Monthly Archives: April 2015

Alpha & Omega

Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Who can claim to be first and last? The Beginning and the end? Who can be a King and yet a servant? The light of the world? Who can be the Son of God and the Son of Man?

It is a great deal more than I can wrap my small brain around; but, I realize if you or me made such statements, we would  be strapped in a straight jacket and hauled off. Interestingly, the people who heard Him treasured His teachings. The authorities were scared of Him because they knew He had power. Men left their jobs and lives to follow Him. The difference between you and me saying such things and Jesus saying such things, is Jesus Christ could back it up. He spoke with wisdom and authority and He had tremendous confidence. He could heal people; raise people from the dead; He knew things about people that were impossible to know; and the greatest of all miracles, He arose from the dead.

In John 6:33-35 Jesus tells us, “‘For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 ‘Sir,” they said, ‘always give us this bread.’ 35 Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

In this scripture Jesus explains that He is to our souls what Bread and Water are to our bodies. He is the nourishment we need to sustain our spiritual life. We can add to the list of who Jesus said He was, Bread of life and Living Water.

There are three conclusions which can be reached from what Jesus told us about Himself with only one true conclusion. First, some could say Jesus was a con man – but then how many con men are willing to die for their lies? Isn’t it the objective of the con man to “get away with his lies?” Second, He could be classified a “mad man;” but do mad men have a grasp of reality? He had such a capacity to love others and He had tremendous wisdom in dealing with every day life and the people in it. A mad man could not have inspired so many people from all different walks of life. And third, the most believable of conclusions to reach, is Jesus was exactly who He said He was.

John 11:25-26, ” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Today, praise Jesus for who He is. Praise Him that the King of all kings, and Lord of all lords; the Bread of Life; the great I AM, loves you and wants a personal relationship with you. Confirm to Him that you believe in Him. Today, be excited that you belong to Him and rejoice in the power of your Savior.

What does Discipleship cost?

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 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.

If it’s you…

Matthew 14:27-29, “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ 28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ 29 ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”

This scripture comes from the story so many of you know. To summarize, Jesus has just performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish near the Sea of Galilee. He sends the disciples ahead of him by boat so He can have time alone to pray. A gigantic storm comes up and the disciples are in the boat, fighting for their lives against the waves and the wind and the rain. Jesus walks out on the water toward them and they think He is a ghost! He calls out to them not to be afraid, “It is I.” Peter realizes the miracle. He sees Jesus walking on the water and he calls out to Him, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Faith is a risk. We want to pretend it’s easy; but, we live in a world that tells us, “seeing is believing.” Jesus tells us differently, “Believing is seeing.” Faith takes courage. It is about stepping out when we have no idea of  the outcome. Some of us want to stay in the boat; even when Jesus is telling us to come, we are just fine in the boat – no thank you – but not Peter.

Jesus says to Peter, “Come.”

Peter steps out on the water. The winds are howling and blowing all around him. The rain is barreling down and the waves are rocking his body. He is in the middle of the storm. And when he notices that he is out of the boat, in the middle of the ocean, in a huge storm, he takes his eyes off His Master and looks at the wind.

This morning I’m writing a devotion, not about the 11 disciples that stayed in the boat. I’m writing a devotion about the 1 who got out of the boat.

As he begins to sink he cries out to the Lord and Jesus reaches His arm out and saves him. Understand, Peter didn’t just jump out of the boat, he asked Jesus. Jesus told him to “Come on!”

My question to you this morning is how many of you are sitting in your boats asking, “God, should I do this? Should I?” And God is saying, “Come on! Come on, Peter!”

I love that Peter was willing to do what no one else was willing to do. Yes, he sank; but he learned. He learned about keeping his eyes on God. He learned that faith is about concentration. The storms will always be around us. Our eyes have to stay fixed on Jesus. Peter became a bold and strong deliverer of the Word of God.

Matthew 14:31, “‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

Peter may have had little faith but far greater to have little faith than none.

How many of you are still sitting in your boat, watching Peter? It’s time to take that step out on the water despite the storm; despite the wind; despite the waves. It’s time to concentrate on the One who has called you.

On a final note, I’ve heard so many sermons and read many commentaries on how, why, when, and where Peter stepped out on the water. I’ve listen to people criticize and applaud him; but I’ve never heard the story of why John or Matthew or Andrew or James stayed in the boat.

It’s time to get out of your boat!

What you are told to do

When God asks you to do something, obey quickly. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t ponder or wonder if you should or shouldn’t. I often think of Abraham and the difficult task he had ahead of him in obeying God. Genesis 22:1-14, “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

I have a friend who has sons in the different branches of the military. We were talking one afternoon and he told me that one of his sons told him, “Dad, it really isn’t hard. You simply do what you are told to do. So many people don’t. They fight the system and they pay the consequences.”

God gave us rules in His Word. He gave us stories of people who lived before us as examples. He sent His Son to teach us. He gives us a direct line to Him for prayer. He provides people in our lives to help us understand. God has pretty much covered all His bases; we just need to listen.

Today, ask God to help you not only hear His instructions but respond to them as you should.

A Reminder to say “Thank you”

Psalm 65:9-10, “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. 10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.”

From the time David, Daniel, and Reneé were little, my wife Connie and I have encouraged gratitude: “Say thank you!” “David, did you say thank you?” “Remember your thank you’s Daniel!” And it wasn’t just a one time reminder either. At times it seemed constant.

We are not born with an ingrained gratitude trait. Graciousness is learned. Even now, as an adult, I need to be reminded at times too.

How often do we really thank God. Without rain, nothing would grow. All too often we go to the grocery store and fill our carts with yummy produce, not looking up once to thank Him for the rain and the sun and the trees that provided it. We just complain that Bell Peppers are .85 a piece and almonds are $8.00 a pound.

Very few of us know what it is like to be hungry. The most any of us have to wait to eat is standing in a line at the buffet table or stuck behind five or six cars at McDonald’s drive-thru. We spout off learned blessings at dinner and follow the Amen with, “Pass the potatoes!” And it all comes from Him. He provides it all.

Take time today to thank Him for the land your feet walk on; the rain which grows our grass, flowers, and crops. Thank Him for the green leaves on the trees, the fruit, the vines, the fresh vegetables, and the grain. Thank Him for the flowing rivers and oceans, the ice-cold water on a hot summer day, and the delicious tasting watermelon. He loves us so much to provide such variety and such abundance.

Live, heal, and grow

We all have a need for justice. Some of the toughest times in my life are when I feel the wicked are prevailing and the righteous, God’s people, are getting the short end of the stick, so to speak. Habakkuk is feeling the same way. It’s around 605 B.C. and the Babylonians are wreaking havoc over God’s people. The prophet, Habakkuk, questions God, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me, there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” (Habakkuk 1:3-4)

Can you relate to what he is questioning? Do you feel a little like Habakkuk, wondering how a loving God can allow evil to prevail? Is God stuck in some kind of Godly paralysis?

There are times in life when we have to wade through our losses. It means we have to experience the grief of our hearts, release the tears of pain, work through the struggles of disappointment and shattered dreams and let the Holy Spirit teach us not only to endure but to live and heal and grow.

I love oak trees. Some that have been around for hundreds of years, stand so proud and their majestic beauty is overwhelming to me. To sit at the base of such a tree, under its protective shade, secure in the thickness of the trunk, reminds me of God’s word and guidance in my life. Oak trees have two kinds of root systems: surface roots (which are very fragile) and tap roots (which can dig as deep as the tree is tall). Tap roots cement the tree. They give the oak its foundation and are the reason the oak can sustain gale force winds and torrential storms. Do you know when tap roots grow the most? Because they need a source of water, they dig down deep during times of drought.

The world around you might be in chaos. You may believe your questions and problems are falling upon God’s deaf ear, but I want you to know, He’s there. It may feel like He’s on vacation or mad at you or listening to anyone but you, “But the Lord is in His Holy Temple, let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

Sometimes we have to reach a level of committment in our walk with God which expresses to Him total devotion, even when our world is in disarray.  Habakkuk 3:17-19, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines; though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Do not fret; do not worry; God is not paralyzed; He is on the throne, knows your name, knows your need, and knows your answer. And He is on the way! He is the voice of hope in despair. He is freedom rising up in the midst of bondage. He is making a way for you to overcome and declare victory. He is God, and He is mighty.

Though you may have lost your job; though sickness may run through your family; though you may be facing foreclosure; though divorce may be knocking at your door; though your child may be in trouble; though death may have taken someone you love; though you may have been betrayed; yet we will rejoice in the Lord, we will be joyful in God our Savior!

What do you have?

2 Corinthians 12:9 reads, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power  is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more  gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.'”

I have a weakness. Some of you may know this restaurant and some of you may not. It is called The Varsity. When my son, David, decided to attend college at Georgia Tech, I was proud of his choice because it is a great university but also because it is less than a block from The Varsity. Whenever we visited David and then my daughter Reneé, Connie knew, I had to stop at The Varsity. When a customer walks in the restaurant, a voice calls out “What’d y’all have? What’d y’all have?”

“A Yellow C Dog, walking, ring one, and a F.O,” I call out, translated, “I’ll have a hotdog with mustard, chili, to go, a side of onion rings, and a Frosted Orange.”

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt,  God asked him in Exodus 4:2, “What do you have in your hand?” It was simply a staff, a common, every day tool used during that time for various reasons; but, God used it over and over to help Moses when he turned the Nile to blood or parted the Red Sea.

In 2 Kings 4, Elijah is helping a widow who is in desperation because the creditors of her dead husband are coming to take her children and sell them into slavery.  Elijah asks her, “What do you have in your house?” She responds to him, “A small jar of oil.” Elijah uses that oil, multiplies it, and she is able to pay off her creditors and live on the rest.

Another time Elijah asks a widow to make him a cake of bread. She was actually preparing a final meal for herself and her son with the small amount of flour and oil she had left. She makes Elijah the cake and because of her obedience in 1 Kings 17, we learn she does not run out of flour and oil again.

Jesus is teaching a crowd of 5000 people. The disciples tell him that the people are hungry. He asks them in Matthew 14 and Mark 6, “How many loaves do you have?” Realistically, Jesus could have snapped his finger and created a buffet of food, but He uses what is available and turns 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough for everyone.

Sometimes we feel inadequate. Our insecurities tell us we are incapable. Maybe we don’t have enough money or education; maybe we do not have the ability to create or articulate what God is asking us to do; Maybe our skills in certain areas are lacking or our physical appearance is less than what we believe is beautiful. Do you know God wants what we have? He performed some of His greatest miracles through the simple possessions of his people: a staff, oil, flour, a loaf of bread and fish.

God doesn’t need fancy things; He needs you.  God can use what we see as a limitation or something small and unimportant to perform His most impressive works. God is interested in what we have and our willingness to use it. So, what do you have?