06/18/18 - Romans 3

June 18, 2018

There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. Romans 3:11

God created man to pursue His mind & heart, but we instead pursue our own desires -- use TODAY as an experiment, what would it look like if I pursued God's thoughts & passions today?

As an employee, I always wanted my manager or boss to trust me.  Somehow it is inherently clear that if your authority trusts you, then you will have the freedom to do what you want.  However, it took me years to realize that the REASON leaders don’t trust their people is BECAUSE they want to do what they want.  Managers and Owners aren’t looking for us to do what WE want, they are looking for us to do what THEY want!

That’s when I discovered a great secret to organizational success – stop trying to do what WE want, and learn more about what the Manager Wants!  It’s so simple, but the more I started to think and work like they wanted, the more trust they showed in me.  (And I have found that true in managing people too --- the more they understand my thinking, the more I trust them as well!)

God says the same thing to us!  He’s looking for people who are trustworthy … but the way you and I become trustworthy is to constantly seek what HE wants, to learn the way HE thinks, to act the way HE acts.  The more we seek to know and understand God, the more He entrusts to us. Imagine what great things God may entrust to us if we just started seeking His thoughts!

Unfortunately, we know what Paul says is true – there isn’t a man alive who always seeks what God wants, or wants to know the mind of God.  If we had a person like that, it would change the world, and give us a model to follow.  How Great to know we HAVE A PERSON LIKE THAT!  His Name is Jesus!  By knowing more about what Jesus says and does, and learning how to think and live like Jesus, God can entrust us with more of His character and activity. 

So here is an experiment to try.  Take today and try to fully pursue God’s thoughts & passions – even for a single day.  If you know something you are doing is a sin, stop it.  If you know there is someone He wants you to forgive, or mend a relationship, or show kindness to, do it.  Whatever God has told you to do, do it.  Take one day and Pursue His Mind – learn from His Word, have conversations with Him in prayer, discover again what His thoughts are.  And see what He tells you.

Then try it again another day, and then two, and then a week, and keep working on becoming a person who seeks after God’s heart.  Watch what happens in your life when His thoughts start becoming your thoughts!  Much like any other authority, you will find God entrusting you with more.

06/15/18 - Romans 2

June 15, 2018

Don't show contempt for the riches of God's kindness, forbearance and patience, it is intended to lead you to repentance.  Romans 2:4

Blessing is given to motivate us to worship, not become more selfish.

There’s an old saying:  Never look a gift horse in the mouth.  I know that you can tell a lot about a horse’s health by looking in his mouth, but don’t imagine that would be the first thing I would look at if I were given a horse.  However, the same principle applies to anything ever gifted to us, and I have many times started mentally critiquing the gift before considering the kindness of the giver.

God’s Kindness is the most abused gift ever given.  People not only have received his patience, mercy and kindness daily, but then turn around and demand it from God tomorrow.  So many people pray for God to bless them without ever giving God the time of day in worship or devotion.  If it weren’t for His incredible love and patience, we would be starved for blessing because of our ingratitude.

To be even more blunt, many people use up the blessings of God for selfish interests, then complain when the debts are mounting, or their schedule becomes unmanageable.  God provides people a job and they start complaining about work.  God gives us a spouse and we look to dump them for the next attraction.  God provides us freedom to worship, and we choose instead to spend our time on the sports field or sleeping in.  God gave us blessing – we turn it into a curse.

According to Paul, the purpose of blessing is not to make us happy, it is given to direct us to holiness.  God’s patience and mercy are a calling for us to repent and turn to Him, not walk away with our hands full.  Don’t waste the blessing, use it for what God intended. Allow every daily gift He gives remind you to make God your first priority.

How different would money be handled if we saw it as a kindness instead of an expected payment.  What would we do differently with our time if we saw each day as a gift from God to live for Him, instead of being expected for our own activities.  If families and marriages were seen as a special blessing, how would it change the way we live in our families?

Here’s a simple exercise to try.  Take one day (or one week), and record in a notebook every blessing you are given by God – big things and small things.  Then consider what those blessings are supposed to do in your relationship with Jesus.  Allow every blessing to both BE a praise to God, and BE Used for praise to God.

Don’t waste your blessings on yourself.  Use them for the great purpose God intended.

06/14/18 - Romans 1

June 14, 2018

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped & served created things rather than the Creator... Romans 1:25

Sin is always a substitution of what We want for what God wants.

In grade school, any time you saw a substitute teacher in the classroom, you knew it was going to be an easier day.  Having a substitute usually meant watching a movie, having extra time to do homework, or spending the day having fun another way.  I always enjoyed having substitutes … until the regular teacher returned.  Then the homework doubled, and the class had to work extra hard to catch up with the lost day.

Every sin is a substitute.  It seems enjoyable at the time, but has a price to pay afterwards.  Sometimes the cost is more short-term than others, and sometimes the cost affects more than one person, but there is always a consequence later.  When we sin, we are choosing a shortcut that has a long cost.  The problem is often that the attractiveness of sin grabs our attention more than the cost attached to it.  If we could see the cost, we might more often avoid the sin.

Paul addresses the beginning of his letter to the Romans talking about the severity of substitutes.  In a culture rampant with sexual sin and immorality, Paul sees how people have swapped out their holiness for sin substitutes.  They have chosen the temporary satisfaction of sex over the longlasting security of marriage.  They have decided to swap the rules of righteous living out for the intoxication of sinful living.  And the result is an ever-declining death spiral away from God, and toward hell.

The Roman culture is not much different than America’s culture these days.  Our rapid decline is a result of a substitution plan – choosing to pursue selfishness over God, then money, then drugs & alcohol, and these days now using substitutes like living together, homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia.  What appears acceptable and enjoyable continues its destructive consequences on marriage & families, leaving in its wake a terrible aftermath for the next generations. 

The only way to recover from sin is to stop the substitutes.  That means releasing all of the substitutes in our life and grabbing hold of the only pure alternative, Jesus.  Choose to eliminate the long term consequences and do your homework today – letting holiness provide a great result for generations to come.  Worship and serve the Creator, and pursue the Truth.

Or, expect to have a LOT more work to do tomorrow.

06/13/18 - Acts 28

June 13, 2018

“Go to this people and say: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused;…”  Acts 28:26

People aren’t saved by logical arguments for their heads, but by understanding with their hearts.

Over the years, I have had several friendships with people who have questioned my faith and challenged the ideas of God & Scripture with me.  Because of our friendship, I would do my best to help explain their questions or answer their arguments, and in most cases, at least provide some answer to think about.  But I cannot recall ANY of them changing their mind or starting a relationship with God out of the discussion.  In fact, it often got dropped and we would move on without agreement.  In each case, I tried to maintain the friendship, but it often would fade away over time.

Then there have been many conversations with friends who didn’t come to argue or debate a point, but came to learn and understand.  Not that I was the expert they needed, but they came looking to figure it out.  These folks OFTEN found some answers they were seeking, and God OFTEN brought out answers in the conversation.  And I have been privileged to see a number of them start a relationship with God out of those conversations – in some cases even baptizing them!

There is a difference between trying to approach God with the head versus approaching God with the heart.  The brain, even though larger in size than the heart, is not big enough to fathom all of the logic of God.  (No one can have the mind of God!)  But the heart has this ability to expand in understanding God far better.  Isaiah said it centuries ago:  You will be hearing and seeing, but not getting it with the brain; because you’ve already hardened your heart.  Instead of seeking to know God, you have come to argue his existence.

I have learned over the years it is better not to "win people" with arguments.  Even Christians, when they want to debate some technical doctrine or theory, need to be interested in learning together before I will engage the conversation.  That’s because the argument only does more damage to the heart, hardening it even more.  I would rather be considered dumb and hope for a future time their hear might be ready than do more to harden their chance at salvation.

However, the sad part of this often quoted verse for me is not the hardness of other people’s hearts, but the hardness of my own.  I too am guilty of having a hard heart on some areas and not even realize it until sin has done the damage.  The cement of pride can get in the way of understanding my wife, loving my family, or obeying completely God’s Word.  It took years for me to want to UNDERSTAND giving, serving and witnessing for Jesus.  It has been a lifetime struggle to push down pride and ego in order to understand the teachings of Jesus.  I’ve got some more work to do on this, and maybe you do too.

So listen to Isaiah (and Jesus, and Paul) from this text:  stop trying to argue or justify our behaviors, and try to listen with your heart in order to understand His ways.  Use the heart’s capacity to understand instead of your head.  And what you will find is that the head catches up soon after!

06/12/18 - Acts 27

June 12, 2018

The angel said: “Do not be afraid Paul.  You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”  Acts 27:24

Don’t be so quick to leave - One Christian may be the only protection in a family, a business, even a town!

Paul was wrongly accused, beaten, jailed for years, and put on a boat to head to Rome to face Caesar for a crime he didn’t commit.  He was surrounded by soldiers, sailors and criminals – none of which cared about his predicament, and most of which were not concerned about God.  That was, until they faced a storm that threatened their lives.  Then Paul became an important person on the ship, and his leadership and influence protected 275 people from death.  One man’s faith affected the entire ship, and saved everyone there.  The influence and presence of a faithful believer protects many around them.

That may also be true with Christians in the workforce, those feeling alone in a marriage or family, and even those who are persecuted in towns and villages all around the world.  Believers are a light of the world, a reflection of the true light of Jesus.  And often their presence is enough to delay judgment on people around them.

You may recall the story of Lot in the book of Genesis.  His presence in the town of Sodom held back the judgment of God until the angels finally pulled him and the family out.  Or think back to the story of Esther.  Her faithfulness was all God needed to save the entire nation of Jews from destruction.  Or one of my favorite examples isn’t even a human… it’s the story of Balaam’s donkey, who ended up protecting Balaam from the sword of the Lord, and by doing so led to the protection of the Jewish nation.  The impact one believer can have is tremendous!

That’s why we should consider carefully what God wants from us BEFORE abandoning ship in our families, or the company we work for, or the church we serve, or even the town we live in.  Don’t be so quick to leave.  Make certain you are not jumping ship for selfish reasons, but instead waiting on God to direct you away.  You may be the influence God wants to use to save lives!  Just because the storm is raging now doesn’t mean the job is done.  Wait and listen for God, letting Him tell you when to leave, and what to do.

I’m afraid that comfort and cash have lured people away from calling way too often in the Kingdom.  It always saddens me to hear of ministers jumping from church to church because of the salary offered instead of the calling confirmed.  Too many people pick up and move to more comfortable locations for their jobs or their homes in order to enjoy their lives more than save lives.  Certainly God may call people to new situations, and sometimes even enjoyable ones (I’m still waiting to hear God send us to a megachurch in Hawaii!), but be more interested in reaching the lives around us than the comforts somewhere else.

Paul became God’s man to save the captain and everyone on the ship.  How might God be using you to protect those around you? 

06/11/18 - Acts 26

June 11, 2018

The Lord replied: 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and witness..' Acts 26:15, 16

Jesus doesn't disqualify us because of our past, He calls us to a new purpose.

Often the greatest hindrance to our future is not skillsets, education, or opportunity … it’s our past failures.

That’s where Paul found himself after being confronted with the glory of Jesus.  Paul instantly came to the realization that he had failed terribly at the stoning of Steven and the arrest of Christians.  He found himself fully guilty of persecution, pride and murder.  But Jesus didn’t condemn Paul … instead Jesus Called Paul to a new purpose.  Now the ones Paul was persecuting would become the ones Paul would encourage during their persecution.  The past didn’t eliminate Paul, it prepared Paul for his ultimate purpose.

Everyone has a ‘past’.  Some have stories that are far more fascinating than others, and many have a testimony that is more traumatic than others, but we all have a past that would disqualify us from the Kingdom of God.  In fact, God often uses our ‘past’ to help reach similar people in our ‘future’.  It’s the lessons of mercy, grace, compassion, love, conviction, and much more that comes OUT of our past, which Jesus uses to minister to people locked IN their past.  Your greatest ministry often comes from the lessons of your past.  Don’t run from it, learn from it.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be judged for your past.  There will always be judgmental people who pride themselves on not committing the sins you did.  We all have faced that … and sometimes imagine it when it was not intended that way.  Accepting or reacting to judgment just takes us back to the past we already went through.  Don’t react to judgmental people, respond with love and move forward in the ministry God has given you.  For every person that judges you, there will be dozens who need your message of mercy, grace & hope.  See the judgment for what really is happening – Satan trying to discourage you from the purpose God intended.
Jesus saw the importance of forgiving people AND calling them to a new purpose.  He forgave the crippled man AND healed him to go serve his family.  Jesus forgave the adulterous woman AND sent her away to ‘sin no more’.  He forgave Peter AND called him to shepherd the new church.  And in this passage, Paul tells everyone that Jesus forgave him, and sent him to the Gentiles.  Our past need not stop our future, but it will definitely change it.  Let God remove the sting of the past from your life, and use it for His Glory in your future.  Start today becoming the new person God is calling you to be.

06/08/18 - Acts 25

June 8, 2018

Paul said: “If I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die.”  Acts25:11

Dieing for a conviction is far better than living without one.

As Paul faced the trials of Festus & Agrippa, he was being threatened constantly with capital punishment for standing on his convictions about Jesus.  The Romans didn’t really have a problem with that (yet), but the Jews saw Paul as a threat to their country and their control.  Through the interrogations, Roman leaders would look for a bribe or a compromise to get rid of the problem, but Paul would not compromise his convictions, even if it meant death.

When you know what you are willing to die for, you have found what you actually live for.  Whatever you are willing to die over is the object of your worship.  Paul demonstrated his conviction to die for His faith, and that was a powerful testimony to everyone of how committed he was to Jesus.

Yet many people are less committed to Jesus, and more committed to their own personal safety.  Fear of the unknown keeps followers from taking a mission trip, holding back on giving radically, delay serving in a ministry, or inviting a friend to church.  It is also fear that keeps people from forgiving a hurt or sharing compassion for a need.  These are people who would rather live without a complete conviction, and find themselves compromising through life instead of living a holy life.

If you wrote out a short list of the things you were willing to die for, what would it contain?  Maybe take some time to consider that question and draw some convictions out of it.  Find out what you are willing to die for, and you’ll discover what you’re living for.  If it needs changed, then start making changes in your convictions.