Friday, September 30, 2011

Is God angry at you?


Colossians 3:5-8

     So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. God’s terrible anger will come upon those who do such things. You used to do them when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.

     Paul is not talking to non-believers in this passage of scripture; he’s talking to born-again, Christ followers. Since he’s addressing Christians, he obviously understood that the salvation experience alone didn’t bring about perfect behavior. It is a daily decision to follow Christ and make correct choices that will bring glory to God.

     We wrestle against our earthly, human desires on a daily basis, and Paul is telling us to put them to death. We have to ask ourselves on a regular basis whether our decisions and choices are making our flesh-man or spirit-man satisfied. It will usually be one over the other. If gossiping about your co-worker makes your flesh feel good, but brings about guilt and remorse later that evening, then more than likely, your flesh has been satisfied and your spirit-man is revealing your fault. If telling a nasty joke makes you more accepted by your peers, but later on, makes you feel like you’ve comprised your beliefs, then you’ve chosen flesh over spirit, once again.

     We all know when we’ve chosen flesh over spirit; guilt, remorse and regret will usually overwhelm us. We must learn to be sensitive to the spirit BEFORE we make our decisions, then we’ll be able to avoid the guilt and remorse later. We should think about the possible consequences of our choices long before we actually make the choice.

     Paul is listing just a small list of behaviors that should not be a part of the believer’s lifestyle. Are you putting these behaviors to death, in your own life? Are you choosing flesh or spirit? According to this scripture, your choice is influencing God’s anger. What a sobering thought.


     Re-read the passage above, examine your own life to see if you entertain any of those behaviors. Ask God to quicken your spirit every time you choose your flesh. Pick one behavior from the list above and challenge yourself to work diligently to overcome that behavior in the next week.


Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heaven on my mind!


Colossians 3:1-3

     Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.


     A few months ago during a women’s Bible study, a discussion about heaven began. It was during that conversation that a few women revealed the fact that the thought of heaven did not cross their minds very often. Not that they didn’t understand and comprehend the realities of heaven and were looking forward to going there when their life on earth would come to an end, but just speaking straight from their heart, they revealed what the majority of Christians don’t even realize about themselves.

     Is it wrong to not think about heaven or eternity on a regular basis? Well, according to this scripture, we should be allowing heaven to fill our thoughts on a regular basis, simply for the fact that it would keep us focused on our purpose and mission. When we allow life on earth to occupy our heart and mind, we begin to set up our own little kingdom here rather than in eternity, and we need to remember that we are only passing through this place. Our final destination is with the Lord, earth is simply an extended layover.

     Let’s say you’re taking a long trip to a beautiful destination; a place you’ve dreamed of visiting your entire life. But, in order to get to that beautiful destination, you have to make a scheduled layover stop in another city to catch a connecting flight. As your waiting in the airport to make your connection to your final destination, you may catch a quick bite to eat, take a restroom break or buy some reading material, to fill your time while you wait. But, you would never consider, purchasing a house, looking for a job or putting down roots in that particular city. Why? Because it’s not your final destination; it’s just a layover stop on the way to your intended goal. You would accomplish what needs to be accomplished while you’re there, but stopping and settling is not an option. Your focus lies on what’s ahead of you.

     Do you see the point I’m trying to make? Life on earth is just a layover stop on our way to our final destination. Instead of accomplishing what needs to be accomplished while we’re here, we stop and settle. We gather belongings and possessions to set up our own kingdom, and it’s holding us back and weighing us down from reaching our intended goal. Our treasure is in our belongings rather than in eternity. Matthew 6:21 reads, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Whatever you place great value on, that’s where your heart will be too. If you value your house, job, family and material possessions, then your heart will be attached to those things forcing you to do whatever it takes to keep those things close at hand. If you value Christ and your relationship with him, then your heart will already be with him in eternity and you will do whatever it takes to get there, as soon as you can.

     I’m not saying we should neglect our family and responsibilities, I’m just saying it’s a matter of our heart. Are we in love with ourselves and our desires or does Christ reign as number one in our lives? That’s an interesting question to ask ourselves today.
 

     Take some time to think about Matthew 6:21 today. Where is your treasure? Once you answer that question, you’ll be able to find your heart. Take some time to contemplate heaven and eternity. Ask God to give you a clear view and understanding of both.


Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Here's your sign!


Colossians 2:11-12

     When you came to Christ, you were circumcised, but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure – the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.


     In the Old Covenant, Jewish males were circumcised as a sign of their covenant with God. With the death of Christ, a New Covenant was formed and circumcision was no longer necessary. Instead, we are baptized, as a sign of putting our old life to death and being resurrected to a new life in Christ. It’s no longer a physical procedure, but rather a spiritual procedure of our heart.

     When we make the decision to follow Christ, something amazing happens within our heart and soul. You can sense it immediately. It’s a new, clean, fresh feeling accompanied by unspeakable joy. It’s that moment when our old, ugly, sinful nature is washed away by the blood of Jesus and replaced with his, clean, perfect nature. It’s a moment that each of us need to go back and relive on a regular basis.

     Take a moment to recall where you were when Jesus rescued you. Close your eyes and revisit the feelings and emotions you felt in that precious moment. Remember the pit of despair and hopelessness that you were sinking deeper and deeper into, and the joy that overwhelmed your entire being when you relinquished your broken life into his hands.  Nothing in life can compare to that moment, but the realities of living life in a fallen world has a way of kidnapping the peace and joy that were yours in the beginning days and weeks of your new life in Christ. That’s where I want you to understand that you can recapture what the enemy has stolen from you. If Christ can raise you from the dead and give you a new life, then you can receive peace and joy on a continual basis, just like you experienced at salvation.

     It’s up to you to die daily, at the foot of the cross, surrendering your life into the hands of Christ, and allowing him to wash you anew each and every day with the power of his blood. All it takes is faith and trust in him, rather than in your own abilities. You trusted him with your life at salvation; why not trust him each and every day afterward?


     Have you trusted Jesus Christ with your life by accepting salvation? Are you continuing to trust him with your life every day after? Do you remember the peace, joy and freedom you felt at salvation? How long has it been since you’ve felt that same feeling? Could it be that you strayed from his presence and power? Ask him to restore to you all that you have allowed the enemy to steal. Today, renew your faith and trust in your Savior and put aside doubt, despair and discouragement.


Have a great day!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who are you?


Colossians 2:8-10

     Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that comes from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ. For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body, and you are complete through your union with Christ.


     As a young wife and mother, I struggled in understanding who I was, apart from the roles that I fulfilled. I gave all of myself to be the best wife and mother that I could be, but among all my best efforts, I lost myself in the process. I stumbled around for many years, allowing loneliness and insecurity to dictate my self-worth and beliefs, even in the midst of serving the Lord. During that time, the root system of my relationship with the Lord was shallow and surface, so I grasped on to any new belief or philosophy that was thrown at me. I believed who others told me I should be, and it left me feeling even more lost and bewildered.

     For many years I searched and searched for fulfillment and self worth through actions and activities, only to come up short, time and time again. I served on many committees and ministries with the belief that DOING the work of the Lord would make me complete in him. It didn’t happen. At the intersection of exhaustion and frustration, I feel on my face before the Lord, seeking direction and guidance. It was there, on my face, where he did an amazing thing. He didn’t immediately give me guidance or direction, but rather just overwhelmed me with his presence. It was in those quiet, still moments where he revealed himself to me, and it was glorious. Not a word was spoken between the two of us, but as I sat humbly before him, I experienced his presence like I had never experienced before. That precious, intimate time left me longing for more and more, and soon, I found myself stealing away to spend time with him on a regular basis. I didn’t ask for anything or present any prayer requests during our private time together; I just longed to feel his presence one more time. And he was always quick to oblige.

     As I began to spend more and more time communing with him, reading his Word and listening for his voice, I started to understand some simple truths that I had spent years searching for. My worth was not in what I was doing or accomplishing, but rather in who I was through him and to him. He loves me no matter what anyone else says or feels about me, and he longs to be with me, even in all my insecurities and messed up ways. The more time I spent with him, the more I started feeling complete and whole. It was crazy! Who knew that just spending time at Jesus’ feet would bring about the fulfillment and satisfaction that I longed for my whole life? From those intimate moments, he patiently and persistently began to teach me how to take what I was learning and share it with others who were searching for the same thing. It has been a long, arduous journey, but so worth every moment.

     Today, I challenge you to stop listening to all the new philosophies and beliefs that the world attempts to throw at you, and simply go to the one who created all things. Like a perfect gentleman, he’s waiting for you to approach him. I know for a fact that you won’t be disappointed.


     Looking for completeness and wholeness? You’re prayer closet is a step away, calling your name. Will you answer the call? I double-dog dare you!


Have a great day!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Go deep!


Colossians 2:6-7

     And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done.


     Living in Florida, I have the unfortunate advantage of experiencing hurricanes and extremely strong rain storms, on occasion. Over the years, I’ve noticed a common thread to the outcome of these storms; many, many uprooted and toppled-over oak trees. Oak trees grow in abundance in this part of the country, providing shade from the excruciatingly, hot sun and providing shelter to the abundant wildlife that live in the area. Although these trees grow magnificently tall and large, their root systems don’t grow deep enough to support their massive weight when a good, strong wind comes along, causing the tree to topple over and crumble. If the tree’s roots would grow deep, rather than stay close to the surface, they would not fall victim to the mighty winds that whip through their branches. The strength of the tree is not determined by its outward appearance, but rather, by what lies beneath the surface.

     The same premise holds true for us, as fellow believers in Christ. If our roots aren’t grounded deep in Jesus Christ and his Word, then the first, strong, mighty wind that comes along will knock us over and make us crumble. Surface Christianity looks good on the outside but has no depth or strength underneath. Many fall by the wayside due to lack of depth, and we sit idly by and watch it happen.

     How do you attain depth in the Lord? It can only come through sheer determination and desire to separate yourself from the worldly views and standards and make a deliberate attempt to study God’s Word, spend quality time in prayer and surround yourself with Godly friends and mentors that will pour truth into your life. Anything short of that will cause you to be what’s considered “a Sunday morning Christian”; having the appearance of Christianity but suffering severe damage when the winds of life start blowing through.

     I pray that today is a defining moment for you; one where you make a deliberate choice to go deep into God, putting aside the surface mentality that is so prevalent in today’s society.


     Where are you today? How deep are your roots? Are you knocked over and crumbled by the slightest wind? Jesus Christ has the ability to strengthen you if you will simply draw nearer to him. I challenge you to begin the strengthening process today, by spending 30 extra minutes in prayer and reading his Word. Ask the Lord for the desire to draw near to him.


Have a great day!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good News! Good News!


Colossians 1:27

     For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.


     Before the New Covenant was formed through the blood of Jesus Christ, only the Jews were accepted by God and chosen to be His holy people. All others were considered Gentiles, and were not only cut off by God, but literally hated and despised by the Jews. For thousands of years, the Jewish people were taught and believed this truth. So when Paul began teaching that salvation was available for everyone, including the Gentiles; many Jewish people had a difficult time believing, understanding and accepting.

     In our modern society, we look back and have a hard time understanding why the Jews would struggle with acceptance of Gentile believers, but in reality, we struggle with the same concept, only the faces are different. Number one, if we lived in Biblical times, most of us would be considered Gentiles. I personally don’t know too many followers of Christ who have a true Jewish heritage, so most of us would be rejected and ostracized by the Jewish community. Understanding that simple fact should put a whole different spin on our own salvation, making us realize that without Jesus Christ, we would never have a chance of being accepted by God. Gratitude and thankfulness should be a common theme in our daily prayers. But instead, too many Christians have an entitlement mentality of salvation, while rejecting those around them who look and act differently.

     Let a homeless person, or someone covered in piercings and tattoos enter our church building, and watch the reaction of most Christians. We act as though Christ’s salvation is exclusively reserved for those who dress and act the part. That kind of mentality is no different than the Jews looking down on and rejecting the Gentiles. Jesus Christ died for ALL mankind, not just the ones we deem worthy. Pride, arrogance and self-exaltation has no place in the body of Christ. The fact remains that we are all unworthy in our own merits, and it’s only through the sacrificial blood of Christ that salvation is made available to any of us.

     Isn’t it awesome to hear this great news today? We, as Gentiles, are accepted and loved by our Heavenly Father, all because of Calvary. Pass the Good News on to someone else today!


     Do you have days where you feel rejected and unloved? Rejoice in the fact that we are accepted and loved unconditionally by God. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say about you or how they treat you. You are a treasure, admired by God! Take some time to thank him today!


Have a great day!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't blame me!


Colossians 1:21-23

     You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.


     Once we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the separation that once stood between us and God is gone and we now stand holy and blameless before Him. That is a powerful truth! Because of the blood of Jesus, we become holy and blameless! If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.

     All the things we’ve done in the past are not only gone, but completely forgotten. God doesn’t remember our sins anymore, but unfortunately, we do. The enemy of our soul continues to remind us of our past lifestyle and poor choices, in an attempt to discourage and defeat us. As children of the King, we need to remind ourselves of this passage of scripture every time the enemy comes in like a flood. Jesus Christ paid a hefty price for our freedom and holiness, and when we condemn ourselves and our past sins that have already been covered by his blood, then we are crucifying Christ over and over again. He already paid the price once, and it continues for all time, as long as we live in obedience to him.

     We need to leave the past in the past and make the best choices for today. We can’t go back and change the choices we made long ago, but we can learn from them and thank God for his forgiving power over them. Then we can rejoice in the fact that we remain holy and blameless in his sight!


     Do you have things in your past that you’re not proud of? Have you asked the Lord to forgive you of those things? Do you continue to carry the guilt and shame? Take some quiet time today to write down some of those things that you continue to carry around. Then either shred the paper or simply crumple it up and throw it away, and envision the guilt and shame being thrown away with it. The Lord doesn’t hold those things against you, and neither should you. Don’t continue to let Satan hold those things against you any longer.


Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reconciliation


Colossians 1:19-20

     For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and earth by means of his blood on the cross.


     When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world, and with that sin, came a separation between God and mankind. Where once stood a close, intimate relationship with God, after the entrance of sin, an ever-widening gap of disconnect overcame all of mankind. It was as if the road was washed out between man and God, with no means to rebuild that road. So for thousands of years, men and women struggled with the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin and remained cut off from an intimate relationship with the Lord.

     But with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the gap has not only been bridged, but totally repaved and smoothed over by His precious blood that was shed on Calvary. We no longer have to be separated or cut off from a relationship with our Heavenly Father, but it is now our choice to either cross that mended bridge or remain disconnected. We have an opportunity that those of the Old Testament did not have, and many in our day pass right over it.

     Jesus Christ made peace available for us, why would we choose to reject it? Have you chosen to reconcile with God?


     Take some time today to dwell on the fact that our separation from God has been reconciled through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ. If you have never made a clear decision to accept that reconciliation, I challenge you to do it today.


Have a great day!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Where is the church?


Colossians 1:18

     Christ is the head of the church, which is his body. He is the first of all who will rise from the dead, so he is the first in everything.


     Often times, we think of the church as the building with four walls where we go to worship each week, when in reality, the church is comprised of ALL Christ's followers around the world. Christ’s church is not limited to a wood and metal structure but rather abides in the hearts of men and women around the world who call themselves Christians.

     Society has taught us that God himself lives in a church building where He waits for his followers to come and visit and worship him. Nothing can be further from the truth. At the point of conversion, when we ask Jesus Christ to come and live in our hearts, he literally does, through the Holy Spirit. Do you understand what I’m saying? The God of the universe actually lives within you. I Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”

     So, if God lives within you rather than in the church building across town, how does that affect your thinking about how we do church? If WE are the church (because Christ lives in us), then why do we go to church (the building) and wait for God to show up? Aren’t we bringing God with us when we walk into the building? Aren’t we bringing God with us when walk anywhere? We should be having “church” everywhere we go, but instead, we have the mentality that when we walk out of the church building, we leave God behind. If we would understand that He is with us everywhere we go, I think we would live a very different lifestyle. We wouldn’t visit some of the places that we frequent, and we wouldn’t watch some of the shows and movies that we presently watch. God doesn’t check out when we walk out of the church walls, and he is humiliated and shamed by the lifestyle and choices that we make because he is constantly with us watching every move we make.

     If He is the head of the church, which is his body, and WE are the church, then we need to start acting and thinking like the church. He was the first to rise from the dead, and someday we will also rise from the dead and join Him for eternity. We assume that we have to wait until we die to have fellowship with Him because He’s up in heaven and we’re down here, but when we understand the truth of His Word and the fact that He lives inside of us, then our life should take on a new meaning and depth. This life is not about us and our comforts, it’s about us being the “church” and taking church everywhere we go. If we are the church, then that also means that we are the ministers of that church, so we are responsible to preach Jesus Christ, either by word or actions, to everyone around us. As a follower of Jesus Christ, are you being His church?

     Has this teaching today been a new concept for you? Have you really realized that the God of the universe lives inside of you and goes with you wherever you go? Take some time to really focus on that truth today. Then reevaluate how you live your live outside of the church building. Does it glorify God or humiliate Him?


Have a great day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The same yesterday, today and forever!


Colossians 1:15-17

     Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – kings, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities. Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything began, and he holds all creation together.


     Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap our brain around this passage of scripture; Jesus Christ is God’s son, is the exact image of God himself and has been in existence since before the creation of heaven and earth. Through him, heaven, earth, kings, kingdoms, rulers, authorities, things we can see and things we can’t see were all created. And not only that, he holds it all together! Wow, that’s a mouthful and a mind full!

     There’s a lot of theology going around today that minimizes Jesus Christ and his authority, and frankly, it’s just plain rubbish! Humans will never be able to fully understand and comprehend the majesty and awesomeness of God and Christ. In an attempt to understand and logically explain God, biblical truths are often times, thrown to the wind and the deity of Jesus Christ is minimized and devalued.

     If we are to live sold-out, radical lives as followers of Jesus Christ, we must hold fast to the truth of God’s Word and never fall victim to someone else’s attempt to rewrite and re-explain it. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and his Word will never change. We must always evaluate someone else’s teaching and make sure that it lines up with the Word of God. Many have fallen away or have been led astray by teachings that weren’t evaluated or scrutinized. As Christians, we need to do our research; our destiny may very well, hang in the balance. Always stand up for the truth of God’s Word, even when the majority seems to be saying the opposite. You may feel like you’re all alone, and begin to question and doubt yourself, but stand strong and cling to Christ as your guide and deliverer. The world is looking for someone and something to believe in and when you falter and weave back and forth in your beliefs, they will move on to someone else who is more confident and sure of themselves. Be the difference that others want to see.


     Have you ever doubted God and his Word? Ask him to give you a new measure of faith for believing in Him, and also the truth of his Word. Spend some quality time in prayer and meditation today, seeking his presence, without asking for anything.


Have a great day!

    

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who turned on the light?


Colossians 1:13-14

     For he has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. God has purchased our freedom with his blood and has forgiven all our sins.


     It’s hard to understand Kingdom mentality, especially since we live in a free, democratic society, as in the United States. But if you could imagine for a moment, living in a country where you were not free to live as you please; one where you were bound by a dark, mean ruler, whose only purpose was to cause you misery and pain. Where you worked, who you married, what you ate and where you lived was all decided for you; you were simply a slave to the ruler of this dark, depressing place. Everything about this place was pure torment. Could you imagine living in a place like this? I believe that everyone would agree that your soul’s desire would be for someone to sweep into that country, pick you up and carry you away to a land that was the complete opposite of that torment. You would be so grateful and indebted to your rescuer and deliverer, probably serving him the rest of your life. Your perspective on life would probably be radically different as well. Existing in darkness and oppression for most of your life would give you a new appreciation for freedom, happiness and joy. Even the greatest of inconveniences wouldn’t phase your outlook because you would know where you came from and you would remember what darkness felt like.

     I realize this example was a crude representation but it explains our salvation experience, and one we all need to be reminded of, from time to time. At one point in our lives, we were living in darkness and depression; bound by an evil, mean ruler. But Jesus Christ came onto the scene, swooped down, picked us up, rescued us and carried us into His new Kingdom of light. He did this by shedding His own blood on the cross of Calvary; overcoming death, hell and the grave, once and for all. Satan, the enemy of our souls, is no longer our mean, evil ruler; we are free to live for Jesus Christ and serve him for the rest of our lives.

     Too often, we forget where we came from and fail to remember what darkness felt like. If we were to remind ourselves of that on a daily basis, I believe we would live our lives very differently. Inconveniences wouldn’t faze us, rude people wouldn’t ruffle our feathers, hurts and disappointments wouldn’t blindside us because we would know and appreciate living in the light, never wanting or desiring to go back to the dreariness of the darkness.

     Are you still living in the darkness? Do you desire to be rescued and delivered into the Kingdom of light? Take this opportunity to pray and ask God to forgive you of all your sins, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to make atonement (make things right) for your sins, confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and strive to serve Him and have a personal relationship with Him all the days of your life. If you took the time to pray that pray……Welcome to the Kingdom!


Have a great day!  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Strength to carry on!


Colossians 1:11-12

     We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.

 
    
 

     Many times, just getting out of bed and facing a new day can be challenging and difficult, especially if we’re dealing with overwhelming situations and circumstances. But as Christians, we have the upper hand because we have the enabling power of Jesus Christ to help see us through. What’s unfortunate is that, most of the time, we don’t take advantage of that power. We would rather feel sorry for ourselves, whine, complain and manipulate sympathy from others, rather then go to the One who can supply us with His power to walk through our situation and come out the other side unscathed.

     Do you long for patience, strength and endurance? Well, the only way to receive those attributes is to be put into situations where those attributes are tested. How will you ever learn how to endure if you don’t get the opportunity to practice endurance? The same goes for strength and patience. God always works in ways that we don’t understand or want to accept.

     For years, I was very verbal about the fact that I was not very strong in the area of long-suffering or endurance. I’m a “get to the point” type of person. I don’t want to hear a sales pitch for an hour, I'd rather you be up front and tell me what you want me to buy. In medical situations, I don’t want to drag the decision making process out, let’s just do what needs to be done, and be over with it. This type of flaw in my personality would often cut God out of the picture, in certain situations. I would make a quick decision out of my own wisdom and judgment call rather than go to God with my situation and rely on His wisdom and guidance.

     A few years ago, God saw fit to step in and change this unhealthy character flaw in me. As my mother bravely battled lung cancer, we exhausted all man-made attempts to rid her body of the dreaded disease. We finally came to the place of total reliance on our Heavenly Father to either heal her on this earth, or give her the ultimate healing and take her home to be with Him. It was during that 7-8 week process where I learned about endurance and long-suffering first hand. I fought God tooth and nail nearly the entire time, begging him to “get to the point” and make a decision. He lovingly ignored my temper tantrums and pity parties, choosing to take my mother on to her eternal reward in His timing and not one moment sooner. I questioned God for a long time afterward, wondering what good could come out of such suffering and grief. He has since shown me the rough, ugly character flaw that He is continuing to mold out of me. During the final weeks of my mother’s life, I came to a place of complete brokenness before the Lord; a place where I had to rely completely on Him, instead of my own wisdom and decision making. It was in that place where I found the strength to endure and carry on, and it only came about through His mighty power.

     It’s crazy that He can take something so painful and ugly and work it all together for our good, but we have to understand that His number one goal and priority is not for our comfort, but rather that our life is a shining light and example for others to see and be drawn to the Lord. He’ll use whatever means possible to chip off all the ugly, rough places of our character and fill it in with His character and love, knowing that in the long run, it’s only for our good and His glory.


     What specific character or personality traits do you struggle with? Do you fear asking God to help you overcome them because you know it will be too painful? Are you walking through a present circumstance where you believe you are being challenged by God to make changes in your character? Consider relinquishing total control to the Lord. Lay it all at His feet, allowing Him to take full control of you and the situation. Stand back and watch what the Lord will do with your offering.


Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How wise are you?

Colossians 1:9-10

      So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.


     All of us strive to gain knowledge and wisdom, in order to function more efficiently in life. Every circumstance we walk through allows us to gain a bit more wisdom and knowledge so that we are able to make better decisions and choices in our lives. But the world’s wisdom and knowledge is very different than God’s spiritual wisdom, and that is what Paul is writing about in this passage.   

     If we gain all the worldly wisdom and knowledge that we can and become hugely successful according to the world’s standard, we could still be so far off target from what the Lord wants us to do in life. Satisfying the flesh with material possessions and comforts may be the standards that those around us are pushing and exemplifying, but we are not supposed to be lining up with those around us, but rather, lining up with God’s plan and purpose for our life.

     Many years ago, when I was graduating high school, I was uncertain about the direction I should take regarding education. I was leaning one direction, but my parents and Youth Pastor were leaning a different direction. I chose to listen to the advice of my parents and Youth Pastor and attended a Christian College that offered very limited degree choices, at that time. Due to the limited choices, I chose Elementary Education as my major and ended up being miserable as far as my academic choices were concerned. I ended up not finishing my college degree at that time, but rather chose to get married and spend the next 18 years of my life being a stay-at-home mom. I have no regrets when it comes to being a wife and mother, and enjoyed the quality time that I spent with my children. But I was left very unfulfilled in my personal spiritual life and calling. Choosing to take the advice, wisdom and knowledge of others had left me empty and unfulfilled.

     Twenty years after quitting, I was able to go back and graduate from the same college where my journey began. Only this time I focused on a degree that was not pushed on me by those around me, but rather, specifically ordained and spoken to me by God himself.  At the age of 40, I walked across that stage to receive my Bachelor of Science degree in Church Leadership, and went on to work and acheive my Ordination as a Minister with the Assemblies of God. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the path that the Lord had planned out for me. It was only when I stopped trying to gain the world’s wisdom and knowledge that I began to understand and hear God’s spiritual wisdom and knowledge, and the satisfaction and fulfillment that resulted is beyond what human words can articulate.


     Where are you at in this journey of life? Have you fulfilled your own personal desires and dreams, or do you long to discover your God-inspired purpose and plan? Do you feel that it’s too late or you’re too old to begin again? I challenge you today, to reevaluate the path that you’re on and ask God to fill you with His wisdom and knowledge as you pursue to understand the specific path that He has ordained for you. Then be bold and courageous enough to step out into that path.


Have a great day!

      

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unexplained love


Colossians 1:1-6
     This letter is from Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. It is written to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace.
     We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard that you trust in Christ Jesus and that you love all of God’s people. You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven – as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God’s great kindness to sinners.


     As we start this new study in the book of Colossians, we need to understand who wrote this letter and why, which is why we are starting with the first few verses. Paul, once again, is the author of this book, and he is writing this around 60 AD., from his prison cell in Rome. The Colossian people and Christians everywhere are the recipients of this book/letter. Paul never visited Colosse, but Epaphras, one of Paul’s converts, founded this particular church, so Paul felt a connection to these believers, even though he never physically met them.
     Paul begins by bringing greetings and encouragement to his fellow Christ followers, thanking them for exhibiting true characteristics of Christ by loving all of God’s people. He goes on to explain that the same Good News that they received and accepted about Jesus Christ, was continuing to be spread out all over the world, changing lives as it had changed theirs.

     As today’s Christians, do we love ALL of God’s people, or just the ones we feel comfortable around? I agree that there will always be people that we will have personality clashes with but God commands us to love everyone regardless of whether we click with them or not. We can’t gain this love on our own; it only comes through the Holy Spirit. So the next time you find it difficult to accept someone or tolerate them and their behavior, begin to pray that the Lord would give you a new measure of love for that person and you will be amazed at the results.

     Where there was once aggravation and intolerance, God will begin to replace those feelings with acceptance, understanding and empathy. It has happened more than once in my own life, so I know that it can also happen in yours. It can only begin when we realize the fact that we are no better than anyone else, and understanding that people behave in certain ways due to past experiences in their lives. When we begin to take an interest in the other person and dig deeper into their past, we gain a new insight into who they are as a person, which in turn, causes us to react differently and more compassionately towards them. Taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on other people is one of the greatest lessons we can learn, as we walk through this life.

     Think of someone today that you have a difficult time accepting and loving. Spend some quiet moments in prayer, asking God to give you a new measure of love and acceptance for this person. Step out in faith and do something extra special for this person, whether it’s a note of encouragement, an uplifting text or phone call, or a small gift. Watch what the Lord will do in your life when you step out of your comfort zone, and self-centered focus and bless someone else.

 
Have a great day!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Safe Christianity

Francis Chan presents an awesome presentation on being a safe Christian. God is calling us to step out of our safety zone and become radical believers that help change the culture of the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If not for grace.....


Philippians 4:23

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


     As I read this final verse in the book of Philippians, I tried to understand and comprehend its meaning. Why would Paul close out his letter in this manner? Why not just say, “May God bless you?” or “Blessings on you and your family?” Could it be that Paul had a specific reason and purpose for stating those particular words? Did he have an understanding of grace that others didn’t fully comprehend?

    We know that God’s “grace” simply means “His unearned favor, benefit or blessing.” As Christians, we hear that term so much, that I think we tend to take it for granted. We sing about it, read about it, and loosely throw the term around until it becomes common, ordinary and expected.

     Let’s look at it a different way. Instead of thinking of grace as an added benefit that God throws in because we’ve joined the born-again club, let’s come at it from a different perspective. Say someone broke into your house while you were at work and stole every valuable thing that you own. Two days later, the thieves are caught and thrown in jail to await their court date. Meanwhile, your possessions could not be returned to you because they were resold and unable to recover. When the court date rolls around, you are asked to come and testify against them. During the proceedings, great compassion and empathy for the thieves overwhelm you and you decide to drop all charges against them. Everyone walks out of the courtroom that day free and clear, able to resume life any way they see fit.

     This is a fictitious example of true, ultimate grace. You, as the victim, did not give the thieves what they truly deserved, but rather, extended grace to the greatest extent, regardless of their response to it. You extended favor, benefits, and blessings to the thieves, even though they didn’t deserve it.

     So yes, the definition of grace definitely means, “God’s unearned favor, benefit or blessing”, but when you think of it in this context, it takes it to a new depth in its meaning. His favor, benefit and blessing is in not giving us what we truly deserve, which is punishment and death for our crimes of sin. Jesus Christ took that punishment for us through his death and resurrection, and we walk out of the courtroom free and clear, able to resume life any way we see fit.

     If we were those thieves in the courtroom and all the charges against us were dropped, how would we respond to the one who dropped the charges? Wouldn’t most of us be so joyful, thankful and grateful, and even go and thank the one who held our fate in their hands? How much more should we go to God and express the same response for His grace toward us? Each of us deserve death and destruction, but God’s grace spares us of that punishment. God’s grace truly is amazing and we need to stop walking around taking it for granted and expecting it as an added benefit to our salvation. It is because of His grace that we can receive salvation in the first place!

     I think Paul understood that God’s grace was not necessarily to be a benefit to the human flesh, but rather to the spirit man. For the spirit is the one that will spend eternity somewhere. So when he wrote this verse, he was speaking and praying “grace” over everyone’s spirit because that’s the place where grace was needed. It’s only through God’s grace that we will be allowed to spend eternity with Him rather than where we deserve to spend eternity.

     My prayer for you today is that you will gain a deeper, more knowledgeable understanding of grace and what it means for you personally and through that understanding; you will gain a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the one that holds your fate in His hands.

      May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

    
     What has your view and understanding of grace been in the past? Have you taken it for granted and received it as an added benefit? Take some time to reflect and reread today’s devotion. Then ask God to help you to truly understand what His grace means for you personally.


Have a great day!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Needs vs. wants


Philippians 4:19-20

     And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now glory be to God our Father forever and ever. Amen


     People love to quote this particular scripture, especially when they’re in dire need of something specific, like money for the electric bill or a new microwave to replace the one that blew up. But we each need to understand the context in which this verse was written.

     Paul was writing this during his imprisonment in Rome. Can you imagine? He was in prison simply because he was a Christian. He had not committed some terrible, unforgiveable crime, but rather, was trying to share the fact that Jesus Christ was the long awaited Messiah. That simple belief and proclamation placed him in prison, and it’s from that same prison that he is writing this verse, proclaiming that God supplies all of his needs. I’m sure he wasn’t experiencing comfort and luxury in prison, but yet, he gives glory to God for all that he has, without one hint of grumbling and complaining.

     Let’s take a look around us, today. Do we have a roof over our head, food in our refrigerators, and clothes on our bodies? If we can answer “yes” to each of those questions, then we have all that we NEED. Everything else that we own is just a bonus!                        

     What we consider “needs” and what God considers “needs” are two totally different perspectives. Does God bless us above and beyond our needs? Absolutely yes! But we need to learn and understand that we could function and live with a lot less stuff that we consider absolute necessities. If we would de-clutter our lives by just a small fraction, we would be free to serve God with reckless abandon. Many times, we are connected to our possessions by a ball and chain, forcing us to work untold number of hours in order to maintain and afford them. By just maintaining our needs, we would rid ourselves of so much stress and turmoil.

     But who is willing to give up the status quo that the world around us says is necessary? Who is willing to swallow pride and self-worth in order to gain freedom and satisfaction? Peer pressure is a powerful stronghold that continues beyond the high school years, and we all fall victim to it. I believe God is calling out to today’s generation to step out of the worldly, materialistic mold that we’ve all been shoved into, and begin to blaze a new path of freedom and radical discipleship that others can follow and emulate. It’s only when we get to the place where we don’t care what those around us are thinking or saying, that we can become more like Paul when he thanked God for supplying all his needs, even in the midst of a cold, dark prison cell.


     Where are you today? Do you have all that you NEED, but yet, desire more? Do material possessions give you the fast fix that you crave, but leave you longing for more? Challenge yourself to go a week without buying one thing that’s not on your NEEDS list. Consider going to God in prayer and quiet time the next time you long for a material possession. Consider taking the money you spend on luxuries and give it to someone in desperate need.

Have a great day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are you content?


Philippians 4:10-14

     How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.


     It is obvious that the Philippians loved and cared for Paul a great deal. They were faithful to help Paul with his financial needs and constantly covered him in prayer, as he traveled, spreading the Gospel. Because Paul gave of himself so liberally, to be their pastor, teacher, and mentor, they understood the philosophy of giving back and unconditional love because Paul had modeled it so beautifully.

     Writing this letter to the Philippian Christians was one of the many ways that Paul utilized his opportunity to teach, train and mentor. He always tried to model the behavior and characteristics of Christ so that no one ever had the opportunity to label him as a hypocrite or false teacher. Just like Christ, he experienced many of the same things that the people around him were experiencing, allowing him to be empathetic to their needs and able to relate to them on a human level.

     It is only through difficult experiences and situations that we are able to gain such valuable knowledge and understanding and pass that on to others, to help them in their time of need and desperation. Everything that Paul experienced, both the good and the bad, was used to bring glory to God. So he understood that if he felt hungry or full, was in need or had plenty, it was all destined by God so that someone that Paul came in contact with could be ministered to and touched by the love of Christ.

     Life is not about fulfilling our own happiness and meeting our own needs. God wants us to understand that life is about touching others for him, especially those who don’t know and understand about true salvation through Jesus Christ. And when we finally recognize and accept that truth, God will allow us to walk through some pretty uncomfortable situations and experience some really difficult realities. But if we could see the bigger picture, as Christ does, we would be more than willing to walk through those circumstances with faith, knowing that God brings about victory in the end.

     Contentment, regardless of our physical comfort level, is a higher place that God is trying to call each of us to strive for and attain. It’s only when we get to that place, that we become the true servants that He’s called each of us to be. We all must learn to decrease (our desires and wants) in order for Christ to increase in our lives. The bottom line to today’s devotion is……..IT’S NOT ABOUT US!


     Do you gripe and complain about every situation that causes discomfort in your life? Have you ever tried to be content with what you have and where you’re going? Spend one day, not asking God why, or petitioning Him with a list of wants, and simply thank Him for your blessings. Physically make a list of everything that you’re thankful for and dwell on that list today. Then ask God for forgiveness for your selfish desires and motives, and ask Him to fill you with His desires and motives. Concentrate on contentment today.


Have a great day!