Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December 1, 2011

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

I am a proud alumnus of Indiana Wesleyan University (in a humble sort of way). IWU has been a leader in distance learning – that is, via extension centers and the Internet. That concept allows people to get a good college education without the high cost and without actually going to Marion, IN.

Not only is this less expensive it fits our human nature. It is our nature to know as much as we can with as little effort and sacrifice as possible. I am not being critical, if I could have gotten a college degree without actually going to college and studying and paying off student loans for ten years I would have taken it in a heartbeat!

You would, too!
Knowledge is power and to have more knowledge without working for it or paying for it is an irresistible idea. Who could pass on that deal?

God did!


Re-read these verses!

Another awesome amazing truth about Christmas is that God, Who knows everything that there is to know and possesses all power, did not settle for long distance learning in regard to the human experience.

Rather than cling to power, He relinquished it.

Instead, of resting in knowledge, He released it.

Unlike you and I, who do our best to avoid pain and suffering and death, He embraced it!


This text tells us:

1) So He can completely identify with us!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are”
 2) So He can compassionately intercede for us!

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God”

One of the primary responsibilities of a High Priest is to represent his people before God and God before his people.
3) So we can confidently interact with Him!

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God did not settle for knowing you from a distance, He sent Jesus to get personally involved in the pain and passion of your human experience! Christmas means God’s Son got up close and personal with your human experience! He desired to know you more intimately so you may know Him more intimately!

That’s AMAZING news! “Good tidings of great joy” as the angels proclaimed!

Why would you settle to know God at a distance when you can know Him personally? Why would you cling to your illusions of power when you can be intimately connected with the God of the universe?

November 30, 2011

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Matthew 1:24

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt” Matthew 2:13-14

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” Matthew 2:19-21

Meditating on the Christmas story the other day a thought occurred to me, “I had trouble trusting my teen-agers with the car, but God trusted two teen-agers with the Christ!”

From everything we know about Mary and Joseph, that is what they were – teen-agers!

Once I got my mind around that I began to ponder why they were so trustworthy when mine weren’t.

My teens were immature – so were they.

My teens were inexperienced – so were they.

My teens were impulsive – they may have been.

Let me focus on the obvious and most significant difference – obedience. God could trust Joseph and Mary.

The proof is in these three verses chosen from the first few chapters of Matthew. In each of these verses Joseph obeyed God IMMEDIATELY.

That will build a little trust!

When I saw God trusting teens with the birth and care of the Savior I began to comprehend the power and potential of obedience. Wow!

After I got a grasp on that I begin to wonder what could happen in my life if I would become more obedient – instantly obedient.

What about you? How is your obedience?

God used two obedient teens to change the course of human history, not to mention the possibilities for eternity!

Our world may be only a few “obediences” away from a dramatic improvement. If only God could trust us!

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 29. 2011

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." Galatians 4:4-5

Christmas happened at the perfect time and Christmas means that God's time is always perfect! God is always on time! He has never been late!

I am sure you have wondered about His timing. His timing is almost always different from ours.

Probably Joseph and Mary questioned God's timing. His plan sure messed up theirs. You know that nice big wedding they were planning? It never happened because God's timing was different than theirs.

And remember that census thing when they they had to go all the way to Bethlehem for Joseph to register? Bad timing! Mary was extremely pregnant when that all happened. They had to pack up their bags and hop on a donkey and ride over bumpy roads through rugged terrain. Not a comfortable trip under normal circumstances but REALLY bad when you are nine months pregnant. Terrible timing!

Mary and Joseph were not the only ones traveling to Bethlehem for the census, but they did come far and they did travel slolwy. So, when they got to this small town with limited lodging they arrived at a bad time - after everyone else! By the time they went to check in to the inn they where left out of the inn because the inn was out of rooms! Not good timing.

The timing was terrible for Mary and Joseph! There is no two ways about it! God's plan for these two teens was not timed for their comfort or convenience. Were you to have pulled them aside for a moment and asked them, "Hey, guys, what do you think of God's timing?" I am sure they would have been hard pressed to give you a positive answer about God's timing.

But, the important fact is this, they obeyed God! If they questioned His timing they didn't doubt His purpose. They understood that even though God's plans messed up the timing of their plans and caused them terrible stress, they knew there is never a good time to disobey God. That time never comes!

The writer of the Epistle to the Galatians acknowledges that God's timing was the perfect when He sent His Son to save the world. Christmas proves that God's timing is always right. Mary and Joseph had trouble seeing it then, but they know it now!

Are you struggling with God's timing in your life? Have you been waiting for Him to do something that seems overdue? Are you way past impatient and bordering on doubtful? Let me point you to the Christmas story to remind you - GOD IS ALWAYS ON TIME!

Christmas proves it!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 28, 2011

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him 'Immanuel' which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

There is so much good news that surrounds the Christmas story! It tells us a lot of good things about God and how much He loves us.

In two separate accounts about the coming of Christ the good news is revealed regarding God's desire to be with us. He was to reveal Himself to us. He wants to be known by us. He wants to fellowship with us. Amazing isn't it?

We have always known that God is for us. He created us! The Old Testament is filled with the news that God is for us. It it rife with demonstrations of His power and might on our behalf. There is no way you can read the Old Testament and not conclude that God is for us.

If there is someone you want to be for you it is most certainly God!

The wonder of the Christmas story is how a God Who is for us came to be with us. It happened in a most amazing and wonderfully peculiar way! Only the mind of God could conjur such a perfect plan! All the Gods of the pagans demanded that their adherents somehow measure up to their status. But our God, the true God of the universe, humbled Himself and condescended to us!

More amazing than the fact that He did it is how He did it. God called a teen-aged virgin to be the mother of His Son. This child would have to be conceived by the Holy Spirit so He could be born sinless. Why sinless? Because only a sinless Son could become an atoning sacrifice for sin. Perfect!

God, through the mystery of the incarnation, came to be with us because He was for us!
But the news is even better! The God Who is FOR us came to be WITH us because He wants to be IN us!

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"  John 1:12

God's desire is for us to receive Him through faith in Jesus so He can fill us with His Spirit and transform our heart and mind. He wants us to deliver us from our spiritual death and darkness and lead us into His life and light! When He does that He tranforms our mind and gives us eternal life.

So here is the wonderful news of the Christmas miracle, the God Who was FOR us, came to be WITH us, so He could be IN us - because He wants us to be WITH Him for eternity!

Christmas is "Immanuel" - God with us! That changes everything! Will you let Him change you?

November 27, 2011

"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" Genesis 3:8-9

"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46

Here are three of the most tragic verses in the entire Bible. They are tragic because they speak of broken relationship. Pain oozes from these words. Loved one who desire to be in fellowship have found that their fellowship has been severed.

It is painful to be separated from someone you love and desire to be with but there is a barrier preventing that from happening. You want to be with them but you can't.

I remember when my parents were divorced. I was just a very young child but I remember missing my dad after he left and wishing I could be with him. But then, when I went to be with him I would miss my mother. I was grieved that I couldn't be with them both. I often fantasized about how great it would be to have my parents together. So my childhood was haunted by this empty feeling of broken fellowship.

Many of you know what I am talking about.

God knows what I am talking about. So does Jesus. They both knew the heartache of being separated or alienated form the one you love.

Every morning since Adam had been created He and God had walked hand in hand, face-to-face in the beautiful Garden known as Eden. Obviously, Adam enjoyed it (who wouldn't!) but amazingly, God looked forward to it as well. Think about that - God wanting to fellowship with you!

But one sad and fateful morning God came to the appointed place at the regular time - but no Adam - nowhere. So God calls out, "Adam! Where are you?"

Heart-breaking isn't it?

Want some good news?

God wanted to be with us and have fellowship with us far more than we wanted to be with Him! Yes, He did! And so God did something to repair the breech, to redeem our race, and to restore the fellowship.

"But God commended His love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

God loves us that much? Yes! And it would cost Him one more painful separation. He would have to send His Son to earth, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a woman, to become a sinless sacrifice for the sins of mankind. That meant Jesus leaving Heaven.

Because Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross as a sinner, God had to turn away from His Son. For the first time in all of eternity Father and Son were separated. It was the only way that Jesus, the second Adam, could undo the damage of the first Adam.

That is the amazing, joyous news of Christmas! God bore the pain of separation so that we would never again have to be alienated from Him!

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 26, 2011

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

I don't have to think very long to identify reasons to be thankful. I can't even list all of them.

This week-end after Thanksgiving I am thankful that one of my bad days is still more blessed than many peoples' good days.

What a faith! What a God! What a way to live!

How can I say that? Because it is fact! James verifies it in the first few verses of his letter to the believers.

If you were writing a letter to bless and encourage struggling Christians how would you begin that letter? I am not sure I would begin it by reminding them of their sufferings but James did. And it makes sense when we think about it.

These are some of the very first believers. This Christian faith is a brand new phenomenon. They have seen the signs and wonders. They have experienced the freedom and the fellowship. All the wonderful benefits that have come from receiving Christ and joining these Christians almost seemed too good to be true. How long can this last? What am I missing here?

Now they are facing the pressures of persecution. Some of their beloved leaders have been jailed. It is risky to identify yourself as a Christ follower. Public worship is becoming a thing of the past. The heat is being turned up on every hand. BUT through these trials and tribulations they have discovered something very significant - THEIR FAITH WORKS! Everything is true! God is real! Suffering as a Christian is better than prospering as a pagan! What would have destroyed them before they believed now develops them!

What sort of faith is this! What an incredible God! What a blessing to have a faith that works! What a joy to know the truth - because the truth is in the Truth. Pain now has a purpose! Suffering now has significance! Heartache now helps me understand the heart of God!

Can I count it joy when I suffer? What sort of notion is that? Is that healthy? Is it a delusion?

No! It is the blessing we have as Christ-followers! It is real! It is His reality! "All things really DO work together for the good of those who love Him....."!

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I thank God that because He is so good and so strong and so holy that living for Him and with Him makes my worst day make sense!

How about you?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 24, 2011

“1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! 2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:1-13

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

The Apostle Paul wrote to this group of Christians while he was in prison and while they were facing some challenges and instructs them to be thankful and rejoicing!

How could they do that in the face of all they needed? These where tough times and they are supposed to rejoice? How?

Simple! He calls their attention to several things they CAN do! Be thankful for those things that you can do in Christ!

Paul says:

You CAN Get Along With Others!

“ I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Verses 2-3

Sometimes good people disagree. Sometimes feelings get hurt. But rather than be a pouter – be a peacemaker. You CAN get along with others in the strength God has given you!

You CAN Rejoice!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” V. 4

How can you rejoice always? Be “in” the Lord! Paul’s admonition is to rejoice “in the Lord”!

You CAN Have Peace!

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Vv. 5-7

When you are tempted by anxiety – pray! When you feel worried – pray and give thanks! Put God in charge of your life and then you can let Him take control of your troubles!

You CAN Think Right!

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” V. 8

You can’t feel right or act right or be right if you will not think right! To think right, think on right things! Simple refuse to entertain wrong or negative thoughts!

You CAN Be Content!

“ Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Vv. 9-12

Doesn’t it make sense that when you begin focusing on what you love rather than on what you lack you will find yourself feeling more positive – more content?

Today be thankful for ALL the things you CAN do! And you can do them because you have the strength and presence of Christ!

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 23, 2011

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”    Philippians 4:4-7

Who doesn’t like to rejoice? I know I do!

But rejoice always? How can that be? ALWAYS? Even on a bad day?

And with your rejoicing ALWAYS give thanks.

These are two of the chief characteristics that should be typical of a believer. Unbelievers are often angry and selfishly feel that life deals them a bad hand.

So, how is it that I can ALWAYS, be rejoicing and thankful? How is that possible?

I see four causes for thanks giving and want to Call them to your attention.

First, you can be thankful for what God had done for you through Jesus Christ!

“For God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Thank you, God!

Next, you can be thankful for what God is doing for you now!

“I am come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Thank you, God!

Third, be thankful for what you know God will do because of His promises!

“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Finally, you can always be thankful for what He is doing that you are not even aware of!”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” Ephesians 3: 20-21

Thank you, God!

You CAN be thankful always – regardless of circumstances or situations!

In fact, you can be thankful that you can always be thankful!

November 22, 2011

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus is introducing the Kingdom of God. It is a transformational new way of thinking and believing and behaving about everything. In this portion of His message He is teaching on how you, as a believer, should view your material possessions.

In our first segment we identified the point of this teaching - If you are a Christ-follower today you have chosen to enter the Kingdom of God. When you made that decision you chose to live under the LORDSHIP of Christ or the KINGSHIP of God – two ways of saying the same thing.

In yesterday's post we examined the problem of this teaching - You have to live out you commitment to a spiritual kingdom in a material world! Will these spiritual principles work in a world driven by greed and consumerism?

This morning, in segment three consider:
 What Are The Possibilities?



 COMMIT TO RELATIONSHIP – “Seek Him” - “Serve Him”

"But seek first his kingyodom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." V. 33

To invest your life you must connect with something much bigger and better than you. Jesus said that the first passion and priority of your life must be entering into a personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you have chosen to enter the Kingdom of God you have committed to love Him more than anyone or anything in all the world. You can't live in His Kingdom and love anything or anyone more than you love Him.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" V. 24
Whatever you choose to serve obviously becomes your master. That should go without saying but Jesus chose to say it. He knows how easily we delude ourselves into believing we are "the captains of our fate and the masters of our soul".
If money and materialism are your master you will never have enough and never know satisfaction. You will live under constant concern about losing it or having it stolen. As Jesus said, "His yoke is easy and His burden is light" - serve Him! Invest your life and your eternity in Him.


Do the right things in the right way for the right reasons! That is righteousness in a nutshell. And righteousness does it all the time!

Of, course, it is easier to do the right thing when you commit to the right relationship!

When it comes to money and material things, the right way to do it is this pattern:

Give - The first 10% goes to God

Save - The next 10% to 20% goes to you.

Spend - Use the rest to pay bills and live on.

The pattern of the world is opposite - Spend - Save - Give. That's not right!


God’s Kingdom Is The REAL Kingdom!

How Will I Know?

When you get in the right relationship with Jesus and you begin doing the right things, you will see real rewards and real results! Those alone will help you know God is real. As you live in that reality and that righteousness God will become increasingly more real to  you - more real than the things you see - touch - hear and see!

Jesus says that when you do life right and when you handle your resources right you will know it because you won't be consumed with worry! There is a fret factor in life and there is a faith factor.

Which characterizes your life?

If you are consumed by worry:

Check your relationship - are you serving Jesus? Are you seeking Him?

Check your righteousness - are you doing life according to His rules?

Check your reality - is God and His kingdom more real to you than the world you live it? Are you possessed by the faith factor?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 21, 2011

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24

What Is the Problem?

You have to live out you commitment to a spiritual kingdom in a material world! Will these spiritual principles work in a world driven by greed and consumerism?

A young woman brought her fiancé home to meet her parents for thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, her mother told her father to find out about the young man. The father invited the fiancé to his study for a talk.

"So what are your plans?" the father asked the young man. "I am a biblical scholar," he replied.

"A Biblical scholar. Hmmm," the father said. "Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in?"

"I will study," the young man replied, "and God will provide for us."

"And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?" asked the father.

"I will concentrate on my studies," the young man replied, "God will provide for us."

And children?" asked the father. "How will you support children?"

"Don’t worry, sir, God will provide," replied the fiancé.

The conversation proceeded like this, and each time the father questioned, the young idealist insisted that God would provide.

Later, the mother asked, "How did it go, Honey?" The father answered, "He has no job and no plans, and he thinks I’m God!"

You can’t be quite that niave!

CHALLENGE – Use material things according to Kingdom principles for Kingdom purposes!

On April 28, 1999, just eight days after the Columbine shooting, shock rock singer Marilyn Manson was scheduled to perform a concert in Iowa City, Iowa. And since Manson’s music was prominent in the lives of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, there was a lot of emotion surrounding his concert. Mark Forstrom, a local Youth Minister in the area wrote about what happened.

He wrote, "The police, the media, and the community began to prepare for angry protests and ugly brawling between Christians and Marilyn Manson supporters."

Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. Emerging thru the vehicle of e-mail, another local movement suddenly sprang to life— that the only way to truly change our moral climate is to soften hard hearts. (The hearts of Manson fans have been hardened bytheir perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental.) Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure LOVE of Christ to these fans in tangible ways.

Concert day finally arrived, and tension filled the community. The media geared up for an ugly battle between Manson fans and the Christian opposition. Instead, what they observed here was an amazing testament to the power of and love of Christ! Scores of Christians from churches all over Linn County and as far away as Des Moines (2 hours away) converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center, to do two POSITIVE things: pray, and to show unmistakable love. It was a sight to behold.

* Groups conducted "prayer walks" around the arena.

* People prayed in huddles on the sidewalk.

* Churches around the city held special prayer meetings.

As for showing LOVE to the fans,

* One church purchased 100 pizzas, which were freely given away to the fans in line and bystanders.

* Cookies and over 1,200 cans of soda were purchased or donated and distributed.

* Someone made turkey & cheese sandwiches and gave them away.

* One pastor asked Manson fans who passed by how he could pray for them--about 20 shared specific things & were prayed for on the spot.

* After the concert, about $200 in cash (collected mostly by a local youth group) was given out to pay for parking in the parking ramp.

The Christians involved said, "We’re Christians and we’d like to show you God’s love by paying for your parking tonight." The immediate results of this love in action were phenomenal:

* People continually asked, "Why are you doing this?" and then listened to the answer.

* Two "live" radio reporters (one inside the stadium and one outside) discussed--on the air--how preferable it was to be outside with the generous Christians.

* At least 3 people gave their lives to Christ through the loving care of the Christians.

* At least one other fan that we know of chose not to go to the concert, ending up in church the following Sunday.

* After getting the pizza, one kid commented, "Wow, Marilyn Manson never gave me anything!"

* A Marilyn Manson web-site, reporting on our Christian response admitted, "so maybe those Christians aren’t half bad!"

As for the concert itself, we saw God work a miracle there as well. After only an hour, Manson abruptly ended the concert early. He suddenly flew into a rage: he threw his microphone to the ground, and stormed off the stage, never to return!

So to summarize the totality of Marilyn Manson’s visit to Cedar Rapids, we might say this: many fans came to the concert convinced that Christians were irritating and that Marilyn Manson was impressive and many left the concert feeling that Marilyn Manson was irritating and that Christians were impressive! Think of how much closer to the kingdom thousands of kids might be as a result of this unforeseen outreach event.


November 20, 2011

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."  Matthew 6:24

A 16-year-old named William left home to seek his fortune. His earthly possessions were tied in a bundle carried in his hand. One day he met an elderly canal-boat captain who listened to his story that his family was too poor to keep him, and the only skill he had was making candles and soap.

The old captain knelt and prayed for the boy’s future and afterward gave him some advice.

“William, someone will be the leading soap-maker in New York. It could be you. Be a good man, give your heart to Christ, pay the Lord all that belongs to Him, make an honest soap, give a full pound, and I’m certain you’ll be a prosperous and rich man.”

The 16-year-old who listened to godly counsel was William Colgate, who not only prospered beyond his wildest dreams but was able to give millions of dollars to the Lord’s cause.

William Colgate found great success in life and was able to bless many with his generosity because early in life he committed to putting first things first.

The blessing comes down even to us today. Some of you used soap made by Colgate this morning in the shower. Or, some of you used toothpaste made by Colgate. Either way – we are blessed this morning because William Colgate put first things first!

I would not be a good pastor if I completed a sermon series about stewardship and failed to remind you of the importance of putting first things first. I want you to find blessing in your life like William Colgate did!

Actually, my goal has been to take you beyond stewardship to a bigger idea – LORDSHIP! And Lordship requires that you put God first in every area of your life and keep Him there by keeping first things first.

What Is the Point?

There was a man the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night in the middle of a storm. It was late at night and no cars were passing. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly, he saw a car coming towards him and stop. Without further thought, he got in the back seat of the car, closes the door and, when he turns to thank the driver for stopping for him, he realizes there’s nobody behind the wheel. The car starts slowly down the road again. The guy looks at the road ahead and sees a curve coming his way. Scared, he closes his eyes and starts to pray for his life. Just before the car reaches the curve, a hand appears thru the window and turns the steering wheel. The guy, paralyzed with fear, watches how the hand appears every time they come to a curve in the road. Gathering his strength, he leaps from the car and runs to the nearest town. Wet and in shock, he goes to a cafe and asks for a cup of stiff coffee. He quickly drinks his coffee and starts telling everybody about the horrible experience he’s just been thru. A silence envelopes the cafe when the man begins to weep like a baby out of sheer fright from the experience he has been through. About half an hour later, two guys walk into the same cafe and one says to the other, "Look Bob, there’s that guy who got in the car when we were pushing it down the road"

The first thing you must do is make sure you have chosen to be in the right kingdom. Everyone belongs to a kingdom. You are either in the kingdom of God or the kingdom of evil. You are either in the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness. No one is without a kingdom.

Jesus makes it clear which Kingdom you need to be in!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

If you are a Christ-follower today you have chosen to enter the Kingdom of God. When you made that decision you chose to live under the LORDSHIP of Christ or the KINGSHIP of God – two ways of saying the same thing.

The question is – do you?

How do you know?

A missionary in the New Hebrides watched some native killing hogs. These natives cut off the hogs’ tails and put them over in a pile. When the missionary asked the natives why they did this, they replied, “The meat is for us, the tails are for our gods.” Some Christians are just as foolish and sinful. They take everything for themselves and give God the leftovers, if anything.

If God is the King of your life and if Jesus is the Lord of your life – YOU DON”T GIVE HIM THE LEFT OVERS! You give Him the first AND the best of EVERYTHING:

1) Your Passion – What you love

2) Your Pay Check – What you earn

3) Your Pastime – What you do with your time

4) You Possessions – What you have

5) You Priorities – How you make your decisions

In other words, as a Christ-follower  – you live like He is the KING of your life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 19, 2011

EKG Devotional Day 38

How do we mere mortals dare think that we can advance the kingdom of God on earth? Since few of us ever hope to attain greatness in the eyes of the world, we just don't consider ourselves all that powerful or influential. It's ovrwhelming for most of us to think we could actually be involved in daily conversations and actions that impact eternity. 

Bu every Christian who lives with kingdom purpose can know true greatness. And this is why: "for thine is the power!" (Matthew 6:13). God is all powerful. We can't, but He will!

Truly, living with kingdom purpose by relying on God's power is the only way we will ever see lasting, spiritual fruit growing from the things we do or say. Any othe approach is destined for a temporary shelf life and guaranteed insignificance.

We must let God inspire and direct us if we are to perform HIs kingdom purposes. Genuine kingdom growth and ministry requires supernatural empowering.

Kingdom people are not given an option about being entrusted with God's power and His message. The Holy Spirit is given to us, lives within us, and produces all the necessary pwoer to propel our witness.

The Holy Spirit is God is us, enabling us to advance God's kingdom, to serve His purpose and do His will.

With God living in and through us, we have everything we need.

Has discussing and learning about God's kingdom changed you? How has it changed you? Write down those changes and ask the Holy Spirit to empower those changes. Ask Him to show you how He wants to use you for His kingdom.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 18, 2011

EKG Day 37 Devotional

Everything is about the kingdom, just as Paul demonstrated by continually "engaging in discussion andtrying to persuade [others] about the things related to the kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8).

Evenn in our last glimpse of him at the unfinished ending of the Book of Acts, he was awaiting trial in Rome, living in a rented house, "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance". (Acts 28:31)

This is the heartbeat of the church - now and then.

We have not outgrown this heyday of kingdom advance. We continue to live in days that are ripe for reaching our neighborhoods and nation with the gospel of Jesus Christ, experiencing His kingdom fruit in our daily lives, sending and supporting missionaries around the globe, and praying for those who are embodying Christ to the unsaved people of the world.

We are fully able to embrace God's kingdom priorities as His community on earth; proclaiming Christ's redemption, establishing new churches, united and made up of diverse types of people, teaching sound doctrine, enjoying true fellowship, giving ourselves to worship, and expecting God to work among us. But it takes more than wanting to. It takes  more than wishing it could be so. It even takes more than planning and our bulldog determination.

It takes Holy Spirit power.

Who in your neighborhood needs a word from God today? Ask God to show you where He is at work in your world. Seek the Holy Spirit's power. Join God in His work.

November 17, 2011

EKG Devotional Day 36

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”   Matthew 16:19

Keys, like gate are a biblical symbol of authority (Isa. 22:22). And Jesus has given "the keys to the kingdom" - the power and authority of God - to His community, the church.

This doesn't make us the doorkeeper that decides who gets in but more of a steward who has the authroity to show that the keys are real, that they work, that they do indeed lead to life.

The best way I know to describe the "keys" is to think of them as the message of the gospel, which is the only way to be given acceptance into the kingdom. Jesus entrusted these keys into the hands of is apostles, who used them to open the door of faith for both Jew and Gentile alike.

And today these keys are in our hands, placed there by virtue of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

God has chosen the church to declare His mssage and uphold His truth. The church is God's kingdom people in community. This is why every kingdom person must of necessity identify himself with the church using his gifts and resources to advance its work as it in turn advances the kingdom.

The King has called.
The dying await,
The gates tremble.
The kingdom comes.

Take out the keys from your pocket or purse. Look at them. What doors do they open for you? What in your life gives you access to kingdom work?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16, 2011

EKG Devotional Day 35

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’"  Matthew 6:9-13

When a family sent their youngest daughter off to college it was a traumatic experience for each of them. They made sure she had her own cell phone and that first semester phone bill was higher than the tuition. She called one of her parents every day. Sometimes both of them and each time the phone rang they would wonder, "What is it she needs? Is she okay? Is she ill? Does she have good news to share or will it be a problem she is facing?"

One conversation went like this, "How are you doing, Honey?"


"Need money?"


"Is everything okay, Sweetie?"

"Yes, Dad, it's great! I love college!"

"Good! Why are you calling?"

"Daddy, I just wanted to tell you I love you!"

Guess what that father did? He went that day and bought her a better cell phone plan - unlimited minutes and no roaming charges - hopng for more calls like that one!

Here's what you need to understand. The Sovereign Creator of the universe has given you a cell phone - unlimited minutes, any time, anywhere, no raoming carges. He said, "Listen, I'm always here for you."

Imagine. The Sovereign King of the universe chooses to communicate with the people in His kingdom.

Why is it you experience greater security and less worry by knowng that with a cell phone you can reach those you love and they can reach you quickly?

Why is it then you don't pray more often?

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 15, 2011

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:23-26

Once you have seen Jesus and understand Who He is, you can never be the same! Peter's confession of Christ shaped his life forever! It was his defining moment.

How did it define his life?

First, it defined His meaning.

Peter was a fisherman become follower. Jesus had promised him He would become a "fisher of men". But had that happened yet? No really. So, what value is there in being a non-fishing fisherman? Not much.

Fully knowing Who Jesus was meant that Peter now would fish differently with different bait, a new hook and a bigger net!

His new bait? JESUS!

His new hook? LOVE!


Second, it defined his mission.

When Peter first decided to follow Jesus he left his nets and his boat to learn about this amazing new Rabbi. He became a follower because of what it could do for him and if it did not work he could always go back to fishing. Peter had a fall back position - a "plan B".

His confession of Jesus would change that forever!

Once you truly understand Who Jesus is and confess Him as Savior and Lord, there is no more "plan B". Either you are all in or you are out! Peter understood that. His mission was to be fully committed to making Christ known to others. The news was too good to keep! Evangelizing became His purpose and His top priority.

Committing to Christ marks the end of casual, aimless living!

How did he do? Read the first several chapters of Acts!

Third, it defined his message.

When you know Who Jesus is, how can you stay silent about it? When you have witnessed miracles and seen people delivered and the dead raised, how can you not tell others about that? You can't! You must!

Others needed to hear it and Peter needed to tell.

How did he do? Read the first few chapters of Acts!

Once you understand Who Christ is and once you confess Him it should dramatically and fundamentally change you! It should change your meaning - has it? It should change your mission - has it? And it should change your message - what are you talking about?

November 14, 2011

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

The best definition of discipleship that I have heard comes from Eugene Peterson, a prolific Christian writer and author of The Message translation of the Bible. He describes discipleship as "a long obedience in the same direction". Isn't that good? A long obedience in the direction of God and His Word and His will!

It sure fits with Jesus' call to His disciples here in this verse!

A disciple decides every day to aim his desires at God and shape his feelings, emotions and decisions around obeying Him. And then, the next day he awakes and does the same thing - and the next and the next and, well, you know. That is a "long obedience" in that direction.

A disciple daily chooses to deny himself of any desire, thought or habit that would tug the disciple in an opposite direction. Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, he guards every thought and reigns in every action. And then the next day he awakes and does the same - and the next and the next and, well, you know. That is a "long discipline" in God's direction.

A disciple takes up his cross daily - not the necklace or the bracelet or the lapel pin - the one that hurts, the one that demands him to die to self and sin. The disciple doesn't actually carry his cross, he lays down on it and dies. He dies to self so Christ can live through him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

And then the next day he awakes and does it again. And the next day! And the day after that! That is what it means to die daily - a long obedience in God's direction!

As you begin this new week, where will you aim your life? How will you direct your way? Who will you follow? Who will you please? What will you serve? Will you have to get back on course? Have you back tracked or strayed in another direction? Will you aim yourself in God's direction - again?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 13, 2011

Frank had always loved nice stuff, but as an employee of FEMA for 32 years most of these things were unaffordable. Things had changed recently, though. His co-workers first noticed the new iPod. Then it was the new clothes, the week-long luxury cruise, and even the new car. Everyone figured it was a mid-life crisis; they had seen it before in others.

His co-worker, Matt, was suspicious, though. He peered into some of Frank’s expense account records, and he discovered a number of charges that he didn’t think were legitimate.
The next morning, Frank’s boss called him in. Frank was told that he had 24 hours to give an accounting for a long list of questionable expenditures.

Frank went pale. His hands got sweaty. As he walked back to his office, he knew he was in trouble. There was no way he could legitimize those charges. He knew that he would be fired tomorrow.

“What am I going to do?” Frank said to himself. “How will I find another job? I’m 54. I don’t want to take unemployment or welfare, and I don’t want to work at McDonalds.
He got an idea. He had friends. If he didn’t have his job anymore, he still had his friends. He started the plan in motion. He quickly arranged for five of them to receive generous hurricane relief checks and made sure that they were sent by the end of the day. He called his friends and told them to expect a little extra money because he was able to pull some strings.

The next day Frank turned in the feeble explanation of his expense reports. He was fired within the hour. Fortunately, Frank had some very grateful friends. One of them got Frank a new job with a higher salary. One of them paid Frank’s mortgage for three months.

Four weeks later Frank was called back into FEMA by his former boss. The fraudulent hurricane relief checks had been discovered. His boss went on about how immoral Frank’s actions were, but suddenly he stopped short. He said, “I’ve been thinking. Let’s keep this between us. I’m suspending any charges against you.”

Frank was stunned. He said, “Really? Why?”

Frank’s boss said, “Let’s just say I’ve never seen such a display of shrewdness before.”

The story you just heard may sound strange and slightly familiar at the same time. It is my attempt at modernizing one of the parables Jesus told — the Parable of the Shrewd Manager:

"Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ "‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."  Luke 16"1-9

This parable has been defined by many as one of the most problematic of Jesus’ parables. It raises a number of questions. Why would Jesus want us to follow the example of someone who cheats his master? How would you like it if someone taught your kid to imitate the practices of Bernie Madoff.

Perhaps the one thing more problematic than not understanding it is understanding it!

The most problematic thing, however, is not the story. The biggest surprise is that Jesus uses this story as a positive example for His followers. Jesus says through this parable and the following verses that we should be shrewd like the manager. But instead of being shrewd for our own interests, we must be shrewd for God.

We are all managers.

As managers, we are to use our resources for God with effort and imagination.
Shrewdness can be difficult to define. For some of us, shrewdness brings up images of shady car salesmen, politicians, and businesspeople. To be shrewd, however, means to use your resources with effort and imagination. Shrewdness is not a negative thing in itself. What matters is how we use our shrewdness. We must be shrewd for God.

Unfortunately, sometimes we Christians are not shrewd. Many Christians put much more effort and imagination into teaching in “real schools” than in teaching Sunday school. Some of us haphazardly run committee meetings in a way that would never fly in the secular world. We may present the Gospel to others with little thought and imagination.

Shrewd = Clever and Creative and Conscientious – in today’s words – “think out of the box”

I. Shrewdness Is Knowing Who’s My BOSS, Vv. 1-2

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: We forget that we are accountable until we are called to give account!

When I understand I have to answer to God for my choices and decisions, I will try harder to please God.

Shrewd people practice openness and accountability - HERE’S THE “OUT OF THE BOX” IDEA – LIVE UNDER ACCOUNTABILITY – NO SECRET or SHADOWS

Accountability is one thing we desperately need the most, and the one thing we most resist. We need support. Some things in life are just too hard to do on your own. We need people to come along side of us and encourage us. Whether you are dieting, or exercising, or trying to change a bad habit in your life—we all need people in our lives to support us, encourage us, and to ask us some hard questions about whether we are really following through on our commitment to change.

People who rarely go to church—1 out of 4 of them admit that they have talked to their friends about personal struggles. Do you know how many Christians have do that? 1 out of every 8.

Christians don’t talk about a lot of stuff that really matters in our day to day lives: Sex, money, parenting, jobs. Let’s pop the top off our dirty little secrets and start holding each other accountable. Let’s start encouraging and edifying one another; life and money troubles are just to hard to go at it alone.

Accountability requires being vulnerable enough to allow someone to explore your habits, priorities and neglect. Chuck Swindoll for example, has seven questions that he and a group of fellow pastors challenge each other with regularly:

1. Have you been inappropriate with a member of the opposite sex this past week ?

2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?

3. Have you looked at any sexually explicit material?

4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?

5. Have you given priority time to your spouse or family?

6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your spiritual calling?

7. Have you just lied to me?

Listen to this news clipping. “Gambling, robbery, sexual immorality, and violence is prevalent. Half of all children are born out of wedlock; purity and fidelity to the marriage vow are sneered out of fashion. Corruption in politics is rampant. The world is broken.” This clipping is from 1694.

It was in this time that John Wesley began preaching to the poor, a message of new life through the free grace of Christ. His message was one of assurance and the power of the Spirit. He taught that while sin remained it could not reign. In addition to a great preacher Wesley was an organizer, and those who accepted Jesus as Lord where put into bands. In these bands people strived to put scripture into practice and they called it holiness. Wesley had a great deal of observers, but his goal was to bring them to obedience of Christ

They called their small group ministry “Bands” and these bands helped bring England, into a great awakening. These groups did not look much like a Bible study. They usually asked a few questions, we would probably look at the questions and call them accountability groups


II. Shrewdness Is Knowing What’s My BUSINESS, Vv. 3-8

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: We don’t work as hard for God as we do for our own interests.

HERES THE “OUT OF THE BOX IDEA” - When I understand who my Boss is, I realize I mind my business for Him as I would work for my own benefit.

A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly. He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said, ”With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks can not go! There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish!

With these wings we no longer need walk through life- we can soar high in the sky!

Shouts of Amen!¨ were quacked throughout the duck congregation.
The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming, With our wings we can fly through life! WE......CAN.....FLY!!!!” ¨ More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response.
Every duck loved the service. In fact all the ducks that were present commented on what a wonderfully convicting message they had heard from their duck preacher..……and then they left the church and waddled all the way home.

APPLICATION - Too often We waddle away from worship the same way we waddled in....



III. Shrewdness Is Knowing The BIG PICTURE, V. 9

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we get self-centered, and when we get self-centered we forget about eternity.

THE “OUT OF THE BOX IDEA” - What is more shrewd than finding a way to give eternal significance to temporary things?

A pilot's flying over a mountainous terrain, and as he's flying, he looks down to see two vehicles driving down the highway.

The first vehicle is a semi-trailer, pulling his load up and down that ol' highway. The second vehicle is a sports car driven by a guy who's got better things to do than be stuck behind a semi that can't always maintain the speed limit up the mountain grades.

Well, what the pilot can see that the drivers can't is that there is no traffic coming the other way. The car could easily pass the truck with no danger.

The problem is that neither the truck nor the car driver can see that. They can only see what's immediately in front of them.

They can't see the big picture.

You see, we only see things from the perspective of the created, not the Creator. We don't see the big picture. Only God does. You have to be tuned into Him so you can see what He sees!

Examine your own life and determine how you can increase your shrewdness for God Look at how God is calling you to serve him and review your resources.

Be shrewd for God


During the Revolutionary War, a loyalist spy appeared at the headquarters of Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall, carrying an urgent message. General George Washington and his Continental army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to the Hessian colonel, but because Rall was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington’s army, Rall was still playing cards. Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured. The battle occurred the day after Christmas, 1776, giving the colonists a late present--their first major victory of the war.





Friday, November 11, 2011

November 12, 2011

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

In “Rebuilding Your Broken World”, Gordon MacDonald suggests twenty-six questions to help develop accountability and invite feedback. If we desire to grow, we should submit our selves to a spiritual mentor and answer these questions honestly.

1. How is your relationship with God right now?

2. What have you read in the Bible in the past week?

3. What has God said to you in this reading?

4. Where do you find yourself resisting Him these days?

5. What specific things are you praying for in regard to yourself?

7. What are the specific tasks facing you right now that you consider incomplete?

8. What habits intimidate you?

9. What have you read in the secular press this week?

10. What general reading are you doing?

11. What have you done to play?

12. How are you doing with your spouse? Kids?

13. If I were to ask your spouse about your state of mind, state of spirit, state of energy level, what would the response be?

14. Are you sensing spiritual attacks from the enemy right now?

15. If Satan were to try to invalidate you as a person or as a servant of the Lord, how might he do it?

16. What is the state of your sexual perspective? Tempted? Dealing with fantasies? Entertainment?

17. Where are you financially right now? (things under control? under anxiety? in great debt?)

18. Are there any unresolved conflicts in your circle of relationships right now?

19. When was the last time you spent time with a good friend of your own gender?

20. What kind of time have you spent with anyone who is a non-Christian this month?

21. What challenges do you think you’re going to face in the coming week? Month?

22. What would you say are your fears at this present time?

23. Are you sleeping well?

24. What three things are you most thankful for?

25. Do you like yourself at this point in your pilgrimage?

26. What are your greatest confusions about your relationship with God?

Gordon MacDonald was a successful pastor, writer and conference speaker who had a major moral failure in his ministry. The process of rebuilding his life, marriage and ministry are chronicled in the book “Rebuilding Your Broken World” and a major part of that process was building clear boundaries and layers of accountability into his life. Men who live in isolation, who allow darkness and secrets are ripe for failure.

What safeguards are you building into your life? Is there something you need to confess? Do you need to repent of something?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 11, 2011

God bless our veterans today! My sincere thanks to every veteran who may be reading this. Your sacrifice is greatly appreciated.

Here is a devotional I found that I share in your honor.

"As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Romans 8:36

Many years ago, a paramedic showed me a soldier’s knapsack Bible. It belonged to his uncle, who had been killed in World War I. The Bible, along with his other possessions, had been returned to his grieving family. As they looked through the Bible, they discovered these words from Romans were underlined in pencil: “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” They seemed to describe the young man’s horrifying experiences of trench warfare.

Alec, the paramedic, felt as though his young uncle was speaking to him beyond the grave, letting him know that his death at the Somme was a sacrifice for the freedom of the people back home. But his message didn’t end there. Verses 38 to 39 were double underlined, revealing the young soldier’s faith, which death could not diminish nor destroy

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39
In the midst of all our carefree leisure, happy pursuits, and personal freedom, does our faith match up to that of the young soldier?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, nothing can ever separate us from You, but sometimes we take that for granted. Remind us of Your sacrifice, Your loss, Your passion that has given us this wonderful opportunity to live beyond death, to hope above adversity, to have faith in the face of danger and trouble. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 10, 2011

Do you think it is possible to live without anxiety? Would you like to do so? Five times in the 10 verses, Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus used the word worry.

And in three of these instances, He spoke it as a command: "'Don't worry'" He wasn't merely making a suggestion or trying to calm people down. This was an order! "Worry." He said, should be banned from the hearts of kingdom people.

Why is it wrong for kingdom people to be fraught with worry?

1) Worry is futile and counterproductive. Jesus pointedly asked whether anxiety could add even a short time to our life spans (v. 27). In truth, doctors tell us that anxiety will most likely shorten our lives.

2) Worry indicates a lack of understanding. The nature and character of our Father is to feed the songbirds and water the wildflowers. "'Aren't you worth more than they?'"

3) Worry shows a lack of faith. Jesus said it takes a person "'of little'" to worry aboutHis needs being met (v. 30). What impact does anxiety have on our kingdom witness?

4) Worry is an ungodly response to life. Of all the arguments against anxiety, this one should perhaps stun us. If worry is the pattern that comes most naturally to everyone (V. 32), why would we want to be known for being like the average unbeliever.

As kingdom people, there should be numerous things about us that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Freedom from worry is one of them.

When I pray, "Thy kingdom come," I am establishing that my first concern each day is God's kingdom and not mine. Further, I am asking the Father to show me what He s doing and allow me to participate with Him as He advances His kingdom on earth. Ask God to strengthen your faith and put your focus and the kingdom so that you can put worry behind you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 9, 2011

EKG Devotional Day 33

Look aroun you. What in your world is eternal? Your diploma? Your home entertainment system? You week at the beach every Summer?

The only thing that is eternal around you and me today is people - human beings whose souls will live on after they die.

Some will be redeemed and will live forever. Some will be lost and will face God's righteous judgment. But putting our energies into serving, helping, loving, encouraging, and supporting other people is how kingdom people invest in eternity.

Our money is God's money, and it's intended to be used to advance His eternal kingdom. But storing "'treasure in heaven'" is so much more than just putting money in an offering plate. It's about invesing in our children rather than loading them up with gifts and gadgets. It's about investing in our families rather than filling  all our free time with pleasure. It's about investing in our neighbors rather than sinking all our time and money into the lawn and the landscaping.

It's not wrong to possess earthly things, but we can't let earthly things possess us. Money itself doesn't pose a threat to the kingdom person. But those who love it will always struggle when called upon to share it.

How do we claim victory in this area of our lives? We begin by acknowledging that we possess nothing. We determine that ur role in regard to money is to manage it for God, the real owner.

We look for opportunity to invest in forever through our church, our denomination, and other missions organizations that are advancing God's kingdom. We become involved personally and financially with relief organizations in our own communities.

Now let the Eternal control our checkbook.

Learning about the kingdom is exciting, but joining God at work in the world is even more exciting. How will you redirect your finances to join God's kingdom activity?

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 8, 2011

EKG Devotional Day 32

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."   Matthew 6:12

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He prayed: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."  Do we honestly want God to forgive us in the same stingy way we often distribute our forgiveness to others? It is truly a chilling thought.

Forgiveness is at the heart of kingdom relationships. To begin with, we cannot become kingdom people at all without first experiencing the forgivness of God.

Throughout our lives this recognition of God's holiness and our sinfulness continues to drive us to prayer, seeking our Father's forgiveness. As kingdom children, we place so much value on the intimacy we enjoy with our Dad, we can't allow anything to hinder our relationship - even for a brief moment. We need forgiveness and we know it. So we go to our Father in prayer.

Have you ever thought that prayer is really a family affair - not just conversation between Father and child but also a way to remind ourselves that we are members of the family of God, that we are in community with one another? In all of the statements of request found in the Lord's Prayer, al of the pronouns Jesus used are plural: "Give us today our daily bread.'" "'Do not bring us into temptation.'" "'Deliver us from the evil one.'"

We don't just pray for ourselves. We pray for one another.

And the request for forgiveness is no different. "'Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive or debtors.'"

So for the same reason that I cannot pray for my own "daily bread" while remaining unconcerned for my brother;s lack of bread, I cannot receive God's forgiveness for myself without being prepared to dispense an equal portion to others. Forgiveness must go botj ways in our lives, or we're not going anywhere in thekingdom.

Pray for others' needs as well as your own. Ask God to reveal those needs to you so  that you can pray specifically.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 7, 2011

Before I post today's devotional thought let me take a moment to honor a great man of God, Dr. Billy Graham on his 93rd birthday! What a national treasure he is!

EKG Day 31 Devotional

What does it mean to pray in Jesus' Name? It first means that we have established a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. But in addition, it means that we address the Father with the same commitment and misson as His Son. It means that His Son's passion has become our priority.

* It is a confident prayer of a child who knows his Father is in the heacens, far beyond all that we will ever comprehend , yet nonetheless so near that He knows what we need before we ask Him.
* This is the prayer of the child who knows his Father's name is holy and whose passion is to manifest the Father's holiness in his own life.
* It's the prayer of the child who know his Father's name is holy and whose passion is to manifest the Father's holiness in his own life.
* It's the prayer of the child who knows that his Father's kingdom is paramount and whose first desire is to advance that kingdom.
* It's the prayer of the child who knows his Father is trustworthy, and therefore he submits his will to that of the Father.
* It's the prayer of the child whose first desire is to enjoy the Father's reward.

Two-thirds of the Lord's Prayer addresses the issues of the Father, and only one-third speaks about our personal needs. In thiking about my own prayer life, I realized that I often reveresed that order. I usually spent the largest amount of my prayer time on my own wants and needs.

But kingdom praying is not about informing God. He already knows!

Kingdom praying is not about convincing God to side with us. He already has! Kingdom praying is about enjoying God's presence and discovering His purpose.

Is this what you're already doing? Or, are you ready with all of your heart to start praying this way today?

How does your awareness of the Kingdom and of the intimate Father-child relationship you have with God make this prayer a personal experience rather than a ritual to repeat in coporate worship.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 6, 2011

The truth is we never really get over being “Toys R Us” kids, our toys just get more expensive and more numerous! We spend more and more money to get more and more stuff and yet have less satisfaction and bigger debts.

How God moves us from needing to own and control stuff to wanting to be owned and controlled – by Him:

1) Ownership – It’s mine! I own it! I’ll do with it what I please!

2) Stewardship – It’s mine. I will try to manage it in a way that pleases God.

3) Loanership – It is not mine. It has been given by God and I will please Him.

4) Lordship – I am His. Everything I have belongs to Him. I will serve as He directs.

“Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” I Chronicles 29:11

Ownership – “It’s mine! I own it! I’ll do with it what I please!”

We recently paid off one of our vehicles. It felt good to get the title in the mail to formally affirm that we own this car! I won’t think about how much it cost me in car payments to own it. Nevertheless, my name is on the title and the registration.

One of the driving forces behind the “American Dream” is the desire to own expensive things like:

1) the biggest house they can afford (or not)

2) the biggest and most powerful vehicles they can afford (or make payments on)

3) the best boat they can get

4) the best motorcycle or RV or fill in the blank - _____________.

In the USA, we tend to judge success and wealth in terms of how much stuff we manage to get during life. Increasingly we see the development of the Golden Rule – those with the gold make the rules. Many live from the perspective that the one who dies with the most toys wins. However, everyone takes his or her last ride in a rented car and that hearse never has a U-Haul trailer attached.

There are two main reasons why owning stuff is at the heart of the American Dream – we are free and because we are free we are able to be prosperous. Both of those are blessings from God.

However, I can think of several other powerful needs that ownership appeals

- Owning something gives feelings of power

- Owning something gives a sense of permanence and security

- Owning something gives a sense of pride

Don’t misunderstand, I bleed red, white and blue, and I believe in capitalism, and I have stuff that I own as well as other stuff I hope to own! But when your ownership is driven by emotional needs rather than practical realities you are in dangerous territory. That path leads to materialism, which is a form of idolatry. It can also lead to slavery because it can get you into the bondage of debt. Plus, it doesn’t meet the basic need and probably will frustrate you more. Ownership is fine until you get owned by what you own or by the need to own. (AVOID – “OWERSHIP” to GET OWNERSHIP)

God’s world success is judged not so much on what you get but by what your willing to give. Jesus said, “Lay up treasures in Heaven where moths and rust do not corrupt or thieves break into to steal.” Then He makes His point, “For where your treasures are there will your heart be also!”

When you use your wealth and possessions to help others and bless others and advance God’s Kingdom you are turning the material into eternal. Investing in God will bring benefits that are out of this world?

This might be a good time to do a quick inventory of your “stuff”. Do you own it or does it own you? Are you spending your life or investing it?

Stewardship – “It’s mine. I will try to manage it in a way that pleases God.”

The “ownership attitude” is represented in the Bible by a foolish man who Jesus told about in one of His stories. This man had a bountiful harvest and decided he would build bigger barns and live it up with wine, women, and parties. But that night, he died and went into eternity unprepared. All that he owned couldn’t help him in eternity and he left all his riches to others.

Another example of the ownership attitude is the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus with his impressive resume of success and religious practice. But when Jesus told him to sell everything he owned and become His follower, the young man walked away.

I want to talk about what I believe is the next growth point on the road to generosity. I may challenge some assumptions at this point or make some of you just plain angry. But I think stewardship is just the second step and not the destination for givers.

I have come to that conclusion partially because of the Pharisees. They were faithful tithers – not just of their money, but they tithed on everything! This was their attitude - “It’s mine. I will try to manage it in a way that pleases God.”

However, you see them being rebuked by Jesus because they were doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Apparently, their reason for tithing was to impress God and to impress people – the wanted to look religious. Also, they wanted to escape the guilt of not doing what they had been taught and trained to do. Their tithing wasn’t driven by a deep sense of generosity nor a deep compassion to help the poor. Wanting to earn their salvation and earn the admiration of people motivated everything they did. The Pharisees gave in order to get.

Stewardship is better than ownership. Stewardship indicates a level of spiritual growth beyond ownership. But it is often motivated by legalism rather than love. It is often ownership with a conscience. It is giving with an expectation of return. While often help up as the ultimate ideal for Christian giving, I believe it is a positive step on the journey to Lordship.

Are you tithing? What is motivating you to tithe – is it love or is it legalism? Do you view it as giving your money to Him?

Loanership – “It’s not mine. It was given to me. I will give it to God”

Jesus did a lot of miracles during His earthly ministry. One of the best known of those supernatural acts was the feeding of the 5,000 (which in fact, was 10,000 to 15,000 counting women and children). That’s a lot of happy meals and a whole bunch of people – especially when they had no food!

The reason that Jesus was able to accomplish this amazing feat was because a young boy donated his lunch to Jesus and the disciples. This lad is an example of what I call “Loanership”, the third step in overcoming the ownership myth. His attitude was, “My lunch is not mine, it was given to me and I will give it to God.” As a youngster, he waived his ownership rights in the knowledge that all blessings come from God. He refused to claim it and was quick to share it.

Popular radio personality, Rush Limbaugh often declares his “talent is on loan from God”. It is a humorous acknowledgement of a serious fact – we are here temporarily and by the grace of God. Each of us, as well as all we have comes with an expiration date.

Missionary martyr, Jim Eliot, once said when asked why an educated young man would give up a chance at a comfortable career to go to a remote Amazon jungle, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

“Loanership” is a more spiritually mature attitude than ownership because it understands the temporary nature of life and the surrendered nature of believers. It is preferable to stewardship because it makes no claim of possession, takes no credit for earning it and seeks God’s will in how it should be used.

The “loanership” attitude of this lad, allowed Jesus to transform five loaves and two fish into the original power lunch! The simple lunch basket became a supernatural lunch buffet!

Have you grown to the “loanership” level or are you still laying claim to what He has given you to share?

Lordship – “I am God’s, everything I have is God’s and God can use it as He pleases.”

Have you noticed that many times when people say, “It’s not about the money” that it is about the money? But when God says. “It is not about the money” it is about much more that money.

With God, it’s not about ownership because He already owns everything. And it is not about stewardship because we can give our money and keep our hearts. And it is not about loanership because it is not possession He wants – He wants to possess us! He wants us to possess Him and His holiness and His authority and His power.

THAT is Lordship!

Lordship is Abraham offering Isaac on an altar when God’s will is confusing.

Lordship is Noah building an ark for over a century when it hadn’t rained.

Lordship is Joshua declaring, “As for me and my house……..”

Lordship is Job declaring, “Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him”

Lordship is a widow giving her last penny to honor God at the Temple.

Here’s what Lordship looks like:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47


Who You Love

Whose Your Lord