Monthly Archives: March 2013

Victory!

Many of you know I am a sports enthusiasts. There is great excitement in being on the winning team. Both my sons played ball and Connie and I went to great lengths to be at all their games, wearing the team colors, and screaming until our voices were hoarse. Victory is so much fun – defeat is not.

Today, Christians all around the world, celebrate the victory of our Lord and Savior. It is exciting to be on the winning team. It is also important to understand what that victory means for you and me.

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

My steps are lighter today. My heart is singing the name of Jesus, who defeated the grave on our behalf. The King of kings and Lord of lords has risen from the grave. Death could not hold its grip on Him – NO! – He stared evil in the eyes and said loudly and clearly, “You will not take my children!”

Now its our part. One of the most moving scriptures to me in the Bible is from John when Jesus is talking with Peter after the Resurrection. He asks Peter three times if he loves Him. “The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.'”

Do you know who are His sheep?

If you have ever worked with animals, you know that animals must be fed and watered every day. You can’t just feed them once and be done with it because they will die of starvation. When Connie and I go on vacation, we are very careful with whom we leave our pets. As our children have grown older, our pets have become more and more a part of our family, and I’m not going to leave my animals with just anybody.

In the same loving manner, Jesus is securing our care with His disciples. He is putting the care of future generations in our hands.

There is a story in Acts Chapter 5. The disciples were arrested for healing and preaching in the name of Jesus Christ. Under locked security, the Lord removes the disciples from the prison and they are found again preaching and healing in the Temple. When the High Priests hear this, they are furious and want to put the disciples to death. A Pharisee named, Gamaliel, who was considered a teacher of the law, addressed the people and made a very profound statement which we can take to heart, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Even the Pharisees knew, if God is behind it, no one will stop it.

Proclaim victory in your life today! Shout and celebrate for Jesus Christ won for you on the Cross; He won for you in your day-to-day walk; He won the victory over evil that glorious day when the stone was rolled aside and He stood and walked from the grave. Jesus Christ our Risen Lord welcomes you on His team.


So, are you the one?

Luke 15:3-7, “Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

If you are a Star Trek fan like me,  you will remember Spock’s infamous words to Captain Kirk when he sacrificed himself to save their spaceship The Enterprise,  “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.” Spock rescued the space ship from imminent destruction but as a result, lost his life.

Henry Spencer and Charles Darwin suggested that the fittest humans will rise to the top through natural selection. The weaker human beings would not prevail. Evolutionist push the idea that only the dominant survive.

But Jesus, He was all about the one.

At times in our lives, we are the one sheep, separated from the group, alone, hurt, grieving, confused, and abandoned. And He comes after us. It seems a bit strange to imagine that God is more concerned with one sinner than over ninety-nine people who do not need to repent. The more sensible route would be to let the one go and focus on the 99. That is probably what you and I would do. But our God is a relentless Savior. That’s what sets Him apart from the gods man has manufactured or the demons of this world. Have you ever asked yourself, why He saves?

Simply, it brings Him joy. He rejoices in our return to Him for His love for us is deeper than we can comprehend.

Psalm 139:7-12, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed  in the depths,  you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

So, are you the one? Are you lost and alone? Be assured, Jesus is working to bring you back to His flock. There is nowhere you can hide from His presence. There is nowhere you can go that He will not seek you out. There is nothing you can do to keep Him from finding you.


Walking in the Promises

In the New Testament, Christ gives us promises; yet, almost always the promises are conditional. Often, in fact almost always,we must do something to receive the gift of His promise. I like to read the scriptures and underline my part – highlighting what I have to do to experience the fulfillment of His promise in my life.

John 6:35 – “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Many years ago, I worked with an incredible leader whose philosophy of “Team” was simple: if you have a problem, bring with it a solution. His expectation in meeting with one of his team members required a presentation of the problem and a presentation of an answer. He would then contemplate both and come up with a resolution. That way, we all had ‘skin’ in the game. We couldn’t just come to him and complain expecting him to answer all our problems.

Christ is presenting a similar platform for us to follow. He wants us to bring our problems to Him but in doing so there is something expected of us. We must understand His requirements. He gives this, we give that. Salvation is a “TEAM” effort. Christ requires us to live in accordance with His words so that we become a part of His Team.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!”

Salvation is not about works; it is about the mercy and grace of God. When we are saved, we become new creations in Christ. A transformation occurs in our lives. We are no longer our old selves and our new selves long to obey His commands.

Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Luke 9:48, “Then He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.'”

Walking in the Promises is a two-way street. Many people miss what they have to do and see only what Christ has done for them. If it were simple, why the sacrifice? Why suffer humiliation in the hands of evil? Christ died so that we might live – because He knew what we will face every day here on earth; because He believed in our ability to remain faithful to Him; but above all, because He loved us enough to give all so that we might live with Him in eternity.

Understanding your part in receiving the Promises of our Lord and Savior is a key element in our daily walk with Christ.

John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Luke 11:28, “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'”


You want me to do what?

One of the most exciting miracles in the Bible for me is the Battle of Jericho. After the death of Moses, the Israelites’ leader became a man named Joshua. He led the people under God’s guidance to conquer the land of Canaan.

Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

After Joshua sent spies into the city of Jericho, God instructed him exactly how to make the walls of the fortified city fall and how to conquer it. The battle plan was bizarre. Sometimes I chuckle thinking of Joshua instructing the Israelites as to God’s plan. How would I have received it? Probably, in a negative way, remarking, “I think Joshua had too much pizza last night!”

God’s plan was strange indeed. For six days the armed Israelites were to walk around the walled city, once each day. Seven priests were to blow trumpets, the Ark of the Covenant was to be carried behind them, the armed men would walk in front of them and in the rear. On the seventh day, they would circle the fortress seven times, the priests would give a long blast on the trumpets and the people were to shout out a war cry on Joshua’s command.

Joshua instructed the Israelites of God’s battle plan. They obeyed, and the walls of Jericho fell.

What can we learn from this miracle of God?

1.  Joshua accepted God’s plan for him. Joshua had many insecurities about taking over the leadership of Moses. He did not feel qualified.  The scriptures insinuate that Joshua was petrified but the Lord reminds him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Realize, the same God is with you today. Joshua is as human as you and me. He has doubts. He has fears. He’s seen first hand how the people turned on Moses time and time again. He knows the difficulty of the task ahead; and probably, he wishes God would choose someone else! Despite his anxiety, he accepted what the Lord asked him to do. Joshua chose to obey God even though he was afraid.

2. Joshua followed God’s instruction. He didn’t add to it or subtract from it. He didn’t say, “No. I like some of what you’re saying, but the blowing of the trumpets is just too odd.” Joshua listened and Joshua obeyed. Sometimes God asks us to do some ‘not-so-normal’ things. Sometimes people may see us as complete nuts because of what God has asked us to do.  Always remember, when God gives us direction, He will see it through to the end. It is the obedience He is looking for. Joshua chose to obey God even though he didn’t understand the direction.

3. No obstacle is too big for God. Sometimes the solution seems encased in a fortress untouchable by us. We do not know how to get around our current situation. I ‘ve been there and some of you may be there now with the impossible weighing heavily on your shoulders. God is still God. He is still on the throne. The same God who took down the walls of Jericho is the same God who will take down the walls that surround your answer. The key is believing in His solution. Blowing trumpets, marching around the walls are simply instructions God put into place to get obedience. When the Israelites obeyed, the consequences were good. When the Israelites disobeyed, the consequences were tough. Such a statement should make us sit up and take note. There is something to be said for obedience to God.

Trust in God comes from a remembrance of the troubles He has brought you through in your past. No matter how nonsensical the instructions are, if they are God’s, follow them.


Does God exist?

Several days ago, I had the opportunity to teach at a conference.  When I finished, one of the attendees asked a tough question.  How do we know God exists?

Multiple arguments for the existence of God have been offered through the centuries.  An example, the universal belief argument, purports that every person is born with knowledge of God in their inner most being.  No matter who they are or where they are from, every person has an awareness of a supreme being in the core of their being.  That knowledge produces worship.  Some psychologists may argue against it, but anthropological study reveals that in every society in the history of humanity, regardless of geographic and cultural trappings, mankind has worshiped what he perceived to be the supreme being.  Whether it was the sun or a star, humanity has consistently bowed to the being believed to be supreme.  That inner desire, it is argued, must come from a God who exists.

A second argument for the existence of God is the cosmological argument.  When you observe the world around you, there is an order, a design, a rationality to everything.  The way everything is put together distinctly implies there is something out there, someone who put it all together.  Since for every effect there has to be a direct cause, a rational cause must have developed the rational world.

My favorite illustration of this argument comes from Sir Isaac Newton.  In his office, the universe was modeled.  A gold metal ball in the center demonstrated our sun.  All the planets were formed revolving around the sun.  As many stars as he could make were affixed in their places perfectly.  All was made of metal, intricately designed and exquisitely made.  It made sense of the universe.  With that model many of his students were able to understand much more regarding the physical workings and relationships in the world of space.  One day an atheistic scientist walked into his office, saw that intricately designed universe, and said, “Wow … that’s fantastic. Who made it?”  Newton seized the moment, “Nobody.  It just fell together.  One day I was sitting at my desk and all the metal just started wrapping around itself and developed into that beautiful structure you see sitting there.”  As with most of us, the atheist got the picture of a Divine Designer…the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

One need only to look around and realize the wonder and beauty of God: the hand of an infant, the soft fur of a bunny, the delicious scent of a rose, the sweet taste of an orange, the glow of the stars, the bloom of a cherry tree, and the splendor of white fluffy snow. We are without excuse to question His existence.


It’s Okay to Be Different

One of my favorite children’s books is written by a man named Todd Parr called It’s Okay to Be Different.  My kids wanted me to read it over and over to them probably because of the colorful pictures but also for the message. It made them feel good; and admittedly, it made me feel good as well.

No two people are alike. God designed us uniquely and intricately. No two people share the same fingerprints. No two people have the same dental records. We are so different God knows our names and the number of hairs on our head. Every tear that falls from our faces, God is aware.

In a world where society dictates what is acceptable and what is not, it is refreshing to hear the words, “It’s okay to be different.” We all are. Some of us are small, some medium, some large, and some extra large. Some of us are dark and some of us are light and some of us are tinted in between. We like different hobbies. We talk in different ways.

As a person who enjoys watching people, I’ve learned over the years how amazingly beautiful each person is in his or her own way – some more so on the inside, some more so on the outside, and some both.

Why then do so many people suffer from insecurities and feelings of inadequacy? The reality is ‘different is normal.’ If we are all created by God and no two people are the same, aren’t we all then different?

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a man who had been blind since birth. He told me his blindness was a blessing. When I questioned him why, he explained, “Because I do not have the ability to judge anyone based on his or her outward appearance. People are who they are to me.”

Today, view the people as God sees them. God doesn’t make mistakes. Each and every one of us are cherished and loved by Him.

Daniel’s favorite line in the book read, “It’s okay to have different kinds of friends.” What greater lesson could we learn than to do just that.


Small things

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Mark 4:30-32, “Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

I love how God uses small things to impact His Kingdom. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus is explaining to His listeners about a herb of which they are familiar, a mustard seed. 1/20th of an inch in size – one could compare the mustard seed to the size of a pinhead; and yet, when planted, it will grow to a height of 10 to 12 feet. He uses this example to allow us to understand the amount of faith that can move a mountain!

Matthew 17:20, “... Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

And it isn’t just talk. When we study how God works throughout the Bible, we realize God loves small things. Abraham was one man and God made him the father of all nations. Esther, a young teenage girl, saved the Jewish people. Mary, a virgin, from humble beginnings, births the Savior of the world. Jesus, born in a manger, brings salvation to all people. A handful of believers, some former fishermen, teach a world to follow Christ.

It’s all about simplicity. He’s not looking for kings (although He could use them); He’s not looking for the most educated or most beautiful or most articulate – He is looking for ordinary people, like you and me, to be His mustard seeds to grow His Kingdom.

In God’s Kingdom, simplicity takes root, faith flourishes, and the eternal destinations of people are changed.