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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dreams of a perfect life

We all have visions, goals and dreams of having a "perfect life," don't we. None of us enjoys pain, conflict or war.

Jesus never promises us a "rose garden."

But I would suggest to you today that to follow Jesus actually invites pain, it invites sorrow, it invites challenges that put us in a position where we are totally dependent upon God. And it is when we embrace those challenges that we actually are living life as God intends us to live.

The spiritual challenge we face is to keep our focus on a "perfect life" in the midst of our problems and struggles.

To quote, "by embracing the reality of our mortal life, we can get in touch with the eternal life that has been sown there."

In other words, it's as I embrace my suffering that I truly live life. It's as I wrap my arms around my problems, acknowledge their reality, yet continue to focus on God that I am truly experiencing life the way God intended me to.

Paul writes in Second Corinthians 4:8-12, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."

Only by facing our own problems and mortality can we come in touch with the life that overcomes death. Our imperfections and mistakes and trials open the door for us to step through to experience the "perfect life" that God in and through Jesus has promised us.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The process of becoming a follower of Christ

I've always been struck with the fact that we as followers of Christ in the Pentecostal tradition (and it has become a tradition) are greatly concerned with "closing the deal," concerning leading someone to Christ.

We sometimes feel (and I am generalizing here) that unless someone buys into the faith (to use a sales metaphor) that our time spent with people is not profitable.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful time at our church. We invited all of the families involved in our Upward Basketball outreach ministry to come to our Sunday morning service, I spoke on God's grace, and invited people to start a relationship with Christ, or to put it into religious jargon, "to get saved."

Many responded. We were all rejoicing (as well we should!).

Yet at the same time, I can't help but feel that every conversation that I have with someone who is searching for truth is important.

I might not be the one to "seal the deal," as I was yesterday (and don't get me wrong, I really, really enjoyed seeing people come forward to make a decision to follow Christ) but each time I interact with someone concerning my faith it an important time.

I guess what I am saying, is that let's put as much emphasis, and rejoice just as much in the process of bringing someone to Christ as in the end result.

Process, process, process. The Christian life is all about becoming, as well as what I was and what I will be.

Does that make sense? Let me know....

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Moving from fast food to feasting

I love the eat a good meal. It doesn't have to be fancy, or expensive, but good. Having been missionaries to France, we know the delight of wonderful food with good friends, taking your time and swapping life stories.

I don't need to tell you that there is a big, big difference between fast food and a leisurely meal.

The bible says in Psalms 119:103, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"

I would suggest to you that being in the Word on a daily basis should be a feast and not fast food.

The Word illuminates. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalms 119:105

The Word is a training manual. It equips us. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful or teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all of God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Word brings healing. It cuts us to heal. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden form God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:12-13

Sometimes we need to "go under the knife" so that we might be healed.

The Word is our weapon. "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17

So, when are you going to dine on God's Word?

Where will you eat? What will be on the menu?

I encourage you to read one chapter a day. If you don't know where to start, begin with Matthew, Proverbs, or the book of James.

Or perhaps read 10 minutes a day. Pick a book of the Bible and plan to read for ten minutes each day.

Or maybe you want to use a devotional Bible reading guide.

Use whatever way fits your personality and time frame.

But read God's word! Eat of His word! Feast on it. Dwell on it. Let there be wonderful times of fellowship with God as you take in nourishment!

And then talk about what you read with others.

Do what you read on a daily basis.

Reflect on what you read throughout the day.

Let's move from fast food to feasting!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Being clothed with Christ

As a follower of Jesus, I am to be "clothed with Christ." Paul writes in Galatians 3:26, "Every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ," and "let your armor be the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14)."

Being clothed with Christ is a whole lot more than wearing clothes that cover our trials and misery.

It is speaking of a total transformation that allows us to say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and Yet I am alive; yet it isno longer I, but christ living in me." Galatians 2:20

When the Christ in me speaks the Christ in you, something powerful takes place.

That's why we must all strive to become like Christ. Imitators of Him, by his Holy Spirit within us.

May we all be "clothed with Christ" today!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Keeping my eyes on Jesus

Our Christian pilgrimage is not a 100 yard dash and with a burst of speed we reach heaven. Our Christian life is a marathon, a long run, and we are called to persevere and endure.

Life is hard.

Life is difficult.

The Christian life is not a life free from adversity.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us in chapter 12, verses 1-3:

"1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

"Let us run with perseverance the race....let us fix our eyes on Jesus..."

Back in the day, we used to have "testimony services," where people would stand up and share what God had done in their lives. People would tell of how they "backslid" from the faith and came back to God.

And almost every testimony of backsliding that I ever heard had at its root, "I got my eyes off the Lord, and I got them on people...and people let me down..."

People will let us down.

It's a fact.

Every place I've ever been there were folks who just disappointed me flat out.

People will let us down.

And not only do people let us down, we have ourselves plainly and clearly disappointed others. (That is even harder sometimes to endure - when I let others down).

And if we are going to endure during our face, we have to fix our eyes on someone who won't let us down.

Peopel around us will sometimes disappoint us. But we've got to look away from other persons as our dependency, as our models, and look to Jesus as our model.

He is the pioneer and perfecter of faith,
the orginator,
the consummator,
the trail blazer,
the author,
the finisher of our faith."

I think a lot of us are trying to find meaning for life and happiness in the relationships we have with other people. Relationships are important!

But ultimately we need to look away from others and ourselves and our faith, and our lack of faith, our abilities, our disabilities, our strenghts, and our weaknesses, and look only to Jesus.

My true meaning in life is found in Jesus.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Standing strong in the midst of a weak world

One of the things I have notice recently is that nobody seems to stand for anything. Tolerance and compromise are the name of the game.

Now, before we go on, let me clarify. The opposite of tolerance and compromise is not legalism. Rules and regulations.

But standing strong in the midst of a weak world is a calling that we all have in our lives.

I love the story of Daniel and the three teenagers.

The Bible tells us in Daniel 3:17-18, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."

Decisions are around us each and everyday. Some decisions are hard, while others are quite easy. How are we especially at making decisions that will determine our obedience in standing up for what we believe? I'm sure none of us have been thrown into a blazing inferno like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, but we still face times of decisions in which it's hard for us to stand up for what is right.

As I think of my own life, I can look back and see so many times where I could have stood up firm for Christ, but chose to keep my mouth shut and go along with the crowd. How that must have hurt and broken my Savior's heart.

Sad thing is, really, that many times we don't even flinch after having gone along with the crowd. I honestly don't know what I would have done if I was one of those boys about to be thrown into a furnace.

This reminds me of the song, "This Is Your Time" by Michael W. Smith. He talks about how Cassie Bernall had a gun to her head and STILL proclaimed her faith and died for her belief in God. The first line of the song says, "It was a test we would all hope to pass, but none of us would want to take......Faced with the choice to deny God or live, but for her there was one choice to make."

Can you look through your past week, months, or even years and remember times you went along with the crowd because standing up firm for your faith would have caused you humiliation or even a severe consequence?

It makes me cringe that most of us probably will never face a blazing inferno in which we're threatened to be thrown into for not going along with the crowd, but that we still struggle with humiliation and ridicule. I'm amazed at how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego displayed their faith in God and went through what could have ended their lives. They decided to obey God, whether or not they would physically die. But God protected them from the fire(which was heated 7 times hotter than normal).

We want to say that we would choose to obey God in a test of this magnitude.......but would we? So maybe the question should really be phrased to each one of us as, "What 'blazing inferno' keeps us from standing up strong for God"?

Let's stand strong today for Jesus. As the old hymn of the church states, "stand up, stand up for Jesus."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

God is closer than we think

John Ortberg has written a wonderful book entitled, "God is closer than think." In it he talks about the fact that when God seems absent, He is there - all the time.

The Psalmist writes, "I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?"

C.S. Lewis wrote after the death of his wife, "Where is God?....Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence."

We all have times when it seems like we can't find God. That God isn't answering when we knock at heaven's door.

"Why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face?

That's why I like Psalms 13. Years ago, Psalms 13 ministered to me when I was walking through a time when it seemed like God wasn't present. As you read it, notice the way David is honest with God, and then his conclusion.

1. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2. How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3. Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4. my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5. But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6. I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me.

David feels like God is distant - but what is his conclusion? I am going to continue to trust in your unfailing love and rejoice in you!

David is feeling, "I don't like everything that is going on, but I know that I have no where else to go but to you!"

And as we pray, the Holy Spirit helps us experience another side to our struggle. It's not all pain, trauma, or weeping. After a few moments in conversation with God, our perspective beings to change. God's love doesn't fail after all.

In our anexious moments, let's keep on trusting. As we do, we will see that God has not abandoned us nor will our problmes win the battle over us. Our "How longs," can be swallowed up in hallelujahs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"God deliver us from false guilt!"

I had a friend tell me one time, "George, you carry the guilt of the whole world on your shoulders."

There is a big, big difference between true guilt and false guilt.

True guilt drives me to God
True guilt causes me to walk in humility before God
True guilt pushes me to draw closer to God

False guilt drives me away from God
False guilt causes to me want to stay away from God and his church
False guilt causes much pain in our lives.

Sometimes forgiving ourselves is harder than forgiving others.

I read this recently:

"Amputees often experience some sensation of a phantom limb. Somewhere, locked in their brains, a memory lingers of the nonexistent hand or leg. Invisible toes curl, imaginary hands grasp things, a "leg" feels so sturdy a patient may try to stand on it. For a few, the experience includes pain. Doctors watch helplessly, for the part of the body screaming for attention does not exist.

One such patient was my medical school administrator, Mr. Barwick, who had a serious and painful circulation problem in his leg but refused to allow the recommended amputation. As the pain grew worse, Barwick grew bitter. "I hate it! I hate It!" he would mutter about the leg. At last he relented and told the doctor, "I can't stand it anymore. I'm through with that leg. Take it off." Surgery was scheduled immediately.

Before the operation, however, Barwick asked the doctor, "What do you do with legs after they're removed?"

"We may take a biopsy or explore them a bit, but afterwards we incinerate them," the doctor replied.

Barwick proceeded with a bizarre request: "I would like you to preserve my leg in a pickling jar. I will install it on my mantle shelf. Then, as I sit in my armchair, I will taunt that leg, 'Hah! You can't hurt me anymore!'"

Ultimately, he got his wish. But the despised leg had the last laugh. Barwick suffered phantom limb pain of the worst degree. The wound healed, but he could feel the torturous pressure of the swelling as the muscles cramped, and he had no prospect of relief. He had hated the leg with such intensity that the pain had unaccountably lodged permanently in his brain.

To me, phantom limb pain provides wonderful insight into the phenomenon of false guilt. Christians can be obsessed by the memory of some sin committed years ago. It never leaves them, crippling their ministry, their devotional life, their relationships with others. They live in fear that someone will discover their past. They work overtime trying to prove to God they're truly repentant. They erect barriers against the enveloping, loving grace of God. Unless they experience the truth in (1 John 3:19-20) that "God is greater than our conscience," they become a pitiful as poor Mr. Barwick, shaking a fist in fury at the pickled leg on the mantle.

I like what David said in Psalms 32:5, "Then I acknowledge my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" - and you forgave THE GUILT OF MY SIN."

Let's walk in freedom today!

Can we not pray, "Father, release us from false guilt today. Condemnation is not from you. Condemnation is from the father of lies - Satan - the enemy of our souls. Thank you that after you have forgiven us that you don't condemn us. We relax in the peace and calm of your forgiveness and grace. Amen."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day

Won't you be my valentine? That's what God asks of all of us. Won't you allow me to love you? Won't you let me put my arms around you and help you with your pain and your hurt and your concerns?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." John 3:16.

For God.

Not just any God. The one and only God. My God. Your God. I have a personal relationship with God and that just blows me away.

For God so loved. His love for us is boundless. Infinite. Unconditional. Full of grace and mercy. Holy. Based on truth. Endless.

That He gave. God is a giver. God is generous. We are never more like God than when we give.

His one and only Son. Not just any son. His one and only Son. Everything He had. God gives to me. So that I might have a relationship with Him!

God's love is not static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. It is the basis of love in all of our relationships. When you love someone dearly, you are wlling to give freely to the point of self-sacrifice. God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the highest price he could pay.

When we share our faith with others, our love must be like Jesus - willingly giving up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God's love.

God says today, "Be my valentine!"

Monday, February 13, 2006

The impossible

I was sent this devotion today by some friends of mine. I trust that it will encourage you as it has encouraged me.

"The hill country shall be thine" (Josh. 17:18, RV).

There is always room higher up. When the valleys are full of Canaanites, whose iron chariots withstand your progress, get up into the hills, occupy the upper spaces. If you can no longer work for God, pray for those who can. If you cannot move earth by your speech, you may move Heaven. If the development of life on the lower slopes is impossible, through limitations of service, the necessity of maintaining others, and such-like restrictions, let it break out toward the unseen, the eternal, the Divine.

Faith can fell forests. Even if the tribes had realized what treasures lay above them, they would hardly have dared to suppose it possible to rid the hills of their dense forest-growth. But as God indicated their task, He reminded them that they had power enough. The visions of things that seem impossible are presented to us, like these forest-covered steeps, not to mock us, but to incite us to spiritual exploits which would be impossible unless God had stored within us the great strength of His own indwelling.

Difficulty is sent to reveal to us what God can do in answer to the faith that prays and works. Are you straitened in the valleys? Get away to the hills, live there; get honey out of the rock, and wealth out of the terraced slopes now hidden by forest. --Daily Devotional Commentary

Got any rivers they say are uncrossable,
Got any mountains they say 'can't tunnel through'?
We specialize in the wholly impossible,
Doing the things they say you can't do.
--Song of the Panama builders"

Good stuff...have a great day!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I am speaking and leading a funeral service for a little baby named Keyvon. He was born on January 1st and died on February 5th. The parents are teenagers.

It's tragic. It's hard on the parents. Apparently the child died from sids.

My thoughts today will begin with the thought that there are a lot more questions than answers.

We don't have all the answers.

We don't know why Keyvon was taken before he had a chance to live.

We don't know the talents and abilities that this child had.

We don't know the impact he could have made on the world.

But we do know that Keyvon was a unique child who's short life was very meaningful in God's eyes.

We do know that God didn't cause his death but God can bring something good out of it.

We don't know why it happened, but I do know God and God can be trusted.

And perhaps, just perhaps, in the sovereignty of God, Keyvon has been saved from a life of tragedy and pain.

Keyvon is in the safe, secure arms of God. He's in heaven. Heaven is a safe place of love, joy and happiness. A place of joy.

God has his arms around Keyvon right now.

Life is hard.

Life is difficult.

We must continue to trust in God - and God will continue to see us through.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Small group meeting - yeah!

We had our first small group meeting last night and had a great time. Our group consists of couples who are in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. While we didn't plan it that way - it's the way God has put it together!

We ate (can you actually meet together without eating?), shared about our families, watched a 3 minute video about being a "real friend" to someone who doesn't know Christ and then had a conversation with God about our each other's needs.

Body life in the family of God is so important.

Paul talks about this in First Corinthians 12:12 when he writes, "Know the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts.....of one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

God calls me to be more than a "pew pal" to those around me. To truly rejoice with someone and/or suffer with someone takes weekly, if not daily contact!

It means that I must put aside my own personal agenda.

It means that I must give of my time.

It means that I must be open to sharing my own hurts and wounds and feelings.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the relational dynamics continue to grow in our group!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hard sayings of Jesus

Jesus said some things that are very difficult to understand, and if we do understand them, they are difficult to put into practice.

Let me give you an example from Matthew 12:46-50:

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.

47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”

49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 

50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Was Jesus denying his responsiblity to his earthly family? Absolutely not. At the cross, Jesus concern was for his mother's security - as he hung there in agony and pain.

He really went after the religious leaders for not following the Old Testament command to honor their parents.

Family was huge for Jesus.

I would suggest that Jesus was pointing out that spiritual relationshps are as binding as physical ones. I would suggest that Jesus was paving the way for a new community of believers - the church - our spiritual family.

Many people I come in contact with say that they are closer to their Christian brothers and sisters than their family brothers and sisters.

I know that I have friends that I am just as close to as my own brother.

I'm thankful for our church family!

Monday, February 06, 2006

My friend Doug

My friend Doug had surgery today. They are taking out his left kidney. He has a cancerous mass three times the size of the kidney itself that has to be taken out.

I received the news Saturday afternoon when he called me. It came as a real surprise to me because you don't think of your friends (even at the age of 49) getting cancer and having surgery to take out one of their kidneys.

Obviously, it's a reminder of how fragile we really are. Life is but a fleeting vapor, the scriptures say, here today and gone tomorrow.

That's why I'm glad I'm hooked into the one constant - my relationship with God. That will never change.

My outer man may be decaying (me on a beach in a swimsuit is an ugly thought) but my inner man is being renewed, my spirit and my soul is growing in God every day. And after all - isn't that was is the most important?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Psalms 70

All week long we have been in the Psalms.

Psalms 70 gives us an urgent prayer for help from David. This prayer can be your prayer today as well, especially if you are short on time and long on need.

David was in a moment of panic, yet he didn't forget to praise. Praise is important because it helps us remember who God is.

Many times our prayers are filled with requests for ourselves and others, and we forget to thank God for what he has done and to worship him for who he is.

We can't take God for granted and treat him as a vending machine.

Even when David was afraid, he praised God.

David writes,

1.Hasten, O God, to save me;
O Lord, come quickly to help me.

2. May those who seek my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

3. May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
turn back because of their shame.

4. But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
Let God be exalted!

5. Yet I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Psalms 86

If you haven't been placed in a position where all you can do is to cry out to God - you will be. Kind of a bummer thought I know, but it's the reality of life. Life is hard.

Many times, when there is no relief in sight, all we can do is acknowledge the greatness of God and wait for better days ahead. All we can do is stand upon the conviction that God answers prayer and will sustain us in difficult times.

As you read Psalms 86 today, note a couple of things.

In verses 8, David writes, "there is none like you, O Lord." There is nobody like God. All human-created deities are powerless because they are merely inventions of the mind, not living beings. God alone is worthy.

Also....In verse 17 David writes, "give me a sign of your goodness."

In other words, "God show me that there is some relief in sight!"

At the same time, we all can be thankful for the support of family and friends, the relationships we have in the body of Christ, and the fact that we are alive this day. This is the day that the Lord has made! We can be confident that God knows our situation no matter how desperate it becomes, and God cares.

David writes,

1 Hear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.

2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
You are my God; save your servant
who trusts in you.

3 Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for I call to you all day long.

4 Bring joy to your servant,
for to you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.

5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.

6 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.

7 In the day of my trouble I will call to you,
for you will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.

9 All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, O Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.

10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.

13 For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.a

14 The arrogant are attacking me, O God;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life—
men without regard for you.

15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
grant your strength to your servant
and save the son of your maidservant.b

17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.