Intoxicating Success

March 3, 2015 — 2 Comments

vsportrait

On this day, March 3, in the year 1863 a resolution was adopted proclaiming a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. The United States of America continues to recognize this resolution on the first Thursday of May each year.

I was reading the speech that President Lincoln gave on March 30th following the signing of the resolution. It is a fascinating read and can be found in its entirety at this link.  This was a President who recognized the need to honor the God in whom all things have been created.

There is a quote that stands out as particularly intriguing to me:

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. – President Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln recognized that we can get to a point in life where self-sufficiency overrides our perceived “need” for God.  We find ourselves in a place of complacency.

This does not just happen to those outside of the Church – it happens just as quickly inside the Church. We find our routine. We go to Church on Sunday, serve as an usher, show up once a month for a mid-week service – but outside of that, we can’t seem to find the time to dig into His Word – pray, seek and discover. We might “walk the walk” but where is the fruit?

This post is short and simple: I pray we not be intoxicated with unbroken success, as President Lincoln said. Rather, let us be brought to a place where we are overwhelmed with a desire to know God on a deeper level than we did yesterday.

Let us be sickened by complacency and strive toward change.

Question: How do you overcome complacency?

 

A New Thing

January 1, 2015 — 1 Comment
341332497_d31cd15622_z

Photo Copyright: Amodiovalerio Verde

 

Each year on December 31st, people from every corner of the Earth gather together to watch the clock strike midnight as we roll into a new year. We awake the next morning with freshly made goals, vows and promises.

We are determined and we are resolute.

We resolve to lose weight, get organized, get on a budget and on and on and on. There is nothing wrong with this. I believe it is all well and good to make resolutions. Nothing bad comes from outlining your goals in life.

In fact, a recent study at University of Scranton showed that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. If you are easily discouraged, don’t read too much into their study, because you will also see that they found only 8% of people are successful in reaching their resolution.

So what does this mean to you and I? To me, it means that most people will not succeed. Most will fail. However, it also means we put way too much stock in this magical date switch from December 31 to January 1.

I like starting over and love new beginnings just as much as the next guy. The beauty of walking with Christ is that each morning I awake, it is a new beginning. A new chance. Another day for a new victory.

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19 NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he  is  a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Come January 20th (a likely timeframe when most people fall off the resolution bandwagon), go back to those verses and declare – “He is doing a new thing in me”. Let 2015 be a year of “New Things”.

Step out of your comfort zones for the Kingdom. Walk in the destiny He has called you to.

There is something exhilarating about releasing your desire to control everything and allowing God to do something new. I know, change is not fun, but it is always needed to move to the next level.

One year from now, I do not want to be sitting here looking back at 2015 and not be able reflect on the amazing new things that God has done. I am determined that my blog post in 2016 will reflect that.

Will you join me in that determination this year? Will you join me in allowing God to do that “new thing” in our lives, our families, and our churches? Let us all desire that above all else.

From my family to yours, I wish you a blessed 2015! May the God who is ever able, start a new thing in your life today.

Question: What new thing did you experience in 2014?

Christmas Eve. A night of wonder and anticipation. Over 2,000 years ago a man and his young (very pregnant) bride traveled through the cold desert only to find no room at the Inn. They were full of anticipation for the baby that was about to make His entry. This was no ordinary baby. This was the prophesied King and He was about to make a very unique entrance.

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV)

My Christmas wish for you is this: That you would be overcome with anticipation for what Jesus wants to do in your life. That you would walk into each day with acknowledgement of this amazing gift that was humbly given to us over 2,000 years ago.

One of my favorite Christmas songs celebrates the coming of the King – I love this rendition and wanted to share it with you this Christmas.

May you be blessed this and full of anticipation this wonderful Christmas Eve!

Fairy Tales and Christmas

December 18, 2014 — 2 Comments
Photo Credit: Iryna Yeroshko

Photo Credit: Iryna Yeroshko

We live in a world filled with wonderful stories, fairy tales and fables. From mythology to mysticism and fantasy to fiction, the choice is abundant. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a story. We get enraptured with the characters and the adventure of it all. Then, we remember, it is just a story and nothing more.

My fear, is that many people treat Christmas exactly the same way. For a few short weeks of the year, we get excited about this amazing story of a baby born in a manger – the angels, the shepherds, the inn – all of it is almost intoxicating. The idea that the King of the Universe would be born alongside a donkey in a smelly stable, you can’t help but be captivated by it all.

During this season we put our guard down and delve into this story. Christmas comes and goes, and quickly many forget that this was not just some folk tale but rather the triumphant entrance of God into humanity to begin the process of salvation for all.

The story of Christmas doesn’t end with a mother swaddling her precious little one in a stable that cold night in Bethlehem. The story of Christmas continues for over 30 years and ends on a dark lonely hill where that same baby is hung on a cross.

The ultimate gift.

As He cried out “It is Finished” and was raised three days later – the greatest gift in the History of the world was revealed – salvation for all.

I love the the festivities of Christmas. The lights, the smells, the parties; I love it all. But, let’s not forget that it is not just a simple story about a baby in a manger. You cannot lump this tale in with the likes of “The Night before Christmas” and read it on December 24th in order check your box of “Christmas Tradition”. One of those is nothing more than a child’s tale while the other is the living, breathing answer to life’s greatest question.

This Christmas, let us all make a commitment to remember not just the birth of that little baby, but the full adventure He took from the lessons He taught to the willing sacrifice He gave. The true gift of Christmas was just that – Jesus gave you and I salvation – don’t miss that key point of the story.

Question: How do you stay focused on the Truth of Christmas?

 

 

Consistently Thankful

December 2, 2014 — 1 Comment
Photo Credit: https://openclipart.org/detail/204505/thanksgiving-dinner-family-by-j4p4n-204505

Photo Credit: Link

Thanksgiving has come and gone. All that remains are the leftovers sitting in the fridge (and the added weight from all the desserts).  I am sure that many of you spent time reflecting over the weekend about what you are thankful for.

My list is extensive. I am thankful for my amazing family. I am thankful for my wife who constantly supports and encourages me. I am thankful for our beautiful Son – a proof that God does do miracles! And, I am particularly grateful for all of the hard seasons in my life that have led me to where I am.

That last statement might sound absurd to some. Why on earth would I be thankful for hardships? Simply put, they have developed my faith and strengthened my resolve allowing me to constantly focus on the fact that God is in control – my life, after all, is His story, not mine.

This concept of rejoicing in our sufferings is one that was all too familiar to the apostles. I have read the book of Acts countless times, and somehow I always breeze past the verses like that of Acts 5:41 “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

This was not their first time being arrested and threatened.  A chapter earlier, Peter and John were arrested and released being strictly forbidden to ever speak the name of Jesus. Most people would either take heed the stern warning and follow instructions or flee from this persecution and go elsewhere. They however, pray for boldness and go about their mission. Shortly after, they are back in the temple preaching and subsequently were arrested again – although freed by an Angel in the night, they were again back in the temple teaching the next morning. They were a persistent group of people!

Acts 5 tells us of their trial and how at the conclusion they were beaten, threatened and released. We read in Acts 5:41-42

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ

Persecution did not immobilize the apostles – it fueled them. Their version of a “bad day” was one that I hope many of us never have to endure – yet they chose to rejoice amidst their suffering. They chose Jesus over self-pity, they chose the greater story over their own story.

The realization of what Jesus has done for you should change not just your perception but your behavior. You walk away from troubles unscathed and motivated to turn any issues into testimonies for Him.

He is our All in All – He is our peace, provision, joy, strength, healing – our Everything.

So take some time to be Thankful this season for all He has brought you through – reflect on what you have become because of His greatness.

Let the trials be fuel to the burning fire inside of you to tell the story of Him this Season.

Question: How have you turned trials into rejoicing? 

I have always appreciated the “Skit Guys” and their amazing ability to deliver a message.  I recently saw this clip and thought it would be a great way to start this post. Take a few minutes to watch this before you read on.

In all seriousness, fear is debilitating. It is the thief that not only steals your joy, but your ability to live in the present. Fear encapsulates your mind and forces you to live in a constant state of “What if?” thereby robbing you of living in the now.

I have seen it lived out in others and I have most definitely spent my fair share of days living in this state of existence. There have been those times when I have refused to take a step out of fear – fear of failure, fear of others or fear of the unknown. We cling to what we know, what we can predict and what we can control.

When I look back on those times that I took a stance over fear, it is in those times that growth and life truly happened. Don’t get me wrong, success did not always follow suit just because I overcame my fear – but there is no doubt in my mind that I became a better person each and every time.

From starting a business (and closing a business) to jumping on a plane to a third-world country with nothing but a passport and a few vaccinations – God has always brought me through. We are not to have a mind of fear. God has made that abundantly clear:

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 ASV)

Look back at the call on Joshua’s life and just how many times God told him to fear not and have courage! In fact, there are numerous times in the Bible that God calls His people forth and says “Fear not”.  This leads me to believe that wherever it is that God is calling both you and I too would appear on the outset to be a scary path – however – God is with us.

It is the “I Am” that has sent you.

There is no greater statement than that. The “I Am” has sent you. Rest in that. Take a hold of the power in that statement and know that there is nothing you cannot accomplish if He is calling you to do it.

Refuse to let fear rob you of living your life any further. Begin today anew with a spirit of “power and love and discipline”.

Question: Can you share a time that God helped you overcome fear in your life?

Picture Via John Finn, http://bit.ly/1s70r93

Picture Via John Finn, http://bit.ly/1s70r93

So many times in life we venture into the daily grind of the unknown with little to no assistance. And, quite frankly, we leave the best assistance behind.

This is especially true as Christians. No matter how many times we hear about God’s desire to help us, strengthen us or equip us, we always like to prove our ability to do it on our own. Just hearing that phrase “on my own” makes me think of sappy broadway ballads, and so that I do not break into some Les Miserables song (trust me, no one wants to hear me sing) let’s just cut to the chase and set the record straight – you were never intended to walk this path alone.

Before Jesus went to the cross, He promised this everlasting assistance:

16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14: 16-17 ESV)

Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as our Comforter or Paraclete. He promises that this Helper will be with us forever. Forever. Let that sink in a moment. Forever is a long time. Forever means that He is available during all stages of our life – standing beside us and sustaining us throughout life’s various ups and downs.

What is interesting to me is the power that the Holy Spirit provides. Just look at Peter. Moments after Jesus was arrested, he begins denying ever knowing or being associated with him. He lacks courage and his integrity crumbles like a withered rose.

Fast forward to the Day of Pentecost, and following the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Peter speaks with such boldness and conviction that thousands are brought into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Peter’s courage and boldness continues to grow and there are countless stories that speak of it.

If the Holy Spirit did not come upon Peter, I believe that we would have seen a repeat of denials from him. It was only due to the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit that Peter was able to boldly proclaim, without fear or hesitation, the saving power of Jesus.

What does this mean for you and me? Simply put, if you are walking around defeated, rejected or scared, you are leaving something on the table. You are leaving the key to victory behind. Do you feel that the Holy Spirit was not intended for you? It was a gift promised to all!

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV)

Peter makes it pretty clear. Today, you have a choice on whether to receive this free gift or not. I encourage you, don’t leave the greatest tool behind.

Question: Can you share a time when the Holy Spirit gave you boldness or victory in a situation?

IMG_4956

Spoiler alert, this is one of those posts where I am going to be both transparent and vulnerable. As I am always seeking to grow into the Man of God that I am called to be, I know that being open and honest with my thoughts and emotions are the key to victory.

Father’s Day is one of those days that can open a Pandora’s box of emotions. Some good, some bad. It’s not even the day itself that does this, but rather the very mention of the word “father”.

Whether you like to admit it or not, we all have a father. For some, we were blessed to have a father of integrity and character who loved us unconditionally. For others, the word father represents a gap in our lives. It represents a time of hurt. For some of us our dad’s are simply, in the words of James Taylor, “the same old well-known stranger.”

For me, I have a mix of both. I have my biological father who to this day is the “same old well-known stranger” and I have my Step-Father (who has never been “step” but always loved me like his own). My biological father knows very little about me, nor has he ever expressed interest. My other father took me in as his own son, guided me, directed me and showed me unconditional love.

This dichotomy for me always raised questions during my childhood. Confusion would set in nearly every time I spoke to my biological father. The big question of “why” would take up residence in my mind. Why is he not involved, why does he not call me more often, why does he not ask about my interests, why does he not encourage me, why is he so distant?

And I know full well there are others who have experienced situations with their fathers that are horrific and beyond belief. From abuses to abandonment, the sad reality is, many of us do not have a good basis for what a father is.

So when the moment comes for us to acknowledge God as our father, doubt sets in. What we have experienced previously taints us in our expectations of what it means to call God father.

It’s amazing though how your mindset can shift. When I came to know Jesus, it was God as my loving father that drew me in. It was the concept that He loved me unconditionally. Sinner or saint, I was his beloved child. For me, it took many years as a believer to fully grasp this concept.

Truthfully, I think I was always waiting for God to walk away.

And then, I had my son. My world was forever changed. I remember well crying and praying over him just minutes after he was born. I remember making an oath to him then that I would always be by his side, that I would never leave him nor forsake him. I promised to guide him to the best of my ability to become the man and warrior of God that he is destined to be.

It was that day that I started to fully comprehend it. God loves me the same way. He has promised to never leave me or forsake me. He has promised to guide me, direct me, and best of all, love me.

No matter how your earthly father was, good or bad, God intends to be so much more. He desires relationship.

My prayer today is that we not let any preconception of “father” misguide us into what God has promised for us. Today, be honest with God. Tell Him that you need a loving father, and I promise He will fill that spot.

Question: When did you come to the realization of God’s amazing love as our Father?

 

It is Finished!

April 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

It Is Finished

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30 NKJV)

Those are three of the most powerful words ever spoken in the history of the World. “It is finished”.

At the time, the disciples watched in horror as their teacher took His final breath on that fateful Friday. Everything they had been taught over the previous years was now being put to the test. Little did they know that this was just the beginning. Some followers fled, and some even denied ever knowing Jesus. To many of them, those final words meant exactly that – “it is finished”. What we had hoped for, dreamed of and desired are gone. Everything was shattered.

But Jesus meant something completely different. Those three words were not a statement, but a proclamation. A deceleration of Freedom, Forgiveness, Grace and Love. “It is finished” meant that we are now the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, that we are heirs of an amazing inheritance, that sickness and disease must flee. Those three words bring forgiveness, healing, joy, strength and provision to all who simply believe and accept.

The cross was gruesome. The cross certainly appeared to be an unfortunate and disastrous finale. We have to go through the cross to arrive at Redemption.

It’s not over. It’s never over. No matter what you may feel, think or see – the joy of Sunday’s resurrection is coming fast. When Jesus uttered those three words from atop of that cross sitting on the hill, He was thinking of you. All the pain or sorrow that you may have, He was speaking to you – He was paying the price on your behalf and stating that all of the sadness and pain is over – you have an option for joy beyond description, for forgiveness that is unexplainable and peace that is insurmountable.

I am sure for the disciples, this was the darkest hour they ever experienced. It was in this darkness that all things came to pass and the plan of God was finished.

Don’t let the dark hours deceive you. The deceleration has been made. The work has been done. The sacrifice has been paid.

It is finished.

Question: How do you stay focused on the fact that we are the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus?

1024px-GiveUsBarabbas

The Passion Week has begun. Yesterday we recognized the glorious entry into the city by the ultimate of Passover Lambs. Quickly the attitude of the week shifts as we fast approach the gruesome, yet necessary, Friday evening. It’s unavoidable. Victory must come through the pain and sorrow of Friday’s misery.

The sacrifice was no less than ultimate. It is unfathomable to think about the experience that He went through, but there was no other way. It could not have been any less painful, any less horrific.

Over the weekend, I was captivated by the thought of what it was like for those that lived and walked with him prior to that week. They welcomed Him in on Palm Sunday like a newly arriving King, but called for His death just 4 days later. Where was the shift in attitude?

It is commonly held that the Jewish people believed that their “Messiah” would come as a glorious King leading them out of the oppression of the Roman rule. Jesus came under a bit of a different cloak. Yes, He was all King, but He was also all man. He came to establish His Kingdom here and now. The Jewish people were hoping for someone to come and overthrow the current dictatorship that was daily brining suffering to their people. They failed to see the picture and plan that was God’s – which is why they called for the release of Barabbas over Jesus on that fateful day.

Quite simply, the devil will always have a counterfeit plan ready in the wings and he will always try to sell it off as legitimate. Little is known outside the Gospels about Barabbas. What we do know is that although labeled a “murderer” it was not as simple as some might think. It is likely that he was a “freedom fighter”  – some scholars believe he was from the Zealots fighting for the freedom of the Jewish people against Roman Rule. It was during some type of insurrection event that he committed murder and was jailed. I am not by any means suggesting he was a “good” guy – today he would likely be a Terrorist, but to someone, he was their fighter of freedom.

It even goes further. The name Barabbas literally means “Son of Abba” and some early manuscripts of Matthew refer to him as “Jesus Barabbas”.  During that fateful trial of Jesus Christ the people had a decision to make. Claim Jesus as their King or chose the alternate path and release the counterfeit fighter of freedom – Barabbas.  Their minds, much like ours, simply could not comprehend that ultimate plan of Jesus Christ, so they chose to release the counterfeit.

To me it comes to this simple statement: God’s plan is always better than ours.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV)

In life we will always be faced with choices and decisions. There will be times that we will be faced with two paths and one might appear to bring the faster result – but I caution you, don’t always trust what you see. There will always be a counterfeit plan waiting in the wings. God’s plan might not make sense, but His peace will make it clear. Take a pause. Submit to Him and follow it out. He knows. He always has and always will.

This coming Resurrection Sunday, my prayer for each and everyone of you is that the God of ALL things, will unveil Himself in a new way to you and that He will guide you to your ultimate destiny.

Question: What do you do to ensure you are choosing God’s plan over the counterfeit?