God will bring you through!

October 5th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Acts 27:14 (KJV)
There arose against [us]…Euroclydon.

There is only one storm named in Scripture, and it is the one the apostle Paul went through in the book of Acts:  Euroclydon.  I find it interesting to read about all the hardship that Paul and the other apostles and early church fathers went through because it shows that God never promised that we would not go through hardship.  There are some who teach that if you’re going through hardship you must be in sin or you must not have enough faith.  On the contrary, I would say that if you’re not going through hardship maybe you’re not a big enough threat to the enemy.

Ultimately, the storm will reveal what you’re made of and what your relationship with the Lord is like.

Here are the points made by the writer of today’s reading:

  1. To reach your goal you’ll have to go through storms.  See Acts 27:20.
  2. Storms reveal how well you know God.  See Acts 27:23-24.
  3. God can make a success out of a shipwreck.
    1. Sometimes you’ll have to throw stuff overboard.  See Acts 27:18.
    2. In spite of your best efforts you’ll occasionally run aground.  See Acts 27:26.
    3. You must remember what God told you and stand on it.  See Acts 27:25.
  4. Often the worst thing that could have happened turns out for the best.  See Acts 28:10.
    There have been instances in my life where I not handled hardship well, even questioning God’s purpose in it all.  But God had some things for me, some things I needed to learn through them.  The 4th point above is a good one:  God is able to turn what the enemy meant for evil into something that brings Him glory.  I can testify to that.

Don’t try this on your own (4)

October 5th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  The name of Jesus.

Acts 19:15 (NIV)
Jesus I know, and Paul I know…but who are you?

If I’d read ahead I would have known that the topic of the name of Jesus would be covered :-) .  The writer of today’s reading makes the following points about using His name:

  1. You can only use the name of Jesus effectively when you acknowledge Him as Lord.
  2. You can only use the name of Jesus effectively when you have an intimate relationship with Him.
  3. You can only use the name of Jesus effectively when you’re convinced of its power!

One thing I would caution is to be careful how you interpret the phrase, “use the name of Jesus.”  Some religions and belief systems talk about the concept of casting a spell and they have words that have power.  As Christians, we don’t go around saying special incantations – combinations of words and phrases – to invoke the power of some spiritual deity (i.e. God).  We don’t have to do that, because we have a relationship with God Himself.  When we “use the name of Jesus,”  what we need to be mindful of is that we are explaining our relationship with Him and that He is backing us up.  The seven sons of Sceva simply invoked His name thinking it was a powerful phrase.  On the contrary, it is only powerful in the context of our relationship with Him.  It is for that reason I would rephrase the last point this way:

You can only use the name of Jesus effectively when you’re convinced of His power!

Don’t try this on your own (3)

October 3rd, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Having a true relationship with the Lord.

Acts 19:15 (NIV)
Jesus I know, and Paul I know…but who are you?

The seven sons of Sceva didn’t have a relationship with Christ – they treated the name of Jesus as an incantation, something to be used for their own purposes.

The powers in this tormented man exposed the weakness in the seven sons of Sceva, overcame them and sent them running out of the house naked, stripped of their pretence.  One day you’re going to survive only because you’ve got the real thing.

There are times when it’s so easy to operate as if I have all the skills I need.  In my line of work, confidence in myself and my skills is a requirement.  However, as with most things, we need to draw a balance between having confidence in ourselves and trusting in the Lord for every little thing.  That balance can only be drawn effectively when we are in constant communication with Him.  What is the right balance between the physical and the spiritual?  That is a line I negotiate every day, but I’m confident that the line will be drawn in the right place – or at least close – because my relationship with the Lord is true.

How about you?

Don’t try this on your own (2)

October 3rd, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Having an accurate view of yourself.

Acts 19:15 (NIV)
Jesus I know, and Paul I know…but who are you?

One of the things the writer of today’s (well, yesterday’s) reading focused on was that success is not as easy as it looks.

It’s not that God can’t give it to you quickly, it’s that you need time, preparation, and in some cases a major overhaul to handle it.

Have you ever watched American Idol, particularly the first several weeks of the season?  I am always amazed at the people who think they have what it takes to make it on the show.  To some people, that part of the season is their favorite.  I, on the other hand, find it simply painful.  So many of these people are going to be rejected and if they would just understand their limitations, they would be able to accept it when it comes and learn from it.

I try to look at all of life that way – understanding where am I weak and where am I strong?  What’s my probability of success?  Do I need to push myself to get there or is it just not in the cards at this point in time?  What do I need to improve upon?

Sometimes, however, I can take this too far and it stops me from really doing what God wants me to do.  Instead of reaching out, reaching forward, I shrink back.  Instead of giving the Lord an opportunity to show Himself powerful, I rob both myself and others of an opportunity to see the Lord in action.

The bottom line here is that both ends of this spectrum represent qualities the Lord wants to see in us – having a realistic view of ourselves, and pushing ahead trusting in Him to make it happen.  In other words, we need balance.

Don’t try this on your own (1)

October 2nd, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Spirit-empowered living cannot be faked.

Acts 19:15 (NIV)
Jesus I know, and Paul I know…but who are you?

Today’s reading (and the next 3 days) focuses on the seven sons of Sceva as recorded in Acts 19:11-16.  Sceva was a Jewish priest and his sons were casting out evil spirits.  When they saw Paul casting out spirits in the name of Jesus, they thought they’d add that to their repertoire, but the spirits they tried to do that to gave them a royal beating at the hands of the possessed man.

The writer wraps up with this paragraph:

Paul was so empowered by God that he made ministry look easy.  So these guys thought, “I can do that too.”  No you can’t – unless God equips you, you’ll fall flat on your face!  The seven sons of Sceva were attracted by the wrong things.  They wanted the power Paul had but they didn’t want to pay the price Paul paid.  God doesn’t empower you to do your own thing.  He empowers you to do His thing; which is the only thing that matters.  Spirit-empowered living cannot be imitated, duplicated, bought, borrowed, or faked – and without it you’re no match for the enemy!

This is the first reading that seems to focus on what I can’t do instead of what I can do.  I’m not accustomed to being told I can’t do something.  I’m a smart guy; I’ve always figured I could do anything I set my mind to.  It’s interesting, though, that in spiritual things, our relationship to the Almighty makes a huge difference – maybe all the difference.  As we spend time with the Lord and in His word, I believe we are paying the price.  As we minister to each other and to our communities, we are paying the price.

One thing about the name of Jesus is that we in 21st century American culture have grown accustomed to praying “in the name of Jesus.”  That isn’t a phrase that is commonly used in every day language, though.  For example, I don’t say I come to you in the name of my company or in the name of my family.  One result of this change in our language over the centuries has been that we see that phrase being tacked on to the end of prayers like it’s just a tradition.  But it’s so much more than that.  When we say “in the name of Jesus” we are saying we are representatives of Jesus and are making our petitions for the benefit of Jesus – or because we want His reputation to increase.  We are also saying that what we are saying or praying should be respected as if it was Jesus who was saying it.  That’s pretty heavy stuff.  How can we do that if we don’t what He wants?  We can’t.  That’s why we spend time with Him regularly, cultivating our relationship with Him, being ready to hear what He wants to whisper in our ear.

One thing touched on by the writer that should not be overlooked is why we want to use the name of Jesus.  That is something we need to answer because if we are simply seeking more power, popularity, influence, etc., it’s not likely we’re going to hear much of anything other than to lay down our pride, take up our cross, and follow Him.

Networking

October 1st, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Each part…helps the other parts grow.

It’s interesting that this should be the next topic.  I really like the analogy the writer makes here:

As the roots of trees come into contact with one another they form an underground support system.  One has access to water, another to nutrients, another to sunlight, etc.  A networking is taking place that strengthens them all.

In order to accomplish what God designed them to do, each one must do its individual task.  Like the parts of the tree, we each must do what God has called us individually to do so that the tapestry He is creating can be completed.  As Mike commented on the last post (thanks, Mike, I appreciate your feedback), just like the parts of the tree, we are called to different things at different times of our lives as well.

I can so relate to one of the statements the writer makes:

Some of us independent types [me independent?  No! ;-) ] have difficulty when it comes to networking.  We fly solo, until we crash and burn!  Eventually our pain, not our brain, shows us our need for things like…

  1. Mercy.
    “You’ll never be asked to forgive someone else more than God has already forgiven you.”
  2. Understanding.
    “Sympathy meets two fundamental human needs we all have: the need to be understood and the need to have our feelings validated.  The problem is we’re in such a hurry to fix people that we don’t have time to sympathize with them.  We’re too preoccupied with our own hurts.  Self-pity dries up sympathy for others.”
    One of the things I’ve learned in over 20 years of marriage is that sometimes my wife and daughters don’t need me to fix their problems.  All they need me to do is listen…and sympathize.
  3. Encouragement.
    “All of us are strengthened in our faith when others walk with us and encourage us.”
    This is what I truly desire – to walk with others in a way that we are strengthening each other’s faith.

How can I strengthen your faith today?  Seriously.

Looking forward to Heaven

September 29th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

2 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)
We have…an eternal house in heaven.

Heaven and relationship

I can recall times when I really looked forward to heaven, which to me means spending eternity with the Lord.  Those were times I remember spending a lot of time in prayer, mostly with friends, and when there was a big emphasis on the move of the Spirit in the services and small groups.  I felt a really strong connection to the Lord in those days.

A lot of life has happened since then, though.  There have been times over the past almost 14 years since we’ve lived in Washington when I’ve really felt the move the Spirit and I’ve felt connected to the Lord, but it wasn’t as pervasive as it once was.  And I feel guilty about it.  It’s nice to talk about how beautiful heaven will be (as today’s reading does), but for me just looking at beauty is rarely a fulfilling or satisfying activity.  For me, it is usually about the relationship and the challenge (how I can contribute).

Where are we spending our time?

Another question to raise is why is heaven important?  If it means, as I stated above, that we’ll spend eternity with the Lord, then it means we get to go to a place where we will no longer be distracted by the things of this world.  Paul in 2 Corinthians says that “as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”  (2 Corinthians 5:6 NIV).  Then in Philippians he says, “I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”  (Philippians 1:23-24 NIV).  Are we to spend so much time on the things of heaven that we are no good here on earth?  Maybe the reverse question also needs to be asked:  Are we spending so much time on things of this world that we are no good for the things of the Spirit?  Sometimes that is how I feel – that there are so many things around me that I spend my time on that I fail to see what is really important.

Don’t get me wrong; the things of God are very important to me.  The knowledge and experience I gained as a young man and throughout my life has prepared me to do many wonderful things (lead worship, drama, raise kids, etc.).  I think what I’m struggling with is wanting more than the trappings of the Christian life, memories of great experiences with the Lord, and a haphazard relationship with the Lord.  God has done some wonderful things in my life and I’ve enjoyed Him speaking to me and through me.  But I want more.  I want something deeper.

How about you?  Where do you stand on this subject?  What’s really important to you?

God says "It’s over!"

September 28th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  Trust.

Nahum 1:9 (NIV)
Trouble will not come a second time.

There’s a catch to this statement.  You have to ignore the taunting of the enemy, and you have to trust God that whatever you’ve conquered He has truly defeated.  Trust is an odd thing, though.  There are times when you think you’ve got someone’s trust and it turns out you don’t.  The reverse is sometimes true as well.

My wife and I were watching the pilot episode of Journeyman last night.  In this series, a man finds himself sent back in time in strange ways, kind of like that old series Quantum Leap except he gets to come home afterward.  Of course his wife, family, friends, coworkers, etc. don’t believe his story so they think he’s on drugs or alcohol or something.  Their response seems somewhat plausible, but what really got me was how his wife responded to him – with a complete lack of trust.

I couldn’t imagine living like that with my wife, where she didn’t trust me completely.  Imagine how God feels when we don’t trust Him?  He’s given everything to us, even His own son, and so often we turn our back on Him.  I know I do from time to time, forgetting how good He’s been to me.

Something to ponder…

Unlocking your potential

September 28th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Focus:  You have a God-given purpose.

Colossians 1:16 (TM)
For everything, absolutely everything…finds its purpose in Him.

Today’s verse supports something I have been including in my prayers for people for as long as I can remember – that each individual has a purpose given by God.  Today it is quoted from The Message by Eugene Peterson.  I like to read the daily verse in my own Bible as well, which is an NIV, and I had to take a double-take.

Colossians 1:16 (NIV)
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

It’s the last verse that makes that point:  “All things were created by him and for him.”  I can’t think of any reason why God would create something that he wouldn’t find a use for.  As Christians, we are always trying to find out what God’s will for our lives.  Why?  Because that is when we are most fulfilled – when we are fulfilling our purpose.  That’s how God made us.

When trouble comes

September 26th, 2007  Email Email  Print Print  

Psalm 27:5 (KJV)
In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion.

The writer of today’s devotion recommends doing these three things when trouble comes:

  1. Get alone with God!  I can’t think of a better thing to do.  We’ve all heard the saying misery loves company.  Why is that?  It’s the relationship we enjoy so much.  The same holds true here.  Spending time with the Lord is spending time in relationship with someone who has the power do something about.  That doesn’t mean He’ll fix it or change it, although He might.  It does mean that you’ll be able to deal with it better, though.

    An interesting side note:  The King James Version uses the word “pavilion” in this passage while the NIV says “dwelling.”  The writer points out that the secret place in a king’s palace was called a “pavilion.”  Interesting.  I usually think of a pavilion as a place for entertaining.  Dictionary.com lists this definition:  a light, usually open building used for shelter, concerts, exhibits, etc., as in a part or fair.  It also lists this definition, however:  to shelter in or as if in a pavilion.  It’s pretty cool to think that God want’s to take us to his most secret place; it’s also comforting to think that God wants to hang out with us.  Why else would He invite us to His place of entertainment?

  2. Refuse to live beyond help because you have an image to uphold.  This is an odd statement, and it took me a few minutes to figure out what was being said.  First, are we so proud that we can’t ask others for help?  Surely we aren’t so self-sufficient that we can take care of all our own problems.  I don’t believe God asks us to.  Even if others don’t understand what we’re going through, we need to trust them enough to allow God to speak through them.  They aren’t the problem; usually they are only trying to help.  Second, once we start following Christ, those outside the faith will see us as representing Christ (which we are).  If we don’t get the help we need, how can we be the representative Christ deserves?  We do Him a disservice if we allow our troubles to damage His reputation.
  3. Be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit for He will constantly remind you of God’s plan, and show you how to carry it out.  As we spend time with the Lord (as in #1 above) we condition our spirit to hear from the Holy Spirit.  Again, it’s about relationship, not just with the Father and the Son, but also with the Holy Spirit.  The Father sent Him here after Jesus ascended (John 14:16-17) for just this purpose – so He could help us follow Him.

God, other people, listen.  Sounds pretty simple.  I can testify to the fact, however, that sometimes, when you are surrounded by troubles, it is very difficult to hear the voice of God.  Sometimes our troubles distract us from what we truly need to do – seek His face.

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