Monthly Archives: January 2015

It matters to God

Mark 4: 3-8, “He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’”

Jesus’ method of teaching can at times be confusing, so confusing, that even the disciples questioned what He meant. Jesus used parables to engage the listeners in something they could understand – every day life events. The parables were also meant to stimulate our minds and to make us think for ourselves.

God’s word is available through out the world. With today’s technology and the ability of travel, there are very few people who cannot be reached by God’s word. The tough part is how do they (we) hear the word?

The parable above tells us how the word of God is heard and received. Jesus later explains the parable to His disciples in Mark 4:14-20. He tells them the seed which was sown on the path is like a person who hears the word of God but Satan comes and takes the word from them. I call it “the inaudible” truth. Ever tried to give advice to a brick wall? Those words just splash right back in your face. Without a willingness from the listener to allow the words to penetrate his/her mind, the Word of God is quickly lost, like throwing seed to birds.

The seed which is sown on the rocky places can be an example of how some of us respond to God’s Word. Have you ever heard an inspirational sermon which fills your heart with joy and motivates you to change the way you think or to change your actions, but the moment you step out of the church and life hits you, all is forgotten. There is no core within to attach and therefore the Word of God cannot take root. “In one ear and out the other” is an old adage which describes this portion of the parable well.

The seeds among thorns describe those who hear God’s Word, know it is the truth, but disregard it.  They know what is right and wrong. They know their lifestyles do not line up; but, the desires for sin are greater than the desire for God. His Word is choked out by the thorns around them.

The final seed sown, on good soil, is accepted and lived out on a daily basis. It is the seed that will change the world. It is the seed that spreads the Word of God by living it on a daily basis.

What are you? Maybe a little of all at various times in your life. When you hear God’s word, ask Him to show you how it applies to you. Stop worrying if Susie two rows in front of you is listening and start listening yourself. What is God trying to convey to you in the scriptures? How we hear the word and put it into practice in our lives matters tremendously to God.

The only one that counts

He turned water into wine, opened the eyes of the blind. He healed people of diseases, gave the crippled legs to walk, and caused the dead to live again. A woman in a crowd of people simply touched the material on His robe and was healed. He had the biggest fish fry in the history of the world when He turned 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed 5000 hungry mouths, not including women and children!

Do you ever wonder what drove Him? What inspired Him to do what He did? Was it the AWE of people? Did He do it to amaze others?

Jesus didn’t need to impress others nor did He need to prove anything. Nowhere in the scriptures does Jesus ever show a desire to have the approval of those around Him. Often, He would ask the recipient of a miracle not to tell anyone. Sometimes it appeared He wanted to remain anonymous.

Was He here to battle demons? Did He come with a sword drawn to fight?

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.”

Even to demons, Jesus didn’t need an introduction. He didn’t have to pound His chest and flex His muscles. Jesus was a winner and He already knew it. It would be like a grown man trying to race a toddler. No competition! And He didn’t need their affirmation either. In Luke 4:41, “Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.”

Jesus had the Seal of Approval of God. He didn’t need or want anything else.

Many of us spend a lifetime trying to get the approval of those around us. We worry over how we are perceived by others. Is our house big enough? Do we have the right clothes? Drive the right car? Are we thin enough? Smart enough? Do we socialize in the right circles of friends? Is our bank account large enough to measure up to others?

Who are we kidding? The only seal of approval we need is God’s! His is the only one that counts! When we have His approval, the rest lines up the way it is supposed to according to His will.

Take time today to talk to God about what concerns you about yourself. Ask Him to search your heart and change what needs to be changed. Line yourself up with His teachings and His word. Carry the seal of approval, the stamp of God across your heart.

God’s Big answer

1 Samuel tells of an event in the life of David. He is not yet the king. Saul is king and the city in which David, his soldiers, and their families have been living, was attacked and burned. David and his soldiers were actually gone when it happened and their wives and children were taken by the Amalekites.

David prays to God to ask what to do, and God instructs him to go after the Amalekites. No strategic battle, no blueprint, God simply tells him to pursue them. On the way, David’s soldiers find a sick man, an Egyptian who is the abandoned slave of an Amalekite.

1 Samuel 30:13, “…’I am an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago. We raided the Negev of the Kerethites and the territory belonging to Judah and the Negev of Caleb. And we burned Ziklag.'”

Now Ziklag is David’s town. David asked the slave if he could lead him to the raiding party and the slave responds, “Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.”

Sometimes we are looking for God’s BIG ANSWER. When Moses stood before the Red Sea, the Egyptian soldiers thundering down upon the Israelites, millions of lives hanging in the balance, God parts the waters and the Israelites are delivered. Red Sea – Big Answer – Big Miracle.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the guys thrown into the fiery furnace), God shows up and is in the furnace with them. The king actually sees a fourth person in the fire! Fiery Furnace – Big Answer – Big Miracle.

If only God worked that way all the time.

God sometimes gives us answers in ways we would have never thought. Would David have ever imagined he would find a sick slave who would lead him to the exact location of his enemy?

Be careful that you are not sitting by the Red Sea waiting for the waters to part, when God has someone in need for you to help who will in turn help you. Consider, David’s men could have passed this guy up. David could have instructed them, “We don’t have time to help this sick man, we are pursuing an army! We are going to rescue our wives and children! We are on a mission instructed by God. Who has time to stop and help a sick man!”

Who are you passing by? What are you missing that God is going to use to help you? Who are you too busy to help?

When looking for God’s answers, make sure your eyes and ears are opened to hear and see what He is trying to convey. Through out the Bible, time and time again, God shows up in ways no one ever expected. Since God doesn’t change, why do we look for Him in the obvious? He is not a God of the obvious, but of the extraordinary, unique, and impossible.

Today, ask God to open your eyes and ears to see the miracle He is planning for you. Your answer

Trust in His faithfulness

Whether it is financial, relational, or physical, we are often in the middle of a battle. When we are there, our faith in God’s delivering power may be the very element He is trying to teach us. We know God honors faith; and Jesus challenged us to maintain faith and a willingness to put our trust in Him regardless of the situations of our lives.

Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Matthew 17:20 – “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. 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.’”

Yet, there are times in our lives when God is teaching us other lessons.  Sometimes the emphasis isn’t upon our activity, but God’s.  Often the focus isn’t our faithfulness but God’s showing His faithfulness. Sometimes, the focus is on someone else, and God uses our circumstance to teach lessons others need to learn.

In the end, we learn to rest in Him, whether by difficult times, joyful occasions, storms, droughts, sunny days, or prosperous events. The manner in which our lives have been designed and molded forms us in God’s purpose and plan for our personal lives.  In short, we become the people God intends us to be as we respond in faith regardless of the situation. We come to a point where we see His purpose for our lives fulfilled. And in each situation, God wants us to see His faithfulness.

One of my favorite Bible stories is a story of ordinary events, typical humanity responding to circumstances of life. As with our lives, the events of this story mold the lives of the persons involved. It is a story about people like you and me, facing life circumstances and finding God’s faithfulness in the midst of life.

A famine strikes the land of  Israel and a Hebrew family, Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons, move to Moab in hopes of finding better conditions. Moab, a nation on the east side of the Dead Sea, was just next door geographically but was light years away philosophically, religiously, and morally. While there, the sons marry two women from Moab, Orpah and Ruth. Tragically, Elimelech and both the boys die; Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws are left as widows in a land foreign to Naomi. She decided to return home to Israel. Orpah, one of the daughter-in-laws, returned to her family in Moab; but, Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, committed to stay with Naomi.

Ruth 1:16 – “But Ruth replied, (to Naomi) “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.'”

Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem together. They were accepted by Naomi’s family there. A prominent land owner named Boaz noticed Ruth and asked his workers to be kind to her and her mother-in-law. He left extra grain for Ruth to pick up, glean, in the fields. Boaz took Ruth as his wife, bought Naomi and Ruth out of debt, and provided the two ladies with loving care. The result was provision in their lives though they had both been widows.

Sometimes the focus isn’t on our ability to demonstrate faith, but God’s loving faithfulness to us in tragedy. The story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates God’s interest in our lives. Simple women living in Godly ways are noticeable to God. All He requires is a willingness to serve Him as our God. Just as He cared for the details of their individual lives, He cares for all the details of our lives.

You may be in a situation through no fault of your own; it may simply be tragic circumstances. Be assured God will show His faithfulness to you. He will restore, renew, and care for you. Trust in His faithfulness.

Ooops! Did I say that?

1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.”

Have you ever said something you wish you could take back? If there were a rewind button, you’d hit it and start over! Maybe it was to your spouse; your parent; your child; your best friend. Once those words leave your lips, there is little you can do but apologize over and over. Sometimes an apology can’t take it away. Words can damage our hearts and make us insecure. They can cause more damage than a hurricane and replay over and over in our minds. What is more, they can cause times of extreme despair throughout our lives.

When we speak, Peter tells us we should talk as one who speaks for God. He is right, you know. In everything that we say and do, we should always represent God; whether it is Sunday morning on the front row of church or Friday night at the basketball game, our words matter. The manner in which we speak directly reflects our hearts. As children of God, it is our responsibility to honor our Father by choosing our words carefully. Perhaps nothing challenges me more in my daily life.

There’s a funny joke about a lady who was pulled over and arrested for stealing a car. Once booked and interrogated, the officer determined she had not stolen the car; in fact, the car she was driving was hers! With apologies, she was released. As the officer was returning her personal belongings, she asked why she had been suspected of auto-theft. Did she resemble a particular criminal? “No,” he responded. “I over-heard you yelling at the driver in front of you at the four-way stop. Your language was such that the stickers on the back of your car indicating that you were a Christian and loved God did not match the person driving the car. The owner of the car was a Christian and the person driving the car would not be cursing at the other driver. So I figured you had to have stolen the car.”

As people of God, we are called to a higher standard than others. We must love deeper than others; care more intensely; display tremendous compassion; and speak as a representative of God at all times. What a challenge…

What you cannot do

Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

There are times in our lives when we feel stuck, unable to move, heavy, and burdened. I don’t know about you, but those are the times I want to crawl in my bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep through the storms.

Years ago, my rental car broke down on a back road outside the city of Chicago. It was one of the coldest nights of the year. I had on dress shoes and a suit, not appropriate attire to walk a few miles through the snow to get help. Today, I would’ve hit OnStar and waited for help. Fifteen years ago, that was not a possibility. The snow banks made walking extremely difficult forcing me to lift my legs as if I were marching. My hands were cold. The wind stung my face. The snow was falling in sheets of thick flakes, and I could barely see the road ahead. For a moment I wanted to quit moving, but I knew that was the worst thing I could do. The gas station I had passed earlier appeared, and I was able to press on to get the help I needed.

Some of you are facing tough times right now. Whatever the mess is in your life, ask God what to do and get moving. Do what you know to do. Do what makes sense. Studies have shown the most creative and inventive times in history come during economic hardships. When the economy is bad and people start losing jobs, they start thinking; they start inventing; they start creating. If your marriage is suffering, do what you need to do to make it better. Don’t wait for your spouse to change…change yourself. If you need to get healthy, don’t wait another day. Study nutrition and start eating right. Exercise. Change your unhealthy habits. If you are suffering from an addiction, get help. Determine you are no longer going to let it have a hold on you.

My grandmother used to tell me, “Do what you know to do. Do what you can do. When you put forth the effort, God will show up and do what you cannot do.”

The decision making tune

I love Jeopardy, America’s Favorite Quiz Show, as it is coined. I particularly like the thinking music, the tune while the contestants write their answers down at the end. Some of you who are fans of the show will know what I am talking about. I call it, “The decision-making tune.”

In life, we are faced with major decisions and often we do not know what we should do. Proverbs 3:5 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

There is great comfort in these words; but, this scripture is not meant to be crippling. It is not meant for you or I to sit back and let God do all the work. There are times when God needs us to move a mountain, and He gives us a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Some of us may need a few calluses on our hands.

Proverbs 3:13-14 tells us, “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.”

So what is the answer when making a decision in life? How do we balance allowing God to direct our path and gaining understanding to make a wise choice? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 2:15, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul is telling us, when we are in line with Christ; when we walk in accordance with His plan and His purpose, our minds are like His. We have understanding because of our oneness with God. When God is in the driver’s seat, decision-making is much easier because He will give us understanding. Stay in the word. Pray daily. Obey His laws. Live according to His purpose.

And the answer is… You’ll find the major decisions of your life are made simpler because you seek your wisdom and understanding from Him.