Friday, February 27, 2009

Looking Back-Part 2

"I am losing all hope;
I am paralyzed with fear.
I remember the days of old.
I ponder all your great works
and think about what you have done."
Psalm 143:4,5 NLT

Yesterday we looked at how looking back at past sins, desires, pains, shame and failures can stop us dead in our tracks. In other words, we get into a rut and never come out of it. We set ourselves up for failure.

However, there are times that looking back at the past can be helpful. It's what we choose to focus on. When David wrote Psalm 143, he was at a low point in his life. To encourage himself, he remembered the past goodness, love and power of God, that he had experienced in his life.

Years ago my family relocated from Colorado back to California. The transition didn't go as smoothly as we anticipated. I remember Peggy telling me one night that we were not going to have enough money to pay our bills. I was pretty discouraged. My faith was low. We gave as the Bible said to. We loved and served the Lord. Yet we found ourselves living in a travel trailer and broke!

The next morning I read a passage of scripture that talked about God taking care of us. I remember thinking, "Lord, that's easy to believe when things are going our way. But not now." That day, as we attend church service, a couple gave Peggy and I an envelope. Inside was a card with the verse I had read just that morning and a cash gift that exactly met our needs. We never told anyone about our trouble or the scripture I had read. God placed it on that couple's heart to help us.

I look back to this story when my faith gets low. I look back to the times in my life and the lives of others when God has been our strong support. It gives me strength and hope.

What are you looking back at? Is it giving you strength and hope? Look to Jesus, our living hope.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Looking Back- Part 1

"But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt." Genesis 19:26 NLT

One day I was jogging. I enjoy jogging and this day in particular was fantastic. It was a warm midsummer morning. I was in the foothills of the California Sierra Nevada mountains. As I was jogging, a dog came toward me. I have a fear of dogs. When I was a teenager I was attacked by a couple of dogs. I tried not to show any fear and kept jogging. As I approached the dog, I looked at it out of the corner of my eye. It just looked at me. When I passed the dog, I started to turn around and look back. Then I remembered Lot's wife.

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked. God planned on destroying them. However, He knew that Lot was a righteous man. So God chose to save Lot and his family before He destroyed their city. God's angels told Lot and his family to leave the city and not look back. As Lot's family left the city, his wife did looked back. She was stopped, dead in her tracks. I don't know why she looked back, but she did.

Many of us are like Lot's wife. We look back. We look back at past failures. We look back at past sins. We look back to old hurts, abuse, and anything else. And we get stopped dead in our tracks. I have a relative who is now in his eighties. When he was young his mother spoke a very harsh word to him. He never got over the hurt. His past kept him from being able to emotionally move forward. I lived in Yosemite Park for many years. God called my family to ministry in Colorado. Whenever it got rough, I would look back to Yosemite. The Lord had to bring us back to Yosemite, so I would get it out of my system. Only then, could we move forward in the call that God had for us.

What are you looking back at? What past failure, hurt, anger or pleasure is keeping you from moving forward into the life God has planned for you?

Give your past to Jesus so you can fully live in His present.

"But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 NLT

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life on the Edge

"My son, pay attention to my wisdom;
listen carefully to my wise counsel.
Then you will show discernment,
and your lips will express what you’ve learned.
For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey,
and her mouth is smoother than oil.
But in the end she is as bitter as poison,
as dangerous as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
For she cares nothing about the path to life.
She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn’t realize it.
So now, my sons, listen to me.
Never stray from what I am about to say:
Stay away from her!
Don’t go near the door of her house!"
Proverbs 5:1-8 NLT

The wise writer of Proverbs speaks to the danger of immorality. Now the Bible says that immorality is sin. So, for the sake of discussion, I would like us to consider the above passage not only as it applies to sexual immortality, but to sin in general. All sin.

The last verse is the one that really hammers it for me. The writer says to not even go near the door of sin. That's where I struggle at times and have give into sin.

The problem is that I like to live life on the edge. I was the kid that pushed boundaries and limits. I liked playing with fire. At times I still do, metaphorically speaking, and then I get burned.

The world around us and our culture is always calling us to sin's door. I think that the hearts of many Christians desire to please Jesus. The problem is, we sometimes also desire to please ourselves in ways that are spiritually, emotionally and physically harmful. And sometimes that desire is stronger than our desire to please Jesus. So we flirt with sin. Eventually the more we flirt, the closer to sin's door we get. The next thing we know, the door is slammed behind us and we are trapped. I know this first hand.

So what are we to do?

Stay away from sin! If you struggle with porn, put a blocker on your computer. Ask a friend to hold you accountable. If you are struggling with a inappropriate relationship, break it off, or at the very least, set and maintain accountable boundaries. If you struggle with an addiction, don't drive by your favorite bar. These are just a few examples. You get the point.

Look to Jesus, not sin's door. He promises help in our weakness. He's our strength--you can't do it alone. If you have given into sin, humbly give yourself to Jesus. He promises love and forgiveness.

So, how close to the edge are you right now?

"Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne." Hebrews 12:1,2 NLT

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life Plan

"The Lord will work out His plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me."
Psalm 138:8 NLT

Have you ever made a plan? Planning is a part of my life. When I was in the corporate world I had to make and live by a business plan. In ministry we make ministry plans. There is the household budget. Home improvement plan. Fitness plan. Career plan. Marriage plan. The fact is that most of us have some type of plan for our lives.

The problem with plans is that they don't always happen. Or they may not happen as good as we anticipate. The corporation that plans for a high margin of profit, only to fail because of a recession. The boy that plans to marry his childhood sweetheart, only to have her fall in love with his best friend. I planned on climbing the Royal Arches in Yosemite. A week before the climb, I broke a bone in my wrist that had be in a cast for 16 weeks. Then I decided I no longer wanted to climb. Plans are good, but they don't always succeed.

Some plans work out better than we anticipated. I planned on getting married but I never planned on a wife as awesome as Peggy!

The point is that we can only control so much. When our plans don't happen the way we want, we can get discouraged, disappointed and depressed. We can even get angry or give up. That's how I felt for six years. Nothing I planned--as far as my career, purchasing a home or income--seemed to be happening. It was as though God had forgotten about me. I was watching everyone around me achieve their plans, but I seemed to be going nowhere. Or so I thought. God had a different plan for my life. He would make it happen in the time that He planned--not me.

When we lay our agenda down and ask God to cause His will to be done, something marvelous happens; God brings His plans for our lives into being. The Bible says,
"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 NLT

God has good plans for us. What are your plans? Do they include Jesus?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Source of Strength

"As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me strength."
Psalm 138:3 NLT

There are a lot of things in life that can zap our strength, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Disease attacks our bodies. The pressures of getting by in life weigh on our emotions. And the forces of evil and our culture bombard our spirits.

What are we to do?

The psalmist gives us the answer. In his distress he prayed. He called on the Lord. All too often, I try to think it through, reason things out, find the loophole. But our first response should be to pray. When we pray, heaven opens and the supernatural favor of God is poured upon us and whatever situation we are struggling with.

God gives us encouragement. In fact, in describing the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said that the Spirit would encourage, comfort and be an advocate for us.

As we receive the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we are filled with strength. Jesus told His first followers to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit and were filled with His power. The Greek word for power is the root word that we use for the word "dynamite." Imagine that kind of power and strength in whatever situation that is challenging you right now.

What is draining you of life and strength right now? What areas of your life seem to be crushing down on you?

"I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will sing your praises before the gods.
I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.
As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me strength."
Psalm 138:1-3 NLT

Friday, February 20, 2009

Experiencing God's Presence in Solitude

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." Mark 1:35 NIV

Jesus knew what it was like to have a full schedule. He ministered to crowds of people. He was in high demand. People were always trying to get near Him. Jesus made it a practice to find alone time with His Heavenly Father. He had to make an effort to find times of solitude.

Being alone with God isn't always easy. We find ways to stay too busy. We get programmed to fill our time with other things. We wake up and turn on the news. We get in the car and turn on the radio. We boot up the computer. Even when we find time to walk or jog, we turn on the IPOD.

We need to make the time to be alone with God. When the static of the world around us is muted, we can then listen to the voice of the Lord. I have learned to set apart times of solitude with God. It may be in my truck with the radio turned off. It may be when I'm jogging, taking a hike, on the back of a horse, or sitting alone in my living room. It is during these intentional times of solitude, that I can listen to God through prayer, reading His word, or just being still & silent. They are very special and invaluable times in my relationship with Jesus.

What are the ways that you can set apart one-on-one time with your Heavenly Father? What's keeping you from it?

"Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13 NLT

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Experiencing the Presence of God in His Word

"By your words I can see where I'm going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path."
Psalm 119:105 The Message

I love reading the Bible. I didn't always. I had a hard time understanding the Bible. I was confused, frustrated, or lost whenever I tried to read it. But after I gave my life to Christ an amazing thing happened. The Holy Spirit began opening my heart and eyes to the truths of God's word.

Unfortunately, many Christians don't spend time in God's word. We find time for everything else. We live confused, frustrated and unchanged lives. The Bible alone will not change a person's life. It takes a relationship with Jesus. But once you give your life to God, He sends His Spirit to help open your heart & mind to be able to understand His scriptures. No longer are the writings of the Bible just stories, theology or good teachings. They become one of the ways that God reaches out and speaks to us. We experience the presence of God as we read, listen and meditate on His word.

When Peggy was diagnosed with cancer, we found comfort and strength as we read and believed God's word. When faced with relational, financial or other challenges, God's word guides us. Just today it happened. Relationally, Peggy and I have had a rough couple of days. This morning in Peggy's time in the Bible, the scripture she read spoke to her heart.

God speaks to us. One of the main ways is through His word. The world, our culture, our past, our brokenness, our failures and our accomplishments will also speak to us.

What are you listening to?

"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Hebrews 4:12 NLT

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Experiencing God's Presence in Community

"Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:18-20 NLT

God created us to enjoy community. The reason God created woman was because man was alone. God said that loneliness wasn't good. Yet, many of us live out our lives apart from the Church or Body of Christ. We say we love Jesus, but we don't need or want to be with His people. My former pastor said that attitude was like saying, "I love my wife's head, but don't need her body."

Some of us have been hurt by the Church. Some of us just don't see the relevance of the Church. Yet, the Bible makes it clear that it's in the Church that we experience the continuous filling of God's Spirit and presence.

In the Church is where our lives find meaning and purpose, as the gifts of God are confirmed and affirmed in us. In the Church is where we find comfort, accountability and love. It is the Church that represents Jesus to a lost and dying world. How good of a job are we doing?

"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:24,25

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hearing His Voice

"'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.'" John 10:27,28 NLT

Jesus said that His people would hear His voice and follow Him. He likens Himself to a shepherd and those He's calling as sheep. A shepherd leads his sheep. He cares for his sheep. He will even lay down his life for his sheep. Sheep are vulnerable. They will stray. They will walk into danger. They will starve or get dehydrated.

An interesting fact about sheep, is that they know the individual voice of their shepherd and will only follow that voice. You can keep various flocks in the same pen, but they will separate themselves by listening to the shepherd's voice.

Jesus is calling. Can you hear Him? He offers forgiveness of sins, eternal life, strength for today and hope for tomorrow. It doesn't matter what you have done. Where you have been. Or what has been done to you. It's all about what has been done for you. Jesus laid down His life at the cross for you. Why? Because He loves you. Now He is calling you to follow Him. He won't drive you like a flock of sheep. He'll gently lead you as the Shepherd of your soul. He will lovingly grasp your hand as He leads you through the difficult pastures of this life and into the kingdom of eternal life.

Jesus is calling you. Do you recognize His voice? Will you follow Him?

Monday, February 16, 2009


"As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.

At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, 'I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.'

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!'”
Genesis 28:12-16 NLT

I woke up thinking about Jacob today. Jacob was on his way to find a wife. While on his journey he had a dream. In his dream the Lord revealed Himself, His plans for Jacob and His blessing for him. That isn't what had me thinking about Jacob. It was his statement after he awoke from the dream, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”

I wonder how many times we go through our lives unaware of the presence of God? I've heard it said that God is speaking, but we have "static" in our receivers that keeps us from hearing Him. He is moving. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is wind. The wind blows. The Spirit of God moves. But do we recognize the Holy wind of God around us?

There are obstacles to being aware of the presence of God and His activity around us. We can get caught up in our agendas. The daily demands of life keep us too busy to slow down and observe God at work. We are afraid to think that God still speaks and reveals Himself. We are afraid to think of what He may say or ask of us. Maybe, we are afraid of what others might think if we acknowledge that we see and hear the Lord.

So, are you aware of the presence of the Lord in your life? Can you feel Him moving? Do you recognize His voice?

More to come...

Friday, February 13, 2009


"All he does is just and good,
and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity."
Psalm 111:7,8 NLT

I was challenged this morning as I read the above verse. The word "integrity" leaped out at me. We are called to live lives of integrity. Just what does integrity mean anyway?

Integrity is defined as; honesty, without compromise or corruption. Those two words--without compromise--hit me between the eyes like a hammer. What areas of my life have I compromised?

You can be doing a pretty good job living the Christian life. Going along like everything's fine. But if you honestly looked inside yourself, would you find areas of your life that have been compromised? Maybe you've compromised your purity. Maybe your business practices. What about your thoughts or the words coming from your mouth? How are you treating others? How are you using your time and resources? How's your relationship with the Lord?

If the materials or construction practices used on a high rise building are compromised, the integrity of the whole structure is at risk. The building could collapse, burn down or have numerous and costly maintenance issues.

God has created us to live lives that are strong and reflect His glory. We are created in His image. Integrity is part of God's character and He intends it to be part of our character too. If we humble ourselves and ask Him, His Spirit will point out those areas of our lives that we have compromised. Then the choice and responsibility to turn those areas over to Him through repentance is up to us. If we do that, He will lovingly restore our compromised areas of life back to where they should be. And once again, we will bring Him honor.

So, what areas of your life have been compromised? What are you going to do about it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What are You Building On?

“'Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.'" Matthew 7:24-25 NLT

What are you building your life on? Is it your financial power? Or maybe your educational background? Perhaps it's your reputation? Or a noble cause?

We all build our lives on something. We have values, traditions, goals or any number of things that we use as a foundation. Jesus said that the storms of life are inevitable. They will come and crash against us. The storms of illness, job loss, broken relationships, emotional challenges and any other hardships you can think of.

Sounds terrible. But Jesus also promised that by building our lives on Him, we will stand firm in the storms of life's challenges.

So how do we build on Jesus? First, we accept a relationship with Him as our Lord and Savior. Next, we ask for His Spirit to enter and empower us. And last, but not in the bit least, we spend time reading and obeying His word.

The storms of life will buffet us. Who or what are you building your life on?

"When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away,
but the godly have a lasting foundation."
Proverbs 10:25

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

“'What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.'"
Matthew 23:25-28 NLT

Have you ever heard the expression," Put on your Sunday best"? In some churches it means dressing in fine clothes. Acting happy and respectable. You know what I mean, the person that has their act together. I think to a greater or lesser extent, we all put on the facade of our "Sunday best".

We have it looking real good when we worship on Sunday. All smiles. Everything's fine. No sin issues. Then like garments, we hang our Sunday best in the closet of our soul, and out comes the real person. Unfortunately, we don't do a real good job at hiding our real selves. The world around us sees us for who we are. That's why Christians have a reputation with some non-Christians as hypocrites. Jesus had the same issue with the clergy of His time.

God is after our hearts, not our appearance. Isn't it time that we get real with God, ourselves and others? We spend too much time making sure we look good, instead of giving ourselves to God and letting Him cleanse our soul.

Come on, let's stop pretending!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Following Christ

"One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, 'Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!' And they left their nets at once and followed him.

A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed Him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men."
Mark 1:16-20 NLT

Have you ever had an encounter with Jesus? Has that encounter ever led you into a relationship as a follower of Jesus?

I'm amazed at the people that I counsel with. Their lives are in crisis. We talk, we pray and Jesus helps them. Maybe it's a relationship, health or financial issue. Once they encounter Jesus and His blessing, off they go. They live life business-as-usual until the next problem. Then they come back for another encounter with Christ. After awhile, they are frustrated because this "Jesus thing" just doesn't work.

Jesus isn't looking for encounters. He's looking for followers. He doesn't just want a date, He wants an eternity relationship with us.

I look at the scriptures and see lots of encounters with Christ. People that He raised from the dead, healed of various illnesses, and gave forgiveness for sins. We know that they were overjoyed and astounded. But we don't really see many followers. I'm amazed at myself. If I have to be honest, my life doesn't always reflect a follower of Jesus. There are times when I seek Christ for the encounter of a blessing. I'm so thankful for His unfailing love!

What about you? Are you content with a Jesus encounter? Or do you yearn for something deeper? Have you heard Jesus calling to your soul? Will you become a Jesus follower?

Sunday, February 8, 2009


"For the Lord is your security.
He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap."
Proverbs 3:26 NLT

We spend millions on security. We buy policies, guns and dogs. We invest wisely, live healthy lifestyles. We purchase security systems, put our kids in private schools. We change the oil in our cars and check the tires. We do any number of things to make us secure. I'm not saying that trying to ensure your security and the security of those you love is a bad thing. I just wonder if we focus on the things instead of Jesus.

The country is in an economic crisis--the world is for that matter. Do you find your security in your investments?

The unemployment rate sky rockets. Do you find your security in your education and vocation?

Disease strikes anyone at anytime. Do you find security in your lifestyle?

Apart from Christ and the salvation He offers, no one is good enough to stand before God. Do you find security in your goodness?

What do you have that is 100% secure in your life?

What about a relationship with Jesus?

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I trust Him.
For He will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with His feathers.
He will shelter you with His wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
For He will order His angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 91 NLT

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Who's My Enemy?

"'Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.'" Luke 21:16-17NLT

Jesus told His followers that they wouldn't be the most popular kids on the block. Unlike many parts of the world, Christians in America have had it pretty good. However, there is still persecution that comes our way. It comes in a variety of forms. Hatred, gossip, discrimination, physical and emotional abuse. We shouldn't be surprised.

One of the challenges that the Church in general has fallen into is an "us" and "them" mentality. We seem to posture ourselves to have enemies. If a friend, co-worker or family member assaults our beliefs and us personally, we may consider them to be our enemy. Is this the view we should be having? I don't think so.

Because you are a Christian, a friend, co-worker, neighbor or family member may consider you to be an enemy to them, but they are not an enemy to you. There's a big difference in looking at it this way. We are called to love those who consider us their enemies.

So who is my "enemy"? The Bible says; "A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm."
Ephesians 6:10-13 NLT

We have an enemy--Satan and his forces. They are spiritual. We can stand firm on and in God's power. The greatest act of God's power was the cross of Christ. It brought us love, forgiveness and acceptance.

So, who are you fighting? Why?

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Best Path

"The Lord says, 'I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.'”
Psalm 32:8,9 NLT

Have you ever gone down the wrong road? Have you ever been at a place in life that seems to be taking you nowhere or getting you into trouble? I have.

The Lord promises to direct us along the "best" pathway for us. Often we settle for the easiest possible pathway. Sometimes we forsake the absolute "best" for the merely "good".

For God to guide, advise and watch over us, takes something on our part. First, we need a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Without a relationship with God, we are left to ourselves. Second, it takes a posture of humility. Being humble is enough to receive God's direction and care. Third, it takes submission. The willingness to put our mission under God's mission. We let Him be in control. Submission isn't a popular word in our culture.

David, the man that wrote Psalm 32, refers to the horse and mule. I know something about horses and mules. I was a professional wrangler for many years. Horses and mules can be resistant, runaway and hurt themselves. I remember one horse that when I tried to stop him, ran away with me. He broke my reins. We almost had a big wreck! Another horse was fighting my direction and stepped off a cliff with both of us. We almost died had God not intervened. One horse I had was perfect! I barely had to touch his reins. He was sensitive to my lead and responded accordingly. We had a great relationship.

So, who's lead are you following in life? Where are you headed? Is it the absolutely "best" path for you?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Right Side of the Boat

"Simon Peter said, 'I’m going fishing.'

'We’ll come, too,' they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who He was. He called out, 'Fellows, have you caught any fish?'

'No,' they replied.

Then He said, 'Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!' So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it."
John 21:3-6 NLT

Have you ever felt like Peter? He thought that his life was at a stand still. He had followed Jesus for three years. He had big plans. Then on a cross outside of Jerusalem his big plans crashed. Jesus was dead.

Peter went back to what he knew best, fishing. But in spite of his years of knowledge, effort and hope, he and his friends caught nothing. Maybe that's where you are today. You're giving it the best you know how, but all of your self effort is getting you nowhere.

Then enters Jesus. He calls out to Peter and his friends. He steps into their need. He tells them how to do it. Fish on the right side. When they did as He told them, they were overwhelmed with blessing!

What area of your life are you "fishing" and getting nowhere? You don't have to go it alone or keep failing. Listen to Jesus. He's calling to you. Do you hear Him?

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,' says the Lord. 'I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.'" Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When the Resurrected Jesus Becomes Real

"One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, 'We have seen the Lord!'

But he replied, 'I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.'

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. 'Peace be with you,' He said. Then He said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!'

'My Lord and my God!' Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, 'You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.'”
John 20:24-29 NLT

Have you ever heard of the term, Doubting Thomas? It is usually in reference to someone that is skeptical. I was once like Thomas. I had heard about Jesus, eternal life and all that stuff. But Jesus wasn't real to me. Then one night after years of struggling with alcohol abuse, drugs, pornography, anger, and you name it--Jesus became real.

My wife and daughter were gone, my life was out of control. I called out to God in the middle of the night; "If you're real, you have to save me. Also, I want to be your friend." God answered my prayer that night. I wanted to know more about this "Jesus".

Thomas had a similar circumstance. His buddies had all seen the Resurrected Jesus. The Jesus that had promised eternal life, forgiveness of sins and strength by His Spirit. But Thomas hadn't. He had only seen the Executed Jesus--the Jesus hanging on the cross. So when Jesus revealed Himself to him, it was done tenderly--through love and patience. "Go ahead Thomas, feel My wounds."

Can't you see Thomas, with a trembling hand, reaching out, touching Jesus--apprehensive at first. Then circling Jesus, taking Him in, full of amazement. As the realization that this is Jesus registers, what emotion flooded his soul. I like to think of Jesus laughing and embracing Thomas as he realized, My Jesus IS real! The Resurrected Jesus IS real!

No anger from Jesus, just love. Everyday Jesus comes into our lives through any number of circumstances. He speaks peace into our lives. He gently and lovingly says, "Check Me out, I'm the real deal. These wounds are for you."

Is the resurrected Jesus real to you? Have you seen the scars? The eyes full of love? Have you declared; "My Lord and my God!"?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When Jesus Speaks Peace Into Your Life

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." John 20:19,20 NIV

We live in a world of unrest. Our economy, politics, health and any number of concerns can, and will, weigh us down. We look to systems, drugs, booze, relationships and whatever else we can grab onto for a quick fix of peace.

Jesus' followers had just witness an angry mob executed Jesus. Their hopes and dreams were destroyed. Now they were hiding out from the religious leaders that had Jesus executed. They were a little stressed out, to say the least.

But in their darkest hour Jesus appears to them and says these words; "Peace be with you." The Greek word for "Peace" is "Erine". It means a state of rest, quietness and calmness; an absence of strife; tranquility. It denotes a state of perfect well being.

Notice Jesus didn't say go to war or circle the wagons. He encouraged His followers that they would have peace. Peace in the midst of chaos, disasters, persecution and anything elese that would come their way. The Bible calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. He gives us the peace that transends all understanding. That peace even leads to joy.

I know that after many years of unrest, I finally found true peace in Jesus. Peace when Peggy battled cancer. Peace when our finances get slim. Peace when everything around me is going crazy. Jesus offers us peace. Peace with God and man. Peace in a world in crisis. Eternal peace in Him.

Where do you find your peace?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Empty Tomb

"They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—-for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead." John 20:4-9 NLT

Jesus had been crucified. He told his followers that was the reason He entered the world. To lay down His life as a sacrifice on behalf of fallen mankind. His death and resurrection would mean that the hostility and gap between God and mankind would be reconciled.

The two followers were scared. The religious leaders had killed Jesus. What would stop them from being killed? Jesus promised eternal life, but now He was dead.

Early on the Sunday morning after Jesus had been executed and put in a tomb, word got back to these men that the tomb was empty. How could this be? There was a squad of Roman guards watching over the tomb to keep it from being tampered with. But Jesus promised that He would not only die, but rise again. His resurrection was not only for Him, but His followers. So they ran to the tomb. It was empty.

One of the follower's stopped short and looked in the tomb. Peter went right inside and saw the grave clothes, but no Jesus. It wasn't until the other follower came inside of the tomb and saw for himself that he believed.

There are some today that simply write Jesus off. Some, like the follower that stopped short of going in the tomb, see Jesus from a distance, but with no real convictions. It's when we take the step into the tomb, that we start to get it. I mean, when we stop pursuing Jesus from the sidelines of life and pursue the truth about Him, that we finally get it.

What is "It?" A relationship with God that gives us strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

So what will you do with the empty tomb?