. My family didn’t get it. And on that Easter Sunday, I had to come to terms with hard reality of being different.

I don’t think many people really like to be different, especially young people. We like our friends to be similar to us. Even our church life has the same mentality. We want to be like our neighbors – nice car, nice house, perfect lifestyle with perfect kids. And sometimes that comes with a hefty price tag. We go into debt to finance our desires. I heard Dave Ramsey say recently on a show that we need to be different. Normal is to be in debt. Different is to have a healthy bank account without the burden of debt. The Bible tells us debt is our master; we are a servant to it (Proverbs 22:7). Possessions possess us.

We all need a hard reality check. Jesus didn’t come to burden us but to free us from our burdens. No matter what we struggle with – health issues, debt, unhealthy habits, etc. – Jesus is the answer. How you say? If we are followers of Jesus, we should have a different mentality. We should have a different focus. Pastor Tony Evans has a teaching series on eternal focus. We should be living in the light of eternity. Possessions shouldn’t possess us – sell it. Move into something that is affordable. Free up the bank account so that it allows for Kingdom purpose – to help those in need at a moment’s notice.

Living a healthy lifestyle has changed me in more ways than just my eating habits. It has freed me from the burden of feeling sick and tired all the time. I have the freedom with a clear mind and satisfied heart. Living well is a choice. It may have a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it to be different. Finding the right people to encourage us along the way is important. We don’t all have to be alike. It’s healthy to have a diverse friendship base. They can teach us many things. However, there always has to be a true foundation of belief in Jesus so that no one can move us from Jesus’ rock of truth.

Jesus promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we receive His gift of salvation. The Holy Spirit is our guide to living a different life. The Spirit will give us a check in our spending habits, in our eating habits and in choosing a different path. However, we have to be sensitive to His promptings. If we continue to ignore the promptings, we will no longer feel His leading away from the things that will entangle us in an unhealthy life. There’s a difference in the way we live when the Spirit is in control. It’s not easy living differently, but it’s very rewarding when the Spirit gives us a nudge in the right direction. There’s always a blessing when we do the right thing.

As followers of Jesus, the world cannot give us what we desire. When we look to worldly things, we leave God out of the equation. When God is in the picture, everything is seen in a different light. I had a conversation last week with a fellow at the gym about marriage. He said marriage was overrated. I said, God has to be in the marriage too in order for it to be a good marriage. God has to be in the middle of our lives in order for it to be a good life. We have to live differently. It’s the only way to live a truly joyful, peaceful life. Jesus is the answer. Choose to be different!

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NLT)

Preparing the Way

As we contemplate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to draw your attention to the waiting time. Have you ever noticed when God gives a promise, it usually doesn’t happen right away? Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years before the promised child arrived. Noah had to wait 120 years before the first raindrop fell. The Israelites lived in the land of Egypt for over 400 years before they got sick and tired of being oppressed by their slave masters and cried out to God for deliverance. God waited forty years for Moses to be ready to lead the people out of Egypt. Once they were led out, it took forty years before they took possession of the Promised Land.

From religious scholars we are told that it was 400 years of silence from the last Old Testament Prophet until the voice of the Lord spoke to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist. A baby would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth to prepare the way for the Lord fulfilling prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament prophets prophesied the birth of Jesus and the anticipation grew year after year. But when He arrived on the scene, only a few recognized Him as God’s promised One. It was foretold about His death and His resurrection, but again, no one understood what this would represent to all of humanity. The promise was fulfilled and the sting of death would be removed for all who believe. Promise after promise – and it all came true.

God is faithful in His promises. The silence though is unnerving to us. It erodes our confidence. It causes doubt to arise in us. Did we really hear from God? Noah built a boat on dry land! Abraham and Sarah decided God meant something else; after all she was in her sixties when the promise of a son was given to them. So they took matters into their own hands to fulfill God’s promise to them. But that was not the promised child. God said what He meant. Elizabeth too had a promise of a birth in her old age. Really? This makes no sense to us; yet, God is faithful to fulfill His promises in His time for His reason and in His way.

Then there’s the birth, life, ministry of Jesus written for all of us to read and believe. Prophecies are meant to be fulfilled in God’s will, in God’s way and in God’s time. And we still wait on the fulfillment of more prophecies to come. The Bible is full of promise. It’s full of hope. We are told that Jesus will return one day and receive the church – His bride. And we wait. Like the people of old who didn’t recognize their Messiah, will we lose sight of the promise? After such a long wait, generation after generation; complacency and doubt sets in. God has taken forever to send the promise, maybe He’s forgotten. But we know that’s not true. To God, a thousand years is like a day. His timetable is not ours.

Every time we are waiting for fulfillment, God is still at work. God continues to move things in place in order for everything to be right for the promise to be fulfilled. During the 400 years of silence, the language had to be common throughout the known world; roads had to be built for easier travel; military peace was given throughout the land to make the way for the Word to travel when the time came. God was busy preparing the way. I believe He is still preparing the way for the next event in His eternal plan.

It may seem God is slow in fulfilling His promises. We may have to build a large boat. Or we may have to live in the desert to grow to our potential for God’s purpose. Or there maybe roads that need to be built or nations that need to be lined up to God’s plan. God is always working, even when we hear nothing but silence. Maybe the silence is for us too. Maybe He is preparing our hearts for the promise to be received. Maybe there’s a reason that we cannot fathom right now, but we can be confident in our God – He always comes through – no matter what. His will, His ways and in His time. Just look to the cross of Jesus as proof. He is faithful and He loves you beyond any reason. Count on it and trust Him to fulfill His Word to you. No matter what you’re waiting on; if you have a promise from God, He will fulfill it. And we can count on Jesus coming back. Are you prepared to meet Him?

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15a (NLT)

Sovereign King

Over the last week, I have had dreams about people I used to work with. Several nights ago, the dream was about people I worked with twenty plus years ago. Last night was about people I worked with on the previous job. I don’t know why I am having these types of dreams. They have been very real and very unsettling. When I woke up on the morning of the first dream, I began to pray for those people who I hadn’t had contact with in many years. Maybe something is wrong with someone and needs prayers offered on their behalf. Maybe that’s why God puts people on our hearts at certain times.

I wouldn’t say I am a prayer warrior. Sometimes my prayer life is like a trickle of water that runs constant but has limited use. I pray often but I feel like the words never leave the room. There are other times when I know God hears my prayers. The first time that ever happened, it shocked me. I was pouring out my heart to Him when I was in a desperate place. I was driving to my parent’s house several hours away, so I had lots of alone time. I don’t remember the exact prayer, but I remember the answer.

I was in a desperate place because I was in the “far country” away from God. I lived my life as I wanted. I didn’t look to God for much. I said my nightly prayers but had little to do with Him and His purpose. The prayers offered at night were the standard prayer – asking for God’s protection over my family, thanking Him for the day and looking after me, etc. No substance to the prayers and no real action plan about what was going on in my life.

So in my desperate prayer to Him that day on the drive home, I wasn’t really expecting much of a response. However, it was pretty immediate through a song on the radio. As soon as I finished the prayer a song came on the secular radio station from a Christian artist who sang about “doing right.” And that began the journey back to a relationship with God. Soon after, I lost my job; and I moved back home in order to start over. I hit the reset button. It was a big adjustment to move back home into my parents house. But I truly needed that time with them. And God used that time to get me back on track.

I need a reset button now. Sometimes I feel like I have gotten off track. I left my job several years ago expecting this new path to unfold before me, and it hasn’t happened as expected. However, I believe I needed this time for God to work in me some things that were desperately needed in me. I had some things that needed to be surrendered, and it took years to get me to this point. My prayer continues for God to use me regardless of where I am. And He does. But sometimes I would love to have the answer come as dramatic as it did when I heard the song on the radio. I would love the immediate response with specific instructions. Wouldn’t we all?

Andy Stanley said a couple of weeks ago in one of his messages concerning King David, “We place our hope in what we depend on and who we depend on.” There was no question of where David’s hope was found. I am sure he had his moments as we all do, but David was completely surrendered to God’s will, God’s way and God’s timing. David had clarity of who was the real King, and it wasn’t him or Saul. David encouraged himself in the greatness of God. He reminded himself of the Sovereign God and His faithfulness.

We are told in Scripture that God is faithful to complete the work that He has started. I think our prayers get anemic when we fail to understand God’s will, God’s way and His timing. Our part is to remain faithful. Our part is to continue praying for those around us. Our part is to continue to be useful no matter where we are. And in time, God will reveal the next thing. God will finish His work in us and through us. When we feel off track, then maybe it’s time to hit reset and remember who God is and His faithfulness.

I don’t know why I am dreaming these days of previous jobs and the people I worked with. Maybe God is preparing me for the next project that will unfold in the near future. His will be done, like it’s done in heaven. His way is perfect and I will wait on His timing. I hope you will too.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
Psalm 25:4-7 (NLT)

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