Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guiding Light

“The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out” (Proverbs 13:9).

Righteousness shines the brightest when dimming days become the darkest. We are called and compelled as Christians to glow for God during gloomy times. Are you caught up in our culture’s chaos, or do you see a chance to burn brightly for Jesus? Hard times can harden our hearts or humble them, but it is a broken heart that burns the brightest.

Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Light left unattended extinguishes, but light exposed to the air of almighty God’s love illuminates. Difficult days demand dependency on the Lord; so, in fact, your acts of service are fueled by faith. If you panic instead of praying, you will miss out on the opportunities to love others.

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

I often ask, “In my uncertainty, am I more worried about my stuff or the window of opportunity to serve others?” It may mean inviting someone to live in my home for a season, paying bill payments for a friend, volunteering at a local shelter, or increasing my gifts to the church. Righteous light longs to love liberally.

Christ in us invites others to know Him, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Perhaps you invite some neighbors over for a six-week Bible study and watch what God does.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14–15).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

Busyness can breed a bad attitude. It creates an expectation that everyone should be involved in hyper activity for the Lord. Unfortunately, what started out as sincere service for Jesus becomes a demanding spirit cloaked in spiritual slogans. The graceless pace of a busy person is worried and upset at God that more people don’t have their same sense of urgency. Because busyness has no mental, emotional or spiritual margin it misses the Lord’s bigger priority of prayer. It’s tired.

It is not what we do for God that matters most—what matters most is what God does through us. If we lunge through life we hit and miss finding Jesus, but if we sit at His feet with patient expectations we can hear His voice. Desperation is required around our being not our doing. Christ doesn’t call us to neglect our health, our family and our friends in the name of good activities. Thus, we discover God’s best if we slow down and add excess margin to our schedule.

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130

Indeed, you will have seasons of stress, but not to the point of chronic anger. Adversity is your opportunity to engage in a deeper level of intimacy with the Lord and your loved ones. People are not the problem—problem solving begins by looking in the mirror. You may have to make the choice to modify your calendar. By faith postpone or cancel important, but unnecessary engagements. If you plan not to attend, the Spirit will direct someone else to stand in the gap.

Therefore, abandon yourself first to Christ and He will lead you into His works of service. It is much better to go deeper with a few whom you really get to know and who really get to know you, than to spend your life not knowing anyone and being known by no one. Truly knowing God begins with being with Jesus. Once you sit at His feet, you are able to look up to His face. Be still and His Spirit will fill you with wisdom and peace. Yes, grace travels at a sustainable pace

Monday, October 29, 2012


“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9

Children of God have the privilege to rely on the only One who raises the dead. He raised His son Jesus from the dead and today He still brings life from death. Indeed, even a dead relationship He can bring back to life. A dead deal He can resurrect. A dead end job He can breathe life into with opportunities and new ideas. A dead marriage He can call forth like Lazarus, and by His grace remove the grave clothes of bitterness and unforgiveness. God gives life—He is reliable!

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is reliable because His track record is 100% trustworthy. It is when we rely on ourselves that our faith becomes stale and irrelevant. However, when we choose to chase after the comfort of Christ, we are comforted. When we wait and seek out His wisdom before we react, we are protected. When we bow in humble worship of the Almighty, we avoid worshipping at the altar of our ego or economics. We rely on God, because He is totally reliable!

“This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh?and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5

Self-reliance is subtle in its servitude. We can say we depend on God, but if we scramble around in a panic we act like He is out of control. Your teenager needs to see you—not just hear you—accountable to God. If you want them to be accountable in their conversations, then you must model words and behaviors that don’t flirt with sin. Perhaps you come off the road and reengage with your family, so your relational equity is built back up. God can fill in the financial gaps.

Furthermore, make sure not to place too much trust in those who cannot bring the dead to life. Mere human beings have no capacity compared to their Creator’s capacity. Excessive reliance on people leads to unhealthy expectations. Yes, you need the support of friends, but not to the same degree you need your Savior’s support. Your Heavenly Father neither sleeps nor slumbers, so seek out His intimacy in your moments of insomnia. The Spirit is your Guide to lead you into His will

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dealing with No

There are times when God says "no" to our requests and when He does say "no" He does not need to give us a reason for His negative response, He does not owe us a rebuttal, He is not required to present us with an abstract detailing why He has said no, and He is not going to submit a synopsis of why our request has been rejected. When God says "no", He means "no". Like a loving and caring parent, there are times when God hears the cry of His children and His desire is to bless them, but His answer to their request is no. The problem is when He does say no we need to learn how to act.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:7-10, KJV).Yes, God says no, but we don't know how to act when He does. But, how should we respond when the Lord says "no?"
First of all, we should respond with gratefulness because His answer of no protects us from the sin of human pride. God is so awesome that He can make the devil bless you! Here's how it works. In this passage Satan is allowed to "buffet" the Apostle Paul. It comes from the Greek word kolafidzo, it is in the present tense, active voice and subjunctive mood. It means to punch with the fist, over and over again. In short, the Lord lets the enemy just have at you from time to time. Now here's the million dollar question, why would a good, kind, and merciful God let Satan have a season with you? Here's the secret that will bless you like crazy, God knows that wounded children stay close to their Father and He just loves having you in His arms. Pride can be poison. It is the sin of the heart that makes you think that you can do it without God. But, the Lord has a way of fixing pride. Our God makes the devil bless you by permitting an attack that brings you so close to Him that you end up in His arms. So when the Lord says no you should be grateful because what He is really saying is "I want you in my bosom!" (Matthew 11:28).
Secondly, we should respond with gratitude because His answer of no prevents us from leaning towards human provision and presses us towards divine portions. If you have ever received an answer of no from God this should make your heart glad. God said" no" to you because the human provision that you wanted was not good enough for the divine provision that was on the way. Paul prays three times and the Lord does not do it. God does not heal him. God does not fix it. In short, God says "no!" But, there's a method to what appears to be total madness given in the text. While God is saying "no" to what is temporary for you, He is saying "yes" to that which is eternal that will keep you forever. Here's the discovery that takes place in the passage and it is enough to make anyone with common sense say "thank you Jesus!" When God says "no" it is because He has a divine portion of grace for you that is not like anything you've ever encountered. Now all of us have encountered the unmerited favor of God that we call grace. But, when the Lord gives you this grace you celebrate the fact that when you couldn't, God could. You shout about the fact that when you didn't do it, God did it for you. And when you could not go any further, the Lord carried you all of the way (2 Cor. 9:8).
Lastly we should respond with a shout of glory because that's what God gets when we praise Him through the pain. There are three ways to rejoice as a believer in Jesus Christ. First, you can rejoice over what the Lord has already seen you through. If you are like most God has already done some wonderful things for you and when you think about them they make you say "praise the Lord!" Secondly, you can rejoice over things the Lord has kept you from. And, lastly you can rejoice over the fact that God has you propped up right now. That's what Paul is giving God glory for in the passage. He says "...I would rather glory in my infirmities because when I am weak then I am strong..." This portion of the passage should read like this, "You can look at me right now and see what the glory of God looks like because His strength has me propped up!" People that are propped up, but in pain give God more glory in praise while they are in public. Glory happens when ever God is most visible. And you can't help but see God in a season of your life when you know that it was nobody but Jesus Christ seeing you through. Here's a great devotional question to ask. When was the last time the Lord had to prop you up? What was your shout like then? Was your praise filled with gratitude? Glory? What about thanksgiving? When God says no it is not all bad because what comes from His no, is a yes from you that you didn't know that you had in you.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Growth Stunt?

Why is it that so many smaller churches are not growing?
Good question. It rarely has anything to do with how much the pastor and key leaders love God. Some of the most devoted followers of Jesus I know lead smaller churches that are not growing. It also has little to do with whether or not the church is part of a denomination. There are denominational churches that are growing, and denominational churches that aren't. Location isn't a deal killer either. Location is important, obviously, but alone doesn't prevent growth. Let's say, for example, your church is located in a small rural area. That will have a definite impact on the rate of growth and overall growth potential of your congregation. But it doesn't prevent it from growing. We know this from smaller churches in little towns that are doing well. We know this even more so because of the reverse. There are smaller churches in huge cities that aren't growing at all.
So what is it?

Before I offer some thoughts about why smaller churches aren't growing I want to mention something that I have written about a few times. It's "The Big Three". They are prayer, evangelism and leadership (development). This is a given. There is and will always be a direct relationship between the emphasis on these things and the growth of your church. The intriguing thing about these three elements is that they apply to both smaller and larger churches.

The following five questions are connected to possibilities about why your church isn't growing, or could stop growing. They are meant to serve you as a tool for evaluation that can move to implementation and ultimately change that produces growth. These five ideas are not designed to be specific solutions, but a set of leadership lenses to help you see your church more clearly. I pray that as you consider these five, you may be encouraged about the potential of your church's future.

• Has friendship outpaced focus?
One of the best things about a smaller church is that the fellowship is alive and vibrant. People love and care for each other deeply. People know each others names and connections are tight. That's a good thing, a very good thing, but it can backfire when it comes to growing the church. New people visit and the church is friendly, but friendly like in a hotel where the guests are not expected to stay for a long time.
It's easy for a smaller church to turn inward and invest most of its ministry energy into itself. In time this will begin to shape how decisions are made, how money is spent, and ultimately what the church does and doesn't do in order to reach people.
In one way or another, the Great Commission has to be the focus of your church. It's why your church was started and why you keep it going. A focus on friendship and relationships in general can take your leadership eyes off the goal. So, how about your church, which is truly first? Is your focus on the Great Commission or caring for established relationships?

• Have you stopped believing its possible?
I'm certain that when your church was started there was great passion and hope for its future. That's how all churches start. Years into the journey, however, some or even all the zeal can fade. And when the road has been particularly difficult for some time, it's possible to no longer believe the church will ever grow again. You can talk the talk in the lobby and even on the platform, but deep down inside you may have given up.
This sounds bleak, but I'm compelled to say it because it's true in far too many churches. If you are the pastor or a key leader, you must believe your church can grow. You must believe it has a future. And if you can't believe that, then believe that God has imagined a future and He can grow it, but He needs you in the game. God needs you to change your mind to match His. Capturing the mind of Christ about your church is essential.

• Have you embraced a shotgun ministry style?
Over-simplified and exaggerated for affect, there are two approaches to ministry design in your church.
1.) "If you have an idea for a new ministry that might help somebody, do it."
2.) "No new ministries are started here for the next two years." The general vibe of the first one is "Yes." And the general vibe of the second is "No." The second is the wiser of the two.
If you and your church team employ a nearly random freedom to start ministries, even though they may be good, you create a busy mess of activity. You inadvertently experience a lack of focus that drains the best ministries, and exhausts volunteers and staff. In the big picture, you are doing more and accomplishing less.
It's important that you offer fewer ministries in order to accomplish more life-changing ministry impact. To do this, you need to be very intentional in your choice of ministries. No one church can do every ministry, that's an obvious fact. So what you choose to do needs to be selected wisely and prayerfully. Saying no to all other ministry options is not squelching the Holy Spirit, its common sense granted from God. Doing less allows you to do it better and with deeper impact.

• Is there a lack of courageous teaching?
Loud doesn't indicate truth and thundering away doesn't guarantee courage. Courage comes from the inside. This kind of godly boldness overcomes personal fear. When you know God is speaking to you, there is a quiet confidence that allows you to stand before the people and speak the truth, letting the chips fall where they may.
Don't skip saying the hard stuff. I'm not referring only to difficult biblical passages. In fact, I'm really talking about the spiritual leadership contained in your teaching.
If you are the pastor, let me shoot straight. Ask God what He wants to say to your people and say it. Don't back down. Say it in love, but say it. People respond to truth, they don't always like it on the first round, but they instinctively know its right. People respond better, over the long haul, to robust vision over nicely crafted scholarly sermons! Don't expect one Sunday to accomplish the big picture. This is a 52 week a year process.

• Does popularity override good decision-making?
Pressure is part of every leader's life. How you handle it internally and what you do with it externally matters. Pastors have to deal with their issues just like anyone else. Pastors love people. That's a good thing. The bad thing that often accompanies that reality is that pastors want to please people. In a smaller church that can turn into an issue of popularity. If the pastor's desire to be liked becomes unhealthy, that can have a huge impact on decision-making in the church. This does not reflect integrity or morals, just human nature.
I'm a pastor and I love people. I prefer that people love me back. But that doesn't always happen. Especially if I have to deliver an answer that goes against what someone wants. But I must choose the right leadership decision over being liked. Candidly, those moments aren't much fun, but they are necessary. And they can make the difference about whether or not a smaller church stays small or grows larger.

Peace like a river

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psalm 37:11

Meekness is a bridge to blessing. It is an attitude God honors with the enjoyment of His great peace. Meekness meanders, moving in and out of the halls of heaven. It sets us up to be served by our Savior. Meekness is the manner by which our Master can move us forward in His will. Our meekness transports us toward absolute surrender and obedience to God. It is the meek who tend to trust God. It is the meek who most want to faithfully follow Jesus. Indeed, meekness is most like Jesus. Jesus said of Himself, “I am meek…” (Matthew 11:29, KJV). It is here, with meek Jesus, that we find rest for our souls. However, meek does not mean we are weak; on the contrary, we are strong in our Savior.
Meekness is a conduit for what Christ has for us. He has an inheritance for His children. What is His is ours. He owns the land and all that is within its expanse. We see His quiet white clouds cover the mountaintops like soft sheets. As the sun rises, its warmth pulls back the submissive sheets of cloud cover and introduces us to the day. He has given us His earth for our great enjoyment. It is on the side of the green mountain of His creation that we sit quietly and contemplate Christ. His peace prods our pride to be still and know Him. He hushes our hurried spirit to be silent before Providence. A silent tongue often exhibits a wise head and a holy heart. We have His earth to enjoy now and to inherit in eternity. The meek understand this priceless privilege. They enjoy great peace.
Even as we suffer, we topple tribulations with trust in Jesus while we rest in His great peace. Christ’s consolations carry us along the way. His peace is a platform for His faithfulness to perform. As if watching an engaging drama on stage or in film, we wait until the end for the plot to fully unfold. If we jump to conclusions or draw premature assumptions, we may get caught up in bad beliefs or false fears. So life is a stage where God’s great drama plays out. We are not to fret over what seems to be fearful or a forgone conclusion. God’s plot is still unfolding by faith. His will is being revealed. His cast of characters is still in development. While His plot thickens, we trust. Until the end, enjoy His great peace.

We may not have an abundance of stuff, but we have great peace. It is better to do stuff with our Savior than to have stuff without Him. He is our wisdom when we face complex circumstances. He is the one to whom we cling during a crisis. We silence our murmuring so that we can be silent before Him. It is in silence before our Savior that His great peace saturates our soul. It engulfs our edginess with eternal assurance. On earth we may seem deprived of some things from an  enjoyment aspect. But, there is coming a day where this accursed earth will be no more, and we will enjoy the benefits of His new earth without sin, sickness, or sorrow. We will inherit the land of our Lord. In the meantime, go to God for His great peace. Like a river of love, it attends to our soul with soothing security and peace. Enjoy God’s great peace in Christ. Fret not, but have faith in Him. He seeks the meek.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gift of Leadership

“If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:8

Gifted leaders are first and foremost good followers of God. They recognize the Gift Giver as their authority, so they do not lord over others—rather they submit themselves to the Lord. Because the leader respects Christ, he or she respects those they lead. Because they love the Lord, they love their team. Because they serve Jesus, they serve those who serve with them. Yes, a gifted leader is able to influence and educate a group toward an agreed upon goal. Leaders have followers.

Are you called to lead but feel inferior? If so, seek your confidence in Christ. Go to the Resourceful One for reassurance. Resistance does not mean you are a bad leader; on the contrary it may be a validation that you are moving in the right direction. Indeed, some struggle in getting on the bandwagon of change—it threatens their security. So stay the course and lead prayerfully, patiently and lovingly. Trust the Spirit’s small voice that affirms your actions—God is with you.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:9-12
You know you have the gift of leadership if you can see the big picture and inspire others toward that God-given vision. You understand the sequence of steps required to reach the objectives. You perceive potential problems and are courageous and wise to make adjustments. You motivate the team to embrace transitions as necessary to stay relevant. You create a culture of accountability with real-time updates. No one wants to let anyone down in the execution process.
Your gift of leadership is a weighty responsibility, but you are not alone. Almighty God is your “go to” for humility, holiness and wisdom. God gives you what you need to accomplish what He wants. Furthermore, use your leadership role to invest in other emerging leaders. It is harder to grow leaders than it is to lead. Therefore, be intentional and prayerful to train up faithful men and women who will train others. You steward your leadership best by birthing other leaders

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gift of prophecy

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith.” Romans 12:6-7

The gift of prophesy is compelled by the Spirit to tell the truth. It is not shy to confront sin and call out injustice. The prophetic calling has the courage to speak the claims of Christ with humble boldness. They have a vision of God’s holiness and are constrained to communicate His high standards of behavior. Moreover, some serve prophetically by praying over other believers with affirmation and instruction. They perceive where the Spirit is leading His servant to go next.

We are blessed when those in our lives warn us of unwise opportunities and unscrupulous individuals. We are wise to embrace those who speak the truth in love and not marginalize their message. Wisdom flows from friends who clearly discern situations as detrimental. We win when they lovingly point out that our schedule is not sustainable. When we adjust our attitude of fear to faith, based on prophetic preaching, we feel protected. Wisdom honors the prophetic gift.

“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

Perhaps your perceptive spouse sees things you have not considered. Instead of dismissing their discernment, see them as a gift from God for your protection. Furthermore, if you have the gift of prophecy, be careful not to ignore the individual. Soften the relationship with the oil of love before you deliver the hard truth. Comfort is an affectionate appetizer that needs to precede the prophetic entrée of admonishment. A discerning heart gets to the heart of the matter with truth.

Godly people who communicate a prophetic word in love deserve a listening ear. If you heed their concerns, your ultimate decision will benefit from weighing the worst-case scenario. Doom and destruction can be avoided by taking seriously the words of Christ’s warriors. Fools plow ahead with deaf ears, while the wise take a time-out and assess a variety of outcomes. So, slow down and listen to the discerning. A prophetic voice is God’s gift to walk wisely and patiently.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Service anyone?

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve.” Romans 12:6-7

The gift of service sees a need and seeks to meet that need. It is the Spirit inspired ability to see beyond the surface to what really requires attention. Service motivated servants of Jesus get joy from rallying resources to raw realities. They are not shy about challenging the abundantly resourced to resource the woefully under resourced. The gift of service convenes other gifted people to collaborate for a cause. They are called by Christ to facilitate action and results.

We all can serve the Lord and people, but for those gifted to do so it comes more naturally and easily. Indeed, self and Satan compete for our service to God and others. The flesh longs to be served rather than serve, and Satan seeks to divide our loyalties with the Lord. So purity in service flows from a heart harnessed by the Holy Spirit. When we first see ourselves as bondservants to our Savior Jesus we are compelled to serve for Him. Servants of Christ serve.

“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Matthew 4:10
Moreover, steward well your service gift, so you are not overwhelmed with the avalanche of needs that surround you. If you try to meet everyone’s needs you may meet no one’s needs. Even Jesus chose to give attention to some but not others. Your gift requires prayerful stewardship so it is not prostituted by pride. Approval may or may not come from those you serve unselfishly, so make sure you serve as unto the Lord. Serve Christ alone and you will not be alone in Him.
Furthermore, lavish love on those whose service is exemplary and enthusiastic for Jesus. When you recognize and reward servants of the Lord, you place value on what God values. Those who consistently serve well need double doses of encouragement. If servants are not served they grow weary and weak in the Lord’s work. Yes, stay true to serve during trying times but also receive the service of others. Sometimes those who serve the most are served the least—so allow yourself to be served!

“Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” Ephesians 6:6-8

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gift of Administration

“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB

The gift of administration likes for people, projects and processes to be properly organized. Efficiency and effectiveness energize their efforts. They keep chaos at bay by bringing consistency and calm to a work or home culture. This supportive gift takes time to plan and then they implement the plan. Gifted administrators understand the long-term needs and define the short-term steps needed to accomplish future goals. They are intentional with strategic initiatives.

Those who keep us in line logistically bless us with sustainable systems. It may be a financial manager who is tedious in stewarding well the income and expenses at work or home. The budget is their accountability partner. They give daily oversight to the proper allocation of resources and are able to discern positive and negative trends. They are worth their weight in gold. A gifted scribe who captures critical items in the minutes of a meeting makes follow up more feasible.

“Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven.” Job 25:2

Do you have the gift of administration? If so, perhaps you partner with a visionary leader who needs organizational legs to see God’s game plan come to fruition. Your support of a senior manager may make the difference between success and failure or excellence and mediocrity. Your organizational efforts at home are a blessing to your family. Don’t obsess over perfection; rather rejoice in doing what you can with the time you have. Yes, value relationships over results.

Almighty God is the ultimate administrator. He placed the stars and planets in the sky in meticulous order and He organized an intricate human body. The wisest administrators get their marching orders from their Master, Jesus. So, seek favor from the Lord first, so that you serve, not lord over others. Be patient when people do not live up to your standards or execute precisely your expectations. Your administrative gift will place you in a seat of great influence!

“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” Proverbs 22:29

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


“And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

Strength in God is significant, as it is our stronghold when we are in serious trouble. It is our source of encouragement and motivation to persevere. Strength in God is easily accessible and always available. His strength is an unlimited reservoir of resolve. It may see us through the dying and death of a loved one. It lubricates the grinding grief of our heart and keeps us from total despair. The Lord’s strength is what gives us hope when our financial fortunes are tentative at best or have been swept away altogether. But His strength will see us through a maze of money mishaps.

The sovereign strength of God is strong, unbending, and unyielding. Our confidence may be crumbling, our health may be hemorrhaging, or our relationships may be a complexity of confusion. Perhaps you discovered someone is not who he claimed to be. He lives two lives. Now the truth is unfolding and it is not pretty. In fact, he is coming after you because you are a threat to his secret life. So lean on the Lord, drawing your strength from your Savior. Prayer to the Almighty positions you to receive His power, so punctuate the power of God in your life with faith-filled prayer.

Moreover, God’s instruments for infusion of His strength are His people. Invite the encouragement of the Lord’s angelic agents. They are His ambassadors of goodwill and their righteous aura reflects His strength. These are special friends who remain true when challenging things happen to you. Stick with the ones who stick with you and do not be embarrassed to lean on others during these lean times. Like a transfusion of blood, you may need a transfusion of faith. Your prayer platelets have fallen below what’s normal to a level of dangerous discouragement. Ask for prayer so that God will strengthen you and keep you focused in the middle of your own gnawing needs. Ask in prayer to be an encouragement to those who have encouraged you. Do not deny others the opportunity to strengthen you with their presence and prayers.

Lastly, be quick to strengthen others in the name of the Lord. Write a note of encouragement to a friend or leave an encouraging prayer on a coworker’s voicemail. In some creative way, let those who are struggling know you are thinking of them. Prayer retains employees and engages friends. They will never forget those who reached out to them in their time of need. Each day, seek someone you can strengthen in your Savior’s name. In a sense, you are strength coaches for those you come in contact with on behalf of Christ. Your goal is to get them to God. His strength will stretch their faith way beyond your initial encouragement. Strengthen your family in the Lord and you will be strong. Strengthen your peers in the Lord and you will find eternal energy. Unselfishly strengthen others in the Lord and you will find strength for your soul.

The Bible says, “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:12).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wait I say on the Lord

“So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David… “David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers.” 1 Samuel 16:13, 21

The calling of God includes seasons of waiting in faithful service. David was anointed and experienced the power of God, but it was over twenty years before he became King. Public responsibilities require private experience and success. The Lord’s calling starts with a thorny crown of commitment and grows into a shiny crown of respect. The flesh wants to influence the masses prematurely, but the Spirit is patient to pay the price of wise waiting, before proceeding.

We have the opportunity to be faithful where the Lord has us. His power is prevalent through our humble prayers and our quiet acts of random kindness. Jesus doesn’t discount small deeds done in His name. Thus, whatever we do, we do all for the glory of God. We visit the elderly, we care for the dying, we rescue the unrighteous, we carry one another’s burdens and we shepherd the flock of God—all for Him. We win while we wait, because Christ is positioning us for influence.

“David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:45

Do you face a giant obstacle that threatens to derail you from God’s best? Have you forgotten why the Lord has taken you through this trial? His call for you to wait is an opportunity to understand where to go next. In this parenthesis of time, He has prepared or repaired your integrity, so you can engage intense encounters with the enemy, without compromise. Jesus works out His will while you wait. He grows you to grow bold in your belief in Him.

Furthermore, heed His call to wait, so you can create a sustainable schedule of activity. Jesus has not called you to be everyone’s friend. Everyone’s friend is nobody’s friend. Relationships that are an inch deep and a mile wide die a shallow and slow death. But when you go deep with a few, you grow loyal and lifetime friendships. Create significant space in your calendar, so you can respond to Christ’s call. Budget your time, as you budget your money. God’s call to wait is your opportunity to become humble and wiser. Work faithfully while you wait and watch Him work!

“We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20

Monday, October 8, 2012

A reason to be Angry

The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked bring shame and disgrace” (Proverbs 13:5).

There is a righteous hatred that rejects what is false. It might be false words, bogus behavior, a counterfeit countenance, a phony friendship, or deceptive dealings. The discernment of the spirit-filled believer rises up to defend integrity. You can’t sit still to shenanigans when you know an agreed-upon code of ethics has been violated.

So, how are we to respond to lies and liars? We first look in the mirror, making sure we are honest in our dealings and accurate with our words. Jesus said, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4). I am required to remove all self-deception before I can clearly see sin in my brother. Self-evaluation precedes confronting false conduct.

Furthermore, our heavenly Father expresses holy hatred over what is false. “There are six things the LORD hates…haughty eyes, a lying tongue…a heart that devises wicked schemes” (Proverbs 6:16-18). Because the Almighty abhors artificial acts, we must ask ourselves, “Do I take sin seriously, or do I casually flirt with it?” Loose lips lead to lies and deceit that bring shame and embarrassment. Avoid lies and liars, and you will live in peaceful content.

“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Lastly, in your business, ministry, and testimony remove all appearance of fraud and falsehood. Free yourself from image management with full disclosure and transparency. Create a culture that exposes any hint of conflict of interest. Lies examined under light melt away. Hate dishonesty; reward honesty. Honesty is the only policy for the people of God.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25).

Friday, October 5, 2012


"Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor” (Proverbs 12:24).
How hard do you work, or do you hardly work? God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17, 19). And He explained to Moses, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God (where we are to find rest in God through worship, fellowship, study, and feasting with the saints of God). On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:9–10).

Has our culture become accustomed to receiving good things without great effort? Who is entitled to influence without being industrious? Perhaps there is a dearth of diligence that has depressed people and economies. Laziness leads to the control of others, while honest labor is given opportunities and advancement. Do not despair in your diligence for you are set for success. Mind your business meticulously, and you will enjoy the business.

“Now the man Jeroboam was a valiant warrior, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph” (1 Kings 11:28 NASB).

Indeed, intense industry leads to preferment. Your faithfulness to your work is not going unnoticed. Your diligence is a distinctive that separates you from the average or lazy laborer. Security comes with this level of service. Promotion follows performance that produces the right results the right way. Be an industrious example others seek to emulate.

Lastly, the Lord blesses hands that are hard at work. He smiles when He sees your service exceeds expectations. You go the extra mile to make sure others are cared for as you would like to be treated. God knows, because of your thoroughness on the job and your integrity in its execution, you can be trusted with more.

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Putting my trust in God

"Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." John 5:19

The ultimate expression of humility is reliance on Almighty God. He is the source of significance and He provides strength for life's journey. Jesus Himself confessed that He depended on His Heavenly Father as a model of what to do. Just as Jesus looked to His Father, so His followers look to their Heavenly Father. Obedience does not act alone. Activity for the Lord is best achieved when accompanied by a blueprint from God.

Our self-reliance gets in the way of our God reliance. Anger, will power and intellect are the fruit of self-reliance, while patience, trust and humility are the fruit of God reliance. We honor our Heavenly Father when we first ask Him how to solve a problem or how to love the unlovely. Our imitation of Christ's actions are an indicator of humble reliance. Thus, we forgive ignorant offenders and we challenge religious hypocrisy, as He did.

"For I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness." Psalm 26:3

People let you down, but the Lord is 100% reliable. He is never late, but seldom early in His timely explanations. For example, you may want to transition now, but He wants you to go deeper in your understanding and application of wise stewardship. Learn to make finances a friend and not a foe. When you take matters into your own hands, He matters less. Rely on God's economy and trust He will provide in unconventional ways. 

You rely on God when you wait on His best, before you make a relational commitment. You rely on God when you take a stand for what's right and entrust your reputation with Him. You rely on God when you release a grudge and extend forgiveness. You rely on God when you share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirt and trust the results with Him. Pray as if everything depends on God, and work passionately as unto the Lord.

"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." John 5:30

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Praying for my enemies

They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. Psalm 35:12-14

There is a passionate prayer for our enemies. It rests in the recesses of our righteous soul. It is counterintuitive in our aggressive age of revenge and resentment. But it is intuitive for those who intercede indiscriminately to the Almighty on behalf of all people. As followers of Jesus, we do not have the right to only pray for those who love and support us. We are also called to crash the gates of heaven on behalf of those who bother us. People who do not pursue Christ, but who pursue us with malicious intent are intended to be on our prayer list. Our natural man wants to ignore those who ignore us, writing them off, but Christ commands us to inscribe their names on our hearts for prayer. And it is not an obligatory prayer that we get out of the way once and then move on. It is a persistent and passionate prayer for our enemies that Christ expects.

Jesus described well our attitude toward our enemies, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44). Your enemy can be anyone who is against you and/or against God. You feel a persistent pushback from their personality. You have felt hostility towards each other and even malicious intent. They may have harmed you financially. Regardless of the degree of enmity, there is a relational disconnect and distrust. An enemy is not a favorite person of yours, and you do not enjoy their company. It may be your parent who seems to have zero interest in your affairs. They only contact you when they need something. It may be a spouse who has stacked layers of hurt into your relationship over the years and you can hardly stand to look at them. It may be a friend who has betrayed you. It may be a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

Regardless of whom we envision as our enemies, we are to pray for them and love them. Our prayers are to be full of passion and pleading on their behalf. We bombard the throne of grace asking God to pour out His mercy on their behalf. They may be blinded by unbelief and groping around life in graceless confusion. Our enemies need enlightenment from our eternal Savior, Jesus. We were once enemies of the cross outside of Christ’s care. We acted like we had it all together, when in reality we were poor and wretched souls lost in our sins. It is as through our fasting and prayers for those who are in the bondage of unbelief that God may choose to set them free. Passionate prayer persists.

Prayer is never in vain. If the one being prayed for is not blessed, certainly it blesses the one who intercedes on their behalf. Our prayer for our enemies changes us. It softens our hearts and speech with sympathy. It allows us to model our prayers after our master, Jesus, when He prayed, ”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Passionate prayer for our enemies is as much about us, as them. It changes us both.

Teachable Heart

Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying God is one and there is no other but him.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God…
” Mark 12:32, 34a
Jesus affirms a teachable heart, for He knows it has potential to learn and understand the things of God. Thus, a teachable heart is positioned to receive truth, and has an attitude with more questions than answers.

However, a teachable heart does recognize truth when it comes knocking. It invites truth in to be examined, understood, and applied. Truth invigorates the teachable heart, and there is a rush of spiritual adrenaline when it intersects with an open mind and heart. Pride plateaus in its learning, but a teachable heart continues to scale the mountain of truth. Thus, when God discovers someone who is teachable, He calls him wise.
Wisdom comes from God; therefore, a teachable heart learns the ways of God. God is not offended by teachability, though there is a tension that arises when truth begins to facilitate changes in behavior and attitude. This change of heart seems somewhat innocuous from the outside looking in, but most of us do not like to be told what to do.

Change doesn’t come easily, even as you understand that God has your best interest in mind. But the transformation is telling. Your character and behavior fall more in line with Jesus’; your spouse and children notice something different; your patience, rather than your intimidation, becomes dominant; your bad beliefs will be replaced with good ones; so let your teachable heart start first with God.
God is one. He is not many gods, but one God. He is not a mini-god, but the great and glorious God of the galaxies. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all one God. His oneness is to be worshipped and celebrated. Thus, your love relationship with the one true God is not to be rivaled by any other gods. Any acceptance of other gods is unacceptable to God. He is jealous for you. Your love for anyone or anything will pale in relation to your love for Christ.

To love God is to make room for God in all aspects of your life. You love Him when you love others, when you give sacrificially, when you strive for excellence in your work, and when you pray for and forgive others. Love is action; therefore, love Him and allow Him to love you. Let His expectations mold yours, because what God thinks trumps any other thinking. The Holy Spirit within you has the answers to the questions that consume your thinking. Follow His internal promptings, not the external clamor.

What you believed yesterday will be dwarfed by what you learn tomorrow. Know God, love God, and learn of Him and from Him. He affirms a teachable heart as one who fears the Lord. The Bible teaches, “Assemble the people—men, women, and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:12). Stay teachable in your understanding of God.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Patient forgiveness

“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (Proverbs 12:16).

Fools are forever flailing away at an offense, while a prudent man or woman is patient to forgive. A fool is easily provoked to anger, always looking for an argument to win. He or she is combative without compassionate concern. However, prudence is careful in its response, not willing to be reckless, but to be right. Wisdom employs forethought and prayer; it answers with an attitude of respect. Prudence invokes patience.

Do you buckle under pressure saying things you later regret? It is better to keep quiet and cool down than to vent venomous words in the flesh. Avoid anger as the instructor of your punishment. We tend to speak harshly and to act unreasonably when driven by anger. Wait prayerfully then revisit the infraction. Use cool correction.

“This is what you are to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept” (Genesis 50:17).

Bridle your tongue by God’s grace. The Bible says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Your words can grieve another or give hope. They can hurt or heal. Therefore, submit to the Holy Spirit’s control of your conversations.

Lastly, you are blessed if you are insulted for Christ’s sake. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11). Reward awaits those rejected for righteousness’ sake. Have you died to the right to be right? Do you hold a grudge or have to get even? In Christ we are dead to sin, and the dead are not insulted.

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).