Monthly Archives: May 2014

Discipleship is costly

Have you ever wondered why Jesus picked who He picked to be His disciples, and if you were living in that time period, would He have picked you?

That ominous question often gains the focus of my attention.  If I had lived in Jesus’ day, would He have chosen me to follow Him.  Since the disciples Christ chose demonstrated a remarkable array of personality profiles, backgrounds, and behavior patterns, it would be hard to justify dismissing our worth or availability on the basis of our personal limitations, ability levels, personality profiles, backgrounds, or interests.  Though it is important, in fact inspiring, to consider those things, another issue must be considered – our willingness to respond.

The life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become well known.  His book “The Cost of Discipleship” chronicles the costly response to Christ’s call.  While writing from a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, Bonhoeffer articulated a truth from the context of personal struggle.  His unique perspective was developed from his personal journey.  He had stood alone in the Christian community as a voice condemning the holocaust of death wrought by Hitler and his henchmen.  Powerless to defend himself from the Nazi machine, he found himself in the throes of desperation and difficulty.

The cost his stance inflicted gave him an insight into the challenges we all face as we respond to God’s call.  Discipleship is costly.  It takes our willingness to give everything in submission to the will of God. We must surrender our lives, will, and possessions to One greater than we ourselves.  We must see our lives as ordained by our Creator, purposed by our God, and led by His unchanging hand.  In short, we must choose to surrender to His will in every situation, live out His Word, and allow Him to use us as He sees fit.  We may not understand, live in confusion about His sovereignty, and wonder about the wisdom of our choices as we work through the struggles of this life.  And through it all, we must choose to trust our God implicitly.

So, in a very real way, the defining factor regarding being chosen by Christ is found in our willingness to respond to Him.  If we are willing to respond to His call with total submission to His will, we are candidates to be disciples of Christ.  So today, choose to be His in every regard.  Then you will be chosen by Christ…and you would have been chosen by Him 2000 years ago.


Giving is a sacrifice

Hebrews 13:16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

As a boy growing up in the church my father pastored, I remember well a particular lady who was  best known for her 7 layer caramel cake. Any covered dish lunch or funeral, there was one constant, Miss Agnes’ cake. There was however a unique characteristic many people didn’t know. Miss Agnes was a giver. I once heard her explaining to my dad a particular gift she had made for my mom and him. Any gift Miss Agnes gave meant something to her. She would never go out and just buy something; she either made it or it was something that meant a great deal to her.

Once I heard she gave her father’s pocket watch to a young man she had witnessed grow up and because he meant so much to her, on his graduation day from high school, her gift to him was the watch. With tears in her eyes, she explained to him how much it meant to her and therefore, how much he meant to her. He understood the sacrifice with which she offered it to him and he vowed to always treasure it.

When I read this verse from Hebrews, I think of her example. It isn’t telling us to give out of abundance, it is telling us God is pleased when our giving is a sacrifice. The definition of sacrifice is a loss or something that is given up. It isn’t a few extra dollars in our pocket or a couch we wanted to get rid off. God is asking us to share with others as a sacrifice on our part – that’s what pleases Him.

I often hear people say, “If I had money, I’d be the nicest rich person!”

While it sounds good, the truth is, if you won’t share the little you have, you aren’t going to share the abundance.

Your time is a sacrifice. When we serve others with our talents and give to them time we could be doing for ourselves is a sacrifice. My question to you today, “What are you sacrificing for others in order to please God?”

Take the time today to evaluate your giving. If you struggle in this area, ask God to help you. Start looking for ways to serve others in your community, church, neighborhood, and home. Open your heart to the possibilities and begin making a difference in God’s Kingdom.


Stripped down and exposed

John 8:2-11, “At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I’ve often read this scripture and wondered what Jesus wrote in the sand. Was it mere doodling or was it her name? Probably, He wrote the names of those who held the stones in their hands. While the crowd stood fully clothed, armed, and comfortable, ready to render judgment, the woman stood before Jesus, fully exposed and humiliated. And in her moment of reckoning, He loved her.

Sadly, many Christians today stand with stones in hand, armed and ready to cast judgment against others, unaware of who they are. How many of us truly can, though, cast a stone against another?

Often we think we can hide our sins from God. We think we can cover up what we are doing by frequenting church more than our neighbor or praising Him louder than the person next to us. Some of us might think, if we point out the sins of others, our own sins won’t be as noticeable.

In this scripture, Jesus didn’t interrogate her about what she’d done. He didn’t try to put a case against her or to defend her. He didn’t inquire as to where the man was or which one of the two in question were married. He took little information from those in the crowd or from the woman. He simply wrote in the sand.

In reality, the only one qualified to stone her at this gathering was Him, and He loved her, fully exposed and vulnerable. Was it because she put herself entirely in His hands? She doesn’t deny what has happened. She doesn’t try to blame someone else. She doesn’t plead with Him to help her. She simply stands before Him, naked.

Now, more than ever, we need to get real with God. We need to stop hiding behind our sins and come clean with Him. There is a scripture from Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me,  and lead me in the way everlasting!

There is no place to hide from God. The dark cannot shield us. He isn’t fooled by our fancy cars or designer tags or our careers. From our thoughts to our motivation, He knows our hearts!

Come before Him stripped down and exposed. Talk to Him about the things in your life you know need changing. Trust Him to help you handle them. Ask Him to examine your heart and soul for anything that prevents you from a closer walk with Him. Allow yourself to be naked before God.


The Perks

Christ always goes after His lost sheep. Maybe you’ve decided Christ isn’t for you or maybe you’ve never even considered Him for your life. Well, I’d like to share with you just some of the promises Jesus Christ offers us when we make the choice to follow Him.

“The perks” of being a believer.

1. Your life, as insignificant as it may seem to you in a world of billions of other people, has meaning, has a purpose, and is loved and adored by the One who created you.

2. You will be given eternal life. The Bible tells us Heaven is a beautiful place.

3. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will be with you always.

4. The peace and joy you will experience in knowing Him will not be understandable; but you will know it is there.

5. The people around you will be blessed because of the impact you will have on them.

6. Favor will fall on your life. He will bless your life.

7. He will guide you through every storm, trial, and struggle, and never leave your side.

8. You will become a new and different person.

9. You will be redeemed.

10. Death cannot take you.

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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

Find Christ – find meaning


Gardening Season

It is gardening season again. On my way home from work the other day, I noticed one of my neighbors’ gardens. No weeds. Beautifully manicured with everything from egg plant to tomato plants growing in neat rows. I stopped to say hello and get a closer look. I’ve always enjoyed gardening; its finding the time to do it that makes it hard for me. A garden needs devotion and care.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…”

Unless you sow the seeds, you will not have a harvest. My yard does not have the garden my neighbor has. I will not have the vegetables my neighbor will have either. (On an aside, I’m hoping he’ll share!) But the natural order is first you sow, then you reap. It is always in that order and will never be any different.

My question to you, “What are you sowing that you will reap?”

Some of you are sowing seeds of destruction. Your life is in disarray. You are doing selfish sinful acts. Without a doubt, you will harvest devastation and soon. Some of you are sowing seeds of debt. Your spending is out of control. You have no savings. You live paycheck to paycheck. And your credit card debt is piling high. You will harvest financial ruin. Some of you are sowing seeds of negative attitudes and anger. You speak roughly to your children. You criticize your spouse. You tell yourself you are nothing. You will harvest a lifestyle equivalent to your words.

If you want to reap a good harvest, you’ve got to sow good seeds. If you choose to sow righteousness, you will reap mercy. If you choose to sow love, you will harvest the favor of the Lord. If you choose to sow obedience, you will harvest God’s plan for your life.

What are you sowing? Today, evaluate the seeds you are putting in the grounds of your life. Some of you may need to till your gardens and start planting; some may need to get rid of bad seed and start fresh; and some of you may need to pull some weeds and tend to your gardens; whatever your case may be, start today, for what you sow today, you will reap tomorrow. It is up to you.


Start your day the right way

It is God’s wish for you that you enjoy life. John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And we all know who the thief is; but, take a look at the second part of the scripture, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Another translation, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Those words to me mean “the most of” something. He isn’t talking about “just getting by” or “a little bit” of a part; no, God wants us to have it all!

Start your day the right way – with God. Experience first hand what it is like to feel His presence with you all day. This morning, take time to read His word and pray to Him. Ask Him for guidance today and listen throughout the day for His direction. While reading these devotionals are a great way to connect with God, don’t let it be the only way you reach out to Him. Diligently seek Him in His Word. I suggest you take the scripture that I am writing about and read further. See how God relates it to you and your life.

Most importantly, know that God will fill your heart and enlighten you. You will understand His peace and joy. Seek Him and allow Him to be with you all day. Once you experience the empowerment of His presence in your life, you will want to have Him with you every day. Don’t leave home without Him.

 


A Dialogue with Christ

Galatians 2:20, “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Most of the original 12 disciples were crucified because of their ministries. But when Paul wrote this, he wasn’t suggesting the same for us obviously. He wanted us to realize that in order to have spiritual victory over the evil of this world; in order to live as Christ lived; in order to allow Him to move and work in and through our lives, we had to be crucified with Christ. No longer do we have the right to control our own lives. In being crucified with Christ, we find the power to live a life filled abundantly with the joy, power, and abilities of Him.

Christ left so that the Holy Spirit could fill us and live in us. This gives us the ability to do “what Jesus would do.”  Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whatever we encounter, we have the ability to conquer because Christ lives and works within us.

Today, in your prayer time, talk with God about living through you. Here are some guidelines to help start a dialogue with Christ:

1. Express to Him that you want very much to be a person of God. There are times when you feel defeated and inadequate. There are times when you do not know how to deal with certain people or do certain things. Admit to Him, you need Him.

2. Accept the authority of Christ to give you exactly what you need, whether it be in words or actions, believe you can overcome every obstacle because Christ is directing you.

3. Surrender to Him. Give Him express permission to live His life through you. Release the controls. Be crucified in Him.

You may have to pray this prayer on a daily basis until you can freely surrender to Him. Discipleship begins when we allow Christ to live in and through us.